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Transformers: War for Cybertron: Combiner

Company: Activision

Transformers: War for Cybertron is a Transformers game, so of course I'm interested. Videogames haven't been kind to the license, but I've trudged through every one of them. What can I say? Even at 31, the concept of giant robots turning into cars and jets is unbelievably cool to me. Coming off hands-on time with War for Cybertron, even if it didn't feature Optimus Prime or Starscream, I'd still be interested.

As I see it, there isn't enough "team" in team-based multiplayer. Sure, you can collect a bunch of players under the same-colored banner and even give them a goal. But, when it comes to actual gameplay, teams usually degrade into a bunch of players worried more about their personal kill-count rather than what's best for the team.

Teamwork is a major aspect of the Transformers universe and a component High Moon Studios has managed to weave into all three of War for Cybertron's play modes. Each features its own spin on the concept, and while not particularly revolutionary, each is designed with real teamwork in mind.

The best example of War for Cybertron's "team focus" is Escalation, which is the game's version of Gears of War 2's Horde Mode. Escalation has the distinct honor being the only online mode where you get to play as named characters from the Transformers universe (more on this later). After choosing a side and character, you and four friends face waves of enemies. Earning points by killing enemies is a key part of Escalation, or rather how to spend your points.

Stations are spread around the map, forcing you to decide how to spend them between waves. If you're low on ammo, you can restock or heal. There's even the opportunity to save points and purchase new weapons, possibly giving you enough of a boost to survive the next wave. There's only so many points to go around, so you may also need to purchase ammo, health or weapons for another player. It's an interesting twist and makes teamwork and communication incredibly important.

Who your party decides to take into battle plays a large role in your team's strategy. Although you're playing as named characters, each falls into one of War for Cybertron's four multiplayer classes. Leaders, like Optimus Prime, grant stat boosting buffs while scouts, like Soundwave, can cloak. It's incredibly important to make sure everyone knows their character's place on the battlefield and how to best use their abilities.

Escalation ends when your team is destroyed. Even though you can attempt to revive teammates while they still function, you're vulnerable while doing so. In the games I played, the minute one bot went down, the other three were soon to follow. It wasn't until three or four trips to the scrap heap that our entire team decided to heed High Moon Studio's advice and work together. Learn from my mistakes.

Teamwork is just as important in multiplayer. The only mode that doesn't support some form of team-based play is Deathmatch, which, to be honest, isn't that interesting. War for Cybertron's real strengths lay in learning how to use each of the four classes in tandem.

Multiplayer expands classes beyond Escalation's named characters. In other words, you're not playing as named characters. No Optimus, no Starscream... not even Wheelie or Seaspray. Instead, multiplayer lets you build your own Transformer from one of four classes - Leader, Scientist, Scout or Soldier. Leaders are trucks loaded with team-boosting abilities. Scientists are jets and can repair allies. Scouts are fast cars and can cloak, while Soldiers are literally tanks.

As you level up in each class, new weapons and abilities are unlocked. All classes have unique abilities, further specializing their role in battle. Scientists begin as healers, but are eventually able to drop sentry turrets on the field or, in a move Starscream himself would be proud of, fool opponents by temporarily "switching sides."

Once again, learning how to mesh the various classes is key to victory. Like our Escalation matches, early multiplayer rounds were every-man-for-himself. This led to a lot of deaths and not much progress. Once we stopped worrying about kill counts and focused on team goals, matches became incredibly close. It is easily one of my favorite multiplayer experiences this year.

Teamwork even spills over into Campaign. Solo play is, of course, available, though after playing through part of the Decepticon campaign in three-player co-op, I'm not sure I want to play alone. As in Escalation and multiplayer, you'll need to lean heavily on teammates to make it through levels. During our game, we found ourselves constantly spotting each other when ammo was low, a problem that happens a lot in single-player.

When I come away from an event wishing a game were tucked away in my bag, it's a good thing. High Moon Studios have found a way to integrate teamwork into multiplayer and have it actually matter. For me, that's even more appealing than the license. See for yourself on June 22 and stayed tuned for a full review.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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