Transformers: Dark of the Moon Stealth Force Edition Review
Let me preface by saying that I am not a child of the 80s, and therefore have no particular love for the beloved transforming robot cars that dominated the children's entertainment of that era. Nor do I have any interest in the recent Hollywood blockbusters based on the same franchise, having been only mildly entertained by the sheer ridiculousness of the first installment, which is barely enough reason to subject myself to more of Michael Bay's nonsense. Reading all that, you'd probably think me the perfect candidate for reviewing a Transformers game. I booted up the latest with low expectations, and who could blame me? The gaming public has come to equate licensed games with shovelware, and having endured the awful graphics and monotonous gameplay of this clunker, it's clear Transformers: Dark of the Moon: Stealth Force Edition for the Nintendo Wii is no exception to the rule.
Let's address the game's most obvious and, quite honestly, ridiculous misstep. Transformers is a franchise about cars that transform into giant robots. Now let's take a look at that statement very quickly, from cars into robots. This is the entire allure of the franchise: the idea that something as common as a consumer vehicle could suddenly morph into a giant battle robot ready for action. The entire novelty revolves almost entirely around the robots, the whole car aspect is really just noise, and the fancy vehicles are no more exciting than those driven by the comb over–sporting mid-life crisis crowd.
To reiterate, Transformers are cool because they are, in addition to being fancy cars, giant goddamn robots. As such, if my company had full reign over the license of these cool robot toys and my project lead came to me with the idea of a game where you never once transform into a robot, I'd hit him with whatever blunt object happened to be closest, likely screaming, "Autobots, transform and roll out!" for good measure.
In some ways, it's almost an insult to put the Transformers label on a game where you can't actually transform. Instead, the game traps you in these much less interesting vehicle forms, letting you drive in circles around the uninspired terrain while smashing into all the brain-dead enemy cars that get in your way. Again, you'd think our seasoned alien protagonists would take this opportunity to turn into the hulking metal monsters they are in the movies, but for reasons barely explained by the threadbare plot, they've opted for their "Stealth Force" mode for use in combat. I'm not sure whether this concept of Stealth Force is actually canon to the franchise, but given the long list of toyline variations, I wouldn't be too surprised. However, the name seems a bit off. Wouldn't their normal car form offer the best stealth abilities, rather than one where a multitude of guns and missile launchers adorn the chasse? The Autobots must have some strange definition of stealth, as every mission seems to involve objectives no more complicated than "open fire on everything in sight."
The game features eighteen missions' worth of content, all of which can be conquered in about three hours. During these missions, you'll employ pretty much the same tactic, ramming and shooting your mindless enemies until you run out of either health, missiles or stealth force juice. From there, it's just a quick lap around the level, snagging pickups until you're more or less fully recharged. There's some small potential in the ability to switch from the speedy yet defenseless car into the slow yet murderous stealth force vehicle, but the simplicity of the game never calls for advanced tactics. It's just a steady cycle of murder, murder, finding some Energon, and more murder. I did like that some missions had you play as the Deceptions, as it's always fun to take the bad guys for a spin. Though truthfully, there's no real discernible difference between the two tribes, and the bad guy missions offered just as much mindless slaughter as those of the good guys.
This game might have been cool as a dumbed-down Twisted Metal variant, giving players enjoyable head-to-head car-smashing combat. Unfortunately, the only multiplayer mode available is a small selection of co-op missions, none more exciting than the tired action of the main game. "Wage war with friends in split-screen multiplayer!" the back of the case sneakily proclaims, and I can only imagine how many kids got suckered into buying this one thinking they'd get to blast their friends. Ultimately, the game manages to be less thrilling than the two-hour toy commercial on which it's based and is sure to disappoint plenty of kids who only wanted a game where cars turn into a robots. If you've got a child of your own who needs a lesson in the constant disappointment that is the human experience, this could be a great character-building exercise. If you're some sort of sissy who loves your kids, then you're better off with Mario.