When I first read that Activision would be publishing a Transformers game, developed by High Moon Studios (also known for the very average The Bourne Conspiracy game), I immediately assumed it would be yet another of the boring, Michael Bay-esque game reincarnations of the Transformers I once knew and loved.
See, back in the 80’s, Transformers was the new cool. We all brought our latest Transformers toys to school, we all watched the TV series when we got home in the afternoon. Over the years though, the franchise went through numerous modernisations and reinventions. While the ‘new’ and latest Transformers films have been watchable, the series as a whole has lost its soul somewhat.
So imagine my surprise when I read that Transformers: War for Cybertron has been created with the sole purpose of paying homage to the 80’s story line and feel.
You have the option of playing from either Autobot or Decepticon perspective from the get-go, but the natural progression (and correct way to play) is beginning with the Decepticon campaign.
We open with Megatron, waging war on the Autobots with the sole intention of returning Cybertron to the golden bot-age of its history. In his quest, he is drawn to a super-power, Dark Energon, which promises absolute corruption of Cybertron and the ultimate annihilation of the Autobots.
Launching a full-scale assault on the mega city of Iacon, Megatron intends to infect the core of Cybertron with this newly-found Dark Energon, forever shaping Cybertron to his will and image – and ending the Autobot resistance.
It’s a fantastic throw-back, with many classic 80’s characters once again in the spotlight. The ability to play from either perspective is much welcomed and very well executed.
War for Cybertron is a third person game, essentially a shooter, with no levelling up or RPG’ish elements to be found. You’re in a level, you have a primary weapon, can pick up a secondary weapon, have your vehicle form and you’re set.
It is this simplicity that makes is so enjoyable to play. You don’t spend the first few hours of the game getting owned because you haven’t unlocked a special ammo type or armour category.
Action is frequent, with very little pause or reprieve to slow the pace. Indeed, it is only on later difficulties when you find yourself backtracking and scouring cleared areas looking for ammo and health supplies that break the snappy progression.
Ammo definitely needs to be managed in War for Cybertron. The run and gun/hold down the trigger approach simply doesn’t work here. Health and armour however are generally in steady supply, especially when it counts during heavy battle sequences and boss fights. There are a variety of Grenade types too, found on the battlefield which compliment your running arsenal.
Each mission can be played as one of a specific selection of Transformers relative to the environment (ground-based/air-based) and each have specific advantages for certain mission sections. Optimus’ hard-hitting weapons more advantageous during boss battles, Bumblebees nimble, rapid fire for scouting and quick room clearing for example.
Then there’s the co-op. The ability to jump in with up to two other Friends for mission attempts is a blessing. Mic support is good – and with the exception of some minor lag issues I’ve experienced, its technically solid. The only issue arises on later difficulties when you constantly run out of ammo. Playing solo and you have full run of the (often sparse) ammo in supply – the AI doesn’t use any. Playing co-op and you share the same amount of available ammo. And that means some of you are definitely going to run dry.
It could definitely do with some co-op balancing, but it’s still an enjoyable game mode.
Competitive online game modes are also enjoyable, with more conventional levelling making an appearance here and adding class-based team structure (coordinating a balance between Scouts, Leaders, Scientists etc. is paramount) to game modes like Conquest make for exciting, fast-paced action. There’s a maximum of 10 players per game, but this number is more than enough once you find a well-balanced room with experienced players.
Graphics & Sound
From third-person perspective, Transformers: War for Cybertron puts great attention of the title’s lead characters. Autobot and Decepticon models are done well – I was able to pick most of them on screen well before they were named. Many are instantly recognisable recreations too, with only minor practical reinventions in place (Optimus shedding the ‘rig’ trailer from the original series – in favour of a slightly more modern vehicle form for example).
While graphic detail isn’t ground-breaking, it captures the Cybertron feel well. Of course this does mean though that many of the cold steel/metal environments begin looking the same after a while. It’s not a downer on the title at all, but the graphics junkies aren’t going to be impressed or ‘wowed’ by stunning visuals.
There are occasional dips in the frame rate too in areas of high activity and on-screen action, but for the most part it’s steady.
Voice acting gets top marks. Peter Cullen returning for the role of Optimus is delivered brilliantly. Hearing “Autobots! Roll out!” never gets old. Authentic recreations of many other titles characters are also great, Soundwave is a particular stand-out. It’s a real nostalgic trip.
Classic characters, an authentic story line, returning familiar voice talent, plenty of action and some epic bot-battles. A few minor niggles aside, it’s a Transformers game that delivers all it promises and proves that the ‘back to roots’ approach always works in the right hands.
The younger generation might just miss the point of Transformers: War for Cybertron, but those that are familiar with the original 80’s television series will appreciate this one to the fullest. It is truly the Transformers game we’ve been waiting for, for quite some time.