Transformers: War for Cybertron

More Than Meets The Eye

Transformers: War for Cybertron isn't just a good Transformers game, it's a good game. Hooray!
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: July 5, 2010
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I'm not gonna do it. It would be so easy to pad this review with talk of how crappy licensed games are. That's the rule, not the exception. Transformers: War for Cybertron is the exception, and it's an impressive one at that. Oh, sure, I have my gripes about things (the look of Cybertron being one of 'em), but the actual gameplay certainly isn't one of them. Somehow High Moon Studios has managed to skirt the usual pitfalls of most licensed fare (probably by sidestepping the movies) and comes out on top with a shooter with just enough Transformers lore -- even establishing some of its own -- to be something truly special. At least for superfans of the old-school Transformers stuff like me.

Broken up into two five-chapter sections, War for Cybertron does a pretty simple 50/50 split between Decepticon and Autobot storylines, dovetailing things from the start (Megatron goes for Dark Energon, effs things up) to the middle (Optimus, not yet a Prime, dons the mantle of leadership and eventually rises to his familiar role as head of the 'Bots) and closes out in such a way that it feels like a lead-in to all those 80s memories without being strictly tied to them. Again, there's really no way to over-complement the way the source material was handled here; things are stand-alone enough that those that didn't grow in the early 80s won't be lost, but those die-hard fans have some polite nods to their nostalgia to keep it all interesting.

No matter which side you choose, though, things are structured more or less the same way. You can choose one from one three Decepticons or Autobots (depending on where you are in the story, though you can jump back and forth between the two major parts if you want), each with their own default powers like being able to rally any AI buddies around you or drain health from nearby enemies, plus more passive stuff like being able to dash around or hover for a bit which for some reason boost weapon power.

Interestingly, not all Transformers start out equipped the same way. Depending on who you go with before the mission starts, you may have the ability to swap out one or both of your weapons. Given that ammo can definitely be at a premium, that's probably a good thing, though guys like Optimus or Megatron that are saddled with at least one weapon all the time usually make up for that with that weapon being plenty powerful.

Ammo management and weapon swapping aside, most of your trip through War for Cybertron will be spent either shooting at stuff or driving/flying somewhere to start shooting at stuff. That's not a bad thing, as the third-person perspective lends itself well to circle strafing, the odd melee rush and so on. A partially regenerating health system means you'll still have to look for some pick-ups and pushes cover to the fore, but this isn't really a cover-based shooter either. It's an interesting mix, and for some reason I can't shake the feeling that I've played games like this before and trashed 'em (yes, there are some definite issues with difficulty spikes like lesser games), but here it all seems to come together to become more than the sum of its parts.

Hell, I could probably poke fun at the fact that the two campaigns are pretty lopsidedly fun on the Autobot side (there are just more set piece moments, but then that's probably to be expected), or that some of the boss fights are very clearly patterned off the same mechanic no matter which side you're on. You know what, though? I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to bitch or complain because the bottom line is that they're a lot of fun to blast through -- just... similar. Besides, unless you're shooting for the various Autobot/Decepticon icons that can be destroyed in either campaign, you're going to be too concerned with shooting stuff to worry too much.
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