Transformers War for Cybertron: review

  • Format: Xbox360 (version reviewed), PS3, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Activision
  • Developer: High Moon Studios
  • Players: 1-3 (Co-op), 2-10 (VS)
  • Site:

For any child of the 80s the name Transformers will mean something. To every parent of the 80s it will probably mean something as well, just not in as positive a way. There have been countless animated incarnations based on the cartoon that started it all and there have also been games. The most recent games were based on the Michael Bay movies – perhaps predictably meaning that they were terrible. Now High Moon Studios is trying to set a different trend with a Transformers game that isn’t tied to anything.

War for Cybertron draws influence from the original cartoon more than any other source and has been officially recognised as the canon plot for the lead up to it. What this means is that from start to finish there are homages, nods and everything else that will put a smile on the face of any fan who remembers ‘G1’. But how big is that fan base? Substantial, we would guess, but how many of them are gamers and how many of them would like a game of this sort?

To say that High Moon Studios has borrowed numerous gameplay mechanics from other successful games would be an understatement on par with telling someone that Halo players tend to be a little impolite. This fast paced third person shooter doesn’t just feel a bit like Gears of War, it feels like Marcus has put on a Gundam suit to fight Mecha Locust.

It isn’t all the same though as War for Cybertron has no cover system beyond the old fashioned style of, you know, physically moving behind something and using it as cover yourself. Instead, you have the ability to transform. This isn’t particularly necessary other than to speed through highway type sections, but can be a useful method of avoiding attacks from bosses.

The gameplay is often frantic as you and up to two friends move through area after area clearing it of enemies with a variety of weaponry in either the Decepticon or the Autobot campaign. The campaigns go in chronological order (though you’re free to play either first) and tell different events of the same story. This might disappoint fans as there is no showdown between Optimus Prime and Megatron. This is the start of their war, not the end.

Cybertron is a decent looking planet and sometimes the cityscapes can be picturesque. This is the Unreal engine working well; it’s just a pity that the passages you’ll be traversing most of the time aren’t anywhere near as nice. There is also pop-up quite often and sometimes there are very obvious unfinished textures. These minor issues don’t detract from a decent action experience however.

One of the wisest decisions High Moon made was to bring in Peter Cullen to voice Optimus Prime. He delivers his lines with such dedication and skill that it’s like a how-to for the rest of the cast which, with only a few exceptions (Nolan North as miscellaneous characters, Johnny Yong Bosch as Bumblebee, and Fred Tatasciore as Megatron/Rachet), are average at best. The soundtrack is filled with 80s hard rock that will probably make teenagers shudder but acts as yet another example of who High Moon had in mind for this game.

Besides the three person co-op mode for either campaign there is also a fully fleshed out multiplayer which might as well be called Call of Duty: Cybertron. There is a class system and within that there is a skill system, a perk system and a kill streak system. Modes might have fancy Transformer type names but they still boil down to Capture the Flag, Plant the Bomb, Team Deathmatch and so on. The actual customisation for a multiplayer character is simply picking a body and then using your own colours. It isn’t really ‘making your own Transformer’ as promised, even counting the custom skills. Despite that, the multiplayer is above average and very fun to play – but can credit really be given here?

It is worth pointing out that that transforming serves far more purpose across the multiplayer modes already mentioned and the obligatory Horde mode (called Escalation here) which we haven’t really mentioned as these days it’s only worth mentioning if a game doesn’t have a Horde mode.

There is also one giant flaw that, while it can be manipulated in the campaign, is still an issue in the multiplayer modes. Due to the wide bodies of most of the characters you can play as and the fact that their hand transforms into the gun which they have equipped, it doesn’t quite match up to the cross-hair on screen. What this means is that you can fully hide your body behind scenery and essentially shoot through it because the game thinks you are shooting around it. This leads to being able to fire on opponents from corners or pillars on the maps without fear of being shot back.

Even if Transformers is new to you, even if you don’t like the movies or the cartoons, War for Cybertron is still a solid third person shooter at its core. It hasn’t taken any risks as far as gameplay goes but has as a result created something which will have wider appeal. War for Cybertron is a game that fans will love to death for all the nods aimed directly at them and that newcomers will be pleasantly surprised by when they go online to start racking up kills and experiencing what it’s like when you don’t need to jump into cover while under fire, when you can just transform into a jet and fly away.


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Written by Ian D

Misanthropic git. Dislikes: Most things. Likes: Obscure references.

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