Transformers: War for Cybertron Review
Developer: High Moon Studios
Available on: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, PC and Nintendo DS
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Games based on big franchises don’t particularly have a great reputation in the games industry with the exception of a few standout titles (Batman: Arkham Asylum). For a long time High Moon Studios promised us that the latest foray into the Transformers franchise would yield good results with developer diaries and such but does it have the touch or is it heading for the scrap pile?
STORY: Transformers: War for Cybertron is set a millennia before the G1 (generation one) cartoon series where the robotic life forms landed on Earth. As such the game takes place during the Cybertronian civil war and as usual Megatron is on a quest for domination. The story is being touted as official Canon by Hasbro and as a result fills in some of the blanks that were missing from the original cartoon. These include Starscreams defection from the Autobots and the reason the Tranformers fled their home planet, Cybertron.
In keeping with all things Transformers the main story revolves around the acquisition of a new type of unstable energy called dark energon, which of course Megatron must have. Apparently, there is a backstory related to the energy source but it is never explained or even touched upon.
Overall justice is done to the 26 year old story even if at times it does poke a few holes in the original G1 plotline. This will bring a smile to the face of avid Transformers fans as the personality of all the characters remains true to their original counterparts for the most part.
GRAPHICS: Produced using the Unreal Engine 3, Transformers: War for Cybertron is far from ugly but doesn’t stand tall amongst the prettier looking games of this generation either. Texture pop-up is an ever present problem when loading a new level and the frame rate can drop from time to time.
The best aspect of the game graphically would have to be the Transformers themselves, which is a good thing really as well…..it’s a Transformers game. The fact that High Moon Studios have managed to re-imagine these iconic figures while still making them instantly recognisable brings a smile to my face (unlike a certain set of movies I won’t mention). Little touches like moveable pistons and such on your chosen Transformer while you’re in robot mode make the characters come to life.
Sadly though the environments do lack a little variety which isn’t to say High Moon Studios haven’t done a good job in recreating Cybertron but at the end of the day it’s CYBERTRON! So expect a lot of metal architecture accompanied by a lot of purple and red hues.
SOUND: The music in Transformers: War for Cybertron is completely forgettable and you will be hard pressed to find anything of interest in the soundtrack department. That being said Peter Cullen does reprise his role as Optimus Prime and this is all a true Transformers fan should really need. Sadly he doesn’t also voice Iron Hide (he did in the original series) which is a little disappointing. That being said the rest of the voice actors do provide a decent showing for the rest of the cast and while some will miss Frank Welker’s raspy take on Megatron, voice actors like Sam Riegal (Starscream) and Chris Nolan (Brawl) do decent jobs. The game is also littered with references from the 1986 animated movie which is sure to put a smile on any Transformer fans face.
GAMEPLAY: The campaign in Transformers: War for Cybertron is split into two parts (Decepticon and Autobot). The first laying the ground work for the story, while the second focuses on the war itself. I’m glad to say that there is no level track back over the course of these two campaigns (ala Devil May Cry 4) and you won’t find yourself trekking through a slightly re-tweaked level again as a different character when switching allegiances. You will however be tackling the five levels in each campaign in groups of three, which means the whole story can be played cooperatively with other human players. Upon starting each level you’re given the choice of three Transformers specific to that level. Although the choice might seem like a novelty it is not intended to be as all Transformers in the game are split into classes. This class theme is one that spreads across all the modes present in the game but more on that later. The four classes available are, scout, scientist, soldier and leader, each comes with their own “perk” and “sub perk”, which boils down to a special ability (or abilities) unique to that class. The problem is that these abilities aren’t very useful in solo play in that they seldom require use. Whilst this isn’t a major problem it is a little disappointing. At its core though, Transformers: War for Cybertron is very good and while it doesn’t do anything
extraordinary and even chooses to negate some of the more recent gameplay mechanics available in most modern day 3rd person shooters (read: cover system), it survives on strong fundamentals and this is what keeps it fun. The shooting is solid, the weapons are fun to use and the set pieces, whilst not vast in number, are varied enough to keep you entertained. Add to this the ability to transform into an assortment of vehicles and you can have yourself a fun time. Most levels have at least one section designed for the vehicular mode of your on-screen counterpart but it is never a necessity. This is a little disheartening considering the most fun parts of the game take place when you are forced to take to the skies as one of the jet orientated Transformers.
Transformers: War for Cybertron is not without its faults though and the prime suspect is team A.I. If you choose to go it alone your “squad” can appear as if they are on the lowest tier of the stupidity ladder. Consistently losing their way, bumping into obstacles, having complete disregard for their own safety…..you name it and it’s in there. It’s slightly puzzling as the enemy A.I doesn’t seem to exhibit any of the same symptoms but this is where co-op comes in to cover up the cracks.
Co-op comes in two flavours, normal and competitive. In competitive co-op you can take on your pals as you fight your way through the main campaign(s) earning points for kills and the completion of objectives, whilst standard co-op does what it says on the tin. These modes definitely make the campaign that much more fun but it is escalation mode and competitive multiplayer where you will be spending most your time.
Escalation is a “horde” esque mode that might at first glance seem like a copy and paste from Gears of War 2 but it does add its own little twist to the formula in the form of purchasable upgrades. With the currency you earn from blasting all offending robots to high heavens you can buy upgrades between and during rounds via armour, health, ammo and weapon dispensing “vending” machines between or during rounds. The fun comes from balancing your “needs” and your wants as obviously making sure your whole team is stocked up on ammo is more important than purchasing a new gun. All players are afforded their own bank balance but once you advance to the more difficult waves its vital you help purchase equipment for your less fortunate team mates. Your currency also enables you to unlock extra sections of the map allowing you to use the environment to your advantage. All this gives Escalation a strategic element instead of just terminating consistent waves of enemies.
The competitive multiplayer’s draw comes from the class system mentioned earlier which is more akin to something like Team Fortress 2 than Modern Warfare but does posses some elements from both. It is becoming increasingly more popular to have an XP component to your multiplayer and Transformers: War for Cybertron is no different. In typical fashion getting kills and completing multiplayer objectives gives you XP that unlocks abilities and enables you to upgrade your weapons. Couple this with the ability to transform into tank, car or plane and the very different strengths and weaknesses of each class and you can have yourself a very competent multiplayer experience.
LONGEVITY: Transformers: War for Cybertron’s campaign will probably last your average gamer around 10 hours if you bang it on hard but all in all the games difficulty level is quite easy. If you manage to get into the competitive multiplayer though as with any game you’re going to be playing the game for some time as you can spend quite awhile capping the level of each of your classes if you choose to.
VERDICT: Considering the lack of decent games associated with the Transformers franchise not much was expected of Transformers: War for Cybertron at GodisaGeek.com. It comes as a surprise then that High Moon Studios have managed to put together a decent game that remains fun despite its flaws. This game will surely put a smile on all Transformer fans faces and provide a fun playthrough for everyone else.