Beep boo bop boo beep.
I’ve been burnt by Transformer games before. All of them to be precise. From the days of the bland NES cartridges to last year’s paltry Revenge of the Fallen movie tie-in, there has never been a game that had “the touch”. But those games didn’t have what War for Cybertron has: a team of hardcore nerds hopelessly dedicated to one of their favorite cartoons. It’s not rare for developers to be extremely passionate about titles, but these guys appear to be borderline psychotic about it.
[image1]Michael Bay has done his best to destroy my precious childhood memories by turning them into retarded sight gags that occasionally make a bunch of stuff blow up. (Bumble Bee giving a dude a golden shower? WTF?) WfC does its best to make up for all the Hollywood BS by going old school.
The only thing is, this is a prequel and as such, the battle has not made its way to Earth, so while their robot forms resemble the heroes and villians from the the ’80s cartoon, their vehicle forms do not. Optimus Prime doesn’t have a truck container that just disappears when he transforms, Soundwave doesn’t turn into a microcassette recorder, Megatron does not turn from a giant robot into a tiny gun, and Bumble Bee isn’t a VW Bug, but he’s also not a Camero (thank god). As you may recall in the first episode, they don’t take those forms until they come to Earth and scan them, duh! Instead they turn into space vehicles like a robo-space tank and robo-space jet. But a lot of work has been done to make it abundantly clear that the dev team knows what they’re talking about when it comes to cyber-organic lifeforms even without the semis and ambulances.
The story mode puts you through ten long levels with well-placed auto-save points where you can battle both your favorite Autobots and Decepticons. And for once, the controls are intuitive and easy to master. Combat plays out a lot like Gears of War but without a cover system. Difficulty is well-balanced too. You can’t just run in blasting and expect to win; you have to make use of your skills and the environment to stand any sort of chance, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get opportunities to splatter energon blood all over the screen with a glowing battle axe. Bad gameplay is finally a thing of the past. I totally felt like a kid again leading Optimus Prime into battle against Megatron.
[image2]Vehicular and robot-fighting stages are blended well throughout the plot, but it can be hard to tell when one form (as vehicle or robot) is better than the other, except for the flying levels where it was pretty obvious what you should do to avoid falling to your death. When playing solo, you can take a cue from your A.I. partners, but when you’re in a 3-player co-op game, it can get a bit confusing. A map would’ve been extremely helpful as well, as opposed to the Dark Void-like objective marker in the distance, but at least this marker doesn’t randomly disappear.
Visually the world of Cybertron is a stunning piece of living machinery with morphing bridges and electric waterfalls. It’s like the Death Star with a super fancy makeover and it totally looks like a Transformer. A little too much, actually. While everything is graphically stunning, the robotic enemies blend easily into the the robotic background, which can make for some confusion. After playing for a while, though, you quickly learn to adjust. I don’t know if this was something done deliberately to give more of an edge to combat or if it’s just something that’s unavoidable with machines fighting on a machine planet.
Beyond the story, WfC offers up a good mix of traditional and unique multiplayer modes ranging from the standard “Team Deathmatch” to “Countdown to Extinction”, in which you and your team try to plant and defend a bomb in your opponent’s base until it explodes. The four classes you can choose from, each with their own unique skills and unlockable upgrades as you level up, help balance matches and add a depth of strategy much in the same way Star Wars: Battlefront does.
[image3]The need for strategizing is even more apparent in Escalation mode, which resembles Gears‘ Horde mode in that you take on wave after endless waves of enemies, but it adds a currency system. You have to kill enemies in order to buy health, ammo, weapons, and most interesting of all, new areas. If you thought Horde was tough, try lasting longer than eight rounds in Escalation. Having a scientist class with a healing ray really, really helps on this one.
While Transformers: War for Cybertron is not perfect, it will definitely hit the mark with fans and gamers who have been waiting for a title that would do the series justice. And it’s the only time you will ever hear me recommending to someone that they check out the credits in a game. I only hope that the folks who’ll be working on the next title for the film franchise take a hint and make it more like this one. Yes, fanboys, it’s okay to pick this one up. Transformers, Roll Out!