Review: Transformers: War for Cybertron

transformers war for cybertronGame: Transformers: War For Cybertron
Format: 360, PS3, PC
Developer: High Moon Studios
Publisher: Activision

The 60′s and 70′s had free love, the 90′s had grunge, but what does this decade have in store for us? From what I can gather already, nothing but denial. That’s right denial, everywhere you look, it seems everyone is in absolute total delusion. Everyone thinks it’s the 80′s all over again. Pretentious and damn right ridiculous looking haircuts are back in fashion, 80′s rave culture has reappeared, every time I turn on my T.V, I half expect to be greeted with a “brand new” episode of Danger Mouse or something.

But this is bad folks, we’ve come so far since then. A “wise man” by the name of Calvin Harris as recently stated “it was acceptable in the eighties, it was acceptable at the time”, and he’s absolutely right, so wake up and stop having lucid, nostalgic dreams for god’s sake. Besides, the only thing that we as a world actually got out of such a horrible decade was terrible, arty farty music (which as unfortunately also seen a recurrence), and AIDS.

Not a nice thought, I know, so let me immediately lighten the mood by stating; whilst living in denial is well…quite frankly a little depressing, this “80′s revival” has the upshot of allowing us to revisit some of our most beloved childhood memories (unless you were born before or after the 80′s in which case you’re either a dinosaur or a moon baby). It’s impossible to avoid 80′s children’s T.V nowadays because if it isn’t being plastered on the front of t-shirts in your trendy retail outlets, your memories are being desecrated by brand new, live action films, case in point the Transformers franchise.

thundercats logo

Transformers joins the long list of 80's series undergoing revitalisation thanks to the current 80's revival

The Transformers universe has been somewhat of a reopened gold mine as of late. A brand new Transformers MMO has been announced for Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and Russia, there are brand new toys in the shops and lest we forget the brand new, Michael Bay Transformers movies that have divided opinion (I personally enjoyed them), and all the merchandising that comes with them. But as with anything that is part of so many people’s childhoods, when franchises are revisited in such a way, there’s extreme pressure on “getting it right” and being true to the source material. So imagine my own scepticism then when it was announced that a brand new Transformers game entitled Transformers: War For Cybertron was on it’s way, especially after the most recent Transformers games I had played were the terrible, aforementioned movie tie-ins.

But Transformers: War For Cybertron is different, it stands alone. It’s got no movie, T.V show or anything of the like to promote, it’s simply a Transformers game that is unashamedly self indulgent with the source material, made for the hardcore fans seemingly made by the hardcore fans and it is good, VERY good in fact.

From the outset War For Cybertron is a love letter to the original, much beloved Transformers of old. The voice cast of the original cartoons are back, delivering authentic and memorable performances, which coupled with some stunning, highly stylized, gritty, cartoon like graphics, helps bring the entire world of Cybertron to life. Believe me when I say, Optimus and Megatron have never looked better.

transformers war for cybertron screenshot

The Transformers are restored to their former glory

The game is also filled to the brim with modes and features, starting with an expansive campaign. Everything from it’s character models to the campaign’s story oozes tribute and delivers a compelling, immersive experience. Campaign mode sees you play as the 2 warring factions (Autobots & Decepticons), switching between at multiple points in the game. This not only ensures that everyone gets a chance to play as their favourite Transformers, (you play in squads of 3, allowing the player a choice of which Transformer they want to play as), but also allows the game to tell it’s story in a fresh, unique way, giving the player the different perspectives and angles of both factions.

Escalation is the games answer to what I guess you would now universally call “Horde mode”, however, it’s so much more than that. It would’ve been far too easy to just tack on such a mode these days, but what the people over at High Moon have done is to take the idea and add some ideas and gameplay mechanics that really help set the mode apart from other clones. Escalation requires a lot more thought, a lot more strategic planning and actively encourages team work which is somewhat refreshing nowadays. Rather than collecting Energon by killing enemies in order to recharge your special metre like in the campaign, Escalation has pumps set up all over the map, players then pump the Energon they collect into said pumps in order to buy the likes to ammo, health, new weapons or even open up new areas of the map to access Energon pumps that have more powerful weapons and the like.

The whole tactical element of rationing your Energon is something which really sets the game apart from others with a similar mode and by allowing multiple squad mates to use the same pump, togetherness and team work is promoted, essentially allowing players to buy weapons, ammo and health for each other, it’s like a hippy’s paradise…. but with robots…… and war, so infinitely better.

transformers war for cybertron screenshot3

Join up with some from friends (or randoms) and work together to fend off waves of enemies.... with a twist!

Transformers: War For Cybertron as a package is then completed with an array of different multiplayer modes ranging from your standard deathmatch modes to game types such as “Conquest” mode which is similar to the game play of the Star Wars: Battlefront series. However a concerted effort has also been made with the game’s multiplayer modes and War For Cybertron includes some modes which are unique to the game itself. “Countdown to Extinction” sees teams plant active bombs in enemy bases whilst “Code of Power” watches teams vie for the use of a gigantic melee weapon.

All of this is made even more addicting with a Call of Dutyesque level up system. Different classes such as Leader, Scout, Scientist and Soldier all come with their own unique powers and weapons to unlock, leaving players to gain experience from playing online, unlocking new weapons and abilities and customizing their different load outs. My only issue with it’s multiplayer is the actual customization of the Transformers themselves. Sure different chassis’s can be unlocked but for me, the dream of creating my own Transformer is still only that, a dream. The customization is far too limited, you are pretty much picking pre set character models and changing it’s colours, however with the addition of DLC containing new maps and new characters, it seems High Moon Studios are committed to supporting and improving the multiplayer experience, so overall this is somewhat of a minor gripe.

My major gripe (yes I do have one), is that whilst there’s evidence of thought and implementation of new ideas and features that make War For Cybertron unique, the game overall plays like your average 3rd person shooter. Apart from the ability to transform into a vehicle and back, there’s nothing new being brought to the table in terms of actual gameplay. That said, Transformers: War For Cybertron’s positives far outweigh it’s negatives and finally delivers a brilliant gaming experience that Transformer fans have been waiting a long time for.

transformers war for cybertron screenshot 2

At it's core the game plays like your average 3rd person shooter

Review Round Up

Graphics: 4.5/5 – In terms of graphics, the game is stunning and it really helps bring the Transformers universe into modern day gaming, my only complaint is that there’s not a lot of variety in terms of how locations look.

Sound: 5/5 – Getting the original cast of voice actors in from the animated series was a smart move. They give brilliant and authentic performances and thus help bring the world of Cybertron to life, whilst also helping to reacquaint you with old characters.

Gameplay: 4/5 – Whilst the game does nothing new in terms of it’s core gameplay and plays out like your average 3rd person shooter. It’s story gives a definitive Transformers experience and makes up for some lack of originality with some brilliant and different multiplayer ideas.

Longevity: 4.5/5 – With the release of maps and characters as DLC, High Moon Studios are improving the games overall multiplayer and adding content to an already jam packed game. You will get a lot of hours out of this game.

Overall: 4.5/5 – Overall I give Transformers: War For Cybertron a dazzling 4.5 Dark Energon shards out of 5. A surprise hit of 2010.

[starreview tpl=16]

- Kieran Roycroft

Oh and another thing…

I was a MASSIVE Transformers fan, growing up. In fact I’m still a massive Transformers fan now. So when I heard that a new Transformers game was being made that was set during the Cybertronian civil war, with Generation One inspired character designs, chronicling the rise of the great Autobot leader, Optimus Prime; I obviously geeked out. In fact I’m still geeking out.

For those who don’t know:

  • Generation One – The design and canon of the original Transformers cartoons of the ‘80s.
  • Cybertron – The machine planet which the Transformers come from.
  • The Cybertronian War – This was a great civil war where the faction known as the ‘Decepticons’ were formed, led by the maniacal Megatron, and tried to take over rule of Cybertron.
  • Optimus Prime – The robot embodiment of ‘hero’. The leader of the Autobots aka the good guys.

There are 2 campaigns, one for each side of the war, Decepticon and Autobot with the timeline of the game beginning with the Decepticon campaign. Megatron is attempting to find and use a rare, dangerous and unstable energy source called Dark Energon. His aim: to use its power to defeat the Autobots and take control of Cybertron for himself. The Autobot campaign picks up where the Decepticon campaign finishes and Optimus Prime must rally the Autobots and use his awesomeness to stop Megatron’s evil plans. If Optimus Prime told you to do something, you would do it. Peter Cullen (the voice of Optimus) really should take better advantage of this. He’s also the voice for Eeyore in Winnie The Pooh. Just saying.

Optimus Prime and Eeyore, one in the same

The ONLY thing these two characters have in common is there voice

As in previous Transformers games, there is an onslaught of generic robots to fight against in campaign mode. The enemy designs are varied enough to keep you interested and there are some great, unique boss battles. Some of the boss battles are truly epic in terms of visuals but they are actually pretty standard in terms of gameplay, which can probably be said for the whole game. Which is fine.

The overarching story is pretty much keeping in line with a lot that has been written about the history of Cyberton and the Civil War. They didn’t mess with the source material, in other words. They didn’t really need to as there is a lot there that most people haven’t seen anyway. The story, therefore just goes in to new detail and depth about the actual circumstances around the war. This leads to lots of exploration of the machines home planet.

Speaking of the home planet; Cybertron is made of metal and apparently they don’t have much paint on Cyberton so pretty much everything is grey and silver with varying levels of grime and shine. The lighting adds some colour but even this is pretty one dimensional with a lot of red around the Autobot city and a lot of purple in the Decepticon’s home. There are other colours in there too but it’s all too bland for me. It’s a good job that the character design is so damn good, with all of the characters resembling Generation One designs with alterations that are influenced a lot by the old full page character art that you (meaning I) used to see in the Tranformers comics and annuals in the 80’s and early 90’s. The artists also seemed to have looked at what worked well in later TV cartoon and comic designs and made some good decisions resulting in some pretty outstanding character designs that will please the hardcore.

I love this game. If you aren’t a fan of Transformers (why?) you will still like the game because it’s got giant transforming robots, great third person shooting, big guns, pretty graphics and lots of ‘splosions and stuff. But there are so many shout outs to the hardcore fans that Transformers lovers are really in for a treat. Keep the sound up high and keep looking around you for the little nods to the series and animated movie.

- Joe Finn

Mon, August 16 2010 » PS3, Reviews, Xbox 360

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