Transformers: War for Cybertron Review 08/10/2010

Not very daring or innovative, but there is a lot to enjoy.

Another geek-fest game and it will inevitably have to vault the two main hurdles that most games of this type will have to, which is to please all the fans and make it appealing to casual gamers as well. It’s clearly a tough one to do as I can only think of one or two games that have managed it, “Batman: Arkham Asylum” being one of them, “Alien Vs Predator” being one that did not. The problem for “War for Cybertron” is that it’s all very well allowing you to transform at will, making all the right noises on the way, but if behind that nerd pleasing process is a dull, boring, repetitive shooter then it simply wont do. So does War for Cybertron transcend such difficult tasks? This is a third person shooter that’s set in the world of transformers, specifically on their home planet Cybertron, and is more of a prequel to the whole franchise. It’s set towards the end of the war on Cybertron, for example, Optimus is not a “prime” yet and Starscream has not yet met Megatron and is an Autobot. In this game you will play as Decepticons and Autobots doing an equal amount of missions generally blasting your way through each of them. For the Decepticons, Megatron is intent on taking over Cybertron using the controversial and volatile Dark Energon. If he can get hold of and use some Dark Energon he then plans to infect the core of Cybertron with it which will result in him having to fight all the Autobots who mean to stop him from doing this, including a huge ludicrously powerful Autobot guardian called Omega Supreme. As an Autobot you will have to fight the Decepticons back permanently as they try to take over the Autobot home city and try and find a way to stop Megatron from infecting Cybertron with Dark Energon. This is a full on all out war on this planet between massive heavily armed robots, that can transform into jet fighters, cars and tanks at will and use ridiculous amounts of fire power to blow the living crap out of each other.

What’s good?

It’s a transformers fans ultimate fantasy. I’m not a massive transformers fan, but I can’t help love the franchise being an 80’s child, and I have no doubt this game pushes all the right buttons for fans. You will get to play as all your favourites in this, Optimus, Megtron, Iron Hide, Starscream, Bumble Bee, Soundwave, and fight them, and they all have all their traits incorporated. They all transform at the click of a button into futuristic looking versions of the vehicles we all know and love, with a few exceptions such as Soundwave turning into a car. Having him turn into a 1980’s “ghetto blaster” in this game probably wouldn’t serve him very well, and remember this is way before they all came to Earth. They all sound fantastic as all voice actors from the series and films have been drafted in and “yes” they still make the famous and essential noise when they transform. The world of Cybertron has been beautifully re-constructed (more on that in a bit) and everything that you loved about these massive robots from the TV shows and the comics has all been included, and luckily it doesn’t have much to do with the bloody awful films. The story is also pretty interesting, intertwines the two campaigns very well and reveals a lot of storyline many transformers fans will be unaware of, how Optimus became a Prime, how Megatron took over Cybertron, how various characters came to be who they are and all sorts. Playing as Optimus and Megatron is as satisfying as you would imagine (although rather disappointingly they never actually fight each other) and it will definitely do almost everything fans will be wanting.

Transforming is an essential part of gameplay and not just a gimmick. One of the things I liked most about War for Cybertron is that High Moon Studios have really thought about the aspect of transforming into tanks and fighter jets and its implications in battle. I assure you it is not a gimmick in anyway. For starters transforming looks and sounds awesome, and often the game forces you into parts of the levels where you cannot progress on foot. Unavoidably the levels where you transform into fighter jets are a lot more fun, as you can fly in any direction or dimension, and often have to fly down tunnels avoiding lasers or collapsing objects. It’s also really good fun to transform, blast across the ceiling of a level to a particularly annoying sniper, transform back in mid-air, land just in front of him and knock his head off with a big hammer. Very satisfying stuff. Ammo can dwindle quite a lot so it’s also good to be able to fall back on your ability to turn into a tank when your guns have emptied and blow the living shit out of everything. Transforming also opens up completely different pros and cons with manoeuvrability as you are often way faster in car form which comes in handy when running for cover or avoiding taking fire. Learning to use your two forms is an essential part of this game and, luckily, one of the most enjoyable.

The action packed gameplay is pretty intense. I can’t deny the actual gun slinging in Transformers is really simple and unimaginative (more on that in a bit) but it’s compensated by having a huge amount of it and constantly intensifying the fire power to make it really exhilarating. You will have a choice at the beginning of each mission to play as one of three transformers, no matter which one you pick the other two will be accompanying you. You can hold two guns and when you transform you will have a different gun altogether. The guns are the expected machine guns, shot guns, sniper rifles and missile launchers and each transformer has a unique ability, such as making a shield in front of them, cloaking, increasing fire power etc. You also have a quick melee attack when up close that will make your chosen robot form a huge sword, axe, hammer etc on its arm and batter an enemy with it (it ends there though, as there is no combo’s or anything like that to be had). You can also interact with huge gun turrets, a particularly destructive weapon, which can be removed from the turret and lugged around with you. Although this will vastly affect your manoeuvrability, their vast fire power is always an asset. The enemy will come at you in various guises as well, from huge “Brutes” that have shields and hammers and can only be defeated by shooting them in the back, cloakers that are really hard to see and attack in swarms, massive robots with enormo Gatling guns and plasma cannons, flying robots that descend from above and perform bombing raids on you and the (predictable) epic boss fights. None of this stuff is revolutionary or jaw dropping but it’s very well executed and super intense. You are encouraged/forced to just go mental with your chosen robot character, literally blasting, firing and hacking your way through everything, constantly, whilst using the skills of transforming, never ever pausing or trying to hold back and simply don’t stop firing until everything is a pile of wrecked metal on the floor. You are frequently forced into “last stand” scenarios where wave after wave of enemies will come at you, your ammo and health dwindling per wave, and it will test your skills of survival and your aim to the extreme. There is nothing here you wont have done before but if you like your fire power, action, explosions and huge boss battles (who doesn’t?) then there is still a lot for you to like here.

Some of the battles in this are, surprisingly, epic. I say “surprisingly” as this game is quite serious and it’s serious about the struggle in which you are engaged in. The thought of giant robots clubbing each other is a ludicrous one but War for Cybertron paints a very different picture. For example, on the first Autobot mission you have to walk through several Autobot strongholds with the few survivors left fighting to their last breath, and the dead and wounded lying around you. As you walk out into the battlefield you will see your fellow Autobots lining up behind cover, trying to resuscitate fallen comrades, and performing trench warfare style pushes for territory. They all talk to each other as well, recognise you as they say “hail Megatron” etc, and shout things like “for Cybertron!” as they charge into battle. This really isn’t a childish cartoon world. All they need is some regimental gear and to start writing endless reams of poetry and it could be a top quality World War II game. Added to this are the action set pieces which are really quite something. Some of the battle scenes are crazy, with many Autobots and Decepticons going at each other trying to take territory or defend it, with heavy weapon robots slowly advancing on you and other enemies transforming to dive bomb from above or escape to recover health. It’s not dissimilar in anyway to other games more notorious for their epic fight scenes, such as Resistance 2 or Modern Warfare. The boss battle with Omega Supreme, which lasts two levels, is incredibly fast paced as this behemoth chases you down through Cybertron regularly knocking down buildings to get at you, then you have to fight him directly as he rains missiles at you from above and uses his ludicrously huge laser cannons to literally blow your cover to pieces. The Autobot equivalent battle with an equally huge Decepticon called Trypticon is just as impressive, as you have to fly through the body of this giant taking out strategic parts of his anatomy (a particularly awesome level!). The last stand missions where you have to defend something for a certain time take the intensity trophy as wave after wave enemies come at you in many different forms all requiring different tactics as your ammo dwindles and your health borders on death. The Decepticon mission where you have to defend against an Autobot onslaught, whilst waiting for bombers, is seriously intense as is the Autobot mission where you have to defend Ratchet, as Decepticons will come at you from all angles in all guises. This is a seriously good one for action fans and don’t underestimate the slightly childish connotations of Transformers, as this game takes things very seriously.

It’s a seriously visually stunning and gorgeous game. As always there are lots of really good looking games in the world, but I felt War for Cybertron deserves a special mention is it really is stunner. The transformers all look fantastic, with levels of detail you won’t believe. You can see bits of them moving around, tiny things such as gun barrels or feet, when standing still and the transformations are fantastic to watch. The biggest eye opener is the level design as the planet Cybertron looks unbelievable. High Moon Studios have clearly put a lot of work into the workings and visual appearance of the setting and it won’t disappoint.

There are predictable but competent multiplayer modes as well. When done with the single player there is much to do with your friends. Firstly you can play through the whole single player campaign with two mates online. Then there is a survival mode where you and two friends have to ward off wave after wave of enemies and basically survive as long as you can. Then there are the predictable online battles where, not only can you use unlocked characters like Arcee, but the more you play, the more you can level up your character with upgrades and some customisation. The options are laughably limited and can only be used online but its better to have something for the online obsessed rather than nothing.

What’s bad?

It gets really repetitive. Despite the excellent execution this game is really really repetitive, as it doesn’t at any point venture beyond a simple strafe and shoot game. That is literally what you will do the whole way through. There is no cover system, no puzzles to solve, no hand to hand combat, despite having a melee weapon attack, no huge robot vehicles to take control of, literally nothing other than running around and shooting. The guns vary a bit, but are all far to clichéd and obvious, and the thrill of transforming is really the only thing in this that doesn’t get old quickly. Other than that, it really doesn’t do anything so anyone that’s expecting anything particularly innovative is going to be very disappointed.

The incentive to re-play is little to none. To add to the repetitiveness of the gameplay, is the fact that reasons to keep coming back are few and far between. There is nothing to explore, as it’s incredibly linear, with no bonuses to find, super weapons to unlock, secrets to find, nothing. It doesn’t even have any slight customising to be done, weapons to upgrade, or anything. How hard would it have been to allow some colour changes on the transformers, or to add some battle decals for achievements, or something? How about getting money by killing enemies to buy or upgrade weapons and armour? None of this stuff exactly reinvents the wheel and is found on most games, but it requires some investment in your time, a reason to pick it up again. This is just so totally unwilling to expand on anything. How about some nods to the comic book fans, such as some character details or storyline, such as the vast quantity found in “Batman: Arkham Asylum”? Games don’t necessarily need such things, but one as simplistic as this should have at least one thing to encourage a re-play. The multiplayer or online matches do have customisable abilities, which you get based on achievements, i.e. killing others, but it is ridiculously simple, very limited and hardly worth it. Furthermore, why is it not an option to integrate it with the single player campaign? How hard could it have been? The only real incentive to play through again is to achieve completion on harder difficulties, or, mainly, to play as different transformers. But they have even managed to kill this incentive as the different transformers really only differ very slightly, as there is only around 3 variations of abilities and skills. There just isn’t enough content for my liking when compared to other games.

The boss battles are childishly simple. Another game with vast bosses, and it just isn’t enough to have a very large boss now, as large foes seem to be burned into the gaming industry mandatory bible. They all have them, which is fine, but there needs to be more to it now. Transformers is the perfect example of having huge bosses that are all for show, but don’t really require any skill at all. They are all so ludicrously easy to kill even though they are the size of sky scrapers, could easily crush you with one finger, form and fire laser cannons that could punch a hole in a planet and rain missiles down on you like a monsoon. It’s just stupid. They perform these ludicrous apocalyptic attacks and they just don’t go any where near you, or are incredibly easy to dodge. They may appear quite tough when you first encounter them, but you will soon workout how to evade their attacks and expose their stupidly obvious weaknesses. It just feels like your going through the motions of another huge but seriously flawed boss battle. The battle where you fight Omega Supreme from a gun platform is a good example as he transforms into a laser cannon that sends out a blast that looks like it could create a black hole, and destroy anything that goes within a four mile radius of it. But all you have to do to avoid it is walk behind a thin wall, wait for him to stop and you are completely impervious to harm. If you go up onto other platforms to the right or left then he doesn’t actually touch you at all! It’s just stupid, and as entertaining as they are from a visual perspective the bosses lack some proper balls.

The initial load screen takes an interminable amount of time to load every time you turn it on. For the PS3 there is a lengthy installing process the first time you play, which is annoying but can be forgiven as it is a one off. But what really annoyed me is that every single time you switch it on from then on it has to perform a “check” and spends about a minute loading. “Only a minute” I hear you say, “who cares”, but you, now, stare at a blank wall for exactly one minute and see how long it feels. It’s interminable. You always have to stare it as well as you need to press “start” twenty times to get through all the intro title screens and you just sit there wanting to play the game waiting for the count down to get to 100%. It drove me mad.

Conclusion

My biggest issue with Transformers: War for Cybertron is that I cant help but feel it has ventured too far into relying on the brand name, “Transformers”, but doing very little to make a particularly outstanding game. It’s by no means bad but does nothing for those of you who expect more from a transformers game, other than the ability to transform. There’s nothing to unlock, nothing to find or buy, no customising, except online where it’s really limited, and you will generally just run around and shoot. It feels like it’s as good as a pretty forgettable game can be. In years to come people will still be talking about/playing “Street fighter II” or “COD: Modern Warfare”, but no one will remember War for Cybertron. Saying that though, and despite this, I can’t deny there is still a lot of enjoyment to be had here. The combat is simple, but really intense, transforming never ceases to be cool and the game is designed to force you to learn the skill of knowing when to transform, as often if you don’t you will be killed. The boss battles are epically huge, if a bit simple and easy, and it is graphically utterly stunning. Those who expect innovative games and those who don’t give a flying crap about transformers will probably be less thrilled, but High Moon studios have shown that you don’t really need to change the face of gaming to still get a lot of (predictable) enjoyment out of a title. CA.

Summary:

Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 8.0

It’s quite simple and instinctive for anyone that plays games regularly, so nothing will be of any surprise, but you do have to seek out tutorials yourself and a few game options are not so clear, changing the difficulty level for example.

Is the story any good? – 8.0

It’s not anything spectacular, but even if you’re only mildly interested in Transformers this will keep your interest up. Lots of previously untold back story, and the two campaigns are interwoven well.

How does it look? – 9.5

It’s a real stunner, especially environments/levels. The Transformers all look incredibly detailed and the transforming ability looks awesome as well.

How does it sound? – 9.5

Sound effects are all good as is back ground music. The highlights come from the voice acting, Optimus, Megatron, Starscream and, of course, Soundwave, all sound fantastic, and the legendary transformation sound effect.

Is it good to play? – 8.0

It’s intense in places, and you are forced to learn when to transform to aid you in combat, and there are loads of guns, grenades, rocket launchers and turrets to blow the living crap out of everything, including huge boss battles. It gets really repetitive though, it’s incredibly linear, and does nothing you won’t be expecting.

When will I get bored? – 7.0

Single player takes a fair few hours, you can play 3 person co-op as well (online only though, not on the same screen) and there is a rewards based online multiplayer mode, all of which will take up your time for a fair amount. But lack of secrets, rewards, upgrading with any depth or anything at all really, gives few reasons to keep coming back for a very long time.

OVERALL – 8.0

Review created by C. Armstrong.

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