By Stewie Sutherland
If there’s a franchise that’s been retold over and over again it’s the story of the Transformers. In their 25 year lifespan they’ve had stories of beast wars and machine battles on Earth and in space. One series may have heroic leader Optimus Prime take the form of a semi-trailer fighting a planet-sized villain and in the next he’ll be a fire truck that combines with his tough-guy brother Ultra Magnus. He’s been a big gorilla that’s played King Kong with T-rex Megatron and won time and time again, and recently he’s returned to the silver screen to tear bad guys apart and draw attention away from Megan Fox’s lacklustre acting.
In this up and coming game we’ll find out how the original Optimus Prime came to be the icon he is today, from simple soldier to the leader of the Autobot forces on their home planet millions of years before coming to Earth.
I really, really wanted to bring you all a fully fledged review on this one after my local game store told me over and over again that it would be available come the first of the month. Three weeks before an American release? It made no sense, but I still jumped for joy. Calling back on the destined Tuesday I got a “duh” answer that made me a bit snippy.
“No, it’s coming out on the twenty-sixth. (Four days after its NA release – makes sense). Who told you it would be out now?”
But still, if I’ve learnt one thing from writing my Halo Reach BETA Preview, it’s what a preview truly is. A site I check multiple times daily is Transformer World 2005, easily the best TF news site around and after a lengthy bit of research I’m pretty confident I can give you an idea what to expect… aside from a game that’s simply awesome.
War For Cybertron is a ret conned prequel to the original 1984 Generation One series Transformers. Like most modern TF games, it’s split into two campaigns – the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons. To get a good feel for it, I suggest playing the bad guys first (which rubs me the wrong way, I’m an Autobot fan) as canonically, they started the whole civil war after all. Megatron is there in his G1 Pre-Earth glory, a silver warrior with a massive fusion cannon on his arm. Believing the Transformer’s home planet of Cybertron is quickly heading to ruin, he starts rallying troops for his cause to take the planet by force.
His first recruit is the scientist and flight expert Starscream who becomes his second-in-command. The communication’s expert Soundwave soon follows. The whole seeker squad of Starscream, Thundercracker and Skywarp are there. People who pre-order from participating retailers can even download characters like Shockwave, the cyclops scientist.
People who play the Decepticon campaign will watch and be part of the very first moments of their civil war – the betrayals, conquests and battles. Starscream and his jets fly through aerial levels at high speed, converting in midair to unleash volleys of fire down on their enemies, transform back into flight mode and rocket away. Autobot guardian and massive transformer Omega Supreme makes an appearance as a gigantic boss battle.
On the other side of the field, the Autobot’s tale is the ultimate underdog’s story. With their leader dead, a young Optimus Prime steps up to take command and push back their evil transformer brothers. Fan favourite Bumblebee will make an early appearance in joining the ranks, before a number of the original G1 cast will make themselves known on the battlefield. Old warrior Ironhide and grizzled medic Ratchet are big players. Minibot tank Warpath will be there as well as a few screens hinting at femme Arcee too. Jetfire the scientist and Aerialbots Air Raid and Silverbolt will join the ranks. My all time favourite Sideswipe is there too, a fast red sporty machine with a fun personality. Again, people who pre-order from the right place will get access to exclusive saboteur Jazz.
Optimus Prime will lead his Autobots against the hoard of Decepticons, storming prisons to free their brethren and taking on the giant city-sized dinosaur Trypticon before taking on Megatron himself. For once we get Transformers in its raw form: no anime humans anywhere to be found and Cybertron is a massive metal infrastructure to explore and fight on.
So, we’ve got a stylish game set on an alien world with massive shifting metal robots that leap and transform into armoured vehicles in an instant. But I know you guys – you want more, right? Sink your teeth into these little facts about the game:
Featuring the voices of Peter Cullen, the original G1/Movie voice as Optimus Prime, and Leonard Nimoy as Nova Prime.
3 player drop in/drop out online co-op play similar to Borderlands.
Multiplayer game modes with deep, immersive playability including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Territory, Capture the Flag, Countdown to Extinction and Conquest.
Create your own Transformers for Multiplayer from different classes, weapons, styles, genders and colours. Each class features several different chassis and have in total 72 upgrades to choose from.
Choose from four different classes: Scouts (small cars with hit and run tactics), Scientists (jet forms with supportive roles and sniper capabilities), Soldiers (damage dealing tanks and vehicles) and Leaders (heavy vehicles/trucks with AOE support).
Play through the campaign to unlock extra features to add to your multiplayer Transformers.
50 achievements on the Xbox 360 version.
Additional story mission on the Nintendo Wii version.
Play both the Autobots and Decepticons games on your Nintendo DS to unlock 30 characters, 11 exclusive to the DS.
Currently on the Xbox Live Marketplace (don’t ask me why they get the new stuff and not the PlayStation network) you can download a very limited version of War For Cybertron’s multiplayer mode. By very limited, I stress very limited. Two game modes are available – Team Deathmatch and Territory. You can have a total of two characters which are pretty locked down. A single Soldier robot (which is stuck as a green version of Warpath for the Autobot’s and a black/purple version of Megatron for the Decepticons) and a single Scout Class character.
Sitting down for a play, I pick my Scout character, a green-coloured carbon copy of Bumblebee. I can select between a handful of weapons (four available, two at any time) and name him Grasshopper. The name is as far from Transformers as any but looking at this scrappy green bug I can’t think of anything better.
Touching down in Team Deathmatch (and noticing that private matches are locked out of the demo, so I don’t get a chance to privately practice the controls) I pick things up quickly. My Autobot avatar spawns in and converts his right arm into his first weapon, a Plasma cannon. Not bad but I quickly learn that it’s only effective if you hold down the firing button to charge it up and release it on a target, which thanks to a seamless flow of robot-to-vehicle is pretty difficult. Picking the other weapon, Green-Bumblebee brings out his Energon Pistol and I’m set.
The gameplay is pretty fast – a few good shots or melee swipes and a robot will go down fast. Then again, I’m playing with level one characters too – as you play, awards are announced on screen as you perform certain feats. They remind me of Halo’s medal chests, but sadly I can’t go back at the end of the match and browse my unlockables. I do notice the fun ones though – First Blood for claiming the first kill of the match, Knighted for killing a Decepticon with ‘Bee’s stinger swords. Doomed – killed with a headshot.
Each of these give an experience tally on your screen – even if you lose the match by a single point, players are rewarded for their efforts. Raising in levels unlocks extra weaponry, powers, abilities and chassis’ to play around with. Unfortunately, the once again very limited demo locks the levels at three, and all other options are unavailable. I play around, swapping the unwanted Plasma charger with a shotgun and change his name to Virus – quick, sharp… and green.
Finally, let’s have a look at the Transformers themselves. So, you can carry two weapons, but don’t think being an alien robot gives you unlimited ammo. You march into battle with limited clips – killing an enemy makes them drop their weapon, which you can pick up to replace your current choice or use as ammo if it’s the same type you’re already holding. Movement is pretty quick for a third-person shooter, with a decent jump for my little scout Autobot and a simple melee strike. Clicking in the left control stick gives a quick twist, shift and suddenly you’re a snazzy little alien car. The movement is surprisingly similar however: you don’t move unless you shift the control stick and even then it’s rather slow. Hitting a trigger opens up a turbo boost and even the jump still works, allowing a little hop. So, what’s the benefit of turning to vehicle mode, besides looking cool?
Like your robot mode, your vehicle has a weapon layout too – shift to vehicle and you can either ram your small opponent with your truck or tank, or dash away in your car. Turning is amazingly responsive – something that annoyed me no end in Grand Theft Auto IV and The Godfather 2 was just how hard it was to drive the cars, but Transformers can turn on a dime it seems. It’s also pretty damn fun to dash up a ramp, firing a machine gun from your rear fender before transforming in midair to shoot with your pistol. Typically for a Transformers game, there’s much more to it than that, with certain abilities focusing on driving and hit and run tactics. A (locked) ability I noticed is a harder melee strike right as you convert back to robot mode. In the fog of war it might not be so hard to dash up on an opponent just to shift back to robot mode and stab them in the back.
That’s sadly all the information I can offer for now, but stay tuned for a full review after I give it a thorough steel-road test at the end of the month!
UPDATE: You can now read AMO’s review of Transformers: War For Cybertron here!