I don’t expect much from a Transformers game. All I want is to control giant robots that can change into cars, shoot other giant robots until they explode and be able to switch between combat and vehicle form at will. That’s it. Thankfully, Transformers: Dark of the Moon delivers on all of those points and is a fun, if shallow, game all the way through.
Throughout Dark of the Moon you will assume control of numerous Autobots, and they all have different abilities and weapons. Each controls similarly enough that you won’t feel lost when you transition from controlling Bumblebee in South America to controlling Ironhide in Detroit. You can swap between combat, vehicle, and stealth mode forms at will, and weapons work like you would expect in any other third-person shooter.
The stealth mode form is a new addition, though, and it combines the better maneuverability and speed of the vehicle form with the ability to take down enemies of the combat form. Even though you’ll never see it in a movie, it’s a great addition that allows the level design a bit of flexibility and the player to choose whether it is worth transforming back into combat form just to take out one Decepticon before getting back into vehicle form to reach the next waypoint. And since it’s more likely that you’ll need guns than speed, your default vehicle form is the stealth force mode. A simple pull and hold of the left trigger completes the transition to vehicle mode when you are up against a time limit, and releasing the trigger brings back your gun without forcing a full transform.
Levels are linear, but the combat is fun, and the Autobots control well. Shooting feels accurate and different weapons feel, well, different. You may find yourself favoring the plasma cannon over the machine gun, but it comes down to personal preference vice choice to check a box on a design document. The online modes offer nothing that you can’t elsewhere, but the ability to change into an airplane at a moment’s notice adds a nice bit of spice to the standard deathmatch game types. If you enjoy the single-player campaign, then the multiplayer will surely extend Dark of the Moon‘s time in your Xbox.
The story is paper-thin, but if you’re picking up any part of the Transformers film franchise (or anything even loosely associated with Michael Bay) for things like intricacies of plot, characters with more than two dimensions or anything else that isn’t “giant robots beating the tar out of other giant robots” then Dark of the Moon won’t do anything for you. Those, though, that soak up the slow-motion explosions and transformation eye-candy on the big screen will enjoy controlling Bumblebee, Ironhide, and the rest of the Autobots as they stop Megatron and his latest scheme.
Pros: Stealth force mode is a great addition to the gameplay, combat is fast-paced and fun
Cons: Campaign is a bit short, narrative is shallow