previews\ Mar 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Transformers: Dark of the Moon


One of my fondest memories growing up was the day my mom came home with a Beast Wars Transformers video game for the PlayStation. I didn’t even own the console, but the fact that I held pure, materialized awesome in my hands made my little heart swell. Sure, the game was terrible, but it was Transformers!

Unfortunately, the unspoken rule that said Transformers games had to be terrible was followed for a very long time. If you wanted to play as fan favorites Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, or Bumblebee, you had best prepare yourself for some terrible gaming.

Then the Michael Bay movies happened. It is generally accepted that Transformers 2 was a very bad film, a slap in the face of fans who adored the shows and toys. That's a pretty bad track record of terrible games and a terrible movie franchise. With the third film on the horizon, what will Hasbro and publisher Activision do? Make another crappy game?

Thankfully, no. Instead of letting the new film Transformers: Dark of the Moon totally dictate the direction of the game, Activision is making the adaptation a prequel to what Michael Bay promises to be a redemptive Transformers film. The best news by far is the announcement that High Moon Studios has assumed control of development. Considering their success with War for Cybertron—the best Transformers game to date—this is a very good sign.

Those who played War for Cybertron will feel immediately comfortable with Dark of the Moon. This prequel game takes place on earth and between the events of second and third movie, and players will be able to choose characters from both the Autobots and Decepticons. In Robot mode the game controls like a third-person shooter, with a cover system and the usual trappings.

A problem arises with how the characters control. War for Cybertron ignored real-world vehicles for sci-fi cars and tanks, unique modes of transportation that allowed for strafing and quick turns. Dark of the Moon still uses real-world vehicles to get the job done, but more like real cars and tanks, they tend to take wide turns and are fast in one direction. Dark of the Moon solves this problem with a new “stealth force” mode, a middle ground between full-on transformation that allows Transformers to strafe left and right and use weapons. It's considered canon, too, meaning characters in the film will also be entering this new mode.

There are multiple characters from both the Autobots and Decepticons, and each one has a series of unique missions to complete. Soundwave, who is now an SUV, runs through South American jungles taking out swarms of low-end Autobots. He’s no longer a cassette tape but rather a truck ready to blast sonic booms. Bumblebee also fights in the jungles, acting as the Autobot counterpart to Soundwave.

Starscream, meanwhile, has missions that break the norm. Participating in aerial dog-fights, Starscream can switch at any time into a robot, but will rapidly start falling. These missions require that he defeat a massive Autobot transport jet, the biggest Autobot character I’ve ever seen: Stratosphere.

Megatron is back, and after the events of the second film, High Moon Studios is taking the opportunity to explain his return. In his mission we were shown, he’s a slow and powerful transformer, earning XP by performing some of his exclusive abilities. He’s a vampire of sorts, sucking the energy from enemy Autobots. Unfortunately, Activision did not show off his vehicle mode.

Finally, Laserbeak has been reintroduced into the Transformers universe. A subservient tool to Soundwave, Laserbeak is a tiny little robotic bird that rams into enemy transformers. There's a good chance fans will like his inclusion, although he’s a little on the secondary side.

Ultimately, it looks like Transformers: Dark of the Moon is well on its way to becoming everything a fan could want from a Transformers game. Slightly detached from the films, the game features cool cars, beloved characters, and solid gameplay. As long as High Moon Studios avoids a “Michael Bay” disaster, we should be in for a great licensed title.

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