Games based on movies generally don’t inspire much confidence, but all that can change with the right developer. High Moon Studios, known for the fairly well received Transformers: War for Cybertron, is holding the reigns for the upcoming Transformers: Dark of the Moon movie tie-in. Given High Moon Studios’ love for the Transformers franchise, it does inspire a certain hope that this is a move tie-in worth playing. Given a quick hands-on with the game, I got to see if that hope was well-founded.
My first experience was with the multiplayer, which took a lot of what Call of Duty did right and built a Transformers game on top of it. From killstreak rewards to ironsights aiming, the feel of the CoD franchise was apparently throughout, despite the third-person perspective of the game.
Two things set the upcoming Transformers game apart from Call of Duty: Transforming and character specific abilities. Rather than sprinting with a click of the left thumbstick, characters transform into their respective vehicle forms, be they cars, trucks, or jets. Vehicle mode has the perk of being more maneuverable and fast, also being able to “boost,” but can’t do nearly the damage that the characters can do in their natural forms. Transformers also slow down a bit when shooting while in vehicle mode. It creates a nicely balanced system that allows players to shift from fast to powerful and vice-versa.
The abilities, too, give the game a much more unique feel. Bumblebee can do a spinning melee attack for massive damage, and Megatron can leech enemy health. These are very different from the sort of perks normally encountered in similar shooters, and combined with the vehicle forms makes what would otherwise be a fairly standard shooter more intriguing.
However, this isn’t enough to make the game stand out as much as it needs to to compete with most shooters. While a more than welcome diversion, the idea doesn’t feel quite as developed as it should be, and the standard host of gameplay modes like “Conquest” keep the experience from truly standing out. Everything feels slow outside of vehicle mode, which is good for encouraging its use, but bad for making a comfortable experience when players aren’t in vehicle mode. What results is a multiplayer that is pretty good, but not great. It surpasses what most would expect of a video game movie, but doesn’t do much more than that.
The single player is much more of an improvement. Though it largely boils down to running through corridors and shooting swarms of robots, it allows much more of a focus on what makes each character unique, building levels around it. Of course Megatron is simply going to tank through levels, tearing through weaker foes. In contrast, Mirage, a Transformer that is essentially the ninja of the group, is able to enter a stealth camouflage mode, and is forced to work through one section of the game using only that and his melee attacks. Later he gets a sniper rifle, but the focus on using that stealth is still there, and definitely gives the game a different feel.
The plot of the single player campaign bridges the gap between the second and third Transformers movies. The developers wanted to avoid a, “Watch the movie, then go home and play the movie,” situation, which often plays a role in the subpar quality of most movie tie-in games. Movies are usually about two hours long. Stretching that into game length requires adding a lot of filler. By instead writing a prequel story to the upcoming movie, it allows for much more creative freedom and to do a lot more with the various Transformers characters fans are so attached to.
Overall, the single player runs the risk of becoming too repetitive, but should prove to be a decently enjoyable experience in spite of that. Between the game mechanics that seperate Transformers from other properties and developers who truly care about the Transformers franchise, the upcoming game should be one of the better movie based games to see release.
The game is set to release June 14th for the Xbox 360 and PS3 and will be rated T. A different version, developed by Behaviour Interactive, will be available for the Wii, 3DS, and DS.