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Transformers: War for Cybertron - Decepticons

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1; 2 - 4 (Local)
Genre: Action/ Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

Transformers: War for Cybertron - Decepticons is a departure from the last two Transformer's DS games. The open-world format is gone, along with the ability to create your own Transformer. Instead, War for Cybertron sticks closely to the layout and design of its console kin, but the translation doesn't work as well.

The DS version of War for Cybertron demonstrates just who iconic High Moon's redesigns really are. All of the bots are easily identifiable, which was a bit of a problem when it came to the "Bay-formers" from the last two games. Those games looked okay, this one looks better. Characters are blocky, but the look fits. The only major downside is the excessive use of dark colors in some areas. The console versions are just as dark, but the added detail adds some dimension. Here, everything looks incredibly flat.

Mission objectives and story are delivered mostly though text, though some of it is voiced by the same actors from the console game (or, at least as far as I can tell). Compared to other DS games, voicework is surprisingly crisp and clear. Beyond their inclusion, however, audio is just sort of around. Nothing stands out as memorable, though nothing stands out as annoying either.


Unlike previous Autobot/ Decepticon branded Transformers games, Transformers: War for Cybertron - Decepticons offers two different campaigns. Some missions overlap and repeat between games, though each also features a unique campaign. The Decepticon side begins with players controlling an unnamed Autobot, only to have that character decimated by Megatron at the end of the tutorial. It's a nice twist and, in a roundabout way, a tip of the hat to the unnamed protagonist from the past two games.

Gameplay is based around tag-team play. At the start of each mission, you select two Decepticons from a list of available bots. Your selection is limited early on, though new characters are unlocked via story events and character discs hidden in levels.

You can switch characters at anytime during a mission. This is great when you need to get a damaged character out of trouble, or utilize a particular bot's strength. In addition to weapon types, each is designated as either a Light (car), Heavy (tank) or Flying (jet) character. Light characters are fast and can sneak through small spaces, while Heavies can crash through broken walls.

The idea of having to switch between Transformers based on situation is a great one, but the level design doesn't seem to support the differences that well. I can think of a handful of levels where I needed to make a return trip to unlock something. I was able to grab most collectables on my first pass. Other than swapping weapons, type doesn't seem to matter as much as it should.

For whatever reason, Vicarious Visions dropped the quest-based multiplayer feature introduced in Revenge of the Fallen. This is a massive misstep. The mode had a few issues, but the real-time Autobots vs. Decepticons control metagame was an exciting prospect. Considering the rise in social gaming as of late, I'm surprised the initial idea wasn't built up a little more for this game.

The only unique multiplayer aspect is the "Ante" system. Before a match, you can put one of your Transformers up on a wager. Win the match and your friend's level 20 Optimus Prime becomes your level 20 Optimus Prime. If you find yourself on the losing end of a match, you can reclaim your character by playing a "Prison Break" game. It's not as cool as the "social" multiplayer, but still fun.


Transformers: War for Cybertron - Decepticons isn't a tough game, though certain inconsistancies will lead to frustration. Some levels go on for much longer than they should without checkpoints. Dying near the end of a level only to have to repeat isn't fun. Falling deaths are particularly annoying. I like that some weapon blasts cause knockback damage, but when it causes you to fall from during an awkwardly designed platforming area, it's cheap. Even more confusing, not all platforms equal death. Some jet you back to a checkpoint, others will swap out a character.

Some of War for Cybertron's issues are hardware related. Over the course of the DS's lifespan, one thing has become abundantly clear - it doesn't handle 3D gameplay that well. Movement is mapped to the D-pad, leading to lots of inept turns and perspective switches. This doesn't meld well with the fast-paced play the game is encouraging. Enemies hit from all sides, so you need to constantly adjust your position. There's an auto-aim feature, but you'll still take unnecessary damage while trying to get into a position to take aim. Vicarious Visions did what it could with what they were given, but it doesn't work out that well.

Game Mechanics:

All characters have a set of three stats, though not every character shares the same configuration. One character may have Strength, Endurance and Regeneration while another will have Endurance, Firepower and Strength.

The stats are meant to differentiate one bot from the other (especially clones like Thundercracker or Skywarp), though really don't seem make much of a difference in gameplay. The more important stat is weapon type. There are three types of weapon - laser, plasma and solid. Every enemy in the game is weak to a specific type of attack, indicated by a colored shape next to their name. Matching the right attack type to its weakness increases the amount of damage.

The boost is noticeable, to the point it almost completely negates attributes like Firepower and Strength. Matching weapon types does just as much damage as high-level stats in a particular attribute. It's an issue, but considering players are more likely to stick with favorites over a "stat optimal" character, it isn't a big one. Besides, the weapon-to-weakness matching system is more entertaining and challenging.

Transformers: War for Cybertron - Decepticons isn't a bad game; it's just inconsistent. Though playable, you'll have to make a lot of exceptions and simply deal with smaller issues that pop up. There are some neat ideas at play, though ultimately this is a fans-only offering.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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