I’ve never been one “in-tune” with the Transformers franchise, as I was much more of a G.I Joe and Ninja Turtles kid. The idea of a non-movie licensed Transformers game didn’t get me as excited as our own resident robot nerd and podcast junkie Paul Clark. Yet, as I was highly entertained by the first movie, I was pretty interested to see how High Moon Studios were planning to execute a brutal war in the far reaches of deep space between enormous transforming robots in disguise.
While at first it may seem just like another run-of-the-mill shooter, once you get into the nitty and the gritty of the Cybertronian War, there is definitely more than meets the eye. Hiyoooo!
Though my knowledge and expertise within the Transformer universe isn’t exactly my strong point, I still have a pretty good grasp on the basic lore and feel of the series. Setting out on the campaign, which is split into Decepticons and Autobots that form one coherent story through 10 chapters, I was greatly impressed with how High Moon Studios were able to capture the classic atmosphere of the animated series. Everything was right, from Optimus’ iconic, stoic attitude to the struggle for power between Megatron and Starscream.
War for Cybertron is no metaphor; you’ll be under constant weapon barrages as you fight your way through the heart of the city as Megatron and the rest of the Decepticons struggle to take control over the uber-powerful Dark Energon and become the rulers of the mechanical planet. The Autobots’ campaign picks up shortly thereafter, throwing you into the shoes of temporary leader Optimus and his companions as they discover that the Autobot’s commander, Zeta Prime, is dead. Many a fan have been waiting for a visualization of the war between our beloved Transformers before their arrival on earth, and High Moon Studios delivers a finely crafted depiction that is sure to please, whether you’re a Transformers fanatic or not.
For the most part, War for Cybertron plays just like any other third-person-shooter, complete with a wide range of traditional and Transformer-esque weaponry and powerups. Most importantly, you can transform at any time into vehicle form for unique artillery, which depends on the character and the class you choose: Leader, Scout, Scientist, or Soldier. Each character also receives two distinct cool-down abilities that operate differently depending on what each character transforms into, such as jets being able to hover and cars having the ability to dash. While some characters, in terms of their transformations and abilities, are more unique and effective than others, particularly the airborne Transformers, it still adds a degree of innovation and awesomeness that’s otherwise not seen throughout the game.
However, as original as some of the gameplay may be, T:WFC falls victim to some archaic problems. There is no cover system, and because of the over-the-shoulder view, it makes it difficult to tell if you’re completely behind an object or not. Another problem arises with not having any sense of radar. You’d think that highly advanced sentient machines would have some basic radar capabilities, if not a complete digital picture of the surrounding area. They’re definitely not deal-breakers, but it still can get annoying, particularly during one of the many firefights where you can be easily dropped quite rapidly.
Transformers: War for Cybertron holds some great multiplayer options. Besides the normal “Deathmatch” and “Conquest” modes, where you can customize the class and look of your character, the campaign is fully co-op with up to two other friends over Xbox Live or PSN. However, it doesn’t provide any split-screen offerings, which is kind of a major letdown, as more and more games seem to be going down this route in order to earn some extra cash by making every player own a copy. There’s no problem playing over the internet, but I’d like to have the ability to sit back with a friend who doesn’t have access to online gaming.
The other multiplayer mode, Escalation, is almost a carbon-copy of Nazi Zombies from Call of Duty: World at War fame, except the zombies have been replaced by Transformer replicas made of Energon. Though it’s not exactly original (ahem), it still holds the same fun factors as it had a couple years ago in Call of Duty, if not more so because of the added abilities and transformations.
Now, as I mentioned before, High Moon Studios did a fantastic job capturing the overall atmosphere of the series, and they did an equally impressive job with the look of the entire game. Each Transformer looks like its animated counter part, spliced together with some of the newer aspects from the two movies. The planet itself holds a superb mechanical look, and is exactly how I pictured Cybertron to appear, complete with giant structures that are essentially non-sentient machines themselves.
While graphically the game is well done, the sound work could have used some more developing. The soundtrack and voice acting, including series veteran Peter Cullen as Optimus, are admirable, as are most of the other effects, yet the transforming chng-chng-chng-chng-chng is off. The basic feel of it is there, but it’s nowhere near spot-on, and any Transformers enthusiast will more than likely be disappointed.
Besides some problems in regards to a cover system and radar, as well as the portrayal of the chng-chng-chng-chng-chng, Transformers: War for Cybertron is a solid third-person-shooter, however, it doesn’t really do anything groundbreaking in terms of the genre, which prevents it from becoming one of the year’s best. It’s still leagues in the right direction for the video game aspect of the Transformers franchise, and sets up the inevitable sequel for instant success.
The entire game looks superb with its unique art style, especially each character and their transformations. Cybertron itself is a mechanical beauty.
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Though it plays just like every other third-person-shooter, transforming and special abilities help keep the game fresh, but it still could use some more innovation.
Great voice work and an awesome soundtrack, but the iconic chng-chng-chng-chng-chng is off, and it is definitely noticeable.
Great amount of multiplayer modes that allow for character customization, and Escalation is a great addition to keep the Nazi Zombie blood a-flowing.
War for Cybertron, while not particularly innovative, is nonetheless a solid shooter that throws the franchises' awful movie tie-ins aside and paves a new path for Transformers games to come.