Holy crap. Someone made a great Transformers game.
…what? That’s all you get. Great Transformers game. Go buy it.
Okay, fine. Apparently, seven-word reviews don’t fly if you’re not on Twitter. In a perfect world, that would have been enough, and I could get back to finding spots to snipe away at unsuspecting Decepticons while lamenting the fall of a once-great civilization and its prospects in an endless war.
Instead, I’m stuck trying to convince you people that a game that actually brought me back into online multiplayer—a prospect I once ranked on the same level as death by those scarab things from The Mummy—is worth a look. So thanks for that.
Maybe spending most of my childhood seeing Autobot leader Optimus Prime as something between father figure and godhead makes me a less-than-stellar candidate to objectively review this game. I accept that, and I won’t back down just because the handicap of my perspective makes this a challenge. (Like everything good in life; Optimus taught me that.)
But at least having to explain what should be self-evident gives me a little hatred to work with. Without something to fuel the rage-driven misanthropy that is as typical of my generation as our irrational worship of ’80s-era cartoons, a review of Transformers: War for Cybertron would be even dumber than usual, and I don’t think anyone outside of High Moon Studios’ PR department wants to read anything that begins and ends with, “Transformers! In a game that doesn’t make me want to die! Hooray!”
War for Cybertron is set on (you guessed it!) the Transformers’ homeworld Cybertron, several million years before the events of the original series. Based on what TF nerds call the “G1” timeline, it chronicles the events leading up to the Transformers’ mass exodus, starting shortly before Optimus gained his “Prime” honorific and leaving off with just enough time before said exodus to squeeze in a future sequel without undue canonical acrobatics.
Cybertron, for a war-ravaged motherboard floating through space, is gorgeous. It doesn’t present the same sheer amount of real estate as some of its competitors (and frankly, it could use a few more and a few larger multiplayer maps), but what there is of it is purpose-built to allow players to get the most out of their new toys in the ways they were meant to be played.
Mechanically speaking, War for Cybertron is a linear third-person run-and-gun that replaces the typical human protagonists with all the transforming robots you never met as a kid because they were destroyed during the events of WFC. Class-based gamephttp://www.metropulse.com/admin/news/stories/add/#lay and the ubiquitous transforming gimmick give it a layer of complexity that many games lack, but calling it Gears of War Lite isn’t entirely unwarranted.
Some people say that basing War for Cybertron on such a derivative framework is grounds for scorn and ridicule. To them I say two things: 1.) We’re talking about a game based on a 20-year-old cartoon designed to sell toys—the good ship Creative Integrity already set sail. 2.) A proven foundation is exactly the shot in the arm this property needs, and I will not let you ruin it for me.
See, to understand the anatomy of a good Transformers game, you have to recognize the ways in which the core components interact. First off, let’s get one thing perfectly clear: This is a decent game. Divorced from the property, it would still hold its own. Slap some angry monkeys in there, and you’d have a fine game about monkey wars.
Of course, nobody would play your stupid monkey game, because who cares about monkeys? That’s where the Transformers half of the equation comes in. Someone at High Moon likes this franchise. Like, really likes it. There is love in its craftsmanship. These robots live, inasmuch as robots can live.
Each model has hundreds of little twitchy panels and blinky diodes and shifty gizmos that convey a strange yet undeniable message: These are not merely robots that turn into cars. They are technological organisms that can radically alter their forms at will to maximize their efficiency in a variety of environments. Playing them is like playing with robotic werewolves; watching them is like seeing cybernetic origami unfold.
This translates to a variety of tweaks to WFC’s core model that make it a unique experience. Matches and campaign missions alike are more frenetic and more open than those in games that don’t have to factor in guys that can change into planes. Similarly, WFC has no cover system to speak of, but in a game in which targets can come from any angle, at any speed, a cover system isn’t so much missing as it is obsolete.
You can see where the future upgrades will inevitably happen, but all in all, it’s just like I said: Great Transformers game. Go buy it, and leave me alone. I have robots to shoot.