A sloppy mess of bland shooting

Jon Mercer thejonmercer@gmail.com
Published on July 30, 2014
“Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark” — a mechanical dog of a game not even worth becoming a guilty pleasure. — Submitted image

Rise of the Dark Spark
PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, WiiU, PC

One of my guilty pleasures of the last few years, has been Activision and High Moon Studios’ “Transformers: War for Cybertron” and “Fall of Cybertron.”

Freed from the restrictions of trying to play in the same world as the popular film series, the games concentrated on being solid shooters that happened to cast gamers as giant robots that transform into vehicles and such.

With High Moon Studios reduced to porting the upcoming “Call of Duty” for last gen, it falls on little known developer Edge of Reality to take what was done with the two “Cybertron” games, and jury-rig it to the recent theatrical release “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

Not an enviable position to be in, and if “Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark” is any indication, Edge of Reality probably won’t be any better known in the near future. Woof.

For starters, in trying to fuse together the two properties, the result is poorly paced, and barely coherent.

Locations jump around wildly, with the story leaping between the current setting of the movies, and the hyper-futuristic but ancient history of the Cybertron titles, and as a result fails to establish a connection in either. But seriously, did we really come into our giant robot game looking for a story?

Left lacking

Alas, this painful lack of focus translates over to the gameplay. It ploughs through various characters at an alarming rate, making sure that players get to sample a full roster, but making them all feel almost identical (until the fire-breathing Grimlock comes into the picture in the third act).

The gun-play is substantially lacking in both weight and impact, yet the Transformers themselves feel like they can barely absorb a pillow fight’s worth of punishment before they crumble into a pile of scrap.

Considering that the majority of the game is a nonstop slog through waves of identical robo-grunts on the way between checking off level objectives (all of which boil down to “go from point A to point B”), it becomes an ordeal, a sloppy mess of bland shooting.

Graphically, “Rise of the Dark Spark” is disappointing. Game environments are porridge, consisting of either standard issue city streets or neon hued mechanical hallways.

The characters still feature the cool model animations when they stand still, looking like they are made of countless moving parts, but the actual act of moving around is comparatively stiff.

There are visual glitches present that are inexcusable on next-gen hardware, especially considering the lack of graphical muscle being flexed at any given time.

There is nothing on screen ever that balances having enemies fall through the floor, or the copiously occurring slowdown.

It’s got some good voice work, using talented actors that have been playing these characters for years, but the script is utter garbage, and lines and quips are repeated to a ridiculous level.

Decent multiplayer

If “Rise of the Dark Spark” has a single saving grace, that hope would have to be pinned on the online multiplayer.

Escalation Mode is as much fun as its ever been, pitting four players against increasing waves of enemies, using turret and barrier placements to try and set up some sort of tactical advantage.

Performing well unlocks bonus perks, and extra characters (an impressive 40 in total) and weapons.

I wish more had been done with weapon upgrades, as well as the new Hacks, which act as game modifiers that can be set either prior to a match or during one at a weapons locker. Instead, the game buries them behind intensive menus, and never makes an effort at showing players what they can do with them.

It’s also unforgivable that the online multiplayer is completely stripped out of the WiiU version.

It was bound to happen, especially when dealing with a licence as ripe for movie and TV adaptations as Transformers.

But as someone who legitimately enjoyed both “War For” and “Fall of,” it’s easy to feel an empty well of regret to see that solid shooter traded away for a bland, flavourless lump of paste like “Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark.”

The combat is uninspired at best, the graphics look ancient, and the game design is inexcusably lacklustre.

The story tries to merge the most recent movie with the aforementioned “Cybertron” games, and the result is a muddle that’s only positive is “Well, at least it’s not as bad as the usual movie tie-in.”

If your weekend plans include transforming and rolling out, make sure its in the opposite direction of this mechanical dog of a game.

Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, WiiU, PC (PS4 and WiiU versions reviewed)

Developer: Edge of Reality

Publisher: Activision

Release Date: June 24, 2014

Rated: T for Teen.

Walking through the wastes of the digital frontier, Jon Mercer fights a lonely war against the nefarious agents of boredom and mediocrity. If you seek his help, or wish to join his cause, send a communiqué via thejonmercer@gmail.com.