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Transformers: War for Cybertron – multiplayer hands-on (Horde mode included)

Though due out at the end of the month, it turns out there was a surprising amount of info we didn’t know about Transformers: War for Cybertron and its many game modes. Sure, we knew about the two different storylines, the exclusive characters, a story based around the original cartoon’s lore, and the 3 player co-op in the campaign, but at a recent demo event, as the Transformers Animated Movie soundtrack played over the speakers to set the mood, we were introduced to a couple more intriguing multiplayer modes the quickly incoming game boasts.

First off we jumped into Escalation, Cybertron’s loving homage to Gears of War 2’s inventive and addicting Horde mode. The up-to-four-player co-op game can be played as either Autobot or Decepticon and focuses on stopping wave after tougher wave of enemies together for as long as you can, but the game has a class-based gameplay Gears doesn’t. From the hulking Soldier type to stealthy Scout type, plus the Scientist and Leader types, each has a different role to play in helping the team hold the fort with punishing melee or ranged attacks.

Above: Tickers have been replaced with these purple crab things

Teamwork is also made more important with how the game’s health and ammo system working within Escalation. Health is divided into sections, and if you take damage it will only recharge to fill up the current section you’re down to, which means health packs are a must, but it’s going to cost you, as health items aren’t just lying around. With each kill you earn credits that can be spent at different areas to buy more health, ammo, or new weapons. But what if you’re short on credits? Well, just as you may plead with your teammates, “revive me,” you’ll be begging the other players on the team to spare a dime and buy you your much needed item. It makes the already teamwork-heavy aspect of the mode even deeper.

Above: A Transformer hits the Energon store

Speaking of Gears’ and bleeding out, Cybertron has a couple changes to that aspect as well. First, they take a cue from Left 4 Dead and let you continue to fire at enemies as your screen turns red, and when we killed three enemies as we died, our favorite Achievement so far, “Wait! I still function!” unlocked, referencing a classic line from the animated film. And if your teammates don’t arrive in time to help, you can choose to self-destruct before you die, hopefully taking some other automatons with you. Let’s see Marcus Fenix do that.

After a few satisfying rounds of Escalation, we stepped up to the Cybertron’s more traditional multiplayer versus modes, as we took part in some really heated eight-on-eight melees. This time taking some ideas from Activision comrade Call of Duty, you gain levels within the battles and work on deciding your load out, not just for one character, but for all four classes. It’s a little bit of a bummer you can’t play as a specific Transformer, you only choose the type, but you have some nice options for picking the the color schemes for both Autobot and Decepticon, depending on which side you take during a match. Though we preferred the teamwork of Escalation, when we pulled out a close 40-39 win, we couldn’t help but celebrate with a hearty, “Hail Decepticons!”

It’s becoming a cliche to say in a preview for the newest licensed game that this time it’s a real game, but seriously, this really does feel like a genuine game and one even non-Transformers fans will want to give a try. War for Cybertron looks good, borrows some stuff effectively and seems to take the series pretty seriously. And now that Activision and the developers don’t have to work around the live-action films and the dreaded Shia LaBeouf, this could be one of the better games of the summer. We’ll know for sure by the end of the month, so watch for a review then.

Jun 4, 2010

Henry moved from the suburbs of northern Florida to work at GR+, and hasn't looked back once in seven years. When not collecting Mario toys, you can find him constantly checking his Twitter.