Reviewed: June 23, 2010
Released: May 18, 2010
ďOne shall stand. All others shall fallĒ. That should be the new catchphrase for Transformers: War for Cybertron, a game that so perfectly captures the essence of being a transformer, a game that makes the most of its license, a game that will make you forget those other two Transformers games ever existed. What makes this new game so good?|
Well, first off there is no pesky movie tie-in, so we arenít forced to follow along with some Hollywood script. Second, the game gets old school by not only taking us to Cybertron, but taking us back in time to a period before Optimus was even a Prime. You are actually playing the events that are only hinted at in the narrated prologue of the first movie Ė the war between the Decepticons and the Autobots. The game narrative is so good that Hasbro has officially added the story elements to the Transformers lore, and it serves to fill in numerous plot holes that dedicated fans have been yearning to learn about.
The game is quite stunning from a visual standpoint, both technically, and in creative design. Keeping in mind that these robots have never been to Earth, there are no licensed vehicles. This is a very alien world and all of the Transformers have some very unique and original vehicle shapes and abilities. Itís also a world void or anything organic. Everything is very mechanical and constructed. The only thing that comes close to being natural are the purple shards of Dark Energon that spread throughout the levels like a planetary disease.
Technically, the game looks like it was designed with all the next-gen nuances then given a slight cel-shaded filter to blur the lines of animation and reality. Itís a totally unique look and quite refreshing when compared to the attempts at mimicking the movies in past games. The animations are wicked-cool, especially the transformation moments that vary dynamically based on your speed, or just the simple act of your arm morphing into a giant battle axe or some other melee weapon.
Something that also helps immerse you in the whole experience is the excellent sound production, both in the technical 3D mix that surrounds you in the raging battles, as well as the outstanding voice acting from each and every character. Not only was I impressed with the quality, but the quantity of speech was staggering, and Iím not talking random battle chatter, but seamlessly interwoven story bits and unique personal touches that help flesh out the characters in your party.
War for Cybertron uses the Unreal engine and is quite possibly the best use of that engine since the actual Unreal Tournament 3 game, especially when it comes to some of the most fun and addictive multiplayer action you will experience on a console this year. Not only do you have some fantastic modes for team and versus play for up to 10 players (Conquest is awesome), there is the new Escalation mode that supports 4-player co-op. Multiplayer is also class-based, so you can choose from Soldiers, Scouts, Scientists, and Leader classes and rank those classes through their own career path. Naturally, each class has their own unique abilities and contributions to the team, and the gameplay is extremely rewarding when everyone immerses themselves in their specific role.
While this new Transformers game excels in the area of multiplayer modes and level design, I would be remiss if I didnít talk about the outstanding single-player story mode, which just so happens to include drop-in/out co-op for up to three players. The game is divided into two separate but linked campaigns spread across an equal number of chapters of Decepticon and Autobot missions. You are given the choice of which campaign to play from the main menu but the story flow nearly demands you play the Decepticon missions first.
Before starting each chapter you are given the option to choose the Transformer you will be playing. The game will recommend a default character or you can choose from two or three others. There is no real gameplay difference as far as difficulty, as each character is extremely balanced, but you may have to learn some new tactics when it comes to vehicle modes or special abilities earned in-game.
Structurally, the game seems slightly tipped in favor of the Autobots, when it comes to length of missions and overall difficulty. I breezed through the Megatron missions in about 5-6 hours, but when it came time to play as Optimus and his pals, some of those missions were taking 2-3 times longer than those in the first half of the game, mostly due to the crazy amount of insane boss fights. So even though the game appears to have two individual campaigns, their linear design and progression of difficulty dictate they are played in the order presented.
Level designs are unique and imaginative taking us from orbiting space stations to the surface of Cybertron with buildings and highways, and even deep into the planetary core. You even have some flying missions in space where you get to take out one of the largest plasma cannons in the history of plasma cannons.
In addition to being able to go back and play any chapter from any campaign once you have unlocked it, you can also choose from numerous checkpoints within each chapter. Not only is this a fantastic way to show off your favorite moments to friends or try a particular area with a different character, it offers easy access when you want to go pack and find those fiendishly hidden Autobot and Decepticon symbols that are stashed about the levels. There are 25 in each campaign and they are some of the best-hidden secrets in gaming history.
Expect a solid 12-15 hour solo (or co-op) experience, perhaps a bit more if you go back and quest for those symbols, and the online multiplayer modes will provide you with more than enough challenging gameplay to last you well into the upcoming holiday season of new games.
Transformers: War for Cybertron is not only the best Transformers game next-gen gamers can play, it is also one of the most fulfilling and challenging action-shooters Iíve played in years and a definite purchase, especially if you have any love of the Transformers franchise.