Transformers: Dark Of The Moon Art Class & Hands-On Preview
We got our first hands-on time with Transformers: Dark of the Moon back in May, where we were able to play one level, featuring fan-favourite Autobot Bumblebee. On June 14th, just after E3, Activision put on another London preview event for the game at Orbital Comics, where not only did they show off two levels from the title (the same Bumblebee level as before, as well as a new Ironhide stage) , but those in attendance were also treated to a Transformers drawing masterclass by Titan comics illustrator Lee Bradley, where we could each create our own Decepticon.
Upon arrival, we were shown the finer points of how to flesh out a robotic anatomy, step-by-step. Lee Bradley was an extremely eloquent and easy-going teacher, happily answering questions ranging from; the fact that his comic book art was inspired by the work of Marvel and DC artist Mike Zeck, to which Transformers character is his favourite, it’s Optimus Prime by the way. All the time, Lee went about building up layers of pencil work, black lines and later pen shading, to create a completely new Decepticon character, complete with a huge cannon atop one shoulder. Other examples of his worked showed us Starscream, Optimus Prime, and other characters drawn in the new movie style. He has worked on both classic G1-style Transformers and the current big-screen type, but in this case was instructing us in how to create a comic-book style rendering of the silver screen variants.
Next was the moment of truth. Armed only with pencils, markers and a tipp-ex correction pen, we were set loose with our imaginations to create our own “new” Decepticon villains. With the help of such a talented professional artist, we created robots which could transform into Planes, Tanks, Hot-air Balloons, and even a Dutch windmill. I went for the slightly more down-to-earth option of a jet-fighter sadly, and you can see the fruit of my efforts in the gallery below, where I think you may have a hard time spotting which sketch is mine, and which is that of Mr Bradley.
Our creative muscles well and truly flexed, we moved on to the gaming portion of the day. Two booths were set up for our playing enjoyment. One being the previously covered Bumblebee level, which seems more or less unchanged from when we last got to play it. The other level being a newly revealed urban environment where players get to control Weapons Specialist Ironhide. Being another of the very first Autobot characters introduced in the cartoons and comics, Ironhide has enjoyed an enduring popularity, so it’s no surprise he takes on a leading role.
The Ironhide level takes place in a devastated section of what appears to be a thriving urban metropolis. High-rise office blocks appear blown to smithereens and collapsing all around, as the player must sweep through the area to eliminate the Decepticon presence. The area looks impressively overbearing, with the feeling that these buildings could fall, or an explosion tear through the streets at any time. The feeling of a war-torn city is well represented. Switching between the three transformation modes is slick and easy. As a Robot, players are afforded greater power and variety in attacks – but users will have to transition from Robot to Vehicle when greater speed is required, and into Stealth mode when you need to employ the agility of a vehicle, but still need to make use of the weapons only previously available in Robot mode. The fact that weapons can now be used when disguised as a vehicle by entering this new mode is a nice extra feature, and adds extra variety into your arsenal of available moves and attacks.
In this level, most of the enemies you encounter will be generic car-based Decepticons, who are a similar size to the player, but whose weapons can’t really compete with the ones you are equipped with. This does result in the level seeming rather simple, but there was no indication as to how far through the game this level would appear, and it is likely that there will be a sliding difficulty scale. Some very small Decepticons also appear in this stage, and this forces players to break out melee attacks, as they are often too fast to aim at and hit with your sidearms. Melee attacks are slow and difficult to aim, but do succeed in replicating the feeling of being in control of a huge lumbering machine. Animations appear smooth and the characters handle responsively, even when the screen starts to become littered with enemies.
The big set-piece of the level is a final battle on a construction site, where after dispatching a large wave of regular enemies, who come at you from all sides, a huge boss character smashes through the side of a skyscraper and starts raining mortar-style attacks down over the area. It soon becomes clear that as a Robot, you will be too slow to dodge these attacks, and you need some firepower to take down this impressive looking boss. Stealth mode it is then! By using your vehicle speed to strafe and fire, players can make fairly short work or this leviathan.
After this impressive sequence, our time with the game ended. There wasn’t much new since our last hands-on, but there were some signs that the team have taken steps to add variety into the gameplay, forcing gamers to transform into certain modes in order to get through different areas, rather than simply being able to stay in one form and spam attacks as in some previous transformers games. After the well received War For Cybertron, there is a renewed hope in Transformers video game releases. Movie tie-ins are usually notoriously bad, but at least the fact that this game acts as a bridge between the second and third films (and therefore isn’t restricted by the confines of a film script) means that it can forge its own path and the developers can take their own creative decisions that will hopefully make this game rise above other tie-ins.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is set for a June 24th release, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii, DS and 3DS.