Transformers: War for Cybertron
- June 22, 2010 09:02 AM PT
Boasting all of the trademark transformative action of the long-running franchise, War for Cybertron is a solid, in-your-face shooter that goes out of its way to appeal to longtime fans.
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Transformers: War for Cybertron is launching at an odd time for the franchise. Rather than follow the events of the successful movie franchise, it instead focuses on appealing to the thirtysomethings that grew up watching the original animated series in the 1980s. It does so by depicting the war that led to the Autobots and Decepticons crash landing on Earth. The resulting third-person shooter is a bit simple at times, but still does a fine job of harkening back to the days when Optimus Prime and the gang ruled Saturday morning.
The story functions as a prequel to the animated series, with both the Decepticons and the Autobots getting their turn in the spotlight over the course of the campaign's twelve chapters. The POV doesn't shift to the Autobots until the story's midpoint, but it's possible to jump forward and take control of the good guys first.
Don't feel too guilty about fast-forwarding, either -- playing as the Autobots first is more or less equivalent to watching the classic Star Wars trilogy before the prequels, so no matter how you choose to approach it, the story remains fairly cohesive either way.
The missions offer a solid mix of objectives, many of which showcase the varying abilities of the Transformers. For example, the second Decepticon mission stars the treacherous Starscream, and takes advantage of his ability to turn into a jet by throwing in a number of areas that are suitable for flight. After defeating a massive defensive matrix, he has to rocket up and out of the chamber as it explodes, making for one of the game's cooler set pieces.
Beyond the ability to transform, the shooting mechanics are far simpler than the standard third-person shooter. Notably absent is a cover mechanic, which has a big impact on the way battles unfold. In some ways it's hard to call it a negative -- can you imagine a massive robot ducking around a corner? -- but it does make the action feel like a bit of a throwback to a past generation of shooters. On the other hand, some may find the resulting chaos more appealing than the deliberate action central to many modern shooters, so your mileage may vary.
Both the ability to transform and the lack of a cover mechanic end up as the defining features of the multiplayer mode, where battles often devolve into wild brawls. War for Cybertron features selectable Scout, Soldier, Leader, and Scientist classes; but no matter which one you choose, you'll often find yourself zooming up while transformed and catching enemies with a well-timed melee strike. As a result, the multiplayer tends to be a bit crazier compared to most shooters, which may make it appealing for those looking for something new and different.
As with many modern shooters, War for Cybertron also features the level-based progress pioneered by Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and it's interpreted reasonably well in the context of Transformers. While abilities like healing and cloaking are important, the advantages of being able to turn into a tank or a fighter plane are more apparent from the get-go. Thus, the ability to choose between different weapons can seem a little superfluous, since they don't make quite as obvious an impact on the gameplay in the early going.
Regardless, War for Cybertron's multiplayer is probably the most appealing part of the package. There's a wide variety of modes available for fans of competitive play, including Team Deathmatch and a Battlefield-style Conquest Mode that revolves around taking control points. For those who prefer co-op, the campaign is built around three-player team-based play, and is honestly better for it. In many ways, the in-your-face nature of War for Cybertron's shooting makes it take on the characteristics of a brawler, which always tend to be more appealing with friends.
Rounding out the multiplayer options is the ever-entertaining survival mode, which is called "Escalation Mode" here. Escalation lets you select from a wide variety of Autobots and Decepticons, pitting you against waves of oncoming foes that yield coins when defeated. These coins can be spent on health, ammo, and additional weapons while allowing access to new parts of the level. The better you do, the bigger the level gets.
Escalation Mode is also pretty tough, thanks in large part to the game's general lack of cover. It doesn't help that the Transformers themselves aren't all that durable, requiring constant attention while under fire. Skilled players will no doubt enjoy the challenge of making it through as many waves as possible, while newer players may choose to take a pass.
On the whole, War for Cybertron is a solid, in-your-face shooter that goes out of its way to appeal to longtime fans of the franchise. It's basically a day one purchase for those who cried when Optimus Prime died, and a good summer release for everyone else, as it offers something different from the average shooter, and it's chock-full of giant robots. Seriously, you can't go wrong with giant robots; especially robots that can turn into tanks.
PROS: Very appealing to longtime fans; strong suite of multiplayer options; solid array of single-player missions
CONS: Shooting mechanics are comparatively simple; customization occasionally seems superfluous compared to the ability to transform