Transformers: War for Cybertron

Whoever said that you can’t please everybody all of the time was certainly onto something. I once had a few friends over for dinner, one of which was a vegetarian. We were having meatloaf so to keep Mr. Veggie happy I formed his meatloaf into the shape of a giant carrot. Unexpectedly, he threw his dinner against the dining room wall and hasn’t spoken to me since.

It’s something of a miracle, then, to find that developers High Moon Studios (of The Bourne Conspiracy fame) have managed to make a Transformers game that will please both fans of the 80s cartoons and those weaned on the last two Transformers movies. For starters, the character designs are a mixture of the mechanical monsters from Michael Bay’s efforts and the more rounded and colourful characters from the legendary cartoon. A good example is Bumblebee, who looks more like a VW Beetle than a Camero. Don’t write it off as a kid’s game either – I expected to breeze through the first few missions but died a fair few times. It is though pretty easy to get a high kill count during multi-player, but more on that later.

Single player mode plays a bit like Gears of War minus the cover system. It’s set entirely on Cybertron, a world that was only shown a few times during the movies. I wouldn’t get too excited by this though – the setting doesn’t make for many picturesque vistas as it’s mostly made up of large industrial style buildings and wrecked metal structures. The amount of detail going on in the background does just about make up for this.

The Autobots and Decepticons have their own campaign to play through, each taking around 4 hours to finish. There’s a fair bit of variety; as early on as the second mission you get to play one of the airborne Transformers. You’re always accompanied by AI team-mates too – the banter between which is brilliant, particularly the rivalry between Megatron and Starscream. The AI of the enemies is a bit predictable but the scarce amount of ammo does stop the game from become a monotonous shooter.

Escalation mode also draws inspiration from Gears of War, but this time Gear’s horde mode. The idea is to fight waves of enemies, restocking on ammo and health between rounds. In some ways it’s better than horde mode – every kill earns points which can be spent at vending machines (for want of a better word) that dish out new weapons, mines and shields. You can also open up new areas in the level and if knocked down by an enemy you can try to fend off foes until somebody comes and revives you. Alternatively, you can self-destruct. Robot suicide!

The standard deathmatch has much in common with Call of Duty featuring skill streaks, unlockable perks, customisable characters and XP. Every character has a unique skill, from creating a temporary barrier to deploying a sentry turret. It’s very fast paced and chaotic, and unlike Call of Duty it’s pretty easy to notch up kills as there’s plenty of heavy firepower around. And obviously, the Transformers can turn into tanks and stuff. It would have been good to see some large, more open, environments like some of the ones found in Halo 3 – piloting a jet down dull corridors isn’t exactly thrilling.

War of Cyberton shows up the last two Transformers games for the scrap that they were. It’s not perfect, but I have no qualms in saying that it’s the best licensed game since Batman: Arkham Asylum. If only Activision made sure this amount of effort was put into the rest of their licensed games…

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