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Toonzone Previews the Transformers: Dark of the Moon Video Game

Toonzone was recently invited by Activision and High Moon
Studios to sit with Sean Miller, Game Director on Transformers: Dark of the
Moon
and Designer, Terry Spier to participate in a demonstration of the upcoming game
for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. An Activision representative was also able
to give us a demo of the 3DS version of the game. We’ll discuss the 360 and PS3
games and then jump back to the Wii and 3DS games.

The events that take place in the 360/PS3 game lead directly
up to the beginning of the upcoming film, which hit theaters on July 1,
2011.  We were shown missions for
Bumblebee, Ironhide, Soundwave, Starscream and Megatron. The controls are based
around standard third-person controls. According to High Moon, each of the
levels was crafted around the capabilities of each Transformer, from what
enemies were encountered to the size of the robot versus its environment to
where the camera was placed. The idea of scale is communicated effectively.
Also, because the characters you’ll play as are parts of a team, they’ll often
be heard interacting with other Transformers, both friend and foe.

Bumblebee’s mission takes place three years after the last
film. In the second movie, Soundwave hacked into a satellite. The Autobots have
discovered this and sent Bumblebee to a remote facility to do recon and
counter-hack the system. He’s no longer Sam’s guardian and has grown into the
“agile scout-warrior”. He’s more of a melee character. He hits and moves
quickly. His transformation was quick, but not so fast that you missed it. He
was also able to strafe in his vehicle form. Bumblebee’s level is the first
appearance of the “Stealth Force” mechanic, which is a hybrid, weaponized
version of your character’s vehicle form.

 

Ironhide’s level is built around him being a destructive
force. It sets up some of the tensions between the humans and robots
that will be found in the upcoming film. Decepticons have been terrorizing
American cities in order to destabilize relations with the humans. This level
featured a buddy-picture element in that it is Ironhide’s mission to root out
the Decepticon threat while Ratchet tries to rescue the humans. They interact
throughout the mission. In this level, High Moon wanted to capture the feel of
a Transformer running through a human city under siege. Ironhide moves slower
than Bumblebee, but compensates by having more (and more destructive)
firepower. His special move is called, “Heavy Ironwork” and it involves a super
heavy machine gun and rocket launcher. 

Soundwave’s level finds him back on Earth, in the jungles of
Central America. The game director said that they wanted to communicate how
epic our world is by including more organic settings, like this level. Here you
get to see Soundwave in his new form, with tons of subwoofers on his arms.
Megatron sends Soundwave to retrieve the information from what was supposed to
be a defunct Sector 7 base. He arrives to find that the base is overrun with
Autobots who have been working to develop this special technology called,
“Mech Tech”. The technology is being developed specifically allow
humans and Autobots to work more effectively together to kill Decepticons. His
mission is to retrieve this information and destroy the base/factory.

One of Soundwave’s minions makes an appearance as a playable
character. Laserbeak’s role involves more espionage. When there are areas Soundwave
cannot get to, he uses Laserbeak to do recon. In this level, the player uses
Laserbeak to set up objectives that Soundwave will have to complete. The level
is experienced from both of their perspectives.

Starscream’s level is a flying level. He has tracked down a
shipment of the Mech Tech that’s on its way to the soldiers. His job is to
destroy the shipment. The equipment is being transported by a Transformer
that’s been in the background during the movies, a C-130 carrier jet named
Stratosphere. Starscream must engage both Aerialbots and Stratosphere. There
are parts where you’re flying as a jet and some where you’re fighting other
robots on the surface of Stratosphere. The environment had a sunset look about
it; clouds all the way into the distance. The camera moved smoothly and the
quickness of the level reminded me of Afterburner. There was a seamless
transition between his air fights and those on the surface of the Stratosphere.
Aerialbots Silverbolt, Air Raid, Breakaway make an appearance.

The final level previewed was Megatron’s level, which sets
up the circumstances leading up to the new film. Megatron was almost completely
destroyed in the last movie. This level is based around his return to power.
You’ll start the level in your weakened state and by the end you build to your
maximum strength.

Megatron has been under asylum in a Russian base. The
Autobots have tracked him to this base and his goal is to fight his way through
them. His abilities are based around technology that Starscream developed for
him in order to rebuild his army and regain his power. He can drain health in
the form of Energon and use it to replenish his own. He also has the ability to
control creatures called the “Hatchlings” and can use them to augment his
abilities. He’s able to use super-charged Energon to control them. They can be
used to distract enemies or destroy things in the environment.

Overall, the game moved pretty smoothly. The transformations
of all the characters previewed were seamless. They effectively communicated the scale of the different Transformers. There
were no noticeable camera glitches caused by incorporating so many different
perspectives. I found the constant interaction with other characters to be a
little distracting, but it is a game that ultimately involves playing as
members of teams. So, it goes with the territory.  I couldn’t find much to nitpick based on the
demo. I’m a chick who digs giant robots and explosions. What can I say?

While we were there, the High Moon guys were more than
willing to talk about the game and their love of Transformers. The director is
a long-time fan and mentioned loving the whole spectrum of the Transformers
universe. We were also able to ask a couple of questions before moving on to
the 3DS demo.

Toonzone: What
were the challenges of working with the franchise? Where were you able to
interject more creativity? Where did you find the most freedom?

High Moon: One of
the cool things about working with Hasbro and Paramount was that they’ve been
really supportive in collaborating with us on a story that butts up to the
film. By setting it as a prologue, it freed us up to explore some areas that
they weren’t going to explore in the film and bring some of our passion and
knowledge of the characters and their universe to that. In working with them,
they helped make sure they were staying within the cannon that had been
established and adding to it without spoiling any of the special moments that are
coming up.

I think that was actually one of the big benefits to being a
prologue kind of a story. It did free us up. We were able to create that
back story for how things happened and worked with Hasbro to make sure that it
fit with all of the other elements that work within the Transformers universe.
They have their toys. They have the comics. The movies. Working with them to
bring something that matched up to all of those things was challenging, but
they were great to work with.

Toonzone: So far
design goes was there any character where you did get to contribute a design
and which one was the most fun to do?

High Moon: There
are some characters who are extra to the movie universe. We wanted to bring in
things that — being a prologue, again, allowed us to sort of dig into the
characters you’re going to see in the film, but also bring in some characters
fans are going to be able to appreciate, who… fans of the older series are
going to be able to appreciate. And Hasbro was actually, again, I can’t say enough,
how great they were to work with on it. Because getting to design Transformers
is, is.. I mean it’s like a fantasy come true. I used to play with these as a
kid and now we’re designing them or fleshing out the design or their
personalities, getting to dig into the personalities of some the characters
that you don’t get to necessarily explore. The characters that we as a studio
kind of embraced, and enjoyed. There’s a moment where you get to play as
Warpath. I just really liked his character. So we brought him and you get to
experience his character. He was a character we got to design.

We also dug into a lot of the enemies and sort of took a
look at the Michael Bay designs and tried to get stuff that really fit within
the look and feel of the characters. But all of the iconic characters that
you’re playing are the ones from the film. They look like the ones from the
movies and are designed around their vehicles and robot forms.

Next the representative from Activision previewed Transformers:
Dark of the Moon: Stealth Force Edition for the 3DS and we did get some
hands-on time with this game. The Wii and 3DS games, which were created by Behaviour
Interactive are the same game. The studio took a different approach to the
prologue angle than High Moon did with the PS3 and 360 game. They wanted to
create a very vehicular combat focused game, in the vein of classic games like
Twisted Metal. You’re always in vehicle form, but you can switch in and out of
Stealth Mode. I played a level as Ironhide. The graphics were tight. There was
always action going on.

It’s not the fault of the game developers, but I did find
the 3D effect to be distracting and had to turn it off. Unless you’re holding
your 3DS at the right angle, you’ll get a double image and it’s difficult to
hold the device still when you’re mashing buttons. Speaking of which, it took a
little while to get used to the controls. You move forward and backwards using
the little analog stick, but you turn left and right using the shoulder
buttons.

Transformers: Dark of
the Moon
is set to be released on the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, 3DS and DS on
June 14, 2011.

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