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'Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark' Video Game Impressions

Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons, but is it a fight you'll want to dive into?

Love or hate Michael Bay's Transformers movies, there's just no denying these projects have boosted the franchise's popularity. With the next movie, Transformers: Age of Extinction, just days away, this new game (by Edge of Reality and Activision) establishes a connection to its characters.

The story here is pretty simple. There's this object called the Dark Spark and it's essentially the evil twin of the Matrix of Leadership (no, it doesn't have a mustache). Needless to say, this means everyone wants to get their hands on the artifact for their own reasons. Lockdown, the villain in the upcoming movie, wants to use its power, and the Autobots and Decepticons are also fighting to obtain the powerful item. As Lockdown lurks behind the scenes, you'll jump between the two iconic teams as they try to one-up each other and get their hands on the Dark Spark. Oh, and good luck keeping track of how many times they say "Dark Spark" throughout the campaign!

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The campaign offers simple yet enjoyable third-person gameplay. It really isn't bringing anything new to the table and just aims to make sure you have a blast shooting at an onslaught of enemies. Movement is thankfully fluid and one of the most joyous things you can do in this game is rush at your foes in vehicle mode and then swiftly transform back when you get near them and melee or blast apart your enemies. It's a simple pleasure that really never got old. Plus, I'd be doing you a major disservice if I didn't add that Peter Cullen did provide Optimus Prime's voice in this game. You can't help but feel epic when you step into the character's massive robotic feet and slay your opponents as Cullen provides commentary.

The simplistic third-person combat kept me entertained, especially since each character has slightly different gameplay styles, but there was also plenty to unlock and upgrade. You can modify your weapons to make them more effective in certain areas (you know, less recoil, more ammo, etc.) and you also have various HACKS and T.E.C.H. items to utilize. Depending on how you play, many of these can serve as very beneficial and give the game just a little more variety.

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Escalation Mode is what'll keep you coming back for more. We've seen this kind of mode in games like Gears of War (Horde Mode) and countless other franchises, and the reason we see it so often is very simple: it's exciting! Battling waves alone is a good time, but this mode has added various ways to boot your chances. You'll earn resources as you progress and you can use said resources for various items such as turrets, barriers, decoys, and more. And yes, they're upgradable, too! Apparently, there's over 40 characters you can unlock to use in this challenge and I had a great time trying to survive against wave after wave on each map. I was all by myself, so I can only imagine how fun it would be if you get 1-3 friends on your side and actually use teamwork as you fight to survive the increasingly challenging waves.

I played the game on the Xbox 360 and honestly, the graphics never impressed. I encountered texture pop-in quite a bit and, while the character models and effects aren't shabby, most of the levels give off a somewhat bland atmosphere and don't allow you to truly feel immersed in these unique settings. Visually, the game's just satisfactory. There aren't big enough issues that distract your eyes, but your eyes will never really be blown away, either. Oh, and it's worth noting my game froze once and I encountered several clipping issues during a chapter that focused on flying. I was able to fly through a number of walls and it would take me outside of the map. Thankfully, I was able to get back in!

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As entertaining as combat can be, gameplay in the campaign gets very repetitive, and on a somewhat regular basis, too. They may introduce a challenge that's fun at first, (e.g. platforming, grappling, clearing an era and pulling a lever) but then you need to repeat it over and over and over again. This tends takes away from the charm and instead makes you wonder when you'll move onto the next wave of enemies. There's even some dialogue from your teammates which reflect this every now and then (something along the lines of "I was wondering when I'd get to shoot something again!"). It's also worth adding that I was playing the campaign on normal and, unless I became very arrogant, I felt practically unstoppable most of the time and found myself asking, "that's it?" after ripping through the latest challenge.

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark isn't the most polished game around, but if you love the franchise, odds are you'll be able to overlook its flaws and have a good time. The campaign may not wow you on a consistent basis, but Escalation Mode -- especially with friends -- is certain to keep you coming back for more. If you're not passionate about the franchise, this game's unlikely to change your mind about it and there's definitely superior third-person shooters out there for you to play. But if you simply want to transform and blast swarms of enemies, Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is worth considering.

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is currently available for Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC.