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Jeremy Jastrzab
13 Jul, 2010

Transformers: War for Cybertron Review

360 Review | Transforming the license paradigm.
Animation has never been short on giant robots, but Transformers is probably among the most successful and endearing. Global success has come in the form of numerous cartoons, anime, comics and lately, live-action movies. Not too shabby for a cartoon that was originally conceived to push a toy line. However, while gaming loves its giant robots too, there haven’t been that many games on the Transformers front. Transformers: War for Cybertron from High Moon Studios is the first original gaming effort (apart from the movie tie-ins) since the Australian-developed PlayStation 2 exclusive, Transformers.

High Moon Studios have made two games before this: Darkwatch and The Bourne Conspiracy. Both were solid action games with a bit of the ‘final touch’ lacking. With Transformers: War for Cybertron, they’ve done something bizarre. They have created a game that is almost purely driven by the strength of the source material, as well as superb application and attention to detail. The result is one of the better licensed games on the market, despite a distinct number of gameplay deficiencies.

The official holder of the Transformers license, Hasbro, has blessed War for Cybertron as canon, so this is an official Transformers story. While some sources indicate that this game is a precursor to the upcoming re-imagination, Transformers: Prime, it has a distinctly ‘G1’ feel too it. As the title suggests, it tells the story of why the Transformers had to abandon their homeworld, Cybertron. Within it, you have the stories of how Optimus Prime became the leader of the Autobots, Megatron’s megalomaniac drive to become an omnipotent ruler and leadership of the Decepticons and side stories such as how Starscream became the unfaithful lackey, the importance of Omega Supreme and Jetfire's allegiances.

And my axe.

And my axe.
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The best part of War for Cybertron is how well it uses the Transformers license and how well the story is told. It’s no literary masterpiece, but certainly an unparalleled piece of fan service and it does a superb job of setting up the events of the impending cartoons. The story is told from the perspectives of both the Decepticons and the Autobots, and throughout you’ll come across just about all of the primary characters that were seen in the cartoon. It’s recommended that you play through the story of the Decepticons first though, as their story is a direct prelude to the Autobots.

Given that it was built off the Unreal 3 engine and is played like a shooter from the third person perspective, it would be easy to mistake War for Cybertron as a Gears of War. Actually, there are much stronger influences from titles such as Halo and Call of Duty. After all, High Moon Studios are now under the Activision banner and Darkwatch was heavily influenced by Halo. As such, there is no stop-and-pop cover play, and the game is more about trundling from one set piece to the next, while following the story and objectives as presented. One issue that is raised with the game is the ho-hum application of this. It’s the story and material that’s driving the game, as opposed to engaging and stimulating gunplay.

That’s not to say it’s bad, as there are some excellent cinematically engaging moments, especially for fans of Transformers. The main point about this is that if it were anything other than the recognisable Transformers driving the game, this would be just another forgettable shooter romp. And as a shooter, it’s got a few irksome aspects as well. At the top of the list is rather ordinary hit detection. Basically, even if both you and your enemy are standing still and your targeting reticule is red, you can still miss the shot. It’s as if there is a damage skeleton and you can only hit that, with the armour over it being transparent. Furthermore, a lot of your weapons are slow, lacking punch and not particularly enjoyable to use, given the aforementioned issue.

Wait a sec... Was Megatron a tank?

Wait a sec... Was Megatron a tank?
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Whether it’s because the aiming mechanics are off, the weapons are weak, or because the enemies are strong, some of the foot soldiers often seem to take way too many bullets before they go down. To add to this, the AI is rather erratic. Sometimes, they’ll stand there as you empty rounds into them or will relentlessly cut through you like butter. So much for super intelligent robot beings... At the end, none of these issues are game breakers, but they certainly should have been given better consideration, especially since these are critical aspects of any decent shooter.

As a Transformer, you would have expected that transforming would play a key role. While you can very easily transform on the fly, it doesn’t really add much to the game. It’s very much a necessity in a couple of missions, particularly when you’re required in aerial combat, but apart from getting to places faster and providing a quicker way to move around, transforming hardly opens up new gameplay possibilities. All these issues, together with some rather uninspired corridor shooter design make the game itself feel like a bit of a drag. The 10 missions (five from each side) will take up to 15 hours to complete, but the missions can often feel too long, given the dragged out corridors often lacking in variety. Again, it’s the superb application of the license and fan service, such as a few dream boss battles and memorable set piece moments, that save the game from ignominy and make it worth while playing through. Unfortuantely, the game is a real missed opportunity on the unlockable content stakes.

In each mission you can pick one of three Transformers to play as, and each is assigned a class. So for example, Optimus Prime is a Leader, Ratchet is a Scientist and Bumblebee is a Scout, with the remaining class being Soldier. Each has a particular ability set and in multiplayer each class has a distinct vehicle transformation. There will always be three of you in single player, but AI partners are not particularly useful beyond being enemy distractions. To get around this, you can tackle the campaign in online co-op. Rather handily, the game is actually very flexible in allowing you to drop in and out of games and the experience can be better for it. With a full team of three, you’ll have three guys actually destroying enemies, rather than just the one. Unfortunately, there is no split-screen option, so co-op can only be played online.

Hint: GET OUT OF THE WAY!

Hint: GET OUT OF THE WAY!
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The Transformer classes carry over into multiplayer as well, which comes in two forms. Escalation is similar to modes such as Horde (Gears of War 2) and Firefight (Halo ODST). You can use Transformers from the campaign, and up to four players can play at a time. It has an interesting system where you earn points for killing enemies, which are then redeemed to buy new weapons as well as health and ammo refills. The rest of the multiplayer has you creating generic Transformers with each of the four classes as a base. From there, you have a typical set of class specific perks to get as you play, and the usual levelling-up systems. While not distinctive, it’s an enjoyable and well populated romp (at the moment), which still retains the novelty of playing as Transformers and less of the single player issues.

Cybertron seems like the perfect place to be modelled by the Unreal 3 engine, as the metallic and geometrically specific environments seem to go hand-in-hand with the technology. The Transformers themselves are all superbly recreated and much more reminiscent of their G1 forms. The best part of the visuals, though, is the excellent direction that makes the action seem much more visceral and intense, as well as the lack of discernable technical deficiencies. Unfortunatley, not too many classic voices remain, and apart from Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime and a very authentic Soundwave, most of the sounds have been modernised. So for example, the transformation sounds are more akin to the live action movies. Otherwise, the music makes way for the sounds of battle and destruction, while the constant cheesy dialogue is surprisingly entertaining and more ‘grown up’ than you’d expect.

Transformers: War for Cybertron is a run-of-the-mill third person shooter that is dragged along by superb application of the license. The story and use of the Transformers is just about as good as fan service can get, and surprisingly, there are a lot of moments that makes trudging through the gameplay issues worth it. While this may go some way to explaining the discounted prices currently available, there are much worse games being sold for a lot more. Either way, fans of G1 seriously need to consider this game, even just to see the events that led up to the original show.
The Score
Superb application of the Transformers license and story help, for once, make the gameplay issues in Transformers: War for Cybertron worth rolling through. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Transformers: War for Cybertron Content

New DLC available for Transformers
11 Sep, 2010 Prime content.
Another Transformers: War for Cybertron trailer
25 May, 2010 Go behind the scenes with High Moon Studios.
Transformers: War for Cybertron Multiplayer Overview trailer
06 May, 2010 Shooter classics and Soundwave for all.
6 Comments
3 years ago
this game is newish yes? Saw it in JB for sub $50 and nearly bought it.
3 years ago
Yeah it is. For some reason it has launched at a really cheap price. Reviews have been universally pretty good.
3 years ago
Quote
It has an interesting system where you earn points for killing enemies, which are then redeemed to buy new weapons as well as health and ammo refills.
In this respect, it is similar to the Nazi Zombie mode in CoD World at War.

I really enjoyed this game but the only thing that I was disappointed with was the lack of diversity when it came to the characters. The enemies are the same for both sides just with a colour change. I would have liked to have seen tougher and different Decepticons during the Autobot missions rather than just a re-hash of the Autobots from the Decepticon missions.

I really would've liked to have seen more difference between the factions and their missions.

Can't wait for the sequel though.... icon_cool.gif
3 years ago
After reading the review, I am surprised you gave it a 7. While you say a lot of the problems are not game breakers in and of themselves, the sheer amount of them and the "standard cookie-cutter shoot-em-up" feel comment really leaves me wondering whether this game deserves more than a 5. Some games should be marked down, even if on the surface they look good..

Based on your review, not the score, it sounds like the game is rather dull and boring with not much more to offer than a visceral romp through the Transformers universe...
3 years ago
I didn't want to talk too much about the stuff that 'made' the game, as it's very specifically story related. I feel that these are things that players should experience for themselves, without them being spelt out before hand in the review. Which is also why I described the game as an oddity, as despite the flaws, I was enthralled from beginning to end thanks to the use of the license and its application to the story.
3 years ago
Whilst I agree with some of Jeremy's points, I dont think there's much more that could have been done with the style of gameplay to make it more true to the source material. If you look at the cartoons or other media, Transformers is basically about two sides of robots shooting at each other. I for one am glad that War for Cybertron doesn't 'force' the player to transform to get through puzzle sections or some such drivel. The premise is simple - You are placed smack bang in the midst of a war and you can do whatever you want in your power to attain your objectives. High Moon should be praised for not trying to make the game something it shouldn't be. The premise is a simple one, yet the player is given total freedom in how they confront a challenge.

Without spoiling anything, a good example is facing off against a formidable boss character that would simply annihalate my character. I transformed into tank mode and had an easier time maneuvering his countermeasures and bringing him down. I'm sure it would have been possible to defeat him using robot form, but I was using the wrong tactic. At the end of the day, you aren't pidgeon holed into having to play as one form over another which is great.

The highlight of this game is the great voice acting and character interaction that fans will enjoy. I'm not a diehard fan by any means, but if you ever played with your Tranformers as a kid, I think you'll enjoy the game immensely.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  23/6/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Activision
Genre:
  Action
Year Made:
  2009
Players:
  1

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