As a youngster I grew up with my older brother who I was always close to. I never really got the whole transformers thing but he did, so I spent many of my formative years gaining second hand information about the whole thing. I could tell the difference between a decepticon and an autobot and that was about it. So, even though I wasn’t able to appreciate the sense of nostalgia many fans of the original animated series may feel going into War for Cybertron, I can say that the game was still a blast to play regardless of this. WFC is a solid shooter in its own right, whether you’re a fan of the Transformers or not.
The core mechanics of the game revolve around a standard third person shooter paradigm. Think Gears of War but without the focus on the cover. As boring as that might sound the gunplay in WFC is solid and packs a good pace: both fast enough to be addictive, but slow enough to feel tactical and methodical. You wage warfare using a variety of diverse, if uncreative, weapons. Augmenting the experience are two passive abilities assigned to the two bumpers (or L2 and R2 for PS3 players) that vary depending on the character you use. It may be a quick dash move, a limited burst of invisibility, or even an aura that increases your team’s attack power. Combine this with various passive abilities and the tactical possibilities start to open up. Much like the Transformers themselves, the basic gameplay in WFC is much more than meets the eye. And hey, even if you get really bored you can transform into a tank or other motor vehicle with a click of the left stick. It never gets old…
Most of your time will be spent rising through the ranks of War for Cybertron’s online multiplayer, so let’s start there. You begin by creating your transformers in one of twelve slots available (three for each class once you unlock them all.) It filled me with a giddy thrill being able to create my own transformers, and even though the customization options are fairly limited, you get a lot of control over what abilities and weapons you spawn with. The experience begins to open up as you unlock the new weapons, perks and abilities as you complete challenges and rack up kills online. They are well spaced out, always coming at the right time to keep your interest held, and they completely change the kind of tactics you employ as each class. Your starting tactic as the engineer class might be to heal others using your repair ray, but once you unlock the decoy ability that disguises you as someone from the enemy team, you can play it as if you were a spy: Team Fortress 2 style!
I mentioned the change within the individual classes as you gain abilities, but the different play styles required for each of the four seperate classes is commendable. You have the swift scout who wields a sniper rifle and can go invisible and mark enemies. The engineer class can heal with his repair ray or healing grenades and is the only class that can transform into a plane. The soldier is a standard tank/DPS class with a massive health bar and an even more powerful melee attack. Last but not least you get the leader, who’s buff abilities allow the whole team to benefit from increased stats. It’s a nice spread of classes and means you never get bored.
The multiplayer is a robust addition that is certainly worthy of your time, but it has a few blemishes that sadly prevent it from achieving true gaming greatness. On a cosmetic level the maps are a bit bland, and from a gaming standpoint they’re all just a bit standard. Nothing was particularly awful, but no maps really jumped out as teeming with ideas. Hopefully new maps provided by DLC would fix this problem (hint hint.) The matchmaking also suffers from a frustrating inability to migrate the host, so if the host leaves mid-game you all get kicked out. This one is annoying, but I found it wasn’t too regular an occurrence to become a deal breaker. Despite the odd bad spot, the matchmaking was actually quite good, with a solid party system and swift match searching.
Should you get bored of the standard deathmatch affair, there is a fairly good spread of game types in Transformers ranging from CTF and domination modes to King of the Hill and sabotage games. Even if you just fancy a purely co-op experience you’re well catered for with the escalation mode. It’s a horde style mode where you and up to two others compete to fend off waves of AI adversaries. Whilst the initial reaction is to liken this to Gears of War’s Horde mode, it shares more in common with World at War’s Nazi zombies mode, as you can unlock new weapons and areas using energy collected from your fallen foes. Escalation can be a little limited due to a lacklustre selection of characters and maps, but it’s still a blast and a welcome addition to War for Cybertron.
When you’re not online destroying your fellow gamers or fighting against AI hordes in escalation, you always have the story mode to fall back on. I usually find that in most shooters the story modes pale in comparison to the multiplayer due to a poor story or cheesy script. I found the story in WFC was actually pretty good on the whole. It consists of two campaigns, one for both the decepticons as they invade Cybertron, and the autobots as they try to defend it. The two stories link up well and feature most of the key characters from the show. The only ones missing are Unicron and the dinobots, but hopefully they’re saving them for the sequel (again, hint hint.)
The story isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s solid and filled with enough action and epic set-pieces to keep you interested throughout. Possibly the only complaints I can level are that the levels are, again, quite bland and the AI partners who accompany you offer very little assistance. Thankfully there is a simple solution in that you can play through the whole story with two buddies co-operatively. It’s a great experience being able to play through all of it in co-op and the multiple characters with different abilities spices things up. Sadly, with such a focus on mutliplayer and co-op, the lack of split screen and system link is intensely frustrating. No matter how you look at it it’s a pain having to make sure everyone has their own xbox and copy of the game to play. It really is the difference between WFC being just a good game and a must buy title.
War for Cybertron is supposedly the first segment of a new Transformers series that is being released later this year. Judging by the graphical style in WFC this probably means we’ll be in for a treat when it airs. The style cuts a fine line between the feel of the old animated series and the high octane production values of the recent live action movies. All the characters have been redesigned by Hasbro and it’s nice to see all your familiar favourites looking shiny and new. The visuals also shine from a technical perspective. Everything looks shiny, smooth and it all runs with a flawless frame rate. There are a few bland textures here and there, but WFC is certainly still a sight for sore eyes.
War for Cybertron is certainly a delight to look at, but the ears will be equally well pleased. The music is solid throughout, even though it isn’t entirely memorable. The voice acting is truly note-worthy, with all the dialogue delivered fluidly and in the same style of the old series. What captures the feel of the original Transformers even better are the sound effects. The guns sound beefy and as they should and the transformations are still accompanied but that cool mechanical noise. It brought a smile to my face every time.
If I wasn’t grinning when hearing the nostalgia-inducing SFX, then I certainly was when I scanned through the achievements list. All of them are named after lines from the original series and animated movies and are witty and humorous throughout. They’re also a pretty fun list to go through comprising part level completion and part feats in both multiplayer and single-player modes. As if there wasn’t enough value for money already, then the sixteen hour story mode and the plethora of multiplayer modes will keep you coming back on a regular basis. It all adds up to help make War for Cybertron a game that is unlikely to leave your disc tray any time soon.
Transformers: War for Cybertron is a game that has it going on. It takes a fantastic shooter mechanic, and is able to infuse it with your favourite characters at the same time as extending it out into an entertaining and diverse online multiplayer. It’s all nicely wrapped up in a great presentation that oozes quality and was nostalgic enough to get me watching the old Transformers again. If only WFC could be played in split screen and LAN then it would definitely be in the list of top games of this year. Fingers crossed this will be something they build upon for a sequel. Regardless of this irritant I’d still recommend WFC whole-heartedly, whether you’re a Transformers fan or not. It’s a refreshing oasis in the usual drought of games that are released during the summer period. The moment you see anyone on your friends list playing this, go pick up a copy and join them immediately. If this doesn’t happen in the next few days then find your Xbox owning friends and grab them by the scruff of the neck and shout at them until they buy it as well. They’ll be better off in the long run having played this game.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Good single-player campaign with a solid plot, The classic characters you know and love, Extensive and highly enjoyable multiplayer modes, The same sound effects from the TV show
Lack of split-screen is really annoying, Textures can get repetitive, No Unicron or dinobots
No longer burdened with the need to tie in to the brain dead Michael Bay Transformers movies, War for Cybertron offers a refreshing allusion to the classic 80s animated series whilst being a fantastic third person shooter in its own right