|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: High Moon Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 22, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-multi||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Transformers have been thrust to the forefront of popular culture once again thanks to Michael Bays action-packed movies. Naturally, these feature films have been accompanied by video game interpretations from Activision. While most critics havent particularly enjoyed these titles, it is clear that a lot of effort went into their creation, making them more than just phoned-in tie-ins. In fact, a concerted effort by Activision has consistently been made to bring this intellectual property to gamers in such a way that the titles could stand on their own without the support from the marketing machine that has accompanied the movies.
Enter Transformers: War for Cybertron. This latest entry in the Transformers series is a standalone title that recounts the origin story of the devastating conflict that has torn Cybertron (the home world of the Transformer race) into two warring factions, leading to a destructive civil war, pitting brothers against each other. Perhaps the most interesting part of High Moon Studios game is the quality narrative on offer. Told from both the Decepticons and Autobots perspectives, players will finally understand the motivations of the mythoss greatest characters as well as the issues at the heart of the conflict. Hasbro has given the developers a lot of support in creating this origin story. As a result, the storyline is considered canon. As such, any Transformers fan really must play this game. Similarly, anyone looking to expand their geek-cred should play it as well.
Fortunately, the plot isnt the only compelling factor. Gameplay, played either solo, cooperatively, or competitively, is a good bit of fun. Like most third-person shooters, Transformers: War for Cybertron doesnt emphasize precision or accuracy. Instead, players are given destructive tools made for grinding their way through the expansive campaign and convincing online multiplayer. The campaign structure, which can be played alone or with up to three people, has players fight through Cybertron on both sides of the conflict. The campaign is divided up into two halves: Decepticons followed by Autobots (you can choose to start playing as the Autobots, but the story is meant to be told by starting with the Decepticons). Subsequently, each of these sections is broken down into five chapters each, taking about an hour and change to play through. Playing as both factions is a great way to experience Cybertron, and it also lets players get to feel the power of the antagonists as well as the protagonists.
Whether playing alone or with friends, the campaign is fun. Alone, I was able to move at my own pace, marveling at the sights and sounds of Cybertron. With others in tow, players can enter into the choke-point battlegrounds with coordinated attack strategies. The friendly AI definitely does a good job of supporting you in battle, but there is no substitute for having other humans control your allies. That being said, if you are going to play this game with others, be sure to crank up the difficulty setting; the game is skewed toward the forgiving side, as enemy AI isnt particularly challenging.
The arsenal at your disposal is nifty. Players will have all sorts of weapons to play with that are analogs to shotguns, pistols, machine guns, sniper rifles, heavy weapons, missile launchers, grenades, detachable turrets, and more. Of course, each of these tools of destruction have a Transformers twist to them that suits the setting well. Additionally, each Transformer type/character is given their own unique attributes such as cloaking, hovering, energy sapping, etc. that make subsequent playthroughs fun. Because the campaign is divided into chapters, youll be able to go back multiple times, with or without friends, selecting different characters or difficulty settings, which in turn augments the replay value.
As much fun as I had with the solo campaign, dont expect a revolutionary gameplay experience. As I already mentioned, the game isnt particularly challenging, especially when tackled with friends. Moreover, the third-person action is very conventional; youll just bop around the mostly linear levels, blasting things as you go. There really arent any puzzles to work your grey cells, and there are always enough destructive resources at your fingertips to get the job done right the first time. As such, gameplay in Transformers: War for Cybertron is really just a simple romp filled straightforward action set-pieces. Consequently, the campaign may not be entirely interesting for everyone. In truth, a lot of gamers will find the gameplay repetitive after awhile; this is probably the games biggest drawback.