What you see is what you get.
Ah, summertime. Depending on where you are in the world, the air is hot and still, and several pasttimes come to mind. Baseball, swimming pools, and summer blockbusters at the air-conditioned theater manage to pass the time nicely. Growing up in the valley in California, I have come to associate summertime with stupidity at the theater. When you go to the theater for air conditioning, an Icee, and lots and lots of explosions, you know you've made it to the hottest part of the year.
Now I'm finding myself playing summer action games, packed with just as much stupidity, shooting, and time wasting as any given summer blockbuster. Unfortunately, Transformers: Dark of the Moon still left me wanting.
Dark of the Moon ties in with the Michael Bay action flick in theaters now and tallies up bots like no other. Every major bot featured in the movie is playable in the game's campaign. While players switch back and forth between the Autobots and the Decepticons over the course of the campaign, they'll ultimately come to enjoy each Transformers individually. Bumblebee has the most satisfying weapons, while Megatron and Optimus Prime pack the biggest punches. Other bots are tailored to their specific missions, like Mirage with his cloak and sniper abilities tailored to a covert jungle mission.
Easily the best feature in Dark of the Moon is the ability to transform at will. Clicking the left stick will switch players back and forth between Vehicle and Bot modes. While in vehicle mode, they can still strafe and shoot thanks to the new "Stealth Force" capabilities, although this addition ultimately makes pure-vehicle mode controls feel extremely clunky.
Most of the gameplay features work well thanks to War For Cybertron, last year's non-movie-tie-in Transformers release. Dark of the Moon's campaign never reaches the highs WFC hit, most likely due to scheduling restraints, but anyone young and old with the ability to turn off their brain for several hours can enjoy Dark of the Moon's single-player mode.
Activision and High Moon Studios made sure to check off every box, though, and this Transformers game comes with multiplayer too. As much as players might want to love beating and blasting bots to bits, multiplayer suffers from a case of "me-too". Despite only have free-for-all, team deathmatch, and control points game modes, games are limited to a skimpy 8-player count. It also sucks that hit detection feels so off that it will induce people to swear that there was some energon interference in the game. While the developers poured time and energy into Transformers perks and killstreaks, the multiplayer ends up being more grind than fun. I doubt the community will lift this one to the top of the Xbox Live or PSN activity charts.
Players coming out a visual-effects high after seeing Transformers in theaters this summer hopefully won't find themselves playing this. While Dark of the Moon hits all the bases for a blockbuster game, it won't live up to the blockbuster experience. At least the game wasn't as bad as the movie. I can confirm that there are no scenes in which an Asian guy assaults the player in a men's room and pulls down his pants. Apparently there is such a thing as too much stupid.