Note: Due to a server outage affecting the PS3 version, Techday was unable to test the multiplayer portion of the game. This review is based only on the single-player experience.
In some ways, Dark of the Moon the game is the perfect counterpoint to the movie. Not because it reworks the characters and concepts of the film to create a faithful but still unique gameplay experience, but because it shares so many of the terrible flaws plaguing its source material.
I went into Dark of the Moon with great trepidation and without watching the film beforehand. As it turned out, this was the correct order. The game – I'll refer to it as such to avoid confusion with the film – is apparently a prequel, setting up the events of the film. However, it was impossible to tell without the aid of Wikipedia.
This is because the game (and the movie, to a slightly lesser extent) doesn't take the time to explain anything, or to follow up on the myriad of plot points that are introduced and discarded by the next scene. In most games and films, a spaceship launch from an ancient Mayan temple that turns out to have been an ancient robot spaceport would be a pretty big deal. But in Dark of the Moon, it is just one of many seemingly significant throwaway plot devices, used only as an excuse to stuff more meaningless explosions on the screen.
The characters receive little development as well, mostly because, like the film, the game's perspective constantly jumps about. While this gives a greater variety of scenery to view and explore, and more ways to blow up said scenery, it means that all the player ever hears from the game's cast is an endless stream of one-liners.
Cutscenes take up most of the storytelling slack, but most of the mid-level movies show things that players would be doing anyway; the reward for shooting a standard enemy at one point is a cutscene of the player shooting enemies.
This would be excusable if the gameplay made up for it. Unfortunately, no matter which exotic and poorly-defined location a chapter takes place in, it is always mediocre at best. For the most part, the game takes the form of a bland third-person shooter with predictable levels. The only challenge comes from the sheer weight of numbers with regular enemies. The boss fights, likewise, are just massive blocks of hitpoints and cheesy taunts.
This means that combat in the game is rather similar to the action scenes in the film, but for all the wrong reasons. Like in the film, ineffectual explosions cloud the screen during combat, bouncing off monsters and taking so long to accomplish anything as to become boring.
The worst part of the game, however, is that it is entirely pointless.
Lacklustre gameplay, characters, and a ton of abandoned plot devices are to be expected. After all, this game is based on a Michael Bay film. However, the character that the game builds up to – Shockwave, an assassin imprisoned in ice – might as well not be in the film. After slogging through seven hours of foreshadowing and a final boss fight against said giant robot, I was angry to find that his presence in the film was token at best. The assassinations were even left to another character!
Unfortunately, while the game has a multiplayer side that sounds promising, the servers for it are unavailable. Disappointing, especially given that the game's North America release was almost a full month ago. If and when it comes back online, a follow-up article will be posted.
Dark of the Moon, the game, reinforces the notion that tie-in games are invariably terrible, which is a shame after its predecessor – The War for Cybertron – received positive reviews. If I had to say something positive about it, it would be that the game only has a small portion of the film's racism. Product placement shots are, likewise, mercifully sparse.
Even if you enjoyed or were excited about Transformers 3, this game offers very little to even the most dedicated fan. What could have been a great lead-up to the film is instead a confusing mess of neglected plot points, illogical storytelling, perspective shifts, and explosions.
Just like the movie.
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, NDS, iOS, PlayStation 3 (tested), Wii, Xbox 360
Graphics – 5/10
Sound – 6.5/10
Gameplay – 3/10
Lasting Appeal – 2.5/10
Final score – 2.5/10