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Transformers: War for Cybertron

Score: 89%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: High Moon Studios
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 3; 2 - 10 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

A few years ago, Melbourne House offered up a great example of what a Transformers game could be. The license has seen a little more activity since then, but each iteration only led to disappointment. Last year's Revenge of the Fallen offered a slight glimmer of hope with its multiplayer component, though like other games, single-player fell incredibly short of the mark. Where others have failed, High Moon Studios has succeeded.

Unfettered by a particular cartoon or movie, High Moon had more space to explore. Looking at the character designs, it is easy to see why Hasbro allowed High Moon as much latitude as they did. Characters designs are radically different from the boxy robots from the 80's, but still retain certain key aspects of their original designs. The result is a set of robots that are visually interesting and follow a "transformation logic," but without looking like pointy modern art. These guys are fans, and it shows.

Voicework will always be a dicey subject when it comes to Transformers. Peter Cullen's Optimus Prime is sacred and any deviation would be an affront to nature (at least in the eyes of most Transformer fans). The good news is Cullen is back and a good as ever. The bad news, Frank Welker isn't around as Megatron. It's an uncomfortable feeling, but something that will annoy only the pickiest of fans.


Transformers: War for Cybertron's story is split into two campaigns: Autobot and Decepticon. For those who want the full story, you'll want to start with the Decepticons and roll into the Autobots. However, if you have some odd aversion to playing one side or the other, or just want to go with Optimus first, you have the option. Each side's story offers a satisfying story arch, though you'll need to play both to see how everything plays out. The story is also considered cannon and dovetails nicely into the beginning of the Generation One (80's cartoon).

Repetition is one of War for Cybertron's biggest drawbacks. Levels are somewhat generic in the grand scheme of the game. One torn up area of Cybertron looks like another torn up area of Cybertron. However, the actual level designs are great. There's plenty of room to tool around in either robot or vehicle form, and except for one or two sections in each campaign, you have full control over which form you take throughout the level.

Both campaigns are playable in 3-player co-op. At the start of each level you, and friends if you're playing in co-op, choose one of three Transformers. All three have their own unique abilities that compliment gameplay. The great thing about War for Cybertron's co-op is it is well thought out. Nothing feels tossed in just to say the feature is available. Getting through levels is a team effort. You can bully your way through, but it will lead to more deaths.

Multiplayer adds even more value. Once again we see just how deep Modern Warfare's influence runs. War for Cybertron offers many of the same multiplayer concepts found in Modern Warfare, but with Cybertronian twist. First off, everyone has a class-specific alt form that can change the dynamics of play. Making a rush for an objective is completely different when your opponent can change into a jet.

Multiplayer also showcases one of the property's core tenants - teamwork. Transformers has always been about one team versus the other, something found in every multiplayer game. With the exception of Deathmatch, every online mode requires some level of teamwork. The best example of this is Escalation, War for Cybertron's variation of Gears 2's Horde Mode. Where Escalation differs is everything is based around earning points and spending them in the best possible way. Do you purchase health? Ammo? New weapons? There are so many points to go around, so you have to work as a team. It's a fantastic concept.


If you can grab three friends for co-op, do it. The downside to Transformers: War for Cybertron is the lacking of friendly A.I. Unless enemies are standing next to them, you partners will ignore easy targets, leaving you high and dry. It isn't a major issue, but I died a few times just because someone couldn't be bothered to get off a shot at an enemy. There are a few tricks to encourage A.I. participation, though you don't want to herd bots around when you've got an army shooting at you.

Outside teammate issues, War for Cybertron is fairly balanced. The one issue that will mean the difference between life and a meeting with the All Spark is ammunition management. Unlike in the movies or cartoon, ammo is in short supply. You can't walk into a room and randomly blast away. Careful shots are rewarded and encouraged - especially when you factor in some of the one-shot or flat-out spectacular kills. There's nothing cooler than shooting out the jets from under an Aerialbot.

Boss battles present one of War for Cybertron's few issues. The concept behind most battles is great, though they tend to devolve into mindless shooting matches with endless mobs of look-a-like bots.

Game Mechanics:

Choosing a character isn't as easy as taking your favorite bot from the available selection. You can, if you want, though every Transformer on the roster has its own specialty. You'll want to find the class that works for your play style.

The choice is a little easier in single-player; you're limited to who you can choose and ability load outs are set in stone. The only leeway you have is in weapons. Each starts with a signature load out, though you can assimilate weapons you come across in each level. Choosing which weapons to take and which to leave adds a nice amount of choice. Even if you're presented with a missile launcher, it may not be the best weapon for the job.

Selecting a Transformer in multiplayer is a little more option-oriented. Besides the ability to create your own Transformer (though the options are limited - a minor issue though), there are four classes to choose from. Leaders and Soldiers are front-line troops, while Scouts can cloak and traverse the map quickly. Scientists are a unique class all their own. They can fly, but their perk lists lend themselves towards manipulating the flow of battle. They can repair allies, shift their identity on radar and even drop turrets. Each class has its own learning curve, though overall they are well-balanced and fun to play.

All classes earn experience and can level up, adding newer abilities and weapon options. There's even a special "Prime" class similar to "Prestige" in Modern Warfare.

Combat places just as much of an emphasis on melee combat as ranged, which is the reason for limited ammo. Additionally, it offers plenty of reason to switch to vehicle mode during play. Unlike past Transformers games, switching to vehicle mode is not a gimmick. This is probably why other games have failed and War for Cybertron succeeds. Just the ability to switch into a speedy car adds a load of combat tactics.

I'm as big a Transformer fan as they come, so if you want to chalk my comments up to fandom, so be it. Even without the license, High Moon Studios has managed to put together a great shooter and an even better multiplayer experience.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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