Roll out! - Transformers game: War For Cybertron
In recent years, thanks largely to Michael Bay’s explodathon movies, Transformers are cool again. They’re back on T-shirts, on lunch boxes, in toy stores and in games consoles. It’s a shame that both Transformers games released in the wake of the rejuvenation were such lackluster efforts. Taking Bay’s Hollywood shine as a starting point, developers Travellers Tales and Beenox crafted turgid third person blaster’s to sate the publicity juggernaut. The disappointment of these games is especially apparent because of Atari’s 2004 Transformers game, a minor triumph for the franchise free from the constraints of Hollywood propaganda. It captured the goofy enthusiasm of the cartoon and rekindled a lot of lost memories with its slick approach to transforming.
Now, Activision and High Moon studios subtract the movie inspiration and bring back fun and a familiar spirit to this waning series.
Story (4 out of 5)
Anyone who is even a casual fan of the franchise will know that the Transformers pre-Earth days were spent blasting chunks off of each other on Cybertron, their home planet. WFC depicts the conflict between the Autobots and the decepticons as an epic sci-fi battle royale, replete with high tech death dealing technology….and killstreaks.
Story isn’t exactly at the forefront of proceedings but what is there is engaging enough, especially for fans. The main kernel of the plot is something every fan is familiar with, Megatron has his sights set on destruction and dominance while at the same time fending off the duplicitous Starscream (excellent as usual) and the proud Optimus Prime (once again defined by the legendary vocals of Peter Cullen) seeks to stop him and restore peace.
Along the way we get to know the two factions through slick cut scenes and wonderfully nuanced incidental dialogue during gameplay. It’s an incredible step forward from the hollow photocopies of Transformers 2007 and Revenge Of The fallen.
Gameplay (3 out of 5)
Yes, they got the transforming right. Stomping about as a giant robot and blowing chunks out of other giant robots would be for naught if said giant robots didn’t break apart and reform as a cool vehicle and in WFC these transformations (which are always a quick button press away) are incorporated into the flow of gameplay. The use of your second form is mainly exploration based but can also be incorporated into battle (although a nifty automobile isn’t really a match for a ‘scrapmaker’ cannon). All in all it’s a great experience traversing the Cybertronian terra firma in your given alt-form.
Elsewhere, combat is chunky 3rd person carnage in the Gears Of War vein. The camera sticks close to shoulder height and it’s a cumbersome but satisfying experience getting a bead on surrounding targets. As is the general rule with these kinds of blasters, enemy models can become a little repetitive and boss battles, while spectacular, do tend to drag. A bit of extra difficulty may have helped but WFC single player campaign is short and breezy.
Visuals (4 out of 5)
War For Cybertron runs on the Unreal engine, which is perfect for the busy, abstract environments and the intricate design of the new Transformers. The ‘bots in WFC are essentially an amalgam of different design iterations spread across the franchise, using that dangerously sharp look perfected in the recent films.
This being a sci-fi fantasy set on a world seen mostly in snatched glimpses on the animated series, you would expect there to be some pretty original environments to traverse. High Moon studios are writing their own rules with the appearance of the Transformers themselves and the design of their ill-fated homeworld has followed suit. Given the familiarity of the graphics engine within a sci-fi setting, environments are often reminiscent of Unreal Tournament III, with just a smattering of Gears Of War’s subterranean episodes. Cybertron has its own personality though and through and its technologically born inhabitants are no different.
Multiplayer (5 out of 5)
This is something that the previous Transformers game tried and failed miserably to include, an online component. Here it fits like a glove, online skirmishes with your very own customized, shape shifting mech is an absolute blast. There’s a streamlined class system in place that caters to hardened fraggers and n00bs alike. While the overall feel of the gameplay owes a debt to Epic’s Gears series, the multiplayer is a thinly veiled ‘homage’ to the Modern Warfare series.
There is a wonderfully balanced class system in place based on the different bot types and each has their own collection of strengths and weaknesses. Scouts are fast and stealthy; soldiers are tooled up bullet pukers. Scientist’s can heal their team and zip around as a jet and leaders rally allies with a war cry. Each class can have their core skills augmented after a decent amount of xp has been farmed.
Elsewhere is escalation, a fun and distracting horde mode (there’s Gears again) which features real time upgrades that recall the recent Gears 3 horde enhancements previewed at E3.
When all is said and done, High Moon studios has achieved something that fans haven’t seen in 6 years- a good Transformers game. Even without the solid online component, this game would impress with it’s bold, unique art design, quirky fan-service storyline and solid 3rd person action thrills. There are some gripes, particularly with some dull as dishwater campaign stretches and iffy boss battles, but then there is little room for innovation when your main influence is Gears Of War. However, Transformer: War For Cybertron is bolstered by a solid online component that, while derivative, still manages to entertain with its varied classes and experienced based upgrade system.
Unfortunately, Michael Bay is currently shooting away on Transformers 3-D so another tired gaming facsimile seems inevitable, that is unless foresight gives the job to High Moon Studios…