At one stage it felt like there would never be a pleasing-for-all Transformers video game with all of the fighting, shooting, and general transforming required to bring it critical success. Hasbro’s response to this thirst for the dropping of an at-long-last kind of game was to hit us up with Transformers: War for Cybertron. The result was in all honesty a mixed bag: Halo-style damage, weapon, and shooting mechanics, Gears of War-style pace/progression, and well, the usual Transformers dichotomy of Autobots vs Decepticons. It’s more than good enough to fulfil the hunger of die-hard Transformer fans, but can it convince the un-invested gamer that War of Cybertron is the way to go?
Plot and Gameplay
Transformers fans will be more than happy to learn that War of Cybertron remains loyal to the Transformers universe, and has clearly been devised by a developer that knows its Transformers lore inside and out. The game is set during the civil war taking place on Cyberton, the home planet of the Transformers. Megatron’s up to his bad behaviour again, this time attempting to relay the power of Energon for the benefit of all Decepticons everywhere.
As for the game’s mechanics, we’re talking classic, over-the-shoulder third-person shooter in every respect. You run around in true Gears of War style, only here you’re controlling various (and sadly often generic) Transformer robots. Halo mechanics are definitely at play here was well, seen in the running around and collecting of items and weapons, the latter of which you can only possess two at a time. The health/armour system is also very Halo-esque, with a two-layer system quantified by the appropriate on-screen meters.
It’s a bit sad to say, but the only defining characteristic of this game over any other third-person shooter is in the Transformers’ abilities to transform between vehicle and humanoid-shaped robot. Make no mistake about it however: transforming between the two is outrageously fun and allows you to get stuck into fast-paced navigation around each level as well as varying your potential attacks on your enemies. The developers have gotten the transformation animations down to a tee as well – the changes are swift yet spectacular, allowing you to utilise both forms of your Transformer effectively during battle.
A Bit of a Shame
Though the transforming action is extremely entertaining, High Moon Studios still haven’t really taken full advantage of the potential involved with the Transformers mechanics. The most disappointing aspect of the game comes in its level progression, which is about as linear as it gets. Things can get pretty repetitive since what you’re really doing is running from room to room or area to area, opening up doors, engaging in gunfights/melee fights with enemies, clearing a room, then moving on to continue doing the very same. It’s just a little too similar to Gears of War in this respect, so don’t go expecting any degree of innovation in terms of how you move through the game.
Other annoying points about the gameplay serve to upset even further. The one that niggles the most (because it’s so persistent and also important when you’re in battle) is the fact that your health only auto-recharges to 25%, which seems likes such an arbitrary point at which to stop. Also, the ease at which you can run out of ammunition can be rather annoying, and boss during boss battles it can be rather devastating.
One of the features that is most likely to cause people to forgive the above shortcomings is the introduction of character classes (a la Team Fortress). Classes include Leaders, which encompasses beasts like Optimus Prime, as well as agility-filled Scouts, Soldiers, and Scientists. This diversifies the choice of robots available to you, as well as determines the kind of tactics you are able to deploy. Tanks are heavy and cumbersome yet powerful and able to take lots of hits; Scouts (such as Bumblebee, for example) are much more agile but more susceptible to heavy attack as they have less defensive capabilities.
It's the multiplayer where you’ll most appreciate the differences between the classes however, since the differences in ability don’t really come to the foreground during the single-player campaigns.
It’s a shame, then, that more couldn’t have been done to make the gameplay of War for Cybertron any better than it is. It has promise, but its gameplay is just a little too generic given the stiff competition of third-person shooters out there. Its graphics are faultless, however, and allow true fans to really appreciate the designs of the Transformers themselves as well as immerse themselves in the mech-world of Cybertron itself.