Civil war has ravaged the metal planet of Cybertron as the cybertronians, robotic lifeforms with the ability to disguise themselves by transforming, take two distinctive sides in this battle for the fate of Cybertron. The Autobots fight for freedom and are lead by Zeta Prime. Their enemies, the Decepticons lead by the ruthless Megatron, seek to collect the dark energon to gain control of the planet’s core and bring Cybertron back to it’s golden age. Dark energon is an alternative to the energon that fuels the planet and it’s denizens and has been located in an old space station currently guarded by the Autobots.
To gain access to the core of Cybertron, Megatron requires the Omega Key which is held by Zeta Prime, and so he must end this battle against the Autobots once and for all and achieve his goal. Unbeknown to Megatron, his greatest feat would also lead to his greatest downfall as the fall of Zeta Prime also marks the rise of a new leader of the Autobots, and one that he will forever be locked in battle with until the end of their days. Optimus, a field commander, gathers up the remaining forces of the Autobots and takes up temporary leadership. It’s no secret to us that Optimus is destined to become a Prime, the true leaders of the Autobots, but how he got there no longer needs to be up to our imagination.
Transformers: War for Cybertron is a computer game aimed at being the origin story for every iteration of the Transformers series, from the fan favourite “Generation 1″ to the infamous Michael Bay movies. That doesn’t really say much for this game though, as all gamers know that computer games based on popular franchises that weren’t first games don’t tend to be that great. This rule also applies to Transformers. Now I won’t go into why these type of games don’t succeed, not here. No, instead I’m going to question, “does that rule also apply to War for Cybertron?”
Developer: High Moon Studios
Release Date: 25th June 2010
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows
War for Cybertron consists of ten chapters split into two compaign modes – Decepticon and Autobot. Chronologically, the Decepticon story occurs first and is followed by the Autobot story. In each chapter you may select one of three character choices. I know that doesn’t sound like much variety, but this is a computer game; playing Starscream, a cybertronian jet, in a tunnel would be just plain impractical. Each character is designed with that type of level in mind. The entire game is designed specifically around gameplay and being the origin story of the Transformers.
There are a total of nine Autobots and nine Decepticons for campaign, and each character is full of personality. This is where the presentation of the game excels. The cutscenes in the game develop the story and nothing more; however, the characters are fleshed out really well through the use of in-game dialogue passed between the three playable characters of that chapter. Each character has their own distinctive personality, and each have their own role in the various chapters. The pacing of the story is exceptionally well done, and designing the campaigns to have five chapters each was nothing short but genius with each chapter serving to deliver an important plot point, while having an extensive period of gameplay where characters get shaped by in-game dialogue.
Transformers: War for Cybertron successfully delivers a brilliant story with little neat touches supplied by developers that are also fans of the series. I was confident to say that the franchise was in good hands before, but after experiencing their story I not only feel that my confidence was within reason, but I also feel that I still underestimated what High Moon Studios were capable of as I was blown away by the experience; however, I do feel that the Decepticon campaign was underwhelming compared to the Autobot campaign which makes me have to claim that there was some underhanded Autobot fanboy involvement found within the development team. Regardless, the story in both campaign modes were incredibly satisfying; and, quite frankly, I want more. Bring on War for Cybertron 2! Of course, given the conclusion of the game I believe a new subtitle would be more apt…
The story for War for Cybertron was impressive through almost perfect presentation; however, without good gameplay the story can find itself less effective and lose it’s impact. So how did the gameplay fare?
War for Cybertron is a third person shooter developed using the Unreal Engine. This resulted in a lot of comparisons with Gears of War, a cover shooter game where you must hide behind cover and shoot targets from there. Transformers is nothing like it. Yes, it uses the same engine and is a third person shooter, but it’s certainly no cover shooter game. Enemies are varied amongst car type, aerial type, brute, heavy and tank; with the former two having two different versions – a recruit and a leader.
One thing I noticed early in the game is that ammo and recovery items feel sparse, but is not entirely a problem and in fact adds to the game’s own style. The player finds himself conserving ammo, trying not to waste it and as such players are rewarded for skillful play. For the lesser players this needn’t be a bother as the inclusion of a melee attack works as a nice alternative, and for players with a tendency to look around instead of playing the game like a rail shooter will also be rewarded with ammo and health packs.
There are only five real boss battles in War for Cybertron, two in the Decepticon campaign and three in the Autobot campaign. These battles usually involve surviving three iterations of the enemy’s pattern to completely defeat them; however, the enemy may also change it’s pattern after a short period of time keeping players on their toes. These battles usually last no more than five minutes, with the exception of the two final bosses – Omega Supreme and Trypticon.
So now I’ve covered the general gameplay features, but what of the transforming feature that is so important that the game was named after it? Well, it was an after thought. Now, I know what you’d be thinking, an after thought is bad, right? Well, no actually. They designed the gameplay and then added each character’s transformation to fit gameplay. If anything, having the transforming an after thought and the least important feature was actually beneficial; instead, transforming adds a nice little bonus during gameplay to make use of. I found transforming for use of the weapon in vehicle mode quite beneficial, or using vehicle mode to traverse long paths really handy. Transforming also allows you to evade persistent attacks, particularly of bosses.
Like most games this generation, Transformers: War for Cybertron contains a multiplayer mode. More specifically, it contains three different multiplayer modes. Firstly is co-operative campaign, which sees you playing with up to two friends online during the story of the game. The second mode is escalation which is essentially a survival mode where the players must fend off multiple waves of enemies and survive as long as they can. Finally, there is competitive online, in which players must fight in game modes such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, etc. In all honesty, there isn’t much to add to these things as they have become so common in recent games that they’re practically expected, and all play rather the same. These modes serve to add reason to continue to play the game even after completion, and extend the replay value of the game.
Transformers: War for Cybertron features exceptional story-telling and an appropriate style of gameplay that fits the Transformers universe well. Graphically, the game also looks nice, which only adds to the already well polished presentation that this game has. Each cybertronian is well designed, looking mostly unique. This leads to the characters being easily identifiable much unlike the Michael Bay counterparts. War for Cybertron looks great, and even the level designs look really nice. My only real major bone to pick with the graphics in this game is the repetitiveness of the levels, but even that isn’t really all that bad. Each location has it’s own style; but unfortunately going down the same looking corridors or motorways does seem to get old. This is where the transforming feature also helps as these type of areas are usually the ones that you blaze through in vehicle mode; in which case the repetitive level design becomes less prominent.
Now for one of the biggest things for fans of the franchise, the voice acting. Needless to say Peter Cullen reprises the role of Optimus Prime so we all know that’s good and I can confirm that it’s nothing short of an amazing performance. Optimus is really brought to life by his voice actor, but that isn’t to say the others are too. Every character in the game has an appropriate voice actor; and, although the some of the fan favourite voice actors aren’t around, their replacements match up perfectly giving an equally impressive performance. Transformers: War for Cybertron is a game in which the voice acting is very unforgettable, a fact that also stands with true with the soundtrack.
Stan Bush makes a return to the Transformers franchise giving it a new main theme entitled “Till All Are One”. Several moments in the game techno music or metal music will play to set the tone and atmosphere and is played at appropriate times. The overall soundtrack is very appropriate and feels complete with Stan Bush giving it that little boost.
So, my question at the start was if War for Cybertron would be an exception of the rule that adaptations as a video game would be bad? Well, I think the answer is clearly, “yes”, in this case. War for Cybertron is a well polished game that is delivered exceptionally well. Fans of the franchise will not be disappointed, in fact, this is the game we’ve all been waiting for.
Transformers: War for Cybertron is a game that shows that when an adapted video game breaks the formula and does something on it’s own – it becomes a very successful and fun game. This game receives a well earned 8/10 – A great game. I recommend to all Transformers fans out there to go out and buy it; and if you’re not a fan of the series then I have two words for you, “Rent it”.
(This game was reviewed on the Sony PlayStation 3 on Normal Difficulty. Single player campaign was completed, and multiplayer experiences were touched on. Game was completed in nine and a half hours).