Rating: ★★★☆☆

The last Transformers game, War for Cybertron, was a fun excapade into the world of Transformers that didn’t take itself too seriously, but was a classic, kid-friendly action-adventure with some surprisingly great multiplayer. The game followed no movie, instead detailing how the war between Autobots and Decepticons started, eventually leading their world to almost utter annihilation.

So what the hell is Dark of the Moon? A $60 4-hour prelude to the movie coming out next week.

Let’s not confuse the issues. Dark of the Moon is every-bit as entertaining and fun to play as War for Cybertron. The single-player campaign features old favorites on both sides of the Transformers character spectrum, and is veritably enjoyable for both adults and kids. Combat is simple, revolving around a two-weapon system, infinite ammo, two special abilities and a melee attack. The familiar voices from the TV show and movies all return, for the most part. It’s just a fun little game.

The issue is just how “little” it is. Seven chapters total last about 4 hours on medium difficulty. The entire last level is a boss fight. The plot starts and ends at essentially the same place, where every action taken, even if successful, makes no difference. Defeat a boss? No worries, he’ll just escape at the last second and live on to wreak more havoc. Blow up a facility? It really made no difference anyhow. There literally is no incentive to play the game to actually “beat it” unless you want the achievements.

And it’s far too easy to see just how the game was made when beating the game is a 125 point achievement.

There really isn’t much to say about the single-player campaign. It’s one-player only, has relatively decent graphics and artwork, but the only thing worth noting is how fun it is to watch the Transformers…well, transform. Weapons are standard, combat is fun but not particularly difficult, and once you put in the four hours everything’s set.

Multiplayer should be a whole different story, especially considering how fun War for Cybertron was. With identical gameplay and a few more characters and weapons, it shouldn’t have been too difficult. But nobody’s playing online. I had trouble finding a decent game for three days. With only three play modes (team deathmatch, deathmatch and “conquest”, a territory-based gametype), it was far too difficult to actually find players. The few times I did have a game available were fun, but it’s exactly the same as War for Cybertron, just on a smaller scale. Levels can be larger, but use smaller corridors that easily bunch up enemies. The level design isn’t particularly satisfying, and while still fun, I can’t imagine playing for more than a few days because there simply aren’t people to play with.

What all this means is that Dark of the Moon is a movie-game. It doesn’t copy the movie. Instead, it’s a prelude, to warm people up to it. I don’t think it’s fair for Activision to charge $60 for a game this small. It could be an iPhone game, after all. Just a week after release and people are selling it for half-price on sites like Amazon. So unless you want to torture yourself or friends by getting it and waiting for like-minded folk to find you online, rent this bad-boy and send it packing. Because it’s fun…just not worth keeping on the shelf at home.

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.