Transformers: War for Cybertron Review
It's almost time to start actually expecting something good out of a licensed game. Solid efforts like Spider-Man: Web of Shadows and fantastic ones like Batman: Arkham Asylum have shown us that when game developers stop working on movie timetables with storylines that only work in movies, they can make great games based on comics, cartoons, and action films. Transformers: War for Cybertron is the latest effort to prove that it's possible to do it right, and while it never quite gets to the level that Arkham Asylum did, I think you'll still find it to be a stellar entry in what has, over the years, been a long string of mostly-mediocre Transformers games.
In War for Cybertron, you go way back into the past when Megatron was trying to harness the power of a dark force called Energon and Optimus Prime was just, well, Optimus. You start off the campaign as the evil Decepticons, playing through a pretty solid six to eight hours before the Autobot campaign begins. Plenty of the great Transformers are here, including Starscream, Bumblebee, Brawl, Barricade, Shockwave, Ratchet, Soundwave, Megatron and Optimus of course, and many more. You'll be able to transform between robot and vehicle form at pretty much any time, although you'll quickly find that the levels have been designed in a way that suggests what form you should be in. Still, it feels cool to just swap out whenever you want, and one nice part is that in vehicle form, all Transformers can hover for easy minute adjustments - that way you don't find yourself stuck sideways in a narrow hallway like Austin Powers did in his first movie.
You'll have a main weapon and a couple of interesting abilities for each Transformer - you'll be leading small squads and will have your choice of a few to play as in each of the game's 10 hour-plus-long chapters, and yes, one or two buddies over Xbox Live (nope, no split-screen) can jump in and play the campaign alongside you cooperatively - well, only if you specifically start out by setting up a cooperative session, that is, so there's no way to join a session already in play. Get it set up ahead of time and it's a blast, though, because there's a lot of verticality to each level along with quite a few secondary weapons to pick up and use along with team-based abilities on top of it all. I found that in cooperative play the game gets a lot easier, so I recommend you jack the difficulty up if you're going to play together with someone that's experienced with third-person shooters.
The look of Cybertron itself is fantastic and really brings in a style that we have rarely seen in Transformers games. The planet's full of dirty, dingy metal, scrapyards, and towering, shining skyscrapers, and it's a huge change from the generally lame renditions of Earth that the last couple games tried to show us.
When the game's beefy campaign is done, you've still got some options. Online multiplayer lets you do some pretty standard versus modes, and the Escalation mode will remind you of Nazi Zombies, Firefight, or Horde Mode in that you work together with friends to fight off endless waves of enemies that get tougher every wave. You'll even get the chance to collect up money - or something that acts just like it - and buy some heavy weaponry to use in future waves. For me, the fully cooperative-capable campaign is the main draw, but these additional modes do manage to add quite a bit of value as well.
Developer High Moon Studios have done a great job with Transformers: War for Cybertron. It's not just about finally making a game worthy of the franchise, but it's about capturing the fun of the show, from back when we were kids, in a way that the recent movie-based games could never really hope to do. Sure, there are some flaws: for a planet full of transforming robots, a few too many third-person-shooter-stereotypes are leaned on just a tad too much. In addition, the characters are full of horrible cheeseball dialogue and are generally controlled by iffy AI in single player mode, and the repetitive level design and lack of diversity in the enemy grunt robot models can get a little tiring here and there, but the game never lets itself fall apart for too long, so it generally should be pretty good at holding your interest through to the end. And if you're a die-hard Transformers fan, well, there's no reason why this shouldn't already be blasting loudly on your PC or console.