(A more comprehensive version of this review is avalible at https://www.dropbox.com/s/rx0wuudewrsn460/TFRotDSReview.txt
Disappointing but still fun game. Wait for the price to drop before you buy it.
Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is a third-person shooter based off of both the Michael Bay Transformers movies and the High Moon Studios "Cybertron" games. It attempts to cross over these two fictional universes, and does so with limited appeal.
Story (Spoilers Ahead):
The story is...strange. It feels unfinished, unpolished, and quite frankly, lazy. The plots of the movie and Cybertron segments are almost identical: "Villian X has the Dark Spark! We must retrieve it before he unleashes total havok upon the planet!" The differences are, of course, the antagonist and the setting. The Cybertron story, however, shines brighter than the movie story because it bridges some gaps between War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron; we see Shockwave discover the Insecticons, Ironhide's apparent death (as to my remembrance, he did not appear in Fall's campaign), and so on and so forth. The Cybertron story takes place after War but before Fall, ascting as a prequel. We see that Starscream has not gone rouge, Trypticon is still offline, and the Ark is still under construction.
While I certainly appreciate the attempt at a prequel (and the Cybertron segment is certainly the best part of the campaign because of it), the Cybertron story simply ends up feeling like "Transformers: Fall of Cybertron - Deleted Scenes", and you clearly know WHY they were deleted; the unnessicary plot element we know as the Dark Spark.
The movie story isn't worth going over; the movie it was based off of was a huge contradiction within itself, so just read a review about Transformers: Age of Extinction for that.
Transformers: RotDS has exactly the same gameplay as its predecessor, which is both a good and bad thing; Transformers: Fall of Cybertron has excellent gameplay, displaying balance and finesce in its weapons and gunplay, pitting you up against challenging enemies who knew their way around a rifle as well as you do. In any Transformers game, you are both soldier AND vehicle, which is always interesting and fun. This game does not screw up in that department, as the gameplay from Fall of Cybertron was left completely untouched. In fact, a lot of things were left completely untouched...RotDS did not have the same developler as the Cybertron games.
Activision slated a new development company, "Edge of Reality", to make this game in lieu of High Moon Studios. Edge of Reality reused all assets created by High Moon Studios for the Cybertron portion of the game, right down to the weapons, character models, animations, sounds, and effects. The only thing that got a re-do was the HUD, which -does- look rather nice, to be fair. Aside from that, the recylcing of High Moon Studios assets was a blatant display of laziness and carelessness that should be frowned upon. They could have at the very least touched up all the in-game assets, giving them a bit of a makeover for the next generation, but not even that was done.
That aside, there is one large flaw in the gamplay.
THERE IS NO PLAYER VERSUS PLAYER.
Edge of Reality and Activision apparently thought it would be an excellent idea to omit the thing that practically made the Cybertron series the smash hit that it was: PVP. Instead of any of the PVP gamemodes, even the simple Team Deathmatch, we get a beefed up Escalation mode.
However, The new Escalation is my favorite part of the game. You can play as over forty characters from both the Cybertron and movie universes. Esentially, in doing that, all you're doing is selecting your character model and either a ground-based or air-based alt mode. After selecting two characters, you can customize your loadout to your liking.
The loadout consists of a primary weapon, a heavy weapon, a "robot ability", three "T.E.C.H." abilities, and one "HACK" (if you so choose to enable one). The robot ability is an action you can perform at any time.There's a cooldown time for the ability, so you aren't able to just spam it. T.E.C.H. abilities are like robot abilities, but they are one-time use and generally more powerful. A HACK is a disadvantage you accept in order to gain more XP- similar to Skulls in the Halo series.
You use all of these in-game to survive 15 waves of enemies, with each wave increasing in difficulty. In the new Escalation, you can set up defenses such as barricades and sentry turrets to help ward off the attackers. In addition to this, there are "power foes"- essentially characters from the campaign thrown into Escalation mode in order to destroy you. It's a nice addition.
RotDS also has a rather nice unlock system for characters, weapons, and abilities. You unlock the aforementioned via obtaining "gear boxes": crates containing unlockable in-game items. (Think: crates in Team-Fortress 2.) You acquire gear boxes by completing missions, hitting landmark waves in Escalations, earning achievements, earning combat distinctions, and simply slaying enemies. I found this to be rather fun and clever. If PVP were implemented, it would be a great way to level up your characters.
At first glance, the game looks passable. But once you play it for a while, you notice blurry textures, jagged edges, and animation errors. These are especially prevalent in the Earth levels, in which Edge of Reality had to make new models, textures, and animations, rather than recycle High Moon assets as they did for the Cybertron portions.
This game was somewhat of a disappointment, although I can't say I didn't like it. At the end of the day, I enjoyed this game. As a compliment to Fall of Cybertron, it would have worked nicely. However, a lack of PVP, a weak story, and a too-high pricetag (that last one especially) make this game not worth it. Once the price drops down to at least $20, it will be worth buying. Until then, if you really want this game, wait for a discount. $50 seems a tad too much for what we're getting.