REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS – RISE OF THE DARK SPARK / DEVELOPER: EDGE OF REALITY / PUBLISHER: ACTIVISION / PLATFORMS: PC, PLAYSTATION 3, PLAYSTATION 4, WII U, XBOX 360, XBOX ONE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Continuing where High Moon Studios left off, Rise of the Dark Spark serves as both a prequel to Fall of Cybertron and Age of Extinction. Flipping back and forth between the two universes, the game features the Autobots facing the threat of the dark spark, antithesis of the Matrix of Leadership, along with both Megatron and Lockdown. Rather than being a step forwards however, the game rapidly proves to be a shadow of Fall of Cybertron brimming with lacklustre mechanics and poor design choices.
While elements and design ideas from High Moon remain here and there, this only goes so far towards making an adequate title. The shooting and most basic combat mechanics are taken from past games and remain serviceable, but they are severely undercut by terrible NPC A.I. More often than not you’re going to be more worried about your allies blocking your path than any one of the enemies actually managing to take you down. Furthermore, no truly memorable set-pieces or major boss battles are ever introduced to truly hold your attention, and enemies rarely transform themselves.
The levels suffer from the texture quality of a Playstation 2 era release, with murky visuals and frame rate problems which ruin combat. Even menu screens are afflicted by this failing, and the game is plagued by juddering, slow loading screens which somehow manage to almost always rear their ugly heads mid-combat.
Things only get worse on Earth where these failings are magnified tenfold. Robbed of High Moon’s design aesthetics and environments, the game offers nothing here of any worth. It’s little more than a cancerous lump tacked onto the game to try and further capitalise on the recent film, robbing time which could have been spent creating a coherent campaign. Instead it’s mashed in as if Edge of Reality had to cobble together a single title out of existing assets from two separate ones.
While The Dark Spark does retain a few quality elements, these boil down to occasional moments of nostalgic Easter eggs and the quality of the voice actors. The only gameplay-related bonus proves to be the option to play as the Insecticons, which is not nearly enough to warrant playing.
Ultimately The Dark Spark is little more than a cynical crash grab, pillaging elements from talented studios to try and create some sense of quality and failing all the while. Strip-mining assets from previous games only serves to remind players of how much better the past releases were, and there is nothing of real value to justify the high price. Ignore this one entirely and save your cash for something better.