Transformers: War for Cybertron Review

Transformers: War for Cybertron has all the components that make up a well done shooter. Tense fire fights, huge set-piece boss battles, and multiplayer options that promise for a ton of hours blasting robots to bits. With that said it seems at first like your average shooter, but it’s more than meets the eye. It’s transformed into something more…err…It’s got THE TOUCH! I’m sorry but I have to get this out of my system right now or this review will be full of terrible puns that I don’t think any of us could live through. Take a listen to this and meet me after the break: The Touch by Stan Bush.

War for Cybertron, as you may have figured out from the title, retells the final days of the Cybertonian War that leads up to both the Decepticons and the Autobots evacuation of the planet. Hasbro has signed off on the story of the game and it is now considered canon for the Transformers Universe. For those that don’t follow the whole “Robots in disguise” thing, their are many iterations of Transformers, this follows the first generation of the series. Iconic characters like Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, and Soundwave play major roles and have more moving parts than ever!

Filling in a vague part of the Transformers history comes with some minor hitches, with some characters appearing in the game that just wouldn’t have been there, but overall the narrative sheds some interesting light onto what events led up to the original series beginnings.

Visually the game is startlingly well realized. It is all done with the Unreal engine so the ever apparent moments when texture take their sweet time to load but the level of detail is impressive when they do. The game takes place on a planet in the middle of  a war, so there is no shortage of flame wrecked debris. Luckily the variety of environments builds over time as the player moves from enclosed areas to wide open, but equally dangerous, battle fields. The level of detail of each player character is a fantastic distraction also, as all of the components that make up a Transformer shift and adjust with the character movements. Character animations are just as interesting to watch as they merge into consoles to open doors or hack into information terminals.

The sound design conveys the robot characters as living creatures with the screams of enemies never getting old but also never losing their unsettling nature. Music for the most part is hard to notice until the major boss fights really ramp up and seems to be used to accent those stress filled moments more than anything else. Optimus Prime and Megatron are voiced by their original actors and it adds a ton to the game to hear both issuing orders and their interaction with the other characters.

The game is split up into twelve chapters, six for both the Decepticon and Autobot campaigns. I played most of the game with a friend in Co-op and his first instinct was to skip the Decepticon campaign that comes chronologically first. His uncontrolled fanboy lust for Optimus Prime was more than a little uncomfortable, but I finally broke through with the basic logic that the Decepticon campaign is the first half of a larger story. Looking back at what really happened in the both campaigns I should have trusted my friend a bit more with his well-honed fandom instincts.

To put it simply, Optimus rocks. The Decepticon campaign at times really feels like a prologue to the Autobot campaign. Seeds of plot lines are planted in the first six chapters that  really only come to fruition in the latter campaign. The Autobot characters that you encounter seem to be more interesting than the Decepticons, but I don’t think that’s a fault of the characters or writing. I think the lack of variety in comparison to the Autobot campaign made the first six chapters drag on a bit story-wise. Some really heroic moments happen in the Autobot campaign, and in fact Decepticons like Soundwave only really show their iconic features when in the Autobot campaign. Luckily though while the Decepticon campaign does get overshadowed by the great Autobot campaign, the great gameplay saw me through the first six chapters where the story may have faltered.

High Moon Studios has created a frenetic shooter that initially I felt was pretty standard until I got fully acclimated with the unique mechanic of transforming. I’ll talk more about the multiplayer options later, but I do have to say that High Moon made a great choice by releasing a multiplayer demo of the game before its release. My time with that prepared me for the single player by teaching me how convenient and necessary the vehicle mode of each character  is.

Transforming in this game is sweet as hell. Beyond the nostalgia of hearing it happen, each character transforms in a unique way. I found myself transforming over and over just to try and register all of the intricate doo-dads that popped into place on each character. It happens in a blink, making for some really cool moments as I raced off ramps and transformed to melee a jet out of the air. Just. Plain. Bonkers! Transforming is a huge part of the Transformers experience  and previous games haven’t been able to capture it as more than a novelty until now. One inspired choice on High Moons end was giving all the vehicles the ability to hover. It allows for precise shooting, strafing, and maneuvering that opens up the vehicle mode to be just as deadly as its robot counterpart.

While Transformers: War for Cybertron isn’t a cover-based shooter, cover is an essential part of gameplay. The game is rife with ambushes and scenarios that call for the player to hide behind objects and use their vehicle form for vital flanking positions. Now that being said, I will repeat that it is a fast-paced frenetic shooter! You will not be stuck at a position, forced to only move up as you’ve cleared out your next bit of cover. I found myself many times taking the fight to my enemies, but there were plenty of moments when I was reminded that cover was essential when I’d Rambo into a room and get killed in seconds by a gatling gun wielding heavy soldier or a squad of hidden snipers.

Transformers officers a variety of different weapons and special abilities. There are also an interesting selection of generic robot swarms to fight. From snipers and cloaking agents to gigantic devastating behemoths the players tactics change enough to continue to be interesting throughout the many fire fights in the game. Huge boss fights meet the player at the end of most chapters and they are all fun, but as said before the Autobot campaign holds the far juicer of the encounters.

Successful mutliplayer in this kind of game can turn a rental experience into a recommendation to purchase, and that is what Transformer’s multiplayer has done for me. I actually feel like the mechanics of the game really come together in the multiplayer in such a way that it’s etched out a unique experience that I’ve already poured twice as many hours into versus the story campaign. The vehicle forms usefulness becomes even more apparent in the variety of interesting multiplayer maps and six gameplay types. The special abilities and weaponry also find a sweet spot in that they are assigned to four different classes (scout, scientist, soldier, and leader) that level as you gain experience in matches.

Progression occurs much like the very popular progression models of FPS games, with different load out options that unlock as a class levels. Each class has enough variety though that they can be tailored towards completely different play style specializations. There are also minor visual customization features with respect to the players character. Each class gets iconic character models from the game and can change the color of each character. While it’s no build-a-Transformer feature there is still enough variety to find your favorite.

The other multiplayer mode is called Escalation, and offers the same kind of frantic fun that Gears of Wars horde mode or Call of Duty: World at War zombie mode officers. Waves of enemies with progressively difficult numbers and unit types attack up to four players as they try and survive as long as they can. As units are killed, credits are earned to purchase ammo and new weaponry for the fight ahead. The interesting twist with this version of survival mode is that scattered around the two maps (one for both Autobot and Decepticon characters) are doors that can be unlocked that lead to areas with more powerful weaponry and defensive items. This comes with its own dangers though as this also activates new spawn points for the enemy units to appear.  This calls into a play interesting shout outs of strategy as the players decide what risks are worth taking.

For a fan of Transformers, War for Cybertron comes as a wonderful reinterpretation of the first series. In many ways it’s like they reached into fan’s brains and pulled out the shiniest, most nostalgic bits of the series. Luckily for gamers that aren’t mad about the whole Transformers “thing,” the game offers enough of an interesting twist that it’s worth checking out!

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