MCM Expo: Transformers – War for Cybertron Hands-on

Transformers traditionally in the world of gaming can be described as little other than disappointing. A series about robots that can turn into cars, tanks and jet fighters on paper sounds like a perfect match for our electronic past-time. But despite a slew of Transformers games over the years, they have been mostly awful, with the 2004 PS2 Transformers game being a rare highpoint.

The recent movie tie-in games have shown some signs of improvement, but were eventually let down by extreme repetition and somewhat shoddy AI (as well as some pretty poor source material to work from). So you’d be forgiven for approaching this latest title with a sense of trepidation. But despite the legitimate concerns we might have as gamers, that didn’t stop floods of people at the MCM Expo heading over to Activision’s booth for an exclusive hands-on with War For Cybertron. Indeed on the first day of the Expo, gamers were limited to about two minutes of the title, such was the demand. Considering the first of those minutes was a cut-scene (of which not a single spoken word could be heard over the general din of hyper-excited cosplayers and anime fans who made up a large proportion of the Expo’s visitors), many walked away from the booth knowing little more about the game than they had before playing it.

Fortunately for you readers, we here at Critical Gamer are a persistent bunch and managed to get an extended session with the game on the following day. War for Cybertron lets you see both sides of the conflict over the Transformers home-world Cybertron. It also serves as a kind of origin story for Optimus Prime, who is cast here as an inexperienced leader, rising to prominence within the Autobots. On the other side, the focus is on Decepticon leader Megatron and it’s into his big metal boots we stepped for our time with the game, accompanied by Barricade and Brawl. I’d love to report more on the story and interaction between the characters, but the aforementioned din and my oversight in neglecting to study Robot Lip Reading at school mean that, alas, I cannot.

What I can report on however is that I was pleasantly surprised by the other important aspect of the game – combat. Transforming is unsurprisingly the big thing Transformers offers over other Giant Robot shooter games, and the ability to switch between ass kicking Megatron (with his giant purple mace and arm mounted fission-cannon) and his powerful hovertank form at the press of a button is both satisfying and tactically useful. You’ll soon find yourself flipping between forms, using the tank to lay down a barrage of fire upon grouped foes, before switching to the more precise fusion cannon to pick off those enemies who have the gall to take cover or evade your initial onslaught. The battles we encountered showed a glimpse of variety from ambushes, to mini boss fights, to areas where you have to time your attacks in tandem with the changing environment. Your arsenal isn’t limited to the starter weapons either, you can chop and change picking up different weapons to be found lying around the level – including a repair beam that you’ll probably find more useful in co-op than I did here. Token platforming sections were liberally sprinkled around to break up the metal on metal carnage, with giant air vent fans to be dodged or blown up and glowing pads of death to be avoided with some simple timing based jumps.

So not all doom and gloom for War For Cybertron and taking the action away from Earth (and those godawful Michael Bay films) could help the series to rediscover its identity. Unfortunately it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and there were a few concerns to be found. The environments I found myself in were not particularly awe inspiring, suffering from both linear corridors and graphical repetition; we can only hope that the game broadens out in terms of the space allowed to manoeuvre and in terms of the colour palette, or the game could suffer the repetition that plagued Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Some of the control mapping frustrated too, with transforming assigned to pressing in the left analogue stick (also used for basic movement), causing accidental transformations in the heat of battle on several occasions. But these are minor quibbles. Transformers games should be about frenetic explosive action and the crunch of metal as giant robots beat the crap out of each other with a variety of different weapons and forms, and that’s exactly what we found here. It probably won’t be a world beater, but fans of the series are due a good title and there are positive signs here that War For Cybertron can deliver that.

War For Cybertron is in development at High Moon Studios and is due to be Published by Activision on June 22nd on PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Written by Michael J

Michael is a self proclaimed PC gaming fanatic and is equally at home with all genres, bar platformers and puzzle games. Except Bejeweled, he's awesome at that. Seriously, he is totally like second on his Facebook Bejeweled leaderboard. And they said he'd never amount to anything...

Leave a Reply