Review: Activision rolls out the best Transformers game ever.
Full Disclosure: I dig Transformers. Always have. Always will.
There. Now that I have that off of my chest we can get into Transformers: War For Cybertron. This is a game that was made for fans like Seibetron.com forum member uuser, who recently finished an incredible custom Omega Supreme figure
. People who have an affection for the original cartoon from the mid 1980s. People who have a fond memory (or twelve) of converting cars into robots and back again.
The development team over at High Moon Studios crafted this tapestry with careful attention to the look and feel of War For Cybertron. Some purists might get upset by the fact that Optimus Prime doesn't turn into a semi, but the art direction for the game fits into the canon. Set well before the events of either the cartoons or movies, War For Cybertron renders many of the most iconic transformers in their original
form, the form that they took before coming to earth. The art style is consistent with the look of the cartoon and blends the classic designs with this new vision.
The animations compliment the style perfectly and are the essential key to turning the toys of my youth into living and breathing beings. The transformation sequences are incredibly dynamic, borrowing some flavor from the recent Michael Bay-helmed flicks. However, where the movie Transformers became more about the effect these robots keep their identity through subtle movements and distinct character design. Basically, you could argue that these are the Transformers that should
have been in the movies.
Of course, the look of a game like this is only part of the presentation and without the excellent audio engineering this game would fall flat. From the spot-on voice casting (thank you for bringing Peter Cullen in to voice Optimus Prime) to the simultaneously mechanic and organic transformation sequence, there is very little to find fault with.
The narrative in Transformers: War For Cybertron plays out through ten levels broken into five chapter campaigns for each of the Autobots and the Decepticons. Each level allows you to select between three characters. The selection is predominantly land-based but there are two levels that allow you to select between different aircraft. The other two characters lend themselves to online cooperative play or, if you'd rather go it alone, they will accompany you through the mission as AI-controlled companions. While extremely linear, each of the levels is very well crafted and designed to encourage transformation between robot and vehicle. I didn't experience the inexplicable free falls or sudden cases of getting stuck on stuff that Tycho from Penny Arcade
did but I can understand his comment about the game not feeling entirely baked. There are moments in the action where everything feels perfect but then you are stuck in a situation where a cover system feels like it is missing and there are some environmental interactions that almost feel like they are about to initiate a mini-game, to indicate your success and allow you to move on. Really, I enjoyed the campaign thoroughly, even during boss fights that fell into patterns and repetition.
The multiplayer modes really give Transformers: War For Cybertron staying power, though. The Horde (AKA Survival, AKA Firefight, AKA Nazi Zombie) inspired Escalation mode allows you to team up with three other people online, taking the role of your favorite Autobots and Decepticons, to fight off wave after wave of opponents. The map selection is a little bit sparse, but the level progression is solid and fun. Also, the implementation of purchasing additional weapons, health, ammo and upgrades takes the Horde formula to the next logical level.
The real icing on the War For Cybertron cake (mmm... cake) is the online competitive multiplayer. With a progression system inspired by the RPG-esque Modern Warfare formula, the multiplayer has a lot of content to keep you playing for hours. Sure, there are lots of gameplay modes and several maps (I look forward to more), but the crowning achievement is the Create-A-Transformer system. It basically gives you four different progression trees, one for each of the classes/vehicle types. I hope that Activision and High Moon package in some new variations on the existing frames. That would probably get me to buy the map packs.
Given the reception that War For Cybertron is receiving, it is no surprise that Hasbro and Activision are already talking about more games starring the robots in disguise
. As good as War For Cybertron is, it does leave some room for improvement and polish for these future games. Adding some depth to the gunplay ? maybe a fully realized cover system ? could vault an upcoming Transformer game to the next level. Mixing up the Transformer selection ? being able to combine aircraft and land-based vehicles in one mission ? would drastically change the strategy of how you play a mission. Add some branches, or maybe a sandbox, to the level design and replaying the campaign would become vital.