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Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark Review

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark Review

You can’t help but feel sorry for Optimus Prime. Not only does the Autobot leader have to appear in another Michael Bay movie, he also has to take a starring role in the spin-off video game that ties in with the fourth installment of the live action cash cow that is Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Unfortunately, just like many probably expected leading up to the release of Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark, the game is a trainwreck of rehashed ideas, blatant reuse of past assets and a God awful story that jumps between present day Earth and events that take place on Cybertron before the events of Fall of Cybertron. This is one Transformers title where the titular mountains of metal should have stayed in disguise and driven far, far away.

Lockdown - a Transformer bounty hunter - has come to Earth searching for the Dark Spark, an energy source that serves as the antithesis of the Matrix of Leadership and provides its user with the power to bend time. With the intention of reigniting the eternal war between the Autobots and the Decepticons so he can essentially find more work hunting Transformers (who knew robots worried about financial issues), the rogue bot tracks the Spark to a Human city: coincidentally, it’s also where the remaining Autobots live. Fancy that.

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What follows is possibly one of the worst third-person action game levels in recent memory. Edge of Reality may have wanted to introduce some new content alongside its reuse of elements from High Moon Studio’s Fall of Cybertron (more on that later), but the whole offering falls flat, not least because the visuals of the Earth levels genuinely have the quality of a PlayStation 2 era title.

Aside from the obvious dip in graphical quality for these sections, gameplay is almost identical to Fall of Cybertron. Transforming between robot and vehicle mode still utilises a click of the left thumbstick, and standard combat still favours the ‘no-cover, go in all guns blazing’ mindset. What’s most noticeable is the almost total lack of variance in gameplay other than clearing an area of enemies, changing to vehicle form, cruising to the next area and then doing the exact same thing, only with pulling some switches and wrenching open some doors shoved in for good measure.

At the conclusion of the first stage, you’ll be dumped back on a familiar Cybertron so you can discover just how the Dark Spark made its way to Earth in the first place - a time reversal that’s never actually explained in-game. It’s here that you’ll thank your lucky stars - if you ever played Fall of Cybertron - that Edge of Reality decided to almost completely rehash every single chapter from that game and present them here as if they were new.

Ignoring the jarring and incohesive combination of Earth and Cybertron levels for just a moment, Rise of the Dark Spark, for all its faults, has managed to present itself as an average third-person shooter purely by resting on the above average quality gameplay that High Moon presented with its Cybertron games. Unlike the dreadful Earth stages, Cybertron actually has personality and detail that’s sorely lacking from our home planet.

grimlock game

And while these stages are genuinely enjoyable, they all just instill a very strong sense of deja vu. From the stage where you play as Jetfire and fly through the remains of an ancient Decepticon to one where you play as the 200ft tall (just a guess, he’s huge though) Bruticus, its all been done before, and presented in a far better way than here. Even when you play as Grimlock on Earth towards the end of the game’s 14 chapters, his huge size and melee-centric combat abilities are almost identical to those seen in Fall of Cybertron.

With the content that is new, it more often that not just follows a more dumbed down formula than before. Enemy AI and dialogue - especially in the Earth stages - are painful to experience. “He got away!” is one particular line you’re likely to hear repeated over and over again until your ears fold in on themselves, and while the game certainly isn’t a cakewalk, enemies that previously caused trouble, like Titans, no longer require that the player flank and destroy an exposed weak spot on their back. You just need to keep blasting away until either you collapse into a heap of scrap or they do. Experience based upgrades too, are replaced with a pseudo gambling system. Every level or challenge completed awards you with a ‘Gear Box’ which, when opened, will award you with various power ups, weapons or Escalation characters.

Yes, Escalation returns, and it is genuinely as enjoyable as before. The huge roster of playable Transformers combined with character-specific abilities will ensure that the game has some sense of replayability beyond completing the campaign in different difficulties.

Transformers Rise of the Dark Spark Gameplay Trailer 3

While it’s generally a big no-no to critique a title based on its predecessor, it would simply be a cardinal sin not to inform people that Rise offers almost zero in terms of new content over Fall of Cybertron. And if the developers weren’t so blatantly lazy in their reuse of the series’ previous, excellent set pieces, the game would receive a much higher score. With all due respect to Edge of Reality, the rushed feel of Rise of the Dark Spark is highly likely to be a result of a tight schedule enforced on them to ensure the game’s release alongside the new feature film. Unfortunately though, this isn’t a get out of jail free card: Rise of the Dark Spark is trumped in almost every way by both of its predecessors.

The combination of repetitive gameplay, pacing and story issues in relation to the Earth/Cybertron dynamic and the absence of almost any new ideas will result in Rise of the Dark Spark finding itself being forgotten in the not too distant future. In the vocally distorted words of Bumblebee… “[Sad bleeps]”. Sad Bleeps indeed.

5.00/10 5

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)

The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.

The combination of repetitive gameplay, pacing and story issues in relation to the Earth/Cybertron dynamic and the absence of almost any new ideas will result in Rise of the Dark Spark finding itself being forgotten in the not too distant future. In the vocally distorted words of Bumblebee… “[Sad bleeps]”. Sad Bleeps indeed.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Joe Pring

Joe Pring

Staff Writer

Spends a lot of time writing. If he doesn't have a pad of paper, he's likely to start scrawling indecipherable sentences all over the walls.

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V V NAIR - 03:55pm, 29th August 2015

Where in Chennai (India) can I get the game -Transformers rise of the dark spark PS3