Review: Transformers: War for Cybertron

John Funk | 29 Jun 2010 09:00
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When I first saw Transformers: War for Cybertron at the beginning of June, I said that it was shaping up to not just be a good Transformers game, but "a very good game - period."

Yeah, looks like I was right on the money about that.

War for Cybertron takes place thousands and thousands of years before the Transformers ever made their way to this little blue planet we call Earth, during the original civil war between the Autobots and Decepticons. As a result, there are no pesky humans to get in the way with extraneous and irritating subplots - the game is all about robots kicking robot ass all the time.

The game features two singleplayer campaigns that tell one sequential story. The first half is played from the Decepticons' point of view as Megatron attempts to conquer Cybertron, and the second half then asks you to undo everything the Decepticons just did as the Autobots fight back.

While it's possible to play the two campaigns in either order - you could certainly play through the Autobot one first - it probably makes for a better experience to play through the game as intended. Not only does the Autobot campaign feel a lot tighter than the Decepticon story - and the bosses are more interesting - but it's a bit more fun to have the on-screen characters encouraging each other and working together than just hurling insults constantly.

At its core, Transformers is a solid and unassuming third-person shooter/action title with a gimmick - there's no built-in cover system, but if you're familiar with running and gunning in, oh, every other current-gen third-person game, you'll feel right at home behind the controls of War for Cybertron. If that were the alpha and omega of the game, it'd be good if forgettable - but it helps that the gimmick is a really good gimmick.

After all, what are the Transformers best known for? It's right there in the name: They transform between robots and vehicles. The transformation mechanic in War for Cybertron works really well - a simple click of the thumbstick instantly switches you between vehicle and robot modes, one of which provides speed and mobility and the other of which gives you versatility in dealing with situations. It's a great mechanic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is simply how it just works. It's never a hassle to use, it's intuitive, and you'll probably find yourself switching between forms on the fly multiple times - in the same fight, even.

Because the developers at High Moon built their game around the players having these ultra-maneuverable forms, levels in the game tend to be vast and, while largely linear, still pretty sprawling - particularly the few levels built for the flight-capable cast. While the levels themselves are cool, the game feels hampered by its setting: Cybertron is a machine planet, after all, and though the developers make a valiant effort to mix it up, it starts to all look a bit similar by the final few chapters.

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