If nothing else, I suppose Transformers: Rise Of The Dark Spark earns points for being an accurate translation of the pains of watching Michael Bay’s latest twisted metal mess in video game form. Sure, the look of the transformers is there, stuff blows up constantly, and players can indeed transform while blowing that stuff up. However, despite all of the loud noises and the constant barrage of stuff happening the game is thin and meaningless. The plot makes no sense and the action gets repetitive almost instantly. There’s no substance here and no creativity. Granted, the Transformers franchise hasn’t exactly been known for strong storytelling at any point in its existence, but that doesn’t mean that the designers couldn’t have at least tried. The only moderately enjoyable aspect to the game is the online multiplayer co-op, but even that is so thin and repetitive that it’s hard to imagine putting much time into it. Yep, this is a big empty mess, but so is the movie that the crossover game is tied to. So points are indeed to be awarded for accuracy even if no points are deserved for anything else.
The game kicks off with a campaign mode comprised of 14 levels. I’m certain that there is a story connected to it. There were cut scenes that suggested narrative progression and I seem to recall characters reoccurring. However, I couldn’t summarize the plot if I had a gun to my head because it’s confusing, convoluted, and useless. It’s got something to do with the bad guys and good guys fighting over whatever the hell the “dark spark” is supposed to be. There’s time travel involved, beyond that your guess is as good as mine in regards to what actually happens. At first you’ll flip-flop between controlling the Autobots and the Decepticons. Then about halfway through, you’ll never play as the Decepticons again. Why? Who knows? Or maybe the designers didn’t even realized what happened given that the Michael Bay Transformer designs are used, making it impossible to distinguish between the good guys and bad guys.
As for the 14 levels themselves, they can all be summarized with two words: “smashy smashy.” All you’re required to do is destroy a bunch of enemy Transformers, move forward a little bit and then destroy another batch. It gets very old, very fast especially because the enemy AI is limited to two modes: shoot a bunch of unbalanced guns at you, or dodge and hide in equally irritating ways. You’ll get about 20 guns ranging from machine guns and shot guns to electric beams and slime launchers (not sure how slime hurts a Transformer. Maybe it gums up the jagged technology?). You can transform of course, but even that never feels satisfying given that what you’ll transform into is rarely worth using. Cars handle poorly and offer no speed. Flying ships are slightly better, but with no radar you’ll fly around lost looking for that last stupid Transformer that you need to blow up for friggin’ ever. You do get to play as a Dinobot at one point and it’s a T-Rex. So I guess that’s kind of ok…I guess.
The lone redeeming factor in the game is the Co-op multiplayer mode Escalation. Here you can team up with up to four folks in online Co-op (a very smooth and easy process, even when playing with complete strangers) and face wave after wave of Transformers to blow up in a handful of levels. This is undeniably fun and well executed, though even here the rushed and uncaring nature of the game’s production pops up when you realize that there’s no variation to this mode or even boss fights. So, even the best aspect of Transformers: Rise Of The Dark Spark kind of stinks. From start to finish, this is a big stupid rushed game made with little care because the developers knew that players would buy copies simply because it says Transformers on the box. It’s a garbage game and one that I would get passionately angry about were it not for the fact that all of the stupidity, laziness, meaninglessness, repetitiveness, boringness, and crappiness is just as true of the movie as the game. This is in its own horrible way an accurate translation of Michael Bay’s big stupid franchise. So if you buy it and feel ripped off, you have no one to blame but yourself. At this point, that’s all that can be expected from anything titled Transformers.
For Phil’s FULL review of Transformers: Rise Of The Dark Spark, pick up the July issue of CGM.