Grimlock deserves better
It’s always amused me just how much people hate Michael Bay. I mean, it’s a film about toys. Of course it’s just robots hitting each other and stuff exploding. Don’t like it? Well stop paying a fortune to watch it at the cinema thus encouraging him to make more. Seriously, I had to delete one person from facebook because they were complaining about how awful the film was despite them paying to watch it twice.
Personally, as an effects fan, I quite like the films (not seen the new one yet though), but wish they were about 45 minutes shorter. I approached the latest tie-in game with low expectations, but with a willingness to be pleasantly surprised, despite High Moon Studios -whose Cybertron series has been widely praised by critics and fans alike- not being at the helm. Fingers crossed they get to work on a brand new entry to the series once they’re done with helping out on COD: Advanced Warfare.
Rise of the Dark Spark is only a tie-in the sense that it’s been released alongside the movie, as most of it takes place on Cybertron with a few Earth levels bookending the campaign. Throughout the adventure you get to play as a large number of Autobots and Decepticons. The game handles like a standard third-person shooter with you mowing down waves of enemies with a variety of light and heavy weapons.
Most weapons are standard sci-fi laser fodder, but there are a few that Ratchet (of & Clank fame) would appreciate, like the one that sends bouncing discs hurtling across the battlefield, slicing enemies in two via awesome deflections. All weapons are upgradable too via random items in Gear Boxes awarded for completing one of the game’s many challenges. The unlocks flow thick and fast, but opening the boxes to see what you have is a laborious process that really should have been sped up.
Other items you find include mods that give you extra XP for the duration of that life, but at a cost. Enemies may be stronger, or drop less health, or you might have to play without a HUD. The tougher the requirement, the higher the XP multiplier, adding a neat risk/reward element to the combat.
Each Transformer has an ability that can be charged over time. Optimus has a shield (meh), while Dash has a ninja-dash move that takes out multiple opponents in one slick combo. Being a Transformers game though, it’s all about the vehicles. The cars are weakest of the bunch mainly because they’re so slow and the FPS-style handling never sits right. The aerial vehicles are huge amounts of fun though thanks to the added freedom they add to the otherwise linear stages.
The campaign itself begins with a story that makes little sense and barely warrants paying any attention to unless you’re out of Nytol. There are some ridiculous checkpoint placements that saw me replaying lengthy difficult sections more times than I’d like to admit -it was a test of character not to launch the disc into the field behind my house where Kung Fu Rider currently lives.
But then Grimlock happens. The robo T-Rex is introduced way too late to save the campaign, but it’s safe to say he absolutely steals the show. The awesome fire breathing, robot munching and generally stompy fun was well worth the slog though. Grimlock’s fire-breathing visuals are the only thing in the game that makes it look like a PS4 title too as the rest of it is a bit on the fugly side of Slough.
After finishing the campaign, I wasn’t looking forward to testing out the multiplayer. Just another online wave defence mode I predicted. Thankfully, it was much more fun than I’d anticipated and yet it made the lack of co-op in the campaign seem like an even bigger mistake.
Up to four players face 15 waves of enemies on one of the nine varied maps. Each map is of a decent size and features upgradable turrets and barriers that can be bought with cash earned for defeating enemies. All your unlocks and XP from the campaign carry over too.
I wouldn’t go as far as to call the online action tactical, but teamwork proves to work wonders when you can watch each others’ backs and swoop in for revives. At any time, you’re free to change into any of the long list of characters’ vehicle forms, with aerial ones in particular spicing up the action as you rain down destruction from above.
With nine maps to choose from, there’s a reasonable amount of longevity for Transformers fans to get stuck into online and they raise the game up from one to avoid to maybe giving a rent or discounted purchase in the future.
- Online co-op survival is fun
- XP modifiers add a risk/reward element
- Aerial vehicles and Grimlock are super cool
- Campaign is a bore
- Lacks that High Moon magic
- Some alarming difficulty spikes
The Short Version: With a dull campaign that likes to stab you in the eye with difficulty spikes, the online team survival mode just about saves this latest tie-in effort from being a complete write-off. But you’ll probably have to be a (slightly nuts) hardcore fan to pay full whack for it. It’s ok, I don’t think Michael Bay makes any money on this one.