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.