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Transformers: War for Cybertron

Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageThis is definitely a game that is more than meets the eye.

In the Transformers movie (2007) Optimus Prime references the long (and well known to fans) war with the Decepticons, a war that ravaged their home planet of Cybertron. Aside from a brief, holographic flashback we see little to nothing about this war. In the recent release of Transformers: War for Cybertron, you not only get to learn more, but also fight on the front lines and on both sides of the war between the Transformers. Is it a war worth fighting? Read on for my review to find out. Transformers: WFC is essentially a third-person shooter with a twist, that twist being you can transform into a vehicle. The game never offers an explanation as to why, if transforming into distinctly human-centric vehicles serves a disguise function, the Transformers would utilize this ability on Cybertron, but to be honest no explanation is needed. A good bit of the fun is in exploiting the transforming abilities of these otherwise ordinary robots. With the exception of one or two levels focused on aerial maneuvers/combat and designed for Transformers that turn into jets, there aren’t distinct levels that require one form (vehicle/robot) over the other. Instead, Transformers: WFC gets it right in allowing players to quickly transform back and forth at will with a single button push.

Most of the characters fans of the original toys and cartoons from the 80’s are familiar with make appearances in the game. Heavy-hitters like Optimus and Megatron are featured prominently throughout, and fan-favorites like Bumblebee, Ratchet, Soundwave, Starscream, and others are also playable characters. In robot form, aside from differences in size, there is little tangible difference between playable characters. Each is outfitted with a different starting weapon, and Optimus and Megatron have access to unique weapons not available to other characters, but I didn’t find it to be that different playing as one character or another.

The differences become more apparent while in vehicle mode. Optimus, Megatron, and a couple of the other, larger Transformers turn into large, slow-moving vehicles (trucks & tanks), while Bumblebee, Barricade and others transform into smaller, faster cars. You trade speed for firepower, however, as Optimus and others his size have access to powerful canons, while the faster cars must rely on automatic guns while in vehicle mode. The exception to this are the Transformers that turn into jets. There are virtually no differences between the various jet forms, each having the same performance, handling, and weapons. Also, it was an odd choice to outfit the jets with unlimited ammo for their weapons, while ground-based Transformers have limited ammunition for their vehicle-form weapons. It comes off as a bit unbalanced, and I found myself wondering why the developers didn’t keep things more consistent.

The main campaign of Transformers: WFC can be played either solo or in an up-to-3-players coop mode. In my experience, the solo campaign offers more solid, consistent gameplay. The two NPCs that accompany you on all missions are controlled by AI that keeps them for the most part competent and (importantly) out of the way. In coop play, those characters’ competence is dependent upon the skill of the players controlling them. This is not a knock against the game itself, rather something more reflective of coop play in general. But there is one thing specific to Transformers: WFC that is annoying. While the AI will keep NPCs in close proximity to you at all times during solo play, there are no barriers keeping players from distancing themselves from each other during online, coop games. Yet for some reason, the game continually tries to keep the group together, your own desires be damned, and it defaults to the player that has advanced farthest into the level.

So if one player isn’t into exploring and keeps pressing ahead, while another likes to hang back and search exhaustively for ammo and gun crates, if the former crosses some predetermined point, the latter will find himself instantly teleported to the former’s current position. Worse, you have no idea where this magical barrier is, so at any given time you have absolutely no idea when this might happen. You might think that the simple solution is to stick together, but when you play with a couple of stubborn SOBs (like I have been), this isn’t so obvious and coop sessions can be filled with frustration and more than a few heated words coming through your headset. I would have preferred some kind of restriction on movement, something that would prevent players from separating too much, rather than the teleportation mechanic that is in the game.

In addition to the online coop play, Transformers: WFC offers the standard slate of multiplayer modes, including what seems to be the newest staple of shooters: the “survive as long as you can against waves of AI-controlled enemies” mode. Gears of War calls it “Hoarde,” Halo: ODST calls it “Firefight.” Transformers: WFC has dubbed is “Escalation,” but it’s pretty much the same thing. I haven’t played much of these online multiplayer matches, but frankly, I don’t need to to know this isn’t where the game shines.

Transformers: WFC‘s greatest strength is its surprisingly satisfying story. Part throwback to the cartoons of my youth, part bridge to the Michael Bay movies of recent years, the game’s story would work just as well as an animated movie premiering on Cartoon Network or in a direct-to-DVD release. In addition to a great story of the war between Autobots and Decepticons, you learn of the origins of Starscream and Megatron’s contest of wills for leadership, Optimus’s ascendancy to Prime-hood, and the origin of the Matrix of Leadership. Additionally, the game is full of great in-jokes and references to the classic cartoons, which might be lost on younger players but made me laugh in geeky delight. And with Peter Cullen providing the voice of Optimus Prime, and the Transformers vehicle modes being a nice mix of their more familiar, Earth forms and a futuristic/alien design, the developers made few, if any, missteps in crafting the game’s story and presentation.


Author: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer

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