STAFF REVIEW of Transformers: War For Cybertron (Xbox 360)

Saturday, July 3, 2010.
by Adam Dileva

Transformers: War For Cybertron Box art I?m just going to get this out of the way; I?m an absolute huge Transformers nerd; I rebought the dvd collection, read the comics, loved Beast Wars and even went to the midnight openings for the new movies (I know?I know). I was an 80?s child who watched the show religiously every day, had a trunk full of the toys and even though Optimus was the greatest hero of all time. The Transformers show from the 80?s (referred to as Generation 1, or G1 for short) is arguably the most popular Transformers series and is what most fans grew up with.

To be honest, when I first heard about Transformers: War For Cybertron (WFC for short) I was both extremely excited once I knew it was based on the G1 series, but also very nervous and ready to be disappointed based on the track record of previous Transformers games. Up until this point, there really hasn?t been a great Transformers game that really captured the essence of G1 properly.

You?ve probably never heard of the development studio called High Moon (they did the Bourne Conspiracy game) but they were give then challenge of making a Transformers game for the fans once and for all. It?s very clear that the team was comprised of some true diehard Transformers fans, as they?ve finally done justice for fans and this Transformers game does what Batman Arkham Asylum did for Batman fans last year; it?s that good.

Many of the original Transformers from the show return in the game and Peter Cullen, the only and true voice of Optimus, also reprises his role for a perfect performance to lead the Autobots. Sadly, many of the original voice actors from the show were not used for the game, but the replacements seem to try and get the same style of voice acting for their characters. Some work great like Soundwave that sounds authentic, but then there are others like Starscream that just sound very off. This is obviously the geek in me wanting it all to be perfect and doesn?t really take anything away from the game itself; I actually wonder if this was done slightly on purpose to recreate that pseudo-bad voice acting from the 80?s show.

As the games title implies, the story takes place during one of the wars of Cybertron. What?s exciting about this backdrop of Transformers lore is that this really hasn?t been touched on all that much in the almost three decades that Transformers has been around. It?s a back story (that Hasbro officially gave the nod to) that?s never fully been explored or explained and takes place well before the show we all came to grow up with and love.

The journey that precedes the Transformers arrival on Earth also answers some questions that have never been answered such as how Megatron and Starscream meet and become Decepticons, how Optimus and Bumblebee meet and even how Optimus gained the Prime title. WFC is split into two campaigns; obviously being the Decepticon portion and the Autobots side of the struggle as well. The Decepticon tale takes place before the Autobot saga, but they?ve done something very cool where you can start at any part you wish. So if you really want to play Autobots first, you can. You can even get half way done their story then start the Decepticon one if you wish. Obviously I suggest playing everything in order as it?ll make more sense, but the option is there for people that wish to do any section at any time. Each campaign will take you roughly 5-8 hours depending on the difficulty level for a total of 10-20 on single player alone.

So let?s start off with the Decepticons side of the tale. Megatron wants to return Cybertron to ?the way it used to be? and because it?s Megatron, will use any means necessary and not let anyone stand in his way. He discovers that Starscream is guarding something called Dark Energon that could be used to wield unbelievable power; so obviously he goes after it. He eventually takes control of this newfound power and then scales an assault against the Autobots in Iacon city looking for the Omega Key so that he can get to the core of Cybertron and directly infect it with Dark Energon. I won?t ruin any other plot points, but what happens and the scale of which is something that needs to be seen and played.

As you begin the Autobot campaign, their leader Zeta Prime is reported destroyed and Optimus voluntarily takes the reigns to lead the Autobots. As Optimus recruits more Transformers to defend their home city Iacon from Megatron and his Decepticons, he receives an emergency distress call from Zeta Prime that he is being held captive. Unsure if it?s a trap or not, Optimus knows he has to try in the hopes that he really is alive and can give Zeta back his leadership of the Autobots. Again, I don?t want to go into too much more detail about the story as I really enjoyed how it played out and the scale again of some of the forthcoming battles is simply awesome to see.

WFC is a third person shooter that uses the Unreal Engine, but unlike most third person shooters these days, does not implement a cover system. If you don?t want to get shot, get away or hide behind a wall. Controls only take a few minutes to get used to and are intuitive and easy to get the hang of. You can fine aim with the Left Trigger, shoot with the Right one, click in the Right Stick to melee and clicking the Left Stick makes you transform from vehicle to machine.

All the robots are specified as different classes and each class has their own unique abilities and weapons. Using Optimus as the leader class for example makes you much more tough overall and can take out almost anything with your massive artillery. Choosing a scientist class character will give you the ability to heal yourself and teammates for example. There are four different classes in all and these archetypes also carry over to the multiplayer portion of the game.

I was honestly expecting the multiplayer to be tacked on and not be able to support itself over time but High Moon studios has completely surprised me and made the multiplayer portion truly fun and gave it longevity.

As mentioned before, the four classes (Scout, Leader, Scientist, and Soldier) are used in multiplayer as well and with some play time of each type, you?ll find the type of character that suits your play style. Another thing to take into account is their corresponding vehicles modes as well; Scientists are jets, Soldiers are tanks, Scouts are cars, and leaders are trucks. Each vehicle type has its own abilities and is good for different types of situations. On top of these choices of classes is also a perks-like system that unlock new abilities and bonuses as you level up the more you play online. It?s a great way to add longevity to the online portions lifespan and I can see myself playing for quite sometime because of it.

Another interesting feature is the ability to create your own Transformers for online play as well. Now yes, there are limitations to this such as these customs can only be played in competitive modes and not Escalation Mode (which I?ll touch on in a minute). You create your Transformer by picking its class (which determines its vehicle form) then you can customize its basic look, color scheme, abilities, and weapons. I do wish there was much more customization for the body types of the Transformers as there are only a few per class, but I?m happy it?s there at all and was included.

Aside from the standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag variants that are a given, there are also some other interesting modes that were included as well. Escalation Mode is essentially Horde mode from Gears of War 2 where you are pit against endless waves of enemies that become increasingly more and more challenging. As you defeat enemies and collect their points, you can then spend these points on ammo, weapons, health, and even new areas of the map. The coolest part about this mode is that you get to play as the actual Transformers and not your no-name custom created ones. There are a few more modes as well such as Countdown To Extinction (which is most comparable to Assault mode in Halo), Conquest, and Code of Power.

I really only had one huge glaring issue with the game, and excuse me because I will need to geek out again for a moment. You play the game and notice right away that they look like their counterparts from the TV show for the most part; the issue with this is that those car, truck, and planes are Earth designs (and this game takes place millions of years before they crash land on Earth). I completely understand that they need to have some type of Earth commonality to them for them to be recognizable or else we?d be playing with their pure robot forms (ala the Michael Bay versions) and no one wants that. When my biggest concern is something like this, you can see that the game is doing everything else very well. Sure nothing is perfect; there are pacing issues, bad pop in textures and major ammunition reserve problems, but it does its job at being truly an enjoyable Transformers G1 experience.

Playing through the game I had so much positive nostalgia that I popped in the DVDs to watch a few episodes and even dusted off my old toys. The fact that Hasbro is going to make a toy line based on this game alone has me feeling like a 8 year old kid again absolutely falling in love with Transformers once again. THIS is how you use the Transformers property and make it entertaining while still trying true to the source material while still having the spirit of what made Transformers so great and I enjoyed it from beginning to end.

Overall: 9.2 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 9.4 / 10


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