July 12, 2010 by Paul Curtin
After Rocksteady Studios’ Batman: Arkham Asylum was met with critical acclaim and nominated for multiple Game of the Year awards in 2009, it was only a matter of time before new studios came along with the same idea and desire to create good games based off of previously failing game franchises. And sure enough, High Moon Studios has decided to remake the classic Transformers franchise, a series with a notorious history of bad games.
Just like Rocksteady’s Arkham Asylum, High Moon’s War for Cybertron is a new take on the infamous transforming robot series that uses the power of Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 to create a great third-person shooter with beautiful graphics. But the graphics aren’t the only improvement to the series that stand out, there’s much more depth to this game that makes it so much fun to play. Transformers: War for Cybertron isn’t just another half-assed Transformers game, based off of a movie, and rushed through production in order to sell a lot of copies during a movie’s release in theaters — it’s a game that both fans of the iconic series and serious gamers can be proud to play.
After two unsuccessful games made by other developers and based off Michael Bay’s summer blockbusters, High Moon Studios has decided to take a gamble and bring the franchise to the new location of Cybertron, the original home of the Transformers. War for Cybertron tells a story long before the events of the recent live-action movies, comic books and cartoons. Like previous Transformers games, the story is split into two campaigns, allowing the player to play as characters from both the Autobots and the Decepticons, in order to complete the full story. The campaign’s plot is based before previous storylines from the movies and cartoons, but all the original Transformers are still featured in the game which tells the story of how Optimus Prime and Megatron rose to power.
War for Cybertron‘s story is actually quite interesting and entertaining, whether you’re a fan of the Decepticons or Autobots, you’ll want to play through both campaigns as they are equally fun and both feature some unique levels. Each campaign is split into individual levels, and each level lets the player to select from three different characters that run together in a squad. When playing on the hardest difficulty, your A.I. partners do a pretty good job of not getting in the way and help kill enemies when needed. Even during gameplay, there’s amusing extra dialog between the Transformers who have conversations and tell jokes — it’s a nice added level of detail that helps keep the game’s momentum going while progressing through slower parts of each level.
While the story is entertaining, War for Cybertron‘s biggest flaw is its location; although taking the series to the new location of Cybertron is great in theory, the futuristic home planet of the Transformers is boring. Even with some of the levels playing differently, most notably the level in space, the majority of levels are indoors and look the same. We’re sure that High Moon Studios will improve upon the locations in the next installment; but for now, to make up for somewhat bland levels, High Moon has filled the game with tons of diverse enemies that require different tactics in order to kill. Some enemies you’ll encounter simply require you to unload as many bullets into them as you can, but others like the Cloakers and Tanks aren’t so simple, and force players to use flanking tactics to hit weak spots on the backs of enemies. There are even giant boss encounters at the end of some levels which add even more fun when trying to figure out enemy weak spots on a larger scale in order to take them down.
Another great way War for Cybertron adds diversity and replay value is through the use of a class system. The game features four unique classes: Leader, Soldier, Scout, and Scientist. Different classes in a squad have different abilities such as cloaking, group buffs, whirlwind attacks and the ability to heal. Each class also has its own unique type of vehicle it can transform into like the Leader’s truck and Scientist’s jet. Players can pick a character based on their own preference and play-style, and although character selection doesn’t affect the story, it gives the game some replayability if you want to go back and play as a different Transformer in a squad and use different abilities when fighting enemies.
The class system is much deeper in online multiplayer, which is where the game really shines. The controls are spot on in terms of accuracy and the game plays like a mashup of Epic’s Unreal Tournament and Warhawk. Each class has its own tree of skills, with way more options than in single-player. Skills and abilities are unlocked similar to the perk system in Call of Duty which rewards players experience points after completing objectives, winning games and getting kills. There are also plenty of weapons with each player being allowed to carry a primary and secondary weapon; but the best part of multiplayer is how every player can instantly transform into their classes vehicle. Games like Power Struggle (King of the Hill) and Countdown to Extinction (Capture The Flag) turn into pure craziness when entire teams are all fighting in one spot and every player has the ability to transform back and forth between robot and vehicle form. Unlike previous games, transforming between robot and vehicle form isn’t just a gimmick, the ability to transform plays a vital role in gameplay, allowing players to use stronger attacks, take more damage, and rush to objectives on the map faster.
In addition to a very deep competitive multiplayer experience with modes like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and King of the Hill; War for Cybertron also features a co-operative mode similar to Gears of War 2‘s Horde Mode. Escalation allows players to work together in teams of four as they fight wave after wave of enemies. Players collect currency when they kill enemies and can spend it on more ammo, better guns and can even unlock more areas of the map as the waves become more difficult.
If you’re a fan of the classic animated show and/or recent live-action movies (or not a fan of either) you’ll enjoy playing Transformers: War for Cybertron — it’s by far the best Transformers game ever, and one of the best games of 2010. With 2010 already having so many powerhouse games released, it’s unlikely that War for Cybertron will be nominated for any Game of the Year awards, but it’s still a hell of a lot of fun to play and a rare example of a great video game based off a movie/comic series. After the success of their first attempt at recreating the series, the chance of a sequel seems likely, and we can’t wait to see where High Moon Studios takes the series from here. Transformers: War for Cybertron gets 4 out of 5 stars. (Great)
- Great graphics and animations using the Unreal Engine 3
- Entertaining story with voice acting from the original cast
- Multiplayer is fun to play and has a detailed perk system
- Most levels and enemies look the same
- Multiplayer lacks real depth and has limited customization
- Servers are unstable when playing online which causes many disconnects