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Transformers: War for Cybertron super review

Great
AT A GLANCE
  • Ably borrows the best ideas from great games
  • Respectful use of the property that still feels fresh
  • Multiplayer is more than an afterthought
  • Has occasional, but harsh, difficulty spikes
  • Doesn't have many original touches
  • Some confusing Achievement requirements

Transformers haven’t had the greatest track record when it comes to games. Among loads of crap, there have been a couple of serviceable-to-good titles, the most recent being last year’s Revenge of the Fallen – which, despite being approximately 263 times better that the film it was based on,  received the damning praise of “good… for a movie game.” Now Transformers: War for Cybertron is upon us, and we finally have a game that isn’t beholden to any film or modern cartoon; it’s really just based on the idea that Transformers as a concept are pretty cool, and then it just goes from there. Is this creative freedom enough to finally push the franchise to greatness?


Gears of War, emphasis on the Gears

The third-person shooter Gears of War casts a heavy shadow over the games industry, and more than a few games have taken inspiration from it. So why not this T-rated robot-shooting game? War for Cybertron has Gears’ heavy, lumbering pace, and mimics its shooting mechanics pretty well, as the automatons march through warzones and blast their fellow metal men to pieces. If you’re going to steal, sorry, pay homage to something, you may as well pay homage to the best – although it would have been better if War for Cybertron had included Gears’ amazing cover system in that homage. Instead, it’s been (barely) replaced by sporadic chunks of debris to stand behind, without any actual snap-to-cover feature.

Then again, the meatheads from Gears can’t change into vehicles, which is a lot more fun than simply sprinting. Transforming is always quick and simple – just a single button press away – and it really changes the pace of the game, since the car or plane versions of each character move much faster than their other forms. Still, despite a few areas that were designed especially for vehicle mode, we repeatedly forgot  about the feature during the intense firefights until our AI companions transformed and rolled out.

Aside from the stretches of the game you’re supposed to drive or fly through, nearly all of WfC is built around going from skirmish to skirmish, killing everything that moves before heading to the next area. The shooting is fun enough that it never gets really bland, but after killing your 100th non-descript Decepticon clone, it can get a little old. Fortunately, the enemy types are varied enough to keep the combat from getting too monotonous. And there are some really nifty boss fights to shake things up, too, either against massive Cybertronians like Omega Supreme, or multi-tiered sequences where just when you think a boss has been downed, they surprise you by bringing a whole new layer to the battle.


Above: This is one of the bigger enemies

Each level is built for three-player co-op (more on that later), which means the areas can be played through as one of three distinct characters. They all handle differently from each other; you’ve got the heavy, the spy and the medic, all with different weapons and abilities, and that’s on top of each one having a unique vehicle form. This keeps the game from falling into monotony and gives you a chance to explore and find the most fitting class.

Till all are one

The campaign is where WfC actually has one up on Gears. All the levels support three-player co-op which is kind of a weird number,  but it nonetheless enhances the experience, like all good co-op can. Once you’re done fighting over who gets to play as Optimus or Starscream (our favorites, depending on which campaign we were playing), it makes the game much more fun, and the occasionally painful difficulty spikes more manageable. It would have been even better if being revived by a teammate brought you back to full health instead of just a sliver of it, but most games don’t give you the option of exploding as you bleed out, so we’ll call it a wash.

In the competitive online multiplayer modes (outside the co-op campaign), WfC steals from a different game: Call of Duty, or more specifically  its leveling system and weapon-loadout options. The difference is that here, you determine the loadout for each class you want to play as, and can switch between them every time you die. The only bummer is that you can only play as ”generic” Transformers with color schemes you can alter, not as any of the marquee characters. But all the standard multiplayer modes are there, and they’re all fun, making the mode much more than an afterthought.


Above: Here's a glimpse of Escalation

While the regular online is fine, but we had more fun with WfC’s variation on Gears of War’s Horde mode, called Escalation. It takes what’s fun about these smaller, focused bits of co-op, namely you and three friends battling increasingly powerful waves of enemies, but gives it a new wrinkle: money. Instead of just finding ammo or healing drops, you purchase those items with the points you get from kills. Teamwork comes into play when you come up short when trying to buy some needed health, as your more successful friends can spend their own credits to help a brother out. Now, if only there were more maps… but that’s what DLC is for, we guess.


Transformers Begins

Just like the Batman film series went back to square one after some horrid films endangered the franchise’s legacy, War for Cybertron gives the bots a clean slate to work from. The story takes place four million years, give or take, before the modern setting of the original cartoon series, when the conflict between the Autobots and the Decepticons for control of their home planet of Cybertron was at its peak. Optimus isn’t the Autobot leader yet, and Megatron is trying to find a weapon to turn the tide in the battle for the planet.

Thanks to the time and setting, no puny humans can get in the way, there’s no terrible acting by a tiny digital Shia LaBeouf, and no lame levels were created to match a scene in the movie. It’s just a full-on war between robots that hate each other on a techy, sci-fi planet that can transform, just like its inhabitants. And since the Transformers continuity is pretty malleable after all the films and different cartoon series, developer High Moon Studios can use the mythology to fit its needs, instead of being a slave to it.

All the redesigns for the characters look great and reflect the game’s setting, as the robots haven’t gotten to earth yet, and therefore don’t look like modern cars or jets – they’re more like futuristic versions of their normal selves. It also feels like a restart because, outside of Optimus and a couple others, all the voices are done by new actors, including some work by the inescapable Nolan North. It all adds up to a feel that is both fresh and familiar.

Specific stuff like that will only be caught by Transformers superfans, though, as will the many cute references and asides throughout. Yet even if you have a passing interest in the series, or haven’t paid attention since the animated movie when you were a kid, WfC works as a great starting point that never confuses you with too many asides to fans. Sure, you won’t chuckle at Achievements called “I still function,” but that’s hardly integral to enjoying robot-murder. We’re just happy to see a Transformers game that isn’t embarrassing to play as an adult.


Above: We won't spoil why it's great, but the awesome credits are worth beating the game to see


Is it better than…?

Tranformers: Revenge of the Fallen? Yes. Though the second movie game was much better than it deserved to be, War for Cybertron trims the fat (Megan Fox) and deepens the multiplayer aspects, while avoiding all the problems involved with doing a direct film tie-in.


Gears of War 2? No, but if you’re not old enough to purchase that game and don’t have parents cool enough to get it for you, this is as suitable a T-rated replacement as you’ll find. And if you only have a PS3, it has one of the best recreations of Horde Mode we’ve seen, so you can finally experience it for yourself.

 

Resident Evil 5? Maybe. Both make co-op a large part of the campaign and multiplayer (though Transformers uses it in less frustrating and complicated ways), but WfC isn’t as deep as RE5. Also, getting a headshot on some robot isn’t anywhere near as satisfying as it is on a zombie.

 


Just for you Metacritic!

By taking ideas from some of the best games of the last five years and combining that with a respect for the material that isn’t so excessive as to  alienate non-fans, War for Cybertron ends up being the best Transformers game yet.

Jun 22, 2010

More Info

Release date: Jun 22 2010 - DS, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii (US)
Jun 25 2010 - DS, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii (UK)
Available Platforms: DS, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii
Genre: Action
Published by: Activision
Developed by: Vicarious Visions, High Moon Studios, Next Level Games
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Violence
PEGI Rating:
16+

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337 comments

  • hanktherapper - November 27, 2011 3:36 p.m.

    I finally played this game. I enjoyed the story but the gameplay got very tedious in spots.
  • geneticallyalteredsupergiraffeejaculatinggrenades - August 12, 2010 10:16 p.m.

    I would just like to apologize if I hurt your feelings in any way that was not my intention and I'm sorry.
  • JeffriesMcMasters - August 4, 2010 10:25 p.m.

    Do you like apples? I got the last word! How do you like them apples!?
  • JeffriesMcMasters - August 4, 2010 5:10 a.m.

    wait Henry spoiled part of the game? There's a robot named Omega Supreme? What the crap Henry!?!? I usually come to this site to find out about games that I am not going to buy and don't care about, but you take the one game I was actually looking forward to and completely ruin my desire to purchase it with your review. If I were to remove my testicles and wrap a rubber band around my tip I might end up having the same objections as DEFAULT above me, but I have to agree with some of his sentenments no matter how feminine they may be. Gears of War was only on the PS3 so how in ze hael are you going to compare it to the anything on Xbox 360? Next your going to tell me that the robots can parkour around walls like that fruit cup Prince in Prince of Persia? Since that game was only on Nintendo it would make sense. I am sieriously thinking of deleting my account based on your reviews alone. I started watching the series when it came out in the 70's like most loyal fans of the franchise, but your consistant lack of respect for the original cartoons is prettie bad. You probably beleive that the gaem was animated in Korea like the cartoons too. High Moon has almost as little respect for the cartoons and the blockbuster movies as you do. No humans is a plus? Do you realize how cool it would be to step on humans while you are fighting players in mulit-player? DEFAULT was right, 1+3 doesnt equal 3 so how do you rate the game a 7?
  • DEFAULT - August 4, 2010 2:27 a.m.

    Why the hell does the video player in this article suck so much? After watching a thirty second ad on a FREE site, the sound's off, the buffer is awful, and I can't move the tracker to the beginning?!?! What the Hell Henry! Fix that! And the spoilers! Maybe I didn't want to know that I was going to fight Omega Supreme. Maybe I didn't want the surprise of a "not actually dead boss" completely ruined? Developers work hard trying to pack a game full of those kinds of pleasant surprises, I'm sure they don't want their effort destroyed by a careless reviewer. Finally, I have issue with a comment made during your comparisons. An alternative to Gears of War for people who "don’t have parents cool enough to get it"? Gears of War is hands down one of the bloodiest, crudest, and all around most violent games on the market. A parent's effort to filter those kinds of images from their kids, their responsibility as a parent, shouldn't be portrayed so negatively. P.S. You make a huge deal about 3 player co-op, but then later refer to it as "you and three friends". 1+3 does NOT equal 3.
  • JeffriesMcMasters - August 4, 2010 12:01 a.m.

    Seriously Henry? "All the levels support three-player co-op which is kind of a weird number" Did you do any research before saying that? Anyone that has the right to call themselves a gamer would know that the 3 limit is because each character has to also have the capability to transform, essentially doubling the processing cost of each player. Therefore it's like having 6 playable characters running around at any given time. You're review was ok, except for the enexcusable grammer and spelling problems. I'd seriously be willing to proof-read for you guys. I'm just really suprised that noone brought up the fact that Optimus doesn't change into a boombox like he does in all of the cartoons. How much did High Moon Studios and Actvision pay you to write an article about your romantic involvement with this game? Because clearly anyone that would review the game like you did must have some sort of Freudian-esque dependancy on something it is offering.
  • Ronin08 - August 3, 2010 5:14 p.m.

    Okay first of all the Revenge of the Fallen game was garbage. Second of all the movie was the greatest Transformers movie ever. Even better than that gay movie with the hair band sound track. The robot with the gold tooth was the best ever. This game is nothing like the original cartoon. Optimus does not turn into a truck at all in this game. And where is Spike???? I think it sucks that they left out Rodamus Prime. I wouldn't buy this game at all. How do you call yourself a games journalist and put this trash out??? This game gets a 1 for no Shia Lebouf.
  • Calicard - August 3, 2010 3:38 p.m.

    trAnsfr mrs Ssux.
  • TheTygerfire - August 3, 2010 6:36 a.m.

    I was really disappointed when I heard this game wouldn't have Shia LeBouf in it, and wouldn't even be set on Earth. Instead it's set on an entirely new planet with charated models that looked nothing like the characters from the movies. wtf were they thinking? Michael Bay shouldn't have let these shmucks ruin his francise. I can't believe you game this game a pass, let alone an 8/10. You shouldn't have a job if you're going to be that biased and take Activision money so blantantly
  • ender42y - August 3, 2010 4:05 a.m.

    I still think this would be a much more bad-ass game if if followed the characters from the movies. Robot on robot gets so boring after a very short time.
  • Justheretowinshit - August 3, 2010 3:17 a.m.

    The only reason why Mr. Gilbert didn't give this game the 3 it deserves is because he has Optimal Primes Sausage Lozenge up his butt.
  • likejenga - August 2, 2010 10:29 p.m.

    you know mr. gilbert my brother wanted to learn about transformers. my 10 year old brother. he was o innocent and genuine in his attempt to learn himself on the lore of these magestic mechanical beasts. about a month in he reads your article on his quest for knowledge and becomes so confounded by your blatantly false information that he cried for 2 hours. do you like stabbing jew babies and curb-stomping kittens too? yeah, i bet you do
  • jimmdogg - August 2, 2010 10:29 p.m.

    I was really enjoying this thread until SausageLozenge showed up and ruined it. We get it dude. Die in a fire.
  • Qw00terz - August 2, 2010 9:47 p.m.

    This game is so great ypu cant even comprahend how off yur revew is . a ate?! really?????????you cant reviw shie, you, bish, stupid idiot. I played tha game and I could TURN INTO A FREAKING CAR And shoot other robost with my gun and they EXPLODE1 how stupid can you be. I dint understand how any who calls themselvs a transformes fan not give this game a perferct scre bcus it IS perfect! you should let me revew yor games frum now on okay11? cuz you don't a viseogame from a comic book. this isn't a comic book this is a videogame and you shouldnt' be reviewing it you shud be reviewing comic books.
  • Lightbluesuit - August 2, 2010 7:29 p.m.

    @transmatrix. You don't have to read the review, every Henry review is a travesty against humanity.
  • Transmatrix - August 2, 2010 7 p.m.

    I didn't bother reading the review because I already know that Optimus wins by putting the matrix up Megatron's butt. Just like the end of Beast Wars.
  • Lightbluesuit - August 2, 2010 6:27 p.m.

    Sir, your deplorable and disrespectful attitude towards the mythology of the Transformers Universe saddens me. I feel that since one’s knowledge is often exemplified in the common vernacular yours, Mr. Gilbert, leaves a true connoiser feeling emotionally blue-balled. My mental testicals (mesticals if you will), are smurfy because of you.
  • SausageLozenge - August 2, 2010 4:55 p.m.

    Oh you mentioned Omega Supreme! You must know everything about Transformers. You couldn't mention Trypticon or is it you didn't want to spoil that boss battle after spoiling Omega Supreme. Gamesradar has a bad history of spoiling games and it atrocious that you do it in your reviews. Also the early exploits of the autobots/decepticons have already been covered in the comic series by IDW Transformers: The War Within. I think if you were a true fan you would have mention this in your review and maybe explained to us real fans what has changed in terms of canon. You didn't mention once the amazing Stan Bush so I give your review an 8. And most of all I can't stand your holier than thou attitude when it comes to reviews. Why you get to crap all over Transformers 2, despite it being a huge commercial success (863 million world wide). I didn't personally didn't care for the racist autobot skids, but you know who did? My 7 year old nephew. Have you ever thought for a second that maybe all movies are catered to single male man in their twenties? I thought Tranformers 2 was a fun and entertaining movie (Optimus combining with Jetfire! too cool). I find it highly offensive that you essentially put down my taste because I don't share the same opinion. There are different types of movies because there are different types of people. You opinions are no better than mine. So next time you go and review a GAME try leaving your grudges against another product of a different medium at the door.
  • SausageLozenge - August 2, 2010 4:55 p.m.

    Oh you mentioned Omega Supreme! You must know everything about Transformers. You couldn't mention Trypticon or is it you didn't want to spoil that boss battle after spoiling Omega Supreme. Gamesradar has a bad history of spoiling games and it atrocious that you do it in your reviews. Also the early exploits of the autobots/decepticons have already been covered in the comic series by IDW Transformers: The War Within. I think if you were a true fan you would have mention this in your review and maybe explained to us real fans what has changed in terms of canon. You didn't mention once the amazing Stan Bush so I give your review an 8. And most of all I can't stand your holier than thou attitude when it comes to reviews. Why you get to crap all over Transformers 2, despite it being a huge commercial success (863 million world wide). I didn't personally didn't care for the racist autobot skids, but you know who did? My 7 year old nephew. Have you ever thought for a second that maybe all movies are catered to single male man in their twenties? I thought Tranformers 2 was a fun and entertaining movie (Optimus combining with Jetfire! too cool). I find it highly offensive that you essentially put down my taste because I don't share the same opinion. There are different types of movies because there are different types of people. You opinions are no better than mine. So next time you go and review a GAME try leaving your grudges against another product of a different medium at the door.
  • SausageLozenge - August 2, 2010 4:55 p.m.

    Oh you mentioned Omega Supreme! You must know everything about Transformers. You couldn't mention Trypticon or is it you didn't want to spoil that boss battle after spoiling Omega Supreme. Gamesradar has a bad history of spoiling games and it atrocious that you do it in your reviews. Also the early exploits of the autobots/decepticons have already been covered in the comic series by IDW Transformers: The War Within. I think if you were a true fan you would have mention this in your review and maybe explained to us real fans what has changed in terms of canon. You didn't mention once the amazing Stan Bush so I give your review an 8. And most of all I can't stand your holier than thou attitude when it comes to reviews. Why you get to crap all over Transformers 2, despite it being a huge commercial success (863 million world wide). I didn't personally didn't care for the racist autobot skids, but you know who did? My 7 year old nephew. Have you ever thought for a second that maybe all movies are catered to single male man in their twenties? I thought Tranformers 2 was a fun and entertaining movie (Optimus combining with Jetfire! too cool). I find it highly offensive that you essentially put down my taste because I don't share the same opinion. There are different types of movies because there are different types of people. You opinions are no better than mine. So next time you go and review a GAME try leaving your grudges against another product of a different medium at the door.

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