Monday 30 January 2023

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark; Completed!

I played the Ps3 one ok? ok!

I remember thinking about buying this in Australia, but I don't think I ever did.  It was low priority for me, being a movie tie in game and therefore very likely shit.  I was waiting for a good price, which it never seemed to reach for some reason.  Then, stuff happened and I got around to paying it now.

What's it like?

A bit strange this one.  Let's goooooooooo

Setting up my experience....

So the good chaps at High Moon Studios managed to Transformers right with the very nice pair of games; Ward For Cybertron(WFC) and Fall of Cybertron(FOC).  Both being set on Cybertron before the Transformers reached Earth.  I really enjoyed both games each for slightly different reasons.

WFC did exceptionally well bringing Cybertron to life.  Yes, many of the levels were dark and it looked like night a lot, yes the different Transformers you got to play as weren't really all that different, but the world was exciting to experience.  Doors, roads, elevators and even bridges transformed as you progressed along them, it was exciting to see a world that so reflected the nature of the Transformers themselves.

Co-Op play through the story level was cool when you could find a friend, the Escalation and various online modes with lots of little ways to tweak your robots were great fun too!  I actually spent a fair bit of time online playing this one!  Very rare for me. 

FOC Was similar in gameplay, but story mode was single player only.  This meant that the levels were focused better for story telling, and what a good story. Man there were many epic events in this game that I will never forget.  I do wish that the marketing leading up to the game release didn't reveal all the coolness.  Imagine how good it would've been had you not know that Metroplex was in there?  The lead up to that section is very nicely paced, had I never known that Metro was there, I would have shit myself in excitement like a neurotic chihuahua.  Regardless though, there were many awesome bits that totally blew me away and after they happend, I'd have to have a brief moment of respite and just sit there thinking "Goddam, that was amazing." Again the online was the bees knees and also very fun. Again, I spent a lot of time playing on that too.

Then I think High Moon got suckered into making the Dark of the Moon game, essentially WFC game play and controls on earth with movie characters and a plot to match. I didn't spend much time on this because, eh, beeping Bumblebee...

Then, something bad stepped in 


And shenanigans started and High Moon shuffled off somewhere and another team were tasked with making another TF game along the same lines of FOC, but it's gotta be a movie game.  Oh and I think they had bugger all time in which to do so.

And thus, Rise of the Dark Spark was vomited up.

Finally Talking about the game...

The base concept is fine as it completely copies the mechanics (and often maps and models) of WFC/FOC games. Sadly though, it just can't carry it on.

You start playing as too-human face Drift on Earth.  The first thing I noticed is that this Earth level is just goddam ugly. The textures are terrible.  Then normal WFC gameplay starts.  It's fine I guess, but there is a definite lack of weapon selection here.  After playing through the "tutorial" section of the game, I finally get to transform.  Drift is a Bugatti right? Like really frikking high end fast car yeah?  But even boosting in vehicle mode he just seems to trundle along happily.

Anyhoo, moving along, we eventually discover Lockdown (yes, Lockdown from the movie) has traced MacGuffin (the Dark Spark of the title) to Earth and wants it.  So we go along, playing Drift the whole time, though a rather boring level, only to get to MacGuffin and, surprise, surprise, manage to let Lockdown get it.  Along the way we meet Bumblebee and Optimus.  Optimus sports his knightly body, but his proportions look really whack.  

After Lockdown gets MacGuffin, we then travel back in time and to Cybertron to learn about the MacGuffin and how it came to Earth.  

Here the game gets a little better looking as we're on Cybertron and not a boring ass destroyed city.  

At this point, it becomes obvious how much thought was put into this game.  Obviously, the game was meant to be a WFC3, but Activision (probably) said "Make a movie game" and any love for WFC was then sacrificed to Bobby Kotick and movie stuff was loosely slapped in to make it "fit."

The Cybertron sections are set between WFC and FOC.  Optimus and the Autobots are preparing the Ark and leaving Cybertron and Trypticon is still smooshed over Cybertron's landscape.  We also get to see how Shockwave meets the Insecticons.

About the most exciting time for me was actuyally getting to play as an Insecticon.  He looked great, shame the gameplay was just kinda "Whatevah."

Most of the game consists of 

  1. get to place
  2. fight waves of enemies
  3. leave for next place
  4. goto line 1
Sure, manyy game do this, but ROTDS here manages to do it pretty badly.  Reused maps (like obviously so) from WFC games are there.  I easily recognized at least three sections, stupid enemy AI, and an off-line loot box system juts manages to suck any life this game could have possibly had right into the void. 

Oh the loot boxes, damn man.  I guess the good thing is you don't have to pay for them, but why have them then?  Things like grenades, heal beams, little flying drone things that used to be either pickups or character type abilities are now finite use things you need from loot boxes.  Used all your bloopy grenades? What some more? Better cross your fingers they pop in the next box.  Even the guns are limited to these things.  Most of the heavy weapons I never got to use in my play through because I didn't unlock them in the loot box.... WTF were they thinking?  

If you pick up a gun you haven't unlocked, and go to swap it in the "gun shoppe" because it is not ideal for your current section, you'll get a warning informing you you'll lose access to that weapon. Bloody hell man, ruin my fun why don't ya?  Hope you like the Path blaster, coz that's all your getting young man.

Luckily though, stupid enemy AI abounds, so being stuck with the same gun is fun, they're no challenge.  However it is annoying when you have a large area to clear, and and enemy spawns somewhere nowhere near you.  I had this a couple of times.  One section in particular.... Jazz(you) and Ironhide are moving through a vertically set out section and getting attacked by waves of little Insecticons, they're no challenge.  However I was at one point where I couldn't progress, or find any enemies.  As it happens, one lonely little Insecticon had spawned all the way back at the bottom of the level.  I only pegged after hearing the scratches, so I had to hunt the ducker down.  Jumping around an area devoid of anything, but noises, which didn't help me, only to find this guy stuck behind a corner he just didn't want to leave. 10 minutes of looking.  One slap, he dead, I can move on.  

Occasionally your companions will get in you way trapping you in a corner of a room, or standing too close to a door, meaning the prompt for you to rip the door open doesn't show.  Better restart that check point.

In case you haven't noticed, the game is rather buggy (not Insecticon buggy either).

One section got exceptionally hard with these tiny little drone things I could barely see showing up and absolutely wrecking the shit out of me.  I couldn't work out what was going on, by the time I did and tried different tactics, I was truly shocked.  So far the game had been pretty breezy then all of a sudden it's balls to the wall difficult.  Why do these little drones punch so hard? Like they punch harder than the big robots towards the end of the game!!  I slapped the difficulty down to easy and managed to make it through, but it was still insanely hard.  I thought, "Maybe I'm just shit," but in my YouTube feed up popped a video of a dude playing it, and he had the exact same experience as I.

Wow, just wow. So it wasn't me. 

After passing that section, all was fine and bland again.  

You know, it's odd really, this game just copies so much from the other games, it's just feels empty.  There are some cool bits, but direction is lacking.  One section has Optimus trapped in Kaon of all places (yes, you break into Kaon, the Decepticon's main stronghold) and do a rather nifty thing getting Trypticon's corpse to blast it.  Something very cool, that should have some awesome leadup right, I mean Trypticon in WFC was a whole level, and the boss fight was epic as he fell from space, laser blasting at Silverbolt, then Optimus had to fight him on the ground... However here the laser shot of his blast is fired and gone before you can even really see what happened.  All this bland gameplay and they don't even allow you to  properly savour the payoff of the cool scene...

They even repeat the cool section of FOC where you play as Bruticus.  I will say I was impressed that they had a different combination animation for Bruticus.  That's something.  Somehow, this Bruticus part goes on for a bit too long... ROTDS BruticombineFOC BrutiCombine.

Later, there is a Grimlock level, which again has no lead up, and also goes on for too long.  Sadly though they have just copy/pasted Grimlock from FOC but given him a new model.  So, yes, he will stab with his mace...  About the only good thing is you can transform at will in this game.  Grimlock is so over powered there is no threat and this part is not all that fun.  Plus bland destroyed city horrible graphics.  The Grimlock section ends with you having to defend Optimus as he tries to open a large manhole cover to get into the sewer.  Grimlock is a big robot, this map is a little small, enemies are swarming everywhere and hard to see.  This part is not fun.

Finally you play as Optimus and I discovered that they super beefed up his vehicle mode.  Something happened to my game save and the few heavy weapons I had unlocked got relocked.  So that was great he says sarcastically.  Luckily Optimus' vehicle mode had some serious grenade bazooka gun thing and a gun equivalent to an overpowered Scrapmaker mini gun on it.


Sadly though, there enemies were just your pleb enemies, so my awesome pretty much endless minigun blasting was EXCESSIVE overkill and nothing was a challenge.  Then I went in the area for the final boss fight. 

Oh after resetting because Drift got in the way and trapped me in the corner of a room...

Lockdown ends up swarming you with plebs, then generously lets you blast important parts of his big machine at your leisure.  What a nice guy.

Then he hangs off the side and shoots you with Megatron's cannon.  I really struggled with this bit for a while, Lockdown is glowing blue. Is that a shield? It certainly looks like one.  No point shooting him then? Plus any shots I've tried don't do anything; I need to save my ammo.  I'll just dodge until he comes down.

But he doesn't.

So I must have to shoot him then.  A'ight....    ?

That did the trick,  but now shooting him doesn't cause damage a friendly little message tells me. Melee to do damage.  So off I go aaaaaannnnndddd


After a few tries of various things, I discovered Optimus has a riot shield thing.  I remember seeing the icon for that at the start of the level, but it didn't work then, so.... I never used it.  Now in this final fight, I can use it indefinitely.

Now the fight has gone from "very difficult" to "absolute piece of cake." Lockdown cannot break through my shield, meanwhile I can happily pop shots at him from behind it.  I can also slap him silly with it for the melee.  great.

Another boring boss fight done and the screen cuts to a sudden  cut scene of stuff exploding, Optimus uses his matrix to blast the MacGuffin into space again ('coz that worked so well last time right?) and it cuts to Optimus doing some narrating and we end up seeing a G1 looking Optimus on an alien planet as MacGuffin falls and he says the exact same thing Optimus said in the opening to this POS game.



End.  ---> Uninstall and delete from system.

Sigh, thank god that is over.


You know, I did a LOT of whingeing in this post, but really the game isn't BAD as such, it's just so... half arsed.  There is no care in this game at all and I am surprised they actually managed to get Peter Cullen to voice it, although I bet there was some movie contracty thing involved there.

I think what bothers me the most about this game, is that it is literally made from the Frankensteined parts of a better game.  It's like I've tasted the joy of what could have been and I see something that could be again, but I am just looking at the mangled, desecrated corpse of something that was beautiful.

So there ya go.

Play it or don't.  I don't really care.  But if you do play it, you can talk to me about it.


Here is a little video form a game journalist guy a that looks into games with troubled creations. Check it out.

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark, What happened?


  1. Ah yes, Rise of the Dark Spark.

    Fall of Cybertron on its hardest setting was the right mixture of challenge and fun. Rise of the Dark Spark was all challenge and no fun. XP

    And there's what it did with Kickback's voice...

    1. Kickback's voice was a surprise indeed. And you're pretty spot on with summary there too.


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