By Alec Meer on June 25th, 2014 at 7:00 pm.
Sometimes in this absurd job I catch myself in the mirror, notice what I’m doing and have to tell myself to stop. I did that around three hours into Rise of the Dark Spark. I’ve played a great many games that are a great deal worse than this mostly recycled new Transformers game from Activision, but the reason this one had me sneering at myself is due to knowing that I played it only because I felt I should.
Because some strange and not at all socially useful part of my brain retains a fascination with an 80s toyline, cartoon and comic about shapeshifting robots. Because I still buy some of those toys when I feel bored or unhappy, but now I also read websites about them. (I still buy some of the comics too, but that I will defend because the one called More Than Meets The Eye is a genuinely excellent comic regardless/in spite of its subject matter.)
It’s something I do/enjoy(?) purely privately, partly because it seems shameful and partly because I don’t really understand why I do it. Many people have exciting skeletons in their closet, but all I have in mine is some dusty boxes with ‘Hasbro’ and ‘Takara’ written on them that I really need to get around to eBaying. An awful lot of other grown adults like these toy robots and their fictional universe too, but they’re not ashamed of it and nor is there any reason they should be. I envy them their enjoying what they enjoy, because I don’t. Because it’s not what I want to be. Because I want to be smarter and more cultured, whatever that actually means, but instead I voluntarily do things like play Transformers: Rise of The Dark Spark.
Because this working day could have been spent playing one or even several bold, clever, strange or inspirational OR bold, dumb, annoying and forgettable but-at-least-they-tried games from any number of other sources, and which aren’t just cash-magnets released to tie in with a movie that is almost certainly abysmal on any level beyond the superficially bombastic.
Because I just had to go and play Rise of the Dark Spark even though every trailer I’d seen for it looked dull as a bootleg Gobot, even though even its lousy Verb Of The Adjective Noun subtitle sounded like it was generated by a spreadsheet, even though I’m extremely conscious that it’s been so damn long since I wrote anything the slightest bit gonzo or investigative or at all out my comfort zone on RPS. Instead, I proceeded directly to my comfort zone, and it made me extremely uncomfortable. Because because because of the wonderfully pointless things I does.
To a large degree the purgatory I now find myself in is not this game’s fault, but instead is very much of my own making, a certain long-overdue facing up to a manchild habit I could really do with leaving behind. (But probably never will entirely, because they’re making more and more wonderfully-engineered ‘Masterpiece’ Transformers that are laser-targeted to suck money out of the wallets of people like me.) On other hand, if my three or so hours with this clumsy merging of the awful Michael Bay movies’ universe and the adequate but forgettable War For/Fall Of Cybertron games had included even one single thing that I wanted to tell anyone about, I might not be mired in this existential crisis at all.
Its first three hours do not include one single thing I want to tell anyone about, at least on a level beyond complaint. Like this: everything looks dark and cheerless, and everything looks basically the same, and even when I’m in its largest rooms and playing as guy who can turn into a jet, I feel like a wasp stuck in a jam jar.
Clearly, I don’t know what Transformers: Verb of the Adjective Noun tries to do later on. Maybe the game suddenly becomes filled with amazing setpieces, or unbridled fan service, or if there’s an encounter between two different Optimus Primes or Grimlocks it’s the most exciting thing since Unicron exploded. Maybe I’m being unfair. There is every chance I’m being unfair. But Christ, when the structure of all that comes before that is ‘enter large room / waves and waves of mostly identical enemies appear / die quite a bit / return to checkpoint / try again / door unlocks / repeat’ all I can think is ‘what am I doing with myself?’ And ‘why?’ And why. And stop. I must stop.
There are experience points and things to unlock, but they’re all just guns that go pew pew pew in the big rooms full of waves of enemies in a different way, and I don’t care about any of them. I care a little bit about unlocking the classic, Generation One Optimus Prime character model, because somewhere deep down that’s where this problem I have comes from, but I know that it won’t really change anything and I know that it was already in the previous game anyway – a great deal of Rise of the Dark Spark is simply recycled, in fact.
I know that I could be doing better things for myself, and better things for this website. At the same time I know that maybe this post has warned a few people off doing what what I did, and indeed spending money to do what I did, and I hope there’s some sort of value in that.
Toy robots. Games in which I repeatedly fire a gun at people until there are no more people. I can do better. I must do better. I will do better.