Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark Review
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Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark Box Art
System: Xbox One, PS4, PS3, Xbox 360*, PC, Wii U
Dev: Edge of Reality
Pub: Activision
Release: June 24, 2014
Players: 1-4
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Violence
Not More Than Meets The Eye
by Angelo M. D'Argenio

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is the latest in a long line of action games based on the series of Michael Bay movies based on the franchise that delighted us as kids. Yes, they are still making these crappy movies. Yes, they are still making games for these crappy movies. Yes, another one is about to come out and if you already played any of the Transformers games that have come out before, or movie tie-in games in general, then you know what to expect.

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark takes itself very seriously. It tries to market itself as something other than a movie tie-in. The game takes place in completely different locales than the movie, you encounter completely different characters, and you go on completely different missions. But we know better. Did you ever notice that these games only come out when a Transformers movie is about to release? It’s a movie tie-in through and through, from the bland and uninspired action, to the crappy level design. Everything here reeks of “rush job.”

The fact that the plot is so removed from the movie makes it even harder to care about the events of the game. The plot centers around “The Dark Spark” which… pretty much does what it says on the tin. It’s an ancient relic, as powerful as the Matrix of Leadership, but eeeeeeeeeeeeeevil. It gives anyone who holds it the power to bend the universe to their will. Of course, all the Matrix of Leadership does is grant you wisdom so I think good is getting a crap deal here. Anyway, the Decepticons want this dark spark to tear open holes in universes or… whatever… and that beats the Autobots or something. OK I’m being purposefully vague to avoid spoilers but, in reality, that’s about what the plot is. It’s a sloppy fanfiction style reason to get giant transforming robots fighting each other again and it’s not compelling in the least.

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The format of the game is pretty much identical to previous Transformers games. It’s a pretty generic third person behind the back military shooter. Put the reticle on the other guy and watch them die. It also suffers from the faults of the other Transformers game, being that is has a painful lack of variety. For a game that is all about giant robots fighting each other, you find yourself sadly firing the same machine gun at the same targets over and over again. There is very little variety in the guns you acquire in this game. They are all just generic machine gun, shot gun, laser, grenade launcher molds that never go beyond “point at the other guy and shoot.”

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark Screenshot

Your goals are simple… too simple in fact. They only really come in two varieties. You either need to make your way to a mission marker, or kill some dudes. In fact, most of the levels in the game are just alternating segments of each. Get to an area of the map, kill some dudes, get to another area of the map, and kill some more dudes. It never gets much more complicated than that. That’s actually the game’s biggest downfall. There are no puzzles and only light platforming so the whole thing is just a gigantic shooting gallery. This might be enough for some people but most will be looking for a bit more depth.

As always you can transform into vehicles, both full vehicles and battle mode vehicles, but I found that there was little reason to. The maps are all very claustrophobic and you can’t get very far on wheels. There are points in which you want to get from one area of the map to another quickly and vehicle mode works decently for that, but it’s just not fun. You spend most of your time in robot mode, plodding around at a slow pace.

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark Screenshot

There is one exception though; controlling Starscream is a blast. Any flying transformer is a blast really. The ability to give yourself full 360 control over your surroundings is awesome. In fact, the game probably could have been a lot of fun as an aerial dog fight game. However, as it stands, you really just use these plane modes to get to the next marker on the stage, and the formula repeats itself again.

It’s important to note that the co-op mode in this game is kind of fun. It’s basically a horde style mode where you and your friends attempt to defend a key point against wave after wave of enemies. You are able to utilize every power-up and upgrade you get in the single-player mode here, and since you likely will have a bunch leftover after playing the single-player campaign, you’ll enter this mode as a veritable powerhouse, and that’s kind of cool.

Unfortunately, there is no competitive multiplayer in this game, and that is a big downside. Granted, competitive multiplayer hasn’t been that great in Transformers games of the past, but just omitting it feels like an oversight. It severely reduces the replay value of the game, which is very unfortunate considering how short it is. You can blow through the single-player campaign in about six or seven hours, which is criminally short for any title. You’ll tire of the horde mode unless you have a lot of friends to play the game with, which probably won’t be the case.

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