After finally completing Transformers: War for Cybertron on my 360, I’ve managed to consolidate my thoughts and put down on (virtual) paper exactly how I feel about it. In short, I’m reviewing it. Was it worth paying full price at Game for it? Does it live up to the main concept behind the whole story of the Transformers where others have failed? And more importantly, does Optimus Prime ever yell “Autobots! Transform and rrrrroll out!”?
In the last 3 years or so, we have been hit with two Transformers feature films, and two Transformers games to coincide with their releases. The movies themselves, despite not being any miracle of script-writing have some pretty awesome animation, and the combat scenes never fail to keep me shouting lines like “Get in there, Autobots! Smack those blasted Decepticons upside their heads!”.
But when you look at the mounds of utter garbage that came out around the same time as each movie and somehow passed for retail-able video games, as well as damn-near every other movie tie-in horror that has ever been released, it doesn’t take much to expect a huge video game dump to land right into our laps and be asked to lap it up, and after facing two horrendous games based on everybody’s favorite robocidal maniacs, the Transformers, I think we can safely say we’re probably all a bit hesitant in believing that Transformers: War for Cybertron could possibly be any good at all.
Well guess what? If you didn’t know already, this Transformers game has no direct relation to the movies, at all. Why does that matter? Well, it immediately means that this game isn’t directly bound to the money-devouring film industry that would happily churn out any old rubbish – as long as it had a transforming robot in it and the player could press a ‘shoot’ button – just to squeeze a few extra moneys out.
So does it even make a difference? Why yes, it most certainly does! This game mixes the expected third-person action shoot ’em up with a ton of fantastic, wholesome, sci-fi, lasery, explodery, metally, transformery goodness, and all in a way that all Transformers fans – particularly the fans of the original cartoon series – may well have been hoping for.
Not only do we get an awesomely playable game with a brilliant tie-in prequel story to the original Transformers TV series – including an insight into the pasts of many of our favorite deadly robots – but we also get the best transformation sequences and controls I have seen in any Transformers game to date, and the feeling of directly controlling a giant hunk of heavy, robotic metal really hits home when you drop from a height and slam down into the ground, or smash an enemy transformer with your melee attack.
Personally, my favorite transformation sequence has to be that of the aerial bots. Running toward a massive ledge in your true form, jumping from it, then quickly transforming into a super-cool, alien jet fighter and hitting the thrusters to blast your way through a giant tunnel toward your next battle, then transforming back into your original shape and slamming into the ground with a heavy metal THUD is probably one of the most satisfying feelings you could come to expect from a video game about giant robots. And on top of that, unlike the movie-games, shape shifting to and from the form of a vehicle actually serves a purpose all of the time, instead of just when it suits the game.
By distancing itself from the movies in every way possible, as well as using the origin of the Transformers as the setting for the game’s story line and location, the designers were free to come up with some really nice, new designs of crazy but cool looking robot technology for us to play with and admire. On more than one occasion I would be driving or flying in vehicular form down a set route, and in the mean time would witness some kind of massive scene going on in the background, like giant transport ships flying across the sky under attack by a swarm of aerial bots, only to be shot down and crash with a gigantic smash into the distant scenery, or the enormous Autobot, Omega Supreme flying around a huge cavern, firing a massive particle beam cannon of sorts at the hundreds of tiny-in-comparison transformers running around below.
The most fun parts of the game for me were the boss and sub-boss fights, where we were brought back to the classic and most fun type of boss, with a number of increasingly difficult stages, and a mixture of attacks you need to learn to avoid, before making those all important killing strikes against its weak spots and feeling that huge sense of achievement when you finally drop the bastard! Soundwave was probably one of the most enraging bosses I have ever encountered and had to fight in a video game, but running up to him during his last ounce of life to strike him in the face with my giant robotic axe and finish him off was incredibly satisfying.
The game isn’t perfect, of course, and it has one or two minor annoyances. One of which is the significant lack of ammunition for the player to pick up during most single player missions. When you play as a ground-vehicle transformer, you may often find it frustrating when you have to fight a large number of enemy robots, but will get yourself killed all too often in the search for more ammo to actually kill them with. The same goes for health packs, but depending on how carefully you play, this could be entirely relative. I did, however, play the game on its hardest difficulty setting, which means I put myself in this awkward position on purpose. Going back and trying it on Easy mode meant I was able to kill almost every enemy on the first level with only my melee attack – which is great if you want to feel invincible whilst smashing robots into chunks of scrap metal, but you don’t quite get that same rewarding feeling when you win against all odds.
The only other problem I have with the game is the lack of rag doll physics when you destroy enemies. Killing an enemy robot on a ledge above you only to watch him fall face first onto thin air and be suspended horizontally by his feet until he explodes into energon shards feels a bit old fashioned, especially when you’ve played a lot of games like Red Dead Redemption or SW: The Force Unleashed, and have gotten used to the fantastic, super realistic reactions of game characters thanks to engines like NaturalMotion’s Euphoria. This kind of makes the gameplay feel a little out-dated and ‘arcady’. I do feel rather consoled however, by the fact that the character animations and voice acting are generally great, and help to keep you interested in what is going on, and in answer to one of my original questions, yes, Optimus does indeed command his Autobots to transform and roll out, numerous times, and each time is a tiny robotic treat.
Despite it’s minuscule irritations, if you can play right and avoid getting stressed out (don’t play on the hardest difficulty first time if you get angry at games easily!), this game could transform your expectations for any future games from this franchise into hope, and is definitely worthy of at least a 9/10, with regards to gameplay and presentation alone.