Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is not a movie adaptation of the newly released Transformers: Age of Extinction movie. The story-line is centered around the Dark Spark, as Prime attempts to keep it from landing in the wrong hands.
Throughout the story, you’ll be playing as a various number of Transformers, starting of course, with the Autobots for the main start of the game and then halfway through you’ll get to play with the Decepticon portion. You’ll play with Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, Grimlock, Jetfire, Cliffjumper on the side of the autobots, and with the Decepticons featuring, Shockwave, Soundwave, and the slow but powerful Bruticus. The majority of the game takes place on Cybertron in the timeframe between the games from High Moon Studios and does little to advance or explain the Transformers overall storyline. Most of the play time in this game is spent in mundane battles or traversing unnecessary distances to reach objective points.
Your primary weapon can be switched up either at a terminal, which are dotted around each level, or from random pick-ups. Again, the game suffers from a stunning lack of imagination, with most weapons falling into the automatic rifle or shotgun variety. There’s the option of upgrading weapons by completing additional objectives (e.g. kill fifty enemies with a certain weapon), but they have such little impact on your ability to kill things that it comes across pointless. You can also use the third weapon at your disposal which is attached to your vehicle form. Other than in a few moments where you need to fly, you have no reason to change out of Bot form. Ammunition is plentiful, so needing to resort to the vehicle guns is unnecessary and there are no advantages to being in vehicle form, but there are plenty of faults. You lose most of your speed and agility in gun fights while in this form and, as you can dash into a sprint as a robot, there is no gain in your speed. The flying sections, as short as they may be, add a nice change of pace.
Transforming from robot into vehicle was ok but could of been much better. Whilst it was fun the game does manage to handle both robot and vehicle controls very well. In order to try and encourage players to use them, many levels are much larger than they would otherwise need to be, in order to give you enough room to manoeuvre around as a car. Some Transformers, such as Starscream, morph into aerial vehicles which fare a little better. There’s the added problem though that these sections introduce really tiny enemies that are a nightmare to target, meaning you spend most of you time as an awesome jet-fighter trying to lock on to a handful of annoying pixels that seem capable of blasting you out of the sky in just a few shots.
If you want online play, Escalation is your only option. This is the same horde mode contingent offered in previous games. This offering, however, seems more complicated and less reliable. I can deal with player drop-outs, disconnects, and host migrations as that is a normal happening in online play. What I cannot deal with it the fact that enemy spawns and actions are flawed if not broken. Too many times will you find enemies off the map or in positions that you must hunt them down in order to end a wave of attacks. Also, several of the maps are straight out import of maps in previous games.
Graphically its ok, the Cybertron sections, while feeling very familiar and looking decidedly last-gen are well put together for the most part. All the characters look great too and will instantly bring you back to whatever Generation 1 Transformers you remember best, whether it’s the original cartoon, the aforementioned comics, or the game series.
You can equip two weapons, a primary and a heavy weapon. One hack item, like having enemies drop more ammo, more health or you can increase your weapons fire rate. Hacks have side effects, increasing fire rate will increase the enemies health, increasing ammo drops will decrease health drops. There are three T.E.C.H slots available to equip that help aid you in your mission, among the items are a 3 xp multiplier, a battle drone, or having a boost when in vehicle mode.
The survival mode of Transformers, where you and friends online must survive wave after wave of incoming enemies. It’s a shame that the game doesn’t have a true multiplayer, as good as Escalation is.
Despite being on the PS4, I never quite felt like I was playing the next generation of Transformers games. Sure, it looked good overall, as does most games in 2014, but I was never wowed or amazed. The beginning of the game, while on Earth, I did take note of some great lighting effects with the setting sun, among other little details that made the game look a lot better than it probably does on less-powerful systems, but it lacked a certain amount of polish and detail that keeps me from gushing about how it looks graphically. Essentially, it looks just fine, and I didn’t notice any tearing or lack of textures that totally ruined the experience of the game for me.
Overall, this effort by Activision, Hasbro, and Edge of Reality to, as was said in the release announcement, “bridge the generations of Transformers together, linking the worlds of Generation One, the Paramount Pictures films, and also Activision’s Cybertron titles” falls flat with a story that makes this game feel like the abandoned and discombobulated bastard child of the previous Transformers games and the film franchise, not a celebration of those things.