No Shia LeBeouf, a mercifully short campaign
No transforming, no IR or waggle, no fun
The history of the Transformers franchise on Wii has been a steady descent to an abyss of despair. The first Wii Transformers title, Transformers: The Game, was developed by LEGO-famous Traveller’s Tales and actually had good production values and decent controls but was also cursed with boring, repetitive missions and a broken weapons system. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, was developed by Krome Studios and looked worse, played worse, and largely stripped out the ability to transform. The third game, Transformers: Cybertron Adventures, also kept the ability to transform out of the game and was, without bothering to say anything in the press materials or on the box, an on-rails shooter rather than an action adventure title.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon– Stealth Force Edition is the fourth Transformers game to release on Wii, and it represents the almost inconceivable capacity for developers to produce four progressively worse titles in the same franchise on the same platform. Somehow, some way, Behaviour Interactive, a company that has lived and died on a diet almost exclusively of licensed games, made a game that was head and shoulders lower than any of its predecessors.
The game is, as the title suggests, a companion to Michael Bay’s latest installment in the Transformers movie franchise. The game loosely, loosely follows the events of the film, minus (for the better) Shia LeBeouf or that other girl who was hired to replace a disgruntled Megan Fox. The game modes are the usual roundup of single-player and co-op, with the co-op generally just two-player versions of a selected number of missions. The game drifts back and forth between Autobot and Decepticon points of view during the missions.
The subtitle of the game, “stealth force edition,” epitomizes the game’s greatest letdown. The biggest sin of most Transformers Wii entries has been the absence of transforming, an omission that makes the first Transformers: The Game, with its smooth, on-the-fly transforming, look like a revelation in comparison. Now, to be fair, Transformers: Dark of the Moon– Stealth Force Edition technically does have transforming… if you count the ability to transform from one kind of vehicle to the same vehicle *plus guns* as transforming. If, however, transforming is taken to be the ability to change from, say, a vehicle to a giant robot… well, no, none of that here. And as if to taunt the player of this glaring omission, the game shows a cutscene at the end of each mission that shows the Autobot or Decepticon transforming back into a robot.
The controls are, to put it politely, bizarre. There are two subtly different schemes between the two forms– regular car mode and “stealth force” armed car mode– and they are just different enough to be confusing. Car mode uses the analog stick to both accelerate and turn; there is no brake button and no acceleration button. Stealth force mode uses the analog stick to accelerate and strafe, with turning mapped to the d-pad. Shifting between the two is disorienting, as it requires rethinking how to turn. There is, incredibly, no waggle or IR of any sort. This game could be played with a classic controller with much more ease had the developers included the option to use a classic controller, which of course they did not.
The missions are, in the spirit of the game’s limited design, pretty banal. One early warning sign (and by “early” we mean in the first hour, since the game is very short) was a Decepticon mission that began with the objective to run around and “defeat 12 Autobots.” After completing that objective, the screen unceremoniously flashed up the objective to “defeat 12 more Autobots,” instantly obliterating what small fun there was to be had during that mission. Other missions are equally bad, whether they involve killing requisite numbers of enemies, avoiding enemies for requisite periods of time, or defending targets from enemies for requisite periods of time.
Some problems with combat further handicap the game. Every character has both a primary and secondary weapon, with Autobot weapons pretty much the same across all Autobots and Decepticons the same across all Decipticons. Unfortunately, the primary weapon is so weak and the secondary weapon so strong that most players will rely exclusively on the secondary weapon. (The secondary weapon has finite ammo but is easily found.) In addition, enemies can be destroyed by crashing into them, at little damage to the player. In practical terms, then, most players will go around bashing into enemies while firing the secondary weapon.
The game’s graphics and sounds vary from adequate to unremarkable. The visuals are GameCube, which is not surprising since the game apparently shares the same assets as the 3DS version. Cutscenes are low-budget cutout-style stills with a bare bit of motion, and the in-game backgrounds are flat and uninspired. On the sound front, Peter Cullen valiantly reprises his role as Optimus Prime, but the rest of the voicework is middling and the Decepticons sound like sandpaper, even as Decepticons go. The music is orchestrated and flows well enough but it isn’t enough to save the game.
Overall, Transformers: Dark of the Moon– Stealth Force Edition amounts to a supreme disappointment. The developer’s seemingly lazy decision to replace robot transformation with an armed car mode takes away the principle draw of Transformers, while the game’s mediocre graphics, counterintuitive controls, and uninspired mission structure rip the heart out of a franchise that already feels far removed from its glorious past. One might argue that there is nowhere to go but up, but having been proven wrong a few times already, that might be a dangerous statement to make.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.