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Transformers: War for Cybertron - Autobots

Score: 72%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1; 2- 4 (Multicard)
Genre: Action/ Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

Vicarious Visions has tackled the previous two DS Transformers games, and this time, they seem to have decided to stick a little closer to the console versions of the games that share Transformers: War for Cybertron's name. And, like the previous two, the DS offering is actually split into Autobots and Decepticons.

Transformers: War for Cybertron - Autobots has a much better look to it than the previous titles based on the films. One of the reasons for that seems to be the designer's choice to stick closer to the original Generation 1 style instead of attempting to make the uber-detailed versions from the film work on the handheld again. Of course, this also makes sense, since War for Cybertron is actually a prequel to the original TV series.

Outside of the various characters, the level design looks pretty bland. For the most part, one mission location blurred into the next one without much notice, which is a shame really, but I can only imagine that the developers worked as best as they could within the confines of the system.

Surprisingly, there were some voice recordings used in Autobots, not a lot, but any is worth mentioning for a DS game. As for the rest of the audio, the weapons fire does its job, but doesn't really stand out. The same can be said for the background music, but not needing the sound to be turned on for a portable system isn't a bad thing.


Gameplay:

Transformers: War for Cybertron - Autobots does a fairly good job of following the general story of the non-portable versions' Autobot Campaign. I found this a really nice change of pace since the previous two releases of DS Transformers titles were little more than character-switch versions of the same game. Instead, the Decepticon and Autobot pairings this time around offer up the appropriate portion of the console game's story.

What this really means is that handheld gamers won't get the full shakedown of the last days on Cybertron unless they buy both games to see how it all fits together, but this is not the first time we've seen this in the handheld market either. Autobots starts off with their leader sending out a distress call, and Optimus, the faction's new, leader pro-temp is rallying his allies to answer said distress call.

The third-person shooter style still feels a little awkward on the DS, but it doesn't take long to get over the jerky camera rotation, but at least the game provides a few other interesting mechanics to distract you from the slight controller issues. For one, the game's missions now take on a tag-team feeling as you can switch between the two characters you choose at the begining of the level. This means that you can go from your small and fast character to your brawler (or even your jet-based flying robot) quickly for a change of tactics, or if you find one of your characters running precariously close to empty.

While the single player experience is fun, the game also offers a few options in the multiplayer arena as well. The most compelling of these is the one that lets you bet one of your characters against a friends. Whoever wins the match gets to keep the pink slips and takes the character home with them. Don't worry though, if you do lose your fighter, you can play a mini-game to break out and make him available once again.


Difficulty:

Transformers: War for Cybertron - Autobots does a fairly good job of keeping the game at least somewhat challenging, but never so bad that you feel it is impossible. Actually, it seems like some of the tougher parts of the game had nothing to do with enemies and more to do with smaller issues related to the environment.

The main griping point here are platforms that cause instant death if missed, but are also hard to land on (or stay on, for that matter). There was nothing more frustrating than getting onto a platform and switching forms or characters, only to have the switching animation move me off the platform and into the abyss.

Outside of those few, sloppy issues though, the game progresses well at a nice even pace to make you feel like there is an increase in challenges, but nothing you can't really handle. Now, taking on your friends with your variously leveled characters is another matter. Just because you have the higher leveled fighter doesn't guarantee you the win, especially if the other player knows the arena better, so while the single player missions are rather well-balanced, online experiences, as usual, will vary.


Game Mechanics:

Transformers: War for Cybertron - Autobots has three different modes for your various characters. There is the Robot Mode, Vehicle Mode and Jet Mode. For the most part, these controls are easy to pick up and dive right into. The D-pad is used to move your character around the 3D world, The (Y) button is your basic attack and the (A) button lets you switch between your selected characters. Differences come when you've switched into Vehicle Mode since your Robot's jump button becomes the accelerator, (B) and what was a way to lock onto targets changes to a boost ability. The only other thing you really need to know is that the developers have kept that nice, big transform button on the touch screen that can be easily and quickly tapped with the right thumb.

Overall, I enjoyed the War for Cybertron version of the DS games a lot more than the previous titles to come out for the system. The previous releases' open world system never felt right to me in the context of the game, and this release just feels more focused in general. The only real disappointment is that you only get a portion of the story with the Autobots label. I'd almost recommend picking up the Decepticon version first and seeing how that story plays out before tackling the Autobots one. While the stories can be seen and played independently, playing them in that order should give you a much better understanding of what is going on during the last days of the Cybertron Civil War.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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