Transformers: War For Cybertron Review

Transformers: War For Cybertron Review

Previously titled (Gears of) War for Cybertron

It’s a little difficult to describe the feeling you get when you first start playing Transformers: War For Cybertron, but it must be something akin to finding a $100 bill in an old pair of dirty underwear. It wouldn’t have occurred to you to ever look there for a $100 bill, but when you accidentally find it you’re so happy that you don’t mind the company it’s been keeping. The entire Transformers property has fallen on hard times recently, with some questionable movies and some truly hideous games based on those movies. That’s why it’s such a delight to pick up War For Cybertron, a game I’d only been vaguely aware of up until the week of it’s release, and find out that here is a Transformers game that doesn’t suck.

Set before the original animated series, the game chronicles the ongoing battle between the Autobots and Decepticons over their home planet of Cybertron. Although players can choose to play either the Decepticon or Autobot campaign first, the narrative begins with the Decepticon’s rise to power and concludes with the Autobot’s scramble to defend themselves. You can play the game solo or online co-op, with each level offering a selection of three Transformers to control. Transformers are split into different classes, each of which have their own vehicle form and selection of special skills.

The game plays out as an over-the-shoulder shooter, and to say that this game shamelessly plunders elements from Gears of War would be putting it nicely. Many elements of the control scheme are identical, as is the feel of both movement and shooting, and both games share a penchant for oversized bosses. During the section of the Autobot campaign where you take on a corrupted cyber-slug, all I could think was: “Hey! Sure is Robo-Corpser in here”. But the brilliant thing about War For Cybertron is that you won’t care. The Unreal Engine works so perfectly in the Cybertron setting that it’s almost impossible to feel any ill will towards recycled mechanics. Personally I felt like they could have borrowed a little more, in fact, like at least a basic cover system.

Optimus and Bumblebee pose as Jules and Vince from Pulp Fiction

The engine’s tendency to make the player movement feel heavy actually feels appropriate here, and makes for a great contrast when you switch between vehicle and robot form. It also does a fantastic job of presenting the world of Cybertron itself: an ever-shifting, semi-sentient lump of heavy metal. Watching bridges and doors unfold presents such a complex, intricate yet seamless animation that it’s no wonder the Transformers will have to abandon their planet once it powers down. To remain would have meant hours of high-power welding to open the simplest bar fridge.

The physical act of transforming is also fantastic, and ends up being a very organic part of the gameplay. Although you’ll be specifically instructed to transform for different sections of the game (indeed, some levels play out primarily in vehicle form), it’s the act of transforming in combat that will probably impress you the most. It only takes seconds to switch form, so you’ll switch as the elements of a battle change. I’d often find myself changing into a vehicle to quickly cover a distance then leaping into cover just as I’d trigger the transformation back to robot. It’s one of those rare moments in gaming where you feel like a kid again, an enormous smile on your face as something so simple works so well.

You get the feeling War For Cybertron is marketed straight to the inner-child in all of us. In fact, it’s probably the only Transformers game I’ve ever played to get the balance of new and nostalgia just right. All the game’s characters have been given a fresh look, and while it does seem to incorporate a hint of the Michael Bay films, the main inspiration has obviously come from the more ”classic” 1st generation cast. For example, Bumblebee retains his diminutive size but transforms into something more closely resembling a Volkswagon than a Dodge Chevy Camaro. The same principle is applied to all the major players, which means this is really a game for those people who still think of Transformers: The Movie as an animated feature guest starring Orson Welles.

Omega Supreme in one of the large-scale boss battles

Unfortunately the campaign is short lived, and will only take you an afternoon to bash through on normal difficulty. Personally I found there was nothing too foreboding about the hard difficulty, so I’d suggest any new players familiar with shooters should start out on this difficulty. It increases the play length a certain degree, and definitely adds the extra fun of a challenge to your initial playthrough.

Campaign finished, however, you’ll be ready to enjoy the real meat and bones of War For Cybertron, which is it’s superb selection of multiplayer features. Online multiplayer adopts the XP acquired upgrades and perks system we’ve all become so fond of lately, split separately between the four available classes. Competitively you can play both regular and team deathmatch, conquest, king-of-the-hill and a couple of interesting objective-based modes called “Countdown to Extinction” and “Code of Power”. I couldn’t find many opponents in the more exotic modes, but there were no end of players ready to throw down in team deathmatch. Although you can’t actually play as any named Transformer in the competitive modes, the game does offer you customisation over the loadouts and appearance for each class.

If you enjoyed the transforming mechanic in the campaign mode, then you’ll laugh yourself stupid online. Battles rage back and forth as players flip between vehicle and robot on whim. The matches almost never remain static. Each form has it’s own advantages and disadvantages depending on your class, and discovering good strategies is a reward in itself. It also pays to work as a team, as cross-class skills can combine in many deadly ways.

*insert usual "ax you a question" joke here*

Then there’s Escalation, the co-op wave combat mode which sees up to four players face off against increasingly difficult AI opponents. Wave combat has also become something of a flavour of the month in shooter games lately, but Escalation is once again an example of taking something now common-place and adding a fresh twist to it. As players destroy their opponents they gain power, which can be spent at vending machines around the arena to upgrade weaponry and replenish health or ammo. But not everything is on offer when you begin, and reaching higher-end weaponry requires the players to unlock higher and higher cost doors.

There is a real sense of strategy in Escalation, and it requires a great deal of coordination to pull off. Voice chat is a must, as you won’t get much of a chance once you’re downed to be revived. For this reason, you really want to be playing this mode with friends. Public matches are rife with lone-wolves, which doesn’t really work as each player has to chip-in to expedite the locked door progress. The game also lacks the ability to shunt an Escalation round onto a new player, which means if the host loses their connection (or just gets bored) it’s an immediate game over for everyone. There’s nothing worse than getting a good game going then having it cut short by a patchy connection or sulky host.

In the end, perhaps it’s just easiest to say that War For Cybertron is a Transformers game made without an agenda or a movie pushing it’s release date. Which means they had the time to do things right. Hats off to you, High Moon Studios!

The Verdict:

Good! Great! Tre magnific! Words of approval!

Pros: Transforming. Seriously, the smooth switch between forms adds a fresh new angle on every single mode this game presents and it’s a joy to use. Terrific fan service, including Peter Cullen voicing Optimus. Plenty of variety when it comes to it’s online modes.

Cons: Campaign is disappointingly short. The multiplayer has a few issues related to player-hosted matches. There are also a few niggles and movement glitches that can crop up, but for the most part you’ll be having too much fun to let it bother you.

Overall: For regular gamers this is an above average shooter, but for even casual Transformers fans War For Cybertron is a must-play. A true diamond in the rough. 4.5 out of 5.

4.5 out of 5

3 Responses to “Transformers: War For Cybertron Review”

  1. Good review. Only thing that was wrong was what you said Bumblebee turns into during the movies, thats CHEVROLET CAMARO not dodge camero. lol Sorry, just nit picking.

  2. Easy solution Matt: just make them all “some car that GM never bothered to export to right-hand drive markets” and you’ll be covered

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