Transformers: Rise Of The Dark Spark (Xbox One) Review
Posted by Paul Meekin on 07.07.2014
Transformers dips into movie tie-in territory. Are the results are more than meets the eye? Yes.
Game: Transformers: Rise Of The Dark Spark Platforms: Played on Xbox One, available on PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS, Price: 59.99
"Can I play a game?"
"Is it violent?" Said my mom, aware most Xbox One content was pretty gross.
"Nah, it's a new Transformers game, 'Rise of The Dark Spark'"
"They're still around?"
"Yup - but since there's actually a video game about them now, I don't need my imagination like I did as a kid!" I made a motion like I was cradling my precious Optimus Primal and Dinosaur Megatron toys in my hands and smashing them together. Psshshhh Boososshhh Chishhhhh. You never remember the day you put away your favorite toys. Everyone set down their Hot Rod, Starscream, Soundwave, and that giant Godzilla toy with the removable tail for the last time, but the specifics are always murky.
Well, the good news is Transformers: Rise of The Dark Spark does it better than your imagination ever could.
Situated as a tie-in game with Transformers: Age of Extinction, Rise of The Dark Spark is also another game in the 'War For Cybertron' series developed by High Noon Studios, even though this game was developed by Edge of Reality - the guys who did the ports of the Tony Hawk games for the n64. despite the shift, the game feels right at home right away.
Rise Of The Dark Spark is a high-octane third person shooter without cover mechanics or regenerating health, with a strong focus on weapon upgrades, tech modifications, special abilities, blowing countless enemies into circuit boards, or melting them via corrosive poison like a 50 foot tall Wicked Witch of The West. Its viscerally entertaining.
Initial impressions are positive, and the first robot you control is Drift, a samurai voiced in the movie by Ken Watanabe. It (thankfully) gets the tutorial stuff out of the way early, and by the 20 minute mark you can transform, boost jump, melee, and you're also introduced to the endless number of meta objectives.
For example, while Drift is given a photon cannon, he says he'd prefer to use his sword. If you beat the level without firing a shot, you're rewarded with a 'gear box' which holds all kinds of upgrades, like weapons, character skins, and more. The fan service in this game is insane.
The action is equally as insane and pretty tricky, and you'll die a lot as success requires a fair amount of strategy and quick thinking. You'll need to strafe, flank, conserve high-payload ammo for when you need it, and generally avoid running directly into the oncoming fire of multiple enemies. You may find yourself wanting to play Transformers: Rise Of The Dark Spark as a brainless action game, but it's...I'm sorry...more than meets the eye in that regard.
Speaking of your eyes, and what's pleasing to them, the Xbox One's next-gen kind lends the game a shiny gloss, and the metal reflections go a long way to making your favorite characters look better than ever. There's very little texture pop-in, and while the graphics won't blow you away, there are plenty of great robot explosions, and neat touches that will get your pulse pounding. Watching certain characters transform is almost as cool as it was when you were a kid.
If you were a kid with a bevy of Transformers toys, Rise of The Dark Spark also serves as a great trip to the toy store. You'll see the Insecticons and remember which of them you had and which of them you wanted. You'll see Starscream in all his blue and red and gray glory and immediately remember how jealous you were of your friend Dave who owned two of him. You'll play as Soundwave and instantly flash back to that time your Dad stepped on poor Laserbeak and cut his foot.
You may also remember the stories you told while smashing these robots together on your bed which doubled as a battlefield, or kitchen table whose edge was a perfectly fine place-holder for an active volcano.
When it comes to the story in this game, well...meh. The last two games in the series - War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron, told a pretty creative origin story about how Optimus Prime and the Autobots fled Cybertron for earth, and the last one ended on a cliff-hanger that would hopefully result in the next game in the series re-telling a good chunk of the Generation 1 mythos in its own special way.
So it's unfortunate that this game is actually kind of a mid-quel, taking place between those two games, while also slamming in the Autobots and Decepticons from Michael Bay's Transformers games and very direct references to the actual 1980s cartoon. This is all thanks to a MacGuffin known as the "Dark Spark" which allows the person who controls it to jump between dimensions and alter the very fabric of reality.
Which remains odd, even though Transformers has always been a pretty theological property. Depending on your favorite 'generation' you're dealing with ancient guardians, various matrices of leadership, sparks of power and / or darkness, Energon, something to do with being enlightened as a 'Prime' and lonely monkeys in the desert which is surely a metaphor for something. Would you be shocked to find a burning Nolan Bushnell in there somewhere? Probably not.
It's all pretty strange and hard to really dive into, and once you toss in alternate dimensions and more than one version of some of our favorite heroes and villains, the whole thing becomes a mess. Like sex and chocolate, it's an entertaining and really fun mess, sure, but eventually you just go with the flow and enjoy the cool moments without actively trying to make sense of anything.
It's sort of like how X-Men is supposedly a metaphor for inequality and homosexuality and racism, but all the popular stories seem to involve aliens and space travel. Transformers doesn't need all this extra stuff to tell an entertaining yarn about giant robots punching each-other.
Anyway, if the worst thing you can say about a game released as a tie-in to a movie where the plot isn't important, it that the story kind of sucks, you can't really complain. This game is quality. It's exciting, it's challenging, there's a ton of supplemental content, including multiple multiplayer modes with a bunch of customization, a horde mode, and more.
Most importantly, it's old-school in that if your 12 year old brain pictured the perfect Transformers game, it'd look quite a lot like this, and you'd never pick up your toys again.
And yes, nerds. Stan Bush is present and accounted for.
The added Next Gen oomph is welcome. Robots blow up spectacularly, are shiny, and the level of crazy crap going on, on screen, is wonderful. There's still some junky textures, but if you're paying attention to those, you're doing it wrong
No cover, no problem. An exciting balls-to-the-walls shooter with multiple weapons, upgrades, and special abilities, this game about futuristic robots harkens back to a simpler time.
Classic tunes aside, the voice acting is servicable as you can get where pretty much everyone seems to be talking through a cardboard paper tube, though naturally, anytime you hear the voice of Optimus Prime your psyche travels back in time to being 8 yea
There is tons of stuff to do in this game. Tons. Unlockables, multiplayer, horde mode, multiple difficulties, special skins, secrets galore, if you like Transformers, you'll be playing this for years.
Fun. Absolutely fun. Frustrating at moments, but in the good way. This is old school in a new school light. If you liked any of the other Transformers games by High Noon studios, check this one out immediately.