Gaming Trend Review
- Official Site
- Platform: 360
- Publisher: Activision
- Developer: High Moon Studios
- Release Date: 06/22/10
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Fun, engaging campaign
- Expansive, team-focused multiplayer modes yields even more fun
- Terrific looking, detail-rich environments are wonderful to sit back and watch
- Responsive controls are easy to pick up and master
- Transforming is simple, quick, and always looks and sounds awesome
- The first genuinely good and fun Transformers game
- Lack of diversity among enemies
- Campaign is entirely on rails so open world advocates will be disappointed
- Hardlocked my 360 twice. Your mileage may vary.
by Mitch Youngblood
Welcome to the War
Transformers: War for Cybertron is heaping helpings of fun. That’s the bottom line, and my initial impressions from seeing the game early remain fairly consistent now that I’ve completed the single player campaign in the retail version. I’m prepared to call the new game from High Moon Studios a winner… with a few caveats, of course.
Players can start with either the Decepticon or Autobot campaigns, but if you’re going for consistency then start out as the bad guys. Each side has five missions and each took me approximately 40 minutes and change to play through. It’s a straightforward story that keeps you on rails for the duration. Fans of open-world titles are going to be disappointed in the single player campaign because it is Point A—Point B—Point C from beginning to end. There are not multiple branching paths to victory, either. It is a slugfest, pure and simple.
Fortunately, the point of the game is giant alien robots duking it out with one another, so anyone looking for high art or a deep message clearly ignored the box art and title. There isn’t much of a learning curve, although experience will improve your timing on when to shoot, when to defend, and when to use your special abilities.
Size Matters Not
One of my big concerns at the preview event was how the game looked. I wasn’t sold on the look or the graphics but the visuals seem improved. I’m guessing things were either scaled back a bit to increase network speed, or I’m crazy. Either way, the finished product is slick. The devil is in the details and the amount of detail stuffed into “War for Cybertron” doesn’t border on ridiculous—it blows right past it. Let your Transformer stand still and watch as gears, wings, weapons, and wheels all move, twist, and turn on the machine. The enormity of Cybertron itself is amazing, and there are events that will simply amaze you (the run up to the Decagon is a stand out). The environment isn’t alive per se but the planet moves, shifts, and transforms all around you so frequently it can be, quite honestly, a little disorienting. There is so much going on around you that sometimes it is difficult to focus.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you are just playing for the sights. When it hurts is during combat when there are so many missiles and robots blasting one another that it all starts to blend together. This is a problem I pointed out in my preview and it remains an issue. You can get through probably 80% to 85% of the game without any issue, but there are some firefights where you will have trouble focusing on what’s going on and where your goal is.
Where High Moon really deserves accolades is in the scale it achieved. On the one hand, you genuinely feel in control of a multi-ton robot capable of utilizing a massive array of artillery. On the other, none of that matters when some of the larger enemies show up and force you to think strategically instead of opting for the brute force approach. More times than not, players will run down on ammo if they don’t work together to survive especially against Brutes, Titans, Tanks, and even bigger foes.
By the way, you can play through the entire game in online co-op with two other buddies. Playing with more than one person can, and frequently will, make all the difference in the world. I’m not someone who normally advocates co-op because I feel a game should stand on its own as a single player game that has the option for multiplayer rather than utilize multiplayer as a crutch for the game. For example, people who played Borderlands raved that the only way to play it was in multiplayer. I disagreed and had a great time in the single player campaign all by my lonesome. Same thing in War for Cybertron. You can play through it with other people, and it does make a difference, but your enjoyment won’t suffer if you choose to go the lone wolf route.
The following is what I wrote about the multiplayer modes in my preview a few weeks ago:
Escalation: This was the new one-to-four player mode unveiled for us. It is essentially a survival mode where your team faces ever increasing waves of enemies and you have to work together to stay alive as long as possible. What made it interesting (at the preview event) was everyone’s initial take on jets. I was on the first team to hit this mode and no one realized at first that transforming into a jet meant you could fly up to the higher levels. One jet after another just breezed along on the deck without actually going airborne. Once we figured it out, it was all over. People were blasting away from the sky with abandon, and it was a solid amount of fun.
The real dynamic of this comes from utilizing the environment. As you destroy enemies, you acquire Energon chips which function as currency. With enough chips, you can buy new weapons, ammo, or health from stalls situated throughout the level. Where things get a little different is in the location of numerous doors that require X amount of chips to activate. If one person is focused on a single door, they might be able to open it in two to four rounds. But if the entire team focuses on that one door, then they might be able to open it after a single round. So what’s behind door number three?
Could be anything. It could be a stall with a newer and more powerful gun. It could be access to a higher level which allows your team to barricade themselves off or at least alter their strategies. This adds an interesting dynamic to the teamplay, and it was a mode that was a lot of fun.
Deathmatch & Team Deathmatch: Pretty much standard fare here. Kill and be killed, and try to get as many of them as you can. The fights are five-on-five, and a lot of comedy erupted from our session. One of the waitresses walked past and asked me and the gentleman next to me if we wanted some sliders. Since both sides were on the same open channel, the next thing I heard was, “Sliders?” Much taunting ensued.
The levels are large, and upon your death you respawn back at your team’s base. You can pick up weapons on the fly, and employ a number of ways of sneaking/brute forcing your way to victory. Remember—pressing down on the right trigger is the melee attack and Megatron in particular has a genuinely wicked ability in this regard. It may not seem like much on the surface, but it made the difference more than once for me.
Conquest: The goal of this is to own multiple control nodes while defending them from the other team. You have nodes A, B, and C and you accumulate more points the longer you control all three. Of course, the other team wants those just as badly so teamwork is essential here.
Code of Power: Capture the flag. Snag the flag from the enemy’s base and return it to yours. Do it three times and a winner is you.
Countdown to Extinction: The reverse of CTF and lots more explosive. Capture a bomb, then get it into the enemy’s base, defend it for a few seconds while it arms, then repeat two more times to declare victory. The person carrying the bomb can’t do anything other than run and jump, and watching a multi-ton Transformer bunny hop is comedy you can’t put a price tag on.
Power Struggle: A variant on King of the Hill. Your team has to control a single active power node until they’ve accumulated enough points to declare victory.
I stand by what I wrote then, especially Escalation. The other multiplayer modes are under the multiplayer menu but Escalation is set aside as its own beast. The upper levels get genuinely insane, and by that I mean “hold on and pray.” The enemies are randomly generated and on my last encounter (where I joined other reviewers and developers) the hordes we fended off started insane and only got worse.
In short, it was awesome.
So what quirks do I have with the game? The lack of enemy variety, for one. On both campaigns, your enemies are Generic Autobot/Decepticon Class #1-4 followed by *.Level Boss. Outside of the genuinely stand-out conclusions to the campaign modes, the fights are as generic as the enemies. You slug it out from one waypoint to another and then keep on fighting. If you’re looking for superficiality, that’s pretty much the definition of it.
On the flipside, the superficial nature of the combat doesn’t matter a whit because the game is a ridiculous amount of fun. High Moon is populated by hardcore Transformers fans, and while they may not have plumbed quite the depth fans may have wanted, what they did hit was the sweet spot for fun.
What wasn’t fun was when the game hardlocked my 360 twice. I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary or trying to break the game, but those two instances knocked the score down. This message has already been relayed to the development team so fear not—they have top men working on it.
That’s a Wrap
I actually wrote a lengthy harangue on the voice acting of everyone outside of Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime), but then whacked it. What was the point? Some of the dialogue is spotty, some of it pretty funny (Brawl had one comment about respect that made me laugh out loud), and I had a hard time getting past the voices of Megatron and Starscream. Yet both gradually worked on me so that by the end of their campaign I was fine with them.Petty grievances shouldn’t detract from the simple truth that “War for Cybertron” is just plain fun. It isn’t deep. It won’t set a new standard for action games. But I had a great time playing and I believe you will too. This is the first Transformers game I’ve been excited about, and having played it I can say that my excitement was validated. Have fun, campers.