Transformers, a good game in disguise?
There really is no denying that the Transformers franchise is the perfect videogame fodder. These are robots that fight with other robots and can even transform into other things such as cars or planes. And, of course, they have been around long enough for most gamers to pull a sense of nostalgia from the experience.
However, the Transformers movies have cast a shadow over the entire franchise, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of fans everywhere. Sure, Michael Bay’s offerings may be the type of braindead explosive entertainment that can provide the unthinking movie goer with a couple of hours of enjoyment, but for most they are a missed opportunity.
The movies didn’t have any effect on the previous Cybertron games from High Moon Studios, and the results were a lot of fun. However, this time around for the latest game, Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark, Activision have not only teamed up with developers Edge of Reality, but also made the questionable decision to tie the game in with the latest movie alongside the previous Cybertron games. Two realities collide and the result gives rise to the curse of the movie tie-in. Yeah, it’s not that great.
The story, for what it’s worth, seems to have been specifically tailored to combine these two universes. The cynical amongst you may well imagine that this has been done only to cash in on the movie whilst still catering towards the fans of the recent games. The Dark Spark moves between realities and the player will chop and change between the two as they try to acquire it. It makes sense, but only as a vehicle to join the two worlds, and fans of the games (or the movies) will find themselves disappointed with the results.
Things don’t start well, with the first level set on Earth as the player is taken through the basics of controlling their large humanoid robot. From the very beginning, the environments look bland and uninspiring, and play tends to involve taking out the enemy robots before moving to the next area, and doing it again. It could be argued that the game is breaking the player in slowly, showing them the different abilities of the Transformers, including the always satisfying transforming between their three different forms. But this beginning area really doesn’t inspire confidence, especially with the lifeless grey environments.
Things get better when the action jumps to Cybertron, although gamers may feel a little travel sick from the sudden change. The Cybertron that fans of the games came to love will be instantly recognizable, along with much of the gameplay found within. However, the fact that Rise of the Dark Spark is on the PS4, or Xbox One for that matter, seems to have been completely forgotten with graphical assets that are simply straight from the older games. Next gen, this is not.
But Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is not all bad. Much like the movies, the game has managed to get the action more or less right. The set pieces may not be inspired and the story is non-existent, but at least it feels good to shoot stuff. The different Transformers that the player gets to control through the story are nice and offer different skills to play with. The wide selection of weaponry, which can be upgraded, is decent and allows for a variety of different play styles (as long as it involves destroying enemy robots). As a multiplayer game, Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark could have provided some healthy entertainment.
But multiplayer is no where to be found. Instead, players will find a “Horde” style mode in which players team up and fight off wave after wave of AI controlled enemies. While there is some enjoyment to be found here, it is relatively short lived. Still, it is a nice alternative for those who simply want to take a break from the story.
Fans hoping for a sequel to the Cybertron games will likely already have given up hope way before Rise of the Dark Spark was released. The Cybertron sections of the game are not too bad, albeit looking dated on the PS4 and lacking anything new. But it is the sections on Earth, the direct tie-in with the movie, that really let the game down. The action can be fun, but it is all so uninspiring. The curse of the movie tie-in strikes again with Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark being its latest victim.