Transformers: War for Cybertron Review

Transformers: War for Cybertron (Available on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1-10
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: High Moon Studios
Release Date: June 22nd, 2010

Parent Talk: Thanks to the Unreal Engine, War for Cybertron is stunning.  If you own an HDTV, hook up your PS3 or Xbox 360 properly!  WfC runs natively at 720p, but can be upscaled to 1080p.  Both look sharp and detailed.  Playing at 480i, makes it difficult to spot enemies, and the on-screen text illegible.  I’m used to 720 though, hence my difficulty.  In terms of audio, the game supports Dolby Digital 5.1, which is the norm for this day and age.  I can’t wait for next-gen, when true lossless audio is set to come about.  That’s going to be sick!

The ESRB rates War for Cybertron T for teen with the following comments: “In this action game, players control robot-like aliens (Transformers) that complete missions on the planet Cybertron. Players use shotguns, laser guns, machine guns, sniper rifles, and mounted turrets to destroy enemy robots in frenetic battles. Players can shift between third- and first-person perspectives as they lock targeting crosshairs on enemies. The gun battles employ realistic sound effects (e.g., artillery-shell discharge, rapid metallic gunfire, loud explosions), as robots stagger back or explode into fiery bursts when hit. Cutscenes sometimes depict robots getting sliced in half, crushed, or shot at close range.”  I couldn’t have said it better.  This is an action game with no blood, but lots of robot violence.  Is your young one mature enough to handle that?  I hope, because I watched Transformers when I was a wee youngster myself.

It’s common knowledge that the Transformers movies have banked.  Combined, they’ve grossed over $1.5 billion at the worldwide box office.  That’s insane!  Unsurprisingly, Activision has released several games adaptations to go along.  Being a Transformers fan since a child, I ask them to provide us with review copies whenever possible.  In the event they wouldn’t, I sacrificed my hard-earned money to bring the review I know you all count on, and I say sacrificed because the games have been anything but awesome.  Gameplay problems, cut up plot points and repetition have been the enemy.  Here were are, after two dominant movies and several less-than-successful videogames…and Activision is trying to capitalize on this cherished franchise.  The big difference this time is that they’ve succeeded!

The Great: Finally, the Transformers feel as they ought!  From how they change, to their skills and the lines they’ve spoken during the original cartoon, War for Cybertron is the real deal.  There’s something about flying around a foreign location, returning to robot form to fight the Decepticons, only to discover one of their secret weapons, a 20-foot robot!  Moments like this didn’t exist before, but now you witness them everywhere.  They’re sights to behold, and even better when the controller is in your hands.

The Good:

+ The story.   This Transformers game takes place on the robots’ home world of Cybertron, thus long before the All Spark was jettisoned and made its way to Earth, and just as the Autobot/Decepticon war is breaking out.  Heck, Optimus Prime isn’t even Optimus Prime at the onset.  This really helps separate the game from the universe in Michael Bay’s movies.  It allowed the developer, High Moon Studios, to go nuts designing not only our favorite characters, but also the locations.  War for Cybertron is the closest we’ve come to enjoying a new cartoon movie featuring our beloved Transformers.

+ Choose a side.  Previously you were forced to choose to play as an Autobot or Decepticon and play story missions twice.  Now the plot actually changes and locations are vastly different.  Every chapter feels drastically different.  If you play WfC as intended, you start as the Decepticons seeking Dark Energon.  Halfway through, the perspective switches, and you command the Autobots.  However, the proceedings don’t just reset.  Instead you begin right where the Decepticon missions end.  I love this unique take on the tried-and-true formula.

+ It works; I finally built something that works!  Wrong movie line, I know, but the point is valid.  The gameplay mechanics work in WfC.  The shooting, jumping, transforming…everything plain works.  I’ve never said this about a Transformers game before.  It doesn’t matter which side you choose, gameplay remains the same.  It’s, tight and all-around enjoyable.  Just one problem; where the heck is the ammo?

+ Transform and roll out.  You don’t buy a Transformers game unless you’re itching to do the transforming.  Really, how cool is that?  It was never fun though because the mechanics felt so off, but that’s no longer the case.  Now you have every reason to do it whenever.  I repeat; how rad is it going from humanoid to some wicked tricked-out flying spacecraft?  I only wish there were more areas that forced you to transform.

+ Want to be my friend?  While the AI is questionable at best, bringing two buddies along for the ride is anything but.  Head online, pair up with a couple friends, and have fun.  You won’t regret it.

+ I’ll see you online.  If the campaign mode and co-op aren’t enough, WfC features a robust competitive and cooperative online mode.  By far the best option is Escalation.  Think Horde from Gears of War fame.  The big difference is that you earn money eliminating enemies, which can redeem upgrades between rounds.  I’ve had a blast with it all.  It’s a smooth, virtually lag-free experience.

The Bad:

– Ammo?  Umm, hello?  AMMO?!  I said that quite a bit while first playing.  There’s always a fine line to walk when creating a shooter-heavy game.  You don’t want to supply too much ammo, but ensure enough is available for entertainment’s sake.  In WfC’s case, a little more would’ve gone a long way.  I constantly was forced to melee enemies because my ammo depleted.  I don’t recall watching this happen during the the original cartoon series, do you?

– Well, that looks familiar.  Despite varied locations, it doesn’t benefit the game when you have to study the environments to figure that out.  Understandably, this is due to Cybertron being torn apart by the war.  Metallic chunks are falling everywhere, cinderblocks plummeting from the sky, etc.  It’s cool to see when the Decepticons kick things off, but familiarity rears in when the Autobots take over.

– Haven’t we’ve done this before?  Despite High Moon’s attempt to keep the gameplay fresh, repetition does set in after a while.  I never found the game mundane, but the action indeed begins to repeat.

The Ugly: AI, or the lack thereof.  It’s no secret that AI-controlled characters can’t compete with human minds and hands.  Your AI cohorts make questionable decisions, and demonstrate the horrible habit of walking in your line of fire.  Don’t you love that?  Thankfully this isn’t a deal-breaker, and certainly not as bad as in other games, but worth mentioning all the same.

The Lowdown: Transformers: War for Cybertron is the best game for this license available for the now-generation consoles.  If you’re at all a fan of the original cartoon, don’t hesitate to grab this.  The game isn’t without issues, but no less full of legitimate Transformers fun, finally!  So transform and roll out right now before I start quoting any more cheesy lines from the eighties.

Leave a Reply