Having grown up in the ’80s, I was more than just a little excited to see the original Transformers brought back to life. Especially in the form of a third-person action game, built on top of Epic’s Unreal Engine, and set before any other known events in the Transformers universe. Tack on a complete 3-player co-op campaign and a surprisingly deep competitive online component, and you have what sounds like a perfect recipe. While it may not be perfect, it’s pretty damn good, and definitely satisfied my thirst for some retro Transformers action.
A New Chapter in the Transformers Universe
The campaign can be played solo, or with a couple of friends. It’s divided in half, where you assume the role of the Decepticons for the first section. It can be played in any order (starting with Decepticons or Autobots), but events do happen chronologically, so it makes most sense to play as the Decepticons first. In every chapter, you have a choice between 3 playable characters. With the exception of a single chapter in each of the campaigns, Megatron and Optimus are playable all the way through.
Of course, each character can transform from giant robot to vehicle form. Since this story is set before the Transformers crash landed on earth, they take the form of alien vehicles that loosely represent the originals we know and love. Optimus is a big heavy truck, Bumblebee is a compact car, Megatron is a tank with a huge cannon, and Starscream is a jet. The only one that was a bit of a disappointment was Soundwave, who turned into a sort of, van. His robot form was awesome though, and my smile stretched from ear-to-ear every time he spoke. Vehicle controls are a little too simple, and each controls and handles the same. I would have liked to have seen an optional advanced control scheme for those of us who can handle panning a tank’s cannon while charging ahead. But essentially, I found that vehicle form was mostly used for getting around quickly, as opposed to engaging in combat.
The story itself is quite good, and many of the character traits are true to the original cartoon. For instance, Starscream’s desire to lead the Deciptons and sheer defiance. You witness many key moments as well – like how/why Starscream turned to “the dark side”, and Optimus’ rise to assuming the role of leader of the Autobots.
Shooting Other Giant Robots is Fun
The combat is good, but feels a little dated. There’s no cover mechanic, so you often end up resorting to poking around corners and such. Each Transformer can carry two weapons, has two abilities, and a devastating melee attack. The weapons are mostly fun to use, and you have access to even some of the biggest, most powerful weapons early in the game. The only beef I have is with the limited ammo, and having to leave battle in order to find more. I spent a surprising amount of time searching around for ammo clips and grenades deposits, while the battle waged on without me. Limiting ammo is understandable for the more powerful weapons, like grenade and rocket launchers. But it would have been more convenient to have at least one weapon with an unlimited supply.
Sights & Sounds
War for Cybertron is quite obviously built on Unreal Engine. It’s very reminiscent of Gears of War in its visual style, and even some of the level design. It looks great none the less, and having the ability to get a good look at Cybertron up close is quite awesome!
Also similar to Gears, WFC’s sound design is best described as “heavy”. The sound of metal-on-metal is forever present, and everything sounds as you would expect. The classic transforming sound effect is there, but a little faint. And while the only original voice is that of Optimus, the others are done quite well, and definitely relate to the originals.
Surprisingly Deep Competitive Multiplayer
Online multiplayer is not my thing, and this is no secret. But I had a surprisingly good time playing the conquest mode in WFC. It’s very much like the tried-and-true conquest mode established by Battlefield 1942. But with extensive character leveling and perks built in, via Call of Duty.
In the short time I played online, there were many moments that still get me excited. Playing primarily as a jet, I discovered a technique that worked well to clear out a control point, while looking fucking awesome at the same time. Points that are under attack start flashing on your HUD. I would fly toward a point at full speed, transform mid-air as I entered the area and unleash a shockwave as soon as I hit the ground. This would effectively blast away any enemies in the area, damaging them or destroying them all in one fell swoop. My second ability was a machine gun sentry, which I would enable at the same time. It was quite a devastating maneuver that never seemed to get old.
This is where I tell people if it’s worth it to buy at full price, or rent for a few days. But this time, I’m rather torn. I rented it myself, for two full weeks at that. And while I finished both campaigns and spent some time Achievement hunting after that, I’m still craving more Transformers action. The online component is quite good, and I found myself unusually drawn to it. I might just have to pick this one up after all.