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Review

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PC
Aaron Sampson on Google+

You have neither the touch nor the power.

When I was a kid, Optimus Prime seemed to me like everything a leader should be: intelligent, compassionate, and, of course, capable of turning into a truck. It's been frustrating in recent years to see the Transformers become defined in this generation not by the charm and personality of the original cartoon but by the cacophonous stupidity and visual chaos of the Michael Bay films. I always hope that video games might be the one area where the Transformers can be redeemed. Alas, Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is not the game that redeems them.

Though it's developed by Edge of Reality, Rise of the Dark Spark's action is closely modeled on developer High Moon's games War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron. Narratively, however, where this game falls is completely unclear. In some ways, it seems to exist in the same universe as the cartoons, but on the other hand, the robot designs sometimes resemble those from the films, and there are plot details that refer to Michael Bay's latest opus, Transformers: Age of Extinction. The result is an incoherent story that feels like it was cobbled together from the spare parts of other stories.


The gameplay doesn't fare much better. High Moon's Cybertron games were mostly enjoyable shooting galleries, and there are times when Rise of the Dark Spark seems like it might manage to be the same. Playing as a variety of Autobots and Decepticons over the course of the game, you unleash hot robot death on countless enemy grunts. At its best moments, Rise of the Dark Spark is fun in the generic and familiar way that so many blandly competent shooters are fun--a pleasant enough way to pass the time if you have nothing else to do. There are a good variety of weapons for you to use, and although you rarely have much incentive to transform, it's nice to have the freedom to drive or fly away from enemies when the action heats up.

Unfortunately, although you move around with a feeling of appropriate heft for a sentient being constructed of strong and heavy metals, when you get swarmed by enemies, you go down so fast that you might as well be made of aluminum cans. It drains all the joy from being Optimus Prime to see him crumple almost immediately in response to enemy fire, and these poorly designed combat encounters make victory not a matter of playing defensively and using smart tactics but of just trying again and again and hoping this time it works out for you. Some sections go on for much too long, keeping you stuck in one spot fighting off waves of identical enemies when all you want to do is advance, and the game's maddening checkpoints regularly require you to replay lengthy sections of frustrating action when you fall in battle.

Nobody told Cliffjumper that he's supposed to fall over when his health meter runs out.

In fact, Rise of the Dark Spark's entire campaign goes on for too long. By the time you come to the end of its 14 chapters, you'll have had enough of shooting robots to last you at least until the next three Transformers movies have been released. It doesn't help that the game is so unpleasant to look at and to listen to. The urban environments on Earth are so drab and simple that they look like the miniature set of a low-budget monster movie rather than a real city, and the sound design may drive you insane. In one level, I heard the Decepticons shout the line "Let's see what we got!" so many times that I decided it had to be part of a psychological warfare campaign meant to undermine the Autobots' morale.

Your progress is also hindered by the occasional bug, and I don't mean those pesky Insecticons. During one boss battle, I fully depleted my foe's health bar, but nothing happened. I had to let him kill me and restart the fight to advance. During another boss fight, I became completely stuck on the geometry and was helpless to defend myself against my enemy's attacks.

There are a few merciful moments of reprieve from the standard action, like one sequence in which, as Jetfire, you must fly your way out of a structure before a weapon goes off, and another in which you play as the massive dinobot Grimlock, who can unleash a constant stream of flame from his robotic jaws. This power trip feels like a reward for slogging through so much tedious and frustrating action, but it's too little, too late.

No game with robot dinosaurs in it can be all bad, but Rise of the Dark Spark comes close.

There's also Escalation, a cooperative multiplayer mode in which you and up to three other players fight off waves of invading enemies, but one wave feels very much like another. There isn't enough variety to it to keep it interesting for long. The game tries to keep you hooked by doling out a constant stream of rewards for your progress in the form of weapon upgrades, experience point boosts, and other doodads, but the action is too shallow to make any of these rewards meaningful. The Transformers are a great property, one that seems like it should lend itself to the creation of great games, but Rise of the Dark Spark is so sloppy and incoherent that it feels more like a cheap knockoff than a proper Transformers game. Optimus Prime deserves better, and so do you.

The Good
You play as a variety of Transformers who use a variety of weapons
Playing as Grimlock is an enjoyable power trip
The Bad
Shallow, sometimes frustrating action made worse by poor checkpoint placement
Bland visuals and obnoxious sound design
Incoherent story
Occasional bugs
4
Poor
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Carolyn has been following the Transformers in one form or another since they first went up against the Gobots for the hearts and minds of American children in the 1980s. Rise of the Dark Spark isn't the worst Transformers game she's played. That honor goes to the Wii game Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Stealth Force Edition, in which you couldn't even transform.

Discussion

230 comments
Dirty_Window
Dirty_Window

This game is so so poor. High Moon should have carried on.

advocacy
advocacy

Anyone who plays and finishes this game deserves to be paid real money.

expeditopaz2008
expeditopaz2008

Activision should give up on these movie-based games, and let High Noon make only new Transformers games. Or, at maximum, games based on classic 80's plots.

highpitcairn
highpitcairn

how activision not give this to high moon studio since they professional at creating good transformers game, FOW And WFC For example.

ecurl143
ecurl143

C'mon, own up, who's gone out and bought this garbage?

Mindwipe77
Mindwipe77

Im a huge TF fan so i can overlook some of it's flaws and still enjoy it. It's definitely not as good as War/Fall of cybertron and the entire game felt more like DLC to those games.  I hope they will make a proper third game in the Cybertron series picking up after Fall of cybertron on the new systems though.

brewed100
brewed100

i've never played it but i would agree with Carolyn, and never will play it because I tire of games that:
a) look more slick thanks to next gen but
b) the characters - despite the real look - move around like dorky sprites/cartoons in repeated patterns
c) the levels have nothing but repeated objects (eg wooden box) in a big empty open spaces and
d) everything feels like a its a 'cube with a different texture map'
Games like Half Life series, Crysis, Gears/War, Uncharted, Splinter Cell to name a few do a great job letting you suspend your disbelief in their world.


I'm sure it looks goofy seeing massive metal doink around like Mario zapping you.  Let's not even talk about Bay's movies because a flip book made on TP by a 3 yr. old could capture more attention.


Something to consider:
Batman, Superman, Thor etc failed so many times over the years as developers tried hard to capture the essence of the character, but always wound up making the gimmicky. Then, other teams who were NOT trying to capture that developed games (like Prince/Persia, Splinter Cell, Devil May Cry) and in each of these games was some 'thing' done very well (ie combat engne/moves, vertical levels etc).


Eventually the perfect blend like Batman/Arkham  where:

a) the developers are experts
b) they pick the appropriate game techniques for the character


So I think that sometimes developers/teams should un-learn all the formulaic crap, look at games like 'Last of Us' and build only what is needed for that character - again like Batman for example.

mikeyjoel
mikeyjoel

Is this game really that bad that you can't even play it knowing you are so bored even the grass at the patio is cut already? damn

tgwenz
tgwenz

Somewhere in the future someone is saying "The first game I ever played was Transformers: RotDS. My life was never the same after that."

PETERAKO
PETERAKO

Problems

1-Its not made by high moon studios

2-they shoehorned bayverse in it.

TheCyborgNinja
TheCyborgNinja

I had fun with it, but it's definitely a case of liking Transformers enough to overlook the low-budget production values. I assume Activision demanded a movie tie-in, otherwise we may have had a third decent Cybertron game. I'd give it a 6 or 7, honestly (from the perspective of a huge TF fan). If you're just some random guy who doesn't care about the license, I think a 5 is more appropriate.

Dirk_McHardpeck
Dirk_McHardpeck

Why have Drew Scanlon and Jeff Gerstmann do a 45 minute playthrough video and then give the full review to Carolyn?

ecurl143
ecurl143

Well, the movie has been slated but has done well at the box office apparently.

Not sure the game will fair quite so well though...

youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

Now can we stop having the word "rise" in everything?

resident_jisen
resident_jisen

my only grip with the game is the difficulty of the game is way off. I found normal to hard and easy way to easy.other than that I found the game really good. a solid 7 but cause of the difficulty problem I would say between 4-5.

Jaxith
Jaxith

The worst part of this is that disconnect you feel whenever you see Optimus Prime on the screen.  It simply doesn't register that the guy you're looking at is in some way supposed to be Optimus...  At least that's how I feel.  I cringe a little every time I see him, or any of the other movie designs...

feleas
feleas

it looks like movie influence has finally gotten involved with the war for cybertron series. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...

Oh well, I still got War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron, both 1000x better games than the movie games.

taktikalz
taktikalz

Could someone please tell me what kind of moron is buying this shit? This looks like a game from the early 2000s... The developer is definitely taking the piss! I think comparing this to the movies is horrendously harsh on them, because this looks anything but big budget and all out action...

MajinSquall
MajinSquall

the curse of the movie licence strikes again

Hurvl
Hurvl

"Poor" - like the movies.

unfreak-believ
unfreak-believ

It's time to learn! You guys ready for a fun fact? Here we go!


When Carolyn said "you have neither the touch nor the power", it's a reference to the song The Touch, known from Transformers: The Movie. Obvious, I know. 


But it's also sung rather masterfully in the film Boogie Nights, by none other than Marky Mark, our fearless Autobot sympathizer in the new Transformers film. Google 'Boogie Nights You Got The Touch'. You're welcome.


The more you know!

sergeshd123
sergeshd123

alright, a mothafucking waste of money

Jd1680a
Jd1680a

I just checked out the price on Steam, $50. That seems to be a little high for this game, Im definitely going to wait for it to be priced below $10 during the winter Steam sale.

vl4d_l3nin
vl4d_l3nin

@ecurl143 I`d say unaware parents of dipshit kids is the main demographic here.

Coco_pierrot
Coco_pierrot

@Mindwipe77  I would have kept the game like previous Transformers games but I don't know why but all Activision published games always crash my PS3 so I returned the game and won't buy anything else by Activision.

valdarez
valdarez

I'm a huge Transformers fan and I gave it a five. Missing PVP, all the bugs, and the poor storyline can't justify a six or seven rating. I felt like I was being generous with the five.

Bgrngod
Bgrngod

@Dirk_McHardpeck Not sure why the Giant Bomb quicklook video is relevant.  Giant Bomb and Gamespot are not the same website.

Bgrngod
Bgrngod

@jake198624 Because the previous two Transformers games that appear to be related to this one were both pretty darn good.

thehollowones
thehollowones

@youre_a_sheep Gee, do you think its because they're all trying to get a "rise" out of you? *buh dum tch*

aaaaaand I'm out.

valdarez
valdarez

@resident_jisen Game was pretty easy even on Normal.  You can't run blindly into swarms of enemies.  Only problem I had was with various bugs in the game that resulted in death.  (playing on PS4 version)  Died occasionally, but nothing that seemed out of place or frustrating. 

Bgrngod
Bgrngod

@feleas I know right?  Those two games were my favorite thing to happen with Transformers in a long time, but now they caught a bad cause of Baybola and are going to die a painful death.

TheWatcher000
TheWatcher000

@COLDFIRE25 


^ This douchebag's bigotry.....


Give it a rest.

Bgrngod
Bgrngod

@Jd1680a If it had lived up to the quality of WFC and FOC, then I'd have gone ahead and plunked down $60 for it this week.  Those games weren't SUPERB, but I liked them quite a bit and was hoping for this one to be 3 in a row for that success.


Sadly.. twas not to be.  Instead we get a crap movie-tie-in game.


Instead, I'll snag it during some kind of future discount/clearance for sub $15 later down the road.

nickoji
nickoji

Would you guys shut the rise up!

I've had enough of this rise already.

Rise this, rise that.....Shut up you motherRISING RISEHOLES!!!

valdarez
valdarez

@Bgrngod @Jd1680a Meanwhile Fall of Cybertron on Steam is still $59.99, and worth every penny more than Rise of the DarkSpark (though that price should be down by now!).

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • + 4 more
    • PlayStation 4
    • Wii U
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is an action adventure game where players will choose from over 40 playable characters from the two different universes as they battle to secure the Dark Spark.
    4.9
    Average User RatingOut of 53 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark
    Developed by:
    Edge of Reality
    Published by:
    Activision, Square Enix
    Genres:
    Open-World, Action, Adventure, 3D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Violence