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July 19, 2014
Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark - PS4 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
25/6/2014ActivisionActivisionEdge of Reality12-4
Media HDD Install Resolution Touchpad PS4 Exclusive OFLC Rating

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Transformers look nice; textures not so.
Ever since the first Michael Bay feature film in the Transformers universe was release I've loved this franchise. Not only the films, which I think are among the most entertaining "popcorn" flicks you can see, but even the video games have recaptured the spirit of the franchise perfectly. Sadly, I am yet to see the fourth film Transformers: Age of Extinction, but I do have the latest video game, Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark.

Edge of Reality, who have become a company handling port of many big games including Mass Effect, Dragon Age: Origins and The Sims 3 to PS3, are handling production of this game while High Moon Studios are off working on the PS3 and XBox 360 ports of a little upcoming shooter called Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. So the developers at least have a history of decent ports, but can they deliver the goods with their own game? Let's find out...

Oh god. It literally took about 30 seconds of gameplay for us to realise this game was going to be a disappointing title and was something we were going to struggle to play - generic, bland, dull. Admittedly the shooting is fun enough with a range of weapons on offer including a cool electric gun that chains from one enemy to another, however dash attacks ultimately seem more powerful and useful to take out enemies.

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Transforming should be a highlight, but it's pretty dull in this game.
The Campaign, which is split across 14 chapters, tells a decent story about an all-powerful "Dark Spark" and blends the traditional Transformer and Michael Bay Transformer universes which is a little wierd, but we can live with it however the story is convoluted and has you chasing down a Dark Spark artifact. By about the third mission you'll probably tune out to the story.

As you play through the game and level up or complete tasks Gear Boxes become available to you which contain new characters, weapons or upgrades which can then be applied for use during the campaign or online modes. It's a little annoying to have to go to the menu to open these gear boxes before applying them at select locations throughout the levels, but the level of customisation is impressive.

Sadly there's many annoyances about this game. Not only are there all the issues as mentioned above, but the game has some pretty annoying difficulty spikes which will frustrate as you cruise along a level and then hit a wall of enemies. Enemy AI is pretty much broken too. At times enemies will come towards you and kick your ass. Other times they will just stand there and do nothing - you can quite literally walk up to them, do a dance, spank off and they just look at you. It's just broken. Then we get to the actual shooting mechanics and the game is dull. There were better shooters in the PS2 era which played slicker - after playing the Destiny Alpha this is downright dull.

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Online Escalation mode is the games highlight.
As for Transformations they're dull - when you transform to the car the handling is so crap you'll want to revert back (unless you're out Ammo) while the flying sections are passable. Oh, and I was really hoping for Dinobots - during the campaign you get to play as one of them. Sigh...

Hopeful of finding something worthy of praise we turned to the games online mode called "Escalation" which allows for Quick Match or Private Match across eight different maps with up to 15 waves of increasingly difficult enemies. It's nothing we haven't seen before but it provides a bit of entertainment for a while and probably more fun than the main game itself.

What this game does have going for it is the large number of Autobots and Deceptacons which can be used - there are 25 Autobots and 18 Decepticons on offer in the game each of which can be customised with Primary Weapons, Heavy Weapons, TECH, Abilities and Hacks giving a large amount of customisation.

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Cut-Scenes do have some nice visuals.
So let's talk about graphics and here's a thought Activision. There is no doubt that there will be a fifth Michael Bay film released in a couple of years, well how about you start to develop a new game engine right now. Of course you won't know the story, but at least start working on the tech to power the game so it doesn't look like dogs balls (FYI, that is, quite unappealing).

Rise of the Dark Spark is a very disappointing title visually with some of the most generic and boring visuals we've seen since the PS2 era. Of course, the PS4 allows the developer to push 1080p visuals with a decent frame rate, but why bother when the level design is dull, the texturing poor and transformations very generic and nothing even remotely close to the very cool transformations in the Michael Bay films. Finding positives is pretty hard but the actual Transformer models are pretty neat while some of the cut-scenes are also nice enough but not enough to save the package.

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Rise of the Dark Spark is a game to miss.
One area where the game shines, well, compared to everything else in this game, is the audio with some solid voice work despite plenty of repetition at times. The developers have used many notable voice actors - Peter Cullen returns to voice Optimus Prime yet again, Fred Tatasciore as Megatron, Jim Ward a Perceptor, Troy Baker as Jazz, Jetfire and Kickback, and even Nolan North gets in on the action as Bruticus and Cliffjumper. Music too is decent while the sound effects get the job done but lack a bit of "wow" factor or the "punch" one would expect from such an action packed franchise.

After a few entertaining Transformers titles we were bitterly disappointed in this release. Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark misses the mark in almost every regard - poor scripting, horribly dull visuals, and boring gameplay. Just how, or why, Activision allowed this game out of the development studios is beyond belief. Sure, we can see the publisher wanted to tie the release into the new Michael Bay feature film, but all this release is doing is damaging the franchise. Avoid.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSIf you dropped the resolution back you would forgive this for being a PS2 game.
SOUNDThe dialogue is a game highlight, some ok music and effects.
GAMEPLAYIt's a generic shooter, with no need to transform and annoying difficulty spikes. Quite dull really.
VALUEThere's a few hours gameplay here and some online, but really, nearly every other PS4 game will provide better value.
OVERALLWhat the hell are Activision doing with their games. After a few solid PS3 Transformers titles they release this rubbish. Give it a miss.

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