Developer: High Moon
Transformers: War For Cybertron is, without doubt, the best Transformers game I’ve ever played. That may sound like damning it with faint praise given that the recent film tie-ins were such steaming piles of ploppies but it’s not meant to: after a slightly patchy start, War For Cybertron settles into a fine and challenging groove.
I should also perhaps point out that I was just that little too old to get into Transformers first time around so my knowledge of the series is the occasional glimpse of a commercial in the early 80s and – sorry – Michael Bay’s overblown films. On the downside that means they may have played around with character designs and personalities to a level that upsets the true fans and I won’t even notice. On the plus side, however, I’m also not playing this with any sense of nostalgia. On that basis, you might want to be careful when it comes to developers widdling on your memories but you can take my word for the fact that the game works as a pure, third-person shoot-em-up.
I understand – admittedly from Wikipedia and we all know how accurate that is, don’t we kids? – that this game’s setting predates the original series and the films by millennia and harks back to the civil war between the Autobots (hurrah) and the Decepticons (boo) on their old home planet Cybertron. The Autobots (hurrah) are trying to protect a substance called Dark Energon from Megatron – leader of the Decepticons (double boo).
Don’t worry about choosing sides though. You’ll switch between the forces during the game. You start as a Decepticon (boo) attempting to wrestle control of Dark Energon for your own, planet-dominating, requirements. After wreaking havoc as one of them, you’ll become an Autobot (hurrah – and that’s the last time I do that, I promise) and try to rebuild the chaos.
The other impressive touch is how challenging it can be. You may come equipped with guns and be able to pick up some impressive weaponry as you progress but ammo is limited. As in very limited. If you’ve spent the first couple of stand-offs firing willy-nilly at anything metallic, you might want to go back and start again because there will be long periods of time when you don’t find a handy ammo crate (or health one) nearby.
There’s some thought that’s gone into this and, once you’re in the right mind set – it may look like a kids’ game but it’s not a kids’ game – things start to gel. It’s also not the sort of title you can just pick up and play because of the controller set-up. There are all sorts of things you can do within the game, and weapons to cycle between, and it was a good hour or two before it became instinctive. Once it does, and you’ve got used to the slightly-over-the-shoulder third, er, robotic person view, the initial “patchy” feel rapidly disappears.
It’s also good to let the various Transformers have free rein in a world that’s to their scale and not have them earth bound. Getting picked off by distant guns with a long corridor to negotiate? Why not turn into a car and close the distance at speed? Nearly out of ammo? Save your bullets and run enemies over.
You’ll also get assistance from colleagues and, for once, they possess decent AI. At the start of each level you select which character you’ll play, each with their own special talents, and get to fight alongside the big names on each side, who don’t just hide behind you or run around but actually assist. Mind you, they do appear to get an infinite amount of bullets, so that helps.
The main game is a long one – currently about 10 hours here and only about a third of the way through the Autobots’ mission – making it pretty good value regardless, but get online and you’ll find some considerable pleasures that look to have long-term appeal.
Second Opinion: Forget the Bay films, High Moon have gone back to the beginning with this one. If you've ever picked up a G1 Transformer or watched the original series or wept like a baby a third of the way into the animated movie, you'll get a kick out of this. Peter Cullen is back voicing Optimus, the banter between the robot squads keeps the mood fairly light in what is a pretty grey and (perhaps understandably) metallic game and the plot is pulled straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon generator. Prime is all nobility and purpose, Megatron a frustrated, rage-filled dictator, and Starscream is the snivelling, whiny-voiced schemer we love to hate. Purists will grumble about things like Megatron turning into a tank (but then it really is just a mobile big, fat gun so they shouldn't complain too much) but High Moon have so brilliantly captured the atmosphere, tone and fun of the original series that to do so would be missing the point, this is still a game after all. Neil's right, anyone who likes the idea of transforming robots will get a kick out of what is a pretty solid third-person shooter, if a little repetitive. But, if you're a fan, desperately disappointed by the last few outings of the Transformers, prepare to be surprised by this game because it's really rather good. Matt
- A decent licensed game? Are you sure?
- Great online play
- A satisfying challenge
- It’s a bit repetitive
- It’s a slow starter and needs a bit of time invested
- It’s all a bit grey and shadowy. I know they’re on their home planet, but a splash of colour wouldn’t go amiss sometimes.
The Short Version: Forget the poor film tie-ins that have tainted the Transformers’ (apparently good) name. War For Cybertron shows what’s possible when you start from scratch and create your own world, rather than compromise in someone else’s. It’s not perfect by a long chalk but there appears to be enough here to satisfy the long-term Transformer fan and make it worthwhile for eager gamers with no nostalgia or affection for the series. Perhaps this should be the model approach for future film tie-ins and licenses? Take the characters and ignore the plot?