Another Transformers movie means another Transformers game. For many longtime fans, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and the other robots in disguise are special characters, and hope endures that someday, a Transformers game will come along that does them justice. Unfortunately, Dark of the Moon is not that game. The action in this third-person shooter isn’t bad, but it also isn’t anything remarkable. There aren’t any surprises or standout moments during its brief campaign, and the shallow multiplayer isn’t likely to keep you coming back for very long.
Dark of the Moon serves as a prologue to the upcoming film of the same name. There’s a story here about the evil Decepticons desperately looking for something, but the game never makes it clear why we should care about the outcome, so it’s hard to feel invested in what happens. And because you play as both Autobots and Decepticons, you’re not rooting for either side to prevail. The ending is underwhelming; nothing is resolved, and there are no clear winners or losers. All we get is the setup of a situation that will play out at cineplexes later this summer. The visuals don’t support a sense of global conflict, either. The South American villages, Mayan temples, and other locations don’t have much detail, making them look more like playsets for toy robots than actual locations around the world. It’s not uncommon to see robots pass through objects or get caught on corners, and destroyed enemies inexplicably evaporate into smoke and ash. The sounds do a better job of bringing the conflict to life. The various guns and other weapons you use throughout the game sound powerful. And Peter Cullen, the longtime voice of Optimus Prime, sounds as authoritative and benevolent as ever.
The campaign is spread across seven chapters, each one focusing on a different Transformer (or, in one case, two Transformers). When in robot form, you have a few different weapons and abilities available, and the unique abilities of each Transformer lend the action a bit of variety from chapter to chapter. Mirage, for instance, has a cloaking ability and a sniper rifle, and Megatron can drain health from nearby Autobots. But these abilities aren’t significant enough to prevent the action from falling into a rut as a result of the repetitive and uninspired level design. You spend most of your time walking or rolling your way through levels, pausing frequently to blast generic robots of the opposing faction. On very rare occasions, you need to do things a bit differently, such as in one section as Mirage during which you have only the cloaking ability and melee attacks at your disposal. But for the most part, there’s nothing that makes one battle significantly different from the next. You fight the same standard enemies in similar environments over and over.