It’s been less than a year since the release of Transformers: War for Cybertron, which may be the best received Transformers game ever, and is certainly the best received in the current generation. Activision clearly is paying attention, because High Moon Studios has now been put behind the latest movie tie-in, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. It’s not very often that a movie tie-in is something to look forward to, but it’s shaping up to be a game Transformers fans can genuinely look forward to.
High Moon Studios definitely seems to know what makes a Transformers game fun to play, and they seem to be using a similar design to War for Cybertron. Fortunately, Dark of the Moon has introduced a new “Stealth Force Mode” to the Transformers, which is the vehicle mode with guns. The new mode has been integrated in the game in the same way Cybertron Vehicle mode was in War for Cybertron. You can strafe and fire from the vehicle mode, and transform into a regular vehicle mode by holding the accelerator. It’s not very fun trying to aim when you can’t strafe, so it’s nice to see that good design sensibilities have been included in the new game.
Outside of vehicle mode, controls are also similar to War for Cybertron. The game is controlled in a 3rd person over-the-shoulder shooter style, and you’ll tear through enemy robots with ranged and melee weapons as you progress through the levels. Also like its predecessor, the level design is linear, which allows structure and polish for each mission. A big change, however, is that the new game has specific levels designed for each Transformer, and as you play through the story line you will switch between various Autobots and Decepticons in a single campaign, rather than one for each faction. This also seems to mean the removal of co-op from the campaign, although online multiplayer is present.
In our time with the game, High Moon showed us levels from a variety of different Transformers, including Bumblebee, Ironhide, Starscream, Soundwave (w00t), and Megatron. We also saw a variety of environments, ranging from jungles to battles in large cities (in this case, Detroit). Starscream’s level was a dogfight above the clouds, which culminated in a pretty awesome looking boss fight against the massive Transformer Stratosphere (though we unfortunately didn’t get to see much of the fight). Megatron’s goal in the game is to rebuild himself and become stronger, culminating (assumedly near the end of the game) in his new movie form.
For me, the coolest part of the game was Soundwave. I’m sure I’m not the only Transformers nerd who loved this character, and he looks and sounds great in Dark of the Moon. It’s not really Soundwave himself that was awesome, though, as much as his fan-favorite partner Laserbeak. Yes, you get to play as Laserbeak! Laserbeak seems to have specific minor objectives in Soundwave’s stages, and in our demo they showed him flying around the (much larger) Transformers using controls similar to Starcream’s flight levels. His new design, a sort of awesome mechanical buzzard thing, fit well with the Bay version of the universe.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is looking like an awesome experience, and I can’t wait to see more. I really enjoyed War for Cybertron, and played online regularly for months. Hopefully the online play, which wasn’t shown in this demo, will be just as enjoyable and polished. High Moon pointed out that you will be using Transformers from the series in online, and not generic copies as in War for Cybertron, because they wanted you to have that connection. Fans of the original cartoons and fans of the movie series alike can look forward to playing the game this Summer.