During the previous console generation a developer known as Melbourne House created what, at the time, as the definitive Transformers game. Based on the Armada line of toys you played as Optimus Prime in a third-person action/shooter and you could transform into the truck on the fly. It was quite awesome and an excellent game. Now, years later and following two blockbuster movies (with their own game adaptations), a new Transformers game is here and everyone is wondering how it holds up to that PS2 classic by Melbourne House.
Well, High Moon Studios’ Transformers: War for Cybertron is not only a worthy successor to that game, but also a more well-rounded and solid game overall.
Thankfully not based on the Michael Bay movies (there are no Bayformers here), War for Cybertron is instead a prequel to the original animated series and G1 toy line. That means you can recognize each of the Transformers almost immediately as the design does a great job of showing their Cybertronian forms prior to them landing on Earth. Prime looks like Prime, just slightly different than how he’ll look when he takes the form of a semi. The same goes for all of the others, although some people may be taken aback by Soundwave turning into a Cybertronian truck. And yes, Megatron is a tank here; no little gun yet.
The game is a third-person over-the-shoulder shooter, similar in a bit to Gears of War; although without the heavy focus on cover. At anytime you can transform into a vehicle, and the levels are actually designed very well around this aspect of the game and at times it’s more beneficial for you to hop into vehicle form to move through an area or provide a little extra firepower. Throughout the game you’re character is accompanied by two allies, which is alright in single-player; but the game supports full three-player campaign co-op where friends can play along with you. That really makes the game more fun, and each of the game’s campaign levels can be pretty long, so you’ll have plenty of bots to shoot and kill.
As for the story, the game is telling the tale of the war on Cybertron that caused the Autobots and Decepticons to leave for Earth. It’s split among chapters with the Decepticons kicking off the story at Chapter 1 and the Autobots coming in at Chapter 6. However, you are not required to begin the Decepticon campaign, as you can immediately start at Chapter 6 with the Autobots. This was a wise choice as some people would complain about having to play through five chapters of Decepticon gameplay before getting to play as Optimus.
Since it’s a prequel, the game will reveal many bits of back story in the Transformers mythos; such as how Starscream defected to the Decepticons and how Optimus become Prime. All of this is considered official canon by Hasbro, so what you’re getting is the real deal for your Transformers history.
While the single-player will take you a good couple days to tear through, the real extended life of the game can be found in its multi-player modes. Modeled after Call of Duty in terms of the experience you gain, killstreak rewards, and kit unlocks; the multi-player is extremely fun. It feels like a mix of Gears of War with a little Unreal Championship thrown in (due to your massive melee weapon). You get DM and Team DM, capture the flag, a mode where you need to take a bomb to the opponent’s base called Countdown to Extinction, Conquest, CTF, and Code of Power (a melee fest). There’s also an Escalation mode, which is basically the Horde mode from Gears of War 2 complete with reward unlocks for how far you get into it.
Graphically, the game looks fantastic. Running on Unreal Engine 3, the mechanical levels are packed with texture detail. The character models are great as well with nice little touches such as multiple moving parts while in their robot forms. Occasionally when things get very hectic there may be some minor framerate drops, but its pretty rare. The only complaint in this department is most of the levels look relatively similar, however you sometimes come to an outdoor vista that can be jaw dropping.
Sound effects are great, with loud explosions and crystal clear effects. You get Peter Cullen as Prime (who else could fill those shoes?), but no Frank Welker as Megatron. The rest of the cast does a great job with each character, and they even managed to find a suitable Chris Latta sound-alike for Starscream.
Overall, Transformers: War for Cybertron comes with the highest recommendation. There’s a great single-player campaign that Transformers G1 fans will eat up, and the multi-player has enough modes and options to keep you playing for months to come. The game is available on the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. There is a different version available for the Nintendo Wii and DS.