previews\ May 26, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Transformers: Dark of the Moon Preview


Earlier this week, Activision brought game journalists together for some hands-on time with the multiplayer and single-player modes of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Developer High Moon Studios is back to make sure this movie adaptation is as solid a video game as its predecessor, War For Cybertron. So far, they're on the right track.

First and foremost is the single-player experience. Taking place all across the globe, from the jungle and desert environments with Bumblebee or the run-down factories of Detroit with Ironhide, chapters are broken up by transformer type. Starscream takes part in flight levels, for instance.

Across both single- and multiplayer are the control types. This was one area I struggled with at first, but it quickly offered some neat opportunities. First, there is the Robot mode itself. This is the mode most players will be spending time with. As a robot, they have access to at least two different gun options (Ironhide uses shotguns and rifles; other Transformers vary), and they have at least two special abilities. Ironhide, for example, can use grenades or enter into an overdrive mode with a massive turret gun, although these two abilities do have cool-down time. As a Transformer, the bots control much like any other third-person shooter and are quite fun.

This is Transformers, so transform they do. The Vehicle mode can be accessed by clicking the left stick and then holding the left trigger. As a standard vehicle, transformers are at their fastest, but they turn with the right stick and don’t have the best mobility save for going forward, and they have no weapons.

Thankfully, this is easily solved with the new Stealth Force mode. A halfway point between vehicle and full-on robot, the Stealth mode isn’t really the most apt name. It’s more like the robots are vehicles with guns that are a little faster and can now strafe. What the Stealth mode bots lose in speed and firepower, they make up for with a smaller target and maneuverability. Juggling between these three modes is the best way to play Dark of the Moon.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in multiplayer. Players will design a character to take on in traditional shooter game modes, such as deathmatch and control point. What is exciting are the four character classes players build up. Based upon familiar Transformer tropes, we’ve got a scout-focused camero-esque car, a jet that can hover above the battlefield, a tank to deal and take damage, and a flat bed truck that functions as a healer. Players can switch out roles between respawning segments, and each one can be customized as players gain experience.

Unlike War on Cybertron, levels in the multiplayer are pulled from all around the world, from nighttime battles in a Spanish villa to the more contemporary, like the downtown ruins of Detroit. While the battles are exciting, they're not quite perfect. The transformers are huge to scale within the city, so many details are muted, giving the arenas a somewhat blocky feel. Additionally, the stages are a little on the small side, and for machines as large as they are, the lack of world damage is a little weird.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is fun. While I wouldn’t say it’s going to be the greatest shooter ever made, it should appeal to fans of the franchise and the hands-on robot combat. The different forms mean battles are always changing, and that's something no other game could replicate. With the movie coming out next month with the game, it won’t be long before players can jump into the action.

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