Little more than a year ago, the idea of a new game based upon a franchise that had suffered more than a few stinkers in the gaming world being a critical darling would be scoffed at, but Batman: Arkham Asylum took the gaming world by surprise and showed people that it could be done. War for Cybertron is the Transformer franchises’ Arkham Asylum – and while it is easy to leave the review there and call High Moon studio’s shooter an absolute gem for simply being a sucess, being the Best Transformers game doesn’t necessarily make a game great. Is this new retelling of the Transformers origin bound for the scrap heap, or should it roll out of stores and into your gaming collection?
War for Cybertron is a retelling of the origins of the Transformer characters before they abandoned their home planet and came to Earth, recounting the battles between the evil Decepticons and the heroic Autobots. It is a story that has been told countless times before in Transformers fiction, however High Moon’s story has been crafted well enough for Hasbro to declare it the official ‘Canon’ of the Transformers universe – this is a lofty accolade, however it does not escape from the fact that War for Cybertron’s story can be a little middling at times. Having duel campaigns – one Autobot, one Decepticon – offers interesting insights to some of the most beloved transformer characters, but the story will win no Pulitzer prizes for its script. It has its moments, but on the whole it is rather average.
The solid gameplay of War for Cyberton, however, makes up for the shortcomings of the plot. Perhaps describled most simply as ‘Gears of War – without the cover system’, the Third Person shooting takes a methodical and slow pace to it, adding to the weight of the characters and the weapons you are wielding – things feel very weighted and real, despite the fact you’re playing as giant robots who turn into cars. The transforming mechanic operates on another ‘simple but solid’ method – a quick impression of the right stick transforms your robot character into one of 4 vehicles, depending on the character: A car, a truck, a jet or a tank. The transition is smooth and slick, allowing you to pull of amazing tricks as you boost over a ridge as a car, transform into a robot and lay down a hail of fire onto your enemies below. The gameplay captures the very essence of what makes Transformers a great franchise – that symbiotic balance between the vehicle and robot aspects of your character – and delivers a solid gaming experience.
The multiplayer aspect of War for Cybertron is probably the best side of the game – the rather humdrum campaign is helped along by the inclusion of co-op for up to three players at a time, and along with Escalation – a ‘Horde’ type mode where players hold out against wave after wave of enemy robots – and the solid matchmade component, there is plenty enough content in the game to keep you playing long after playing through the events of Cybertronian Civl War . The standard multiplayer modes are in there – like Capture the flag and team death match – as well as a Battlefield-esque Territories game and and ‘Countdown to Extinction’, similar to Halo’s Assault mode where teams must plant a bomb in the enemy base whilst defending their own from attack, and paired with the solid gameplay of War for Cybertron means that a lot of fun can be found with the multiplayer. It uses a class based system akin to Battlefield – where you can pick between the Leader (transforming into a truck), the Scout (a car), the Scientist (a jet) or the Soldier (a tank), and utilise class abilities to buff your allies or harass your foes. The transforming element keeps the multiplayer fresh and exciting, and with class based progression á la Call of Duty unlocking more abilities to use, there is a guaranteed sense of longevity to it. War for Cybertrons multiplayer is a melting pot of ideas from other games, admittedly, but High Moon studios have taken those ideas and given them a refreshing boost with the solid gameplay and transforming mechanics unique to the Transformer universe. Perhaps the only disappointment with the multiplayer is the stunted character customisation – for a Transformers game, you want a wealth of body pieces and colours to make your very own transformer, but War for Cybertron sacrifices that customisability for the sake of keeping the transformation animations for each character class looking great.
Another strong point of War for Cybertron is its design and artstyle. These are not the sparking, shiny robots of the Michael Bay movies, but grittier versions of the Generation 1 Transformers, and they are fantastic to look at. The transformations look smooth and feasible, but the little touches like gears and servos moving as your character stands idle also show that a lot of extra detail has gone into these updates of the simplistic Gen 1 designs. Some of the environs look a little samey, but that can be forgiven as this is meant to be Cybertron, a mechanical construct of uniform design. Despite the saminess, they still manage to look very impressive in places as well.
In all, Transformers: War for Cybertron is a great game, even if its success aren’t exactly on the same level as Batman: Arkham Asylum’s were for its own franchise. The loyalty to classic transformers elements – hell, even Stan ‘The Touch’ Bush makes an appearance, singing an all new 80’s power ballad for the end credits! – makes the game an absolute must for fans of the classic cartoons and comic books, but this isn’t just another one of those ‘buy it if you’re a fan’ games: the solid gameplay and fun multiplayer outweigh the rather flat campaign mode, and offer a great experience for gamers just looking for a fix during the summer drought. Transformers: War for Cybertron definitely has both the Touch and the power.
Developer: High Moon Studios
Genre: Third person shooter
Time: Played through both the decepticon and autobot campaigns, as well as around 6 hours of multiplayer.
Gripes: The campaign is definitely the game’s weakpoint. A flat story and poor A.I certainly put a downer on the success of the games other aspects.
Get it for the: Strong gameplay, and fun multiplayer. Oh, and the fact that it’s a brilliant transformers game, and they are a rarity!