The odd objective tries to provide a little variety: Mirage’s cloaking ability introduces an element of stealth (who doesn’t crave that in a game about, you know, giant robots?), while Soundwave spends a good deal of time titting about with Laserbeak, a bird-like infiltrator drone that you get to guide around. But you’re still either shooting things, opening doors or flipping switches, and even when you get to fight alongside famous allies, they’ll spend a good deal of their time jogging against pillars while you get stuck on invisible walls. Heroic.
When you’re in robot mode, you can at least juggle rapid and heavy weaponry alongside a range of character-specific recharging moves, ranging from Ironhide’s homing grenades to Megatron’s energy drain. When you’re not in robot mode, however, things start to fall to pieces.
Each character’s vehicle incarnation is all but relegated to a few bespoke chase sequences, which showcase clumsy car handling if you’re on four wheels or gutless and sluggish aeronautics if you’ve taken to the sky, while the new - and entirely unnecessary - Stealth Force configuration slots in between the two existing forms as a kind of tank option.
Visually, it’s the least exciting of the three, and yet it’s also the one you’re going to rely on the most as it offers the greatest manoeuvrability, punchiest weapons, and strongest defensive options. It’s an addition that manages to diminish the game’s overall impact, in other words, offering a dull and corrosive usefulness that distracts you from stomping around like a robot - which is probably what you signed up for - while also making a quiet muddle of the controls, sending your lock-on flitting between trigger and bumper, and leaving you steering vehicles with the right stick and reversing with the left. That’s going to catch on. (It isn’t.)
Multiplayer, meanwhile, doesn’t build on the strengths of War for Cybertron so much as quietly back away from its dented wreckage. The XP progression and kill streaks are still there, but you’re reduced to picking between two flavours of death match and the node-capturing Conquest mode. Games play out in a range of fairly cramped, confusing arenas, and the classes feel a little unbalanced at the moment. It’s still an acceptable take on My First Call of Duty, but it could have been something much more interesting than that.
As could the entire game. If there’s a lesson to learn from Dark of the Moon, then - other than “Try not to pick a fight with anyone named Shockwave” - it’s that movie tie-ins can defeat even the nimblest of studios. High Moon should have been given a little more time - and a lot more freedom - to play with their toys than they received for this outing. Hopefully, if we ever head back to Cybertron, the team will get another chance to show us what it can really do.