Transformers: War for Cybertron: Official Review
by Gauss


Basic Information:
Developer: High Moon Studios
Publisher: Activision
North American Release Date: June 22, 2101
European Release Date: June 25, 2010
Trophies: Yes


Overview
Transformers, to the uninformed, is about a group of robots which are capable of transforming into vehicles (hence the name). The Decepticons are essentially the evil force, wanting to impose order and seek glory at the expense of everything. The Autobots are essentially the good force, fighting for the freedom of all bots and the propsperity of their home. Transformers: War for Cybertron is the origin story for this conflict telling the journey of how the Decepticons and Autobots got to the point in time they were at during the show from the 1980s.

Gameplay
At its core Transformers: War for Cybertron, WFC, is a 3rd person shooter. It is a divergence from current mainstream 3rd person shooters by abandoning cover-based combat for wide-open spaces. This changes the equation of combat greatly as now mobility is the big thing as opposed to defense. Unlike games like Gears of War and Uncharted, this actually makes sense. These are gigantic robots which can transform into tanks, jets, and cars... Not exactly covert operatives.


Whats more is this implementation is one of the big reasons why transforming works so well in this game, with the lack of cover and the wide-open spaces transforming ups your mobility without sacrificing too much in terms of damage output. High Moon really took note of this too because alot of care has been placed in balancing the transformation, unlike the crappy movie ports, this feels like more than a gimmick and in some cases it actually helps you strategically. This goes doubly so with the inclusion of classes in this game. Each class and character have a unique set of special abilities and trade-offs. Soldiers, for example, can take more hits but move slower than Scouts. Leaders and Scientists are balanced, but their unique abilities often boost others.

As far as the weapons go, all I can say is hell yes! My only problem is 2 of the weapons are character specific, but other than that these weapons are all well thought out and great. This is another really key example to High Moon being very careful and thoughtful in their implementation, the weapons are wonderfully balanced. While there is a clear progression from pistol to machine-gun to minigun and rocket launcher, this isn't the type of game where some weapons are throwaways. Most weapons have a clear niche use and the weapons that are truly generalized are watered-down enough to provide the strategical need for the niche weapons. The end result is a reason to switch weapons and plan which 2 you are going to carry carefully.

Everything about this game was well thought-out and implemented with care, much in the same way Arkham Asylum treated Batman with the respect he deserves, WFC is the Transformers game that finally takes gamers seriously and delivers more than a brand-name cash-out like the previous 2 Activision titles.

Singleplayer
This is the highlight of this game. It tells a story that really has not been told in the Transformer's canon, but in truly brilliant fashion, and something that can't necessarily be said about other games of this sort, it tells it in a way that doesn't require previous knowledge of the canon. This is the origin story for the first Generation of Transformers, it tells the story of how Optimus Prime became a Prime, how Megatron came to power, and why the Transformers ultimately left Cybertron.

The campaign is told across chapters and the two campaigns are chronologically tied, the Decepticon campaign precedes the Autobot campaign and both are apart of a continuous storyline. The first campaign is about Megatron coming to power, in an ancient space-station orbiting Cybertron there is a devastating power source called Dark Energon and Megatron has figured out a way to harness it. With this new power he hopes to finally sway the tide in this ongoing civil war and take control of the planet. Once Megatron has it, he wages a war in the Autobot's capital city. The current leader of the Autobots, Zeta Prime, launches an all out defense of the city and even unleashes the Autobot's ultimate weapon. By the end of the Decepticon campaign, Megatron will more or less control the planet and have the Autobots pushed up against a wall.


This is where the Autobot campaign takes hold, and Optimus will go through a final stand with the Autobots to try and push Megatron out and elminate the threat of Dark Energon. By the end of the campaign Optimus will be the leader of the Autobots and will have discovered the worst: Cybertron has been corrupted and will need to 'reboot' to cure itself. This process will make Cybertron unable to support the robots for millions of years. As a result the Autobots must take to the stars until they can return.

The story has the right kind of pacing, things move quickly and the characters (the ones that matter) are great. Unfortunately many minor characters are almost not-touched, what is important though is that the inclusion acknowledges these characters as many are important to fans and provides the ability to play as other classes during the Campaign rather than always being tied to a Leader/Soldier/Scout/etc.

Multiplayer
This is the only element of this game I feel should not have been, atleast not entirely. Unlike the Singleplayer campaign, the Multiplayer campaign just doesn't have the same level of detail and quality, and in places it feels almost tacked on, as if Activision said 'No, the game has to have MP!' in the later half of the development cycle.

The big problem is while the Singleplayer campaign had this wonderful balance between all the weapons and everything, that just really isn't there in the same fashion in the Multiplayer with the way their leveling system has been implemented. Moreover leveling up just takes too long and the matchmaking system is a bit... unpolished. Everything about the Mutliplayer component just takes too long, now while this doesn't necessarily tank the entire experience like it did with games such as Wolfenstein or AvP3, its such an average grindbox after the Singleplayer campaign.

This is the type of multiplayer you will play for a few weeks to a month then move on, there isn't anything here long-term.


Escalation mode though is one element of WFC which was done well, while the 'Survival modes' are becoming the staple of shooters, the ability to transform adds an interesting twist to this setup, and it is hard to argue with either way since it was implemented so well, it provides the perfect blanace between difficulty and fun with the right progression.

Technical
From a technical standpoint this game is wonderful. First off the design of the robots is great, each robot has been re-imagined specifically for WFC, but each robot is also unique (except for the generic background soldiers of course), with a unique look (both robot and vehicle) and a unique transformation sound/animation. Yes, you read that right, each robot has a unique transformation sound.

Whats more is the design of the robots make their sides unmistakeable, with the Autobots looking more stout and stocky with their softer curves and wider frames while the Decpticons look more meanacing with their sharp lines and jagged features. You can tell just by looking at a character whether they are an Autobot or Decepticon, and this is a big deal when it comes to characterization. It provides that unique twist which makes the game that much more immersive.

Speaking of immersion, High Moon fucking nailed it. Cybertron feels like a robotic planet, everything is there from the scale to the response, and moreover the areas in which you fight feel characterisitic of where they are, with the Autobot capital carrying a similar atmosphere as the characters and same with the Decepticon areas.

My only real problem with the game is the texture work, I feel like with a bit more tweaking and detail work they really could have popped. In certain areas the textures are just flat, in some cases this makes sense since nothing on this planet is technically organic, but sometimes the flatness makes it difficult to relate to the world.

Trophies
The trophies for Transformers: WFC aren't incredibly difficult, the game isn't mind-blowingly hard on Hard. The big hinderance is going to be grinding all those stupid online trophies. Once again another company misses the point and introduces a horrid set of online trophies that are just one gigantic grind-box. Ugh, you'd think this formula wouldn't be so difficult at this point! Reach cap-level quickly, then give incentive to continue MPing with weekly/daily/monthly leaderboards and the like.

Gameplay: 9/10
- Much like Arkham Asylum was for Batman, WFC is an example of a Transformers game that really is what it should be. The ditching of cover is a great idea given the fact you are a gigantic robot, and Transforming was perfectly done.

Singleplayer: 9/10
- HELL YES! This was a borderline perfect Transformers game from a story standpoint. It told the story we have all wanted to hear. My only complaints are being stuck to a set of only 3 bots per level and its length.

Multiplayer: 7/10
- Some people may like it, but in my opinion this was a tacked on after-thought. The attention to detail, the quality, and the thought are just not there here like they were in SP. Its not bad, just kinda run-of-the-mill.

Technical: 8/10
- The graphics are very good, but not mind-blowing. I also feel the textures feel a bit drowned. The voices are money though, and High Moon really did a great job with design.

Overall: 8.5/10 Superb
- Ultimately this game is to Transformers what Arkham Asylum was to Batman, I highly recommend it to any fan as this is far and away the best Transformers game ever made. Whats more is this is just a flat out great game, and will be just as much fun to non-fans. Hey, blowing up other giant robots as a robot is just a blast!