Autobots Roll Out!
It's been quite a few years since a good console Transformers game was released. Atari's Transformers for PS2 was released way back in 2004. That was a pretty good game at the time, but as the years went on, so many bad movie based Transformers games have come along and the series has fallen into a hole once more. High Moon Studio's Transformers: War for Cybertron, thankfully breaks that tradition.
The game is set as a prequel to the cartoon series. It takes place on the transforming robots home world of Cybertron years before the Transformers would leave their home and discover Earth. This is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, there are no annoying humans to protect or to make sarcastic remarks as you run around the planet. On the otherhand, Cybertron is a boring place to look at. We have seen the Unreal Engine 3 used to boring effect many times but somehow it stuck out to me much more with this game. Everything just looks very depressing. It's all very dark purple, muted red, and a whole lot of gray steel. Even the Transformers themselves have a very drab color palate.
Graphics aside, there is a whole lot to like about the game. It's a 3rd person shooter with the ability to transform into a vehicle at anytime. Each Transformer has their own special abilities that they can use such as cloaking, whirlwind attacks, dashing, hovering, creating turrets, making barriers for cover and a few others. The shooting feels pretty good and the melee attacks are very powerful. You find various weapon and grenade types to use. There is no cover mechanic and that makes the game feel a lot faster in my opinion. At times it really becomes a chaotic blast-a-thon. The vehicle versions handle really well and the weapons you have in these forms feel very destructive.
The campaign is split into two sections, the Decepticons and the Autobots. I personally really enjoyed the way it is set up. You start out as the Decepticons on their journey to harness the power of Dark Energon to use to corrupt the planets core and assume control. You then play as the Autobots as they attempt to clean up the mess that you just spent a few hours creating. I think that is a really cool way to structure a "good guy/bad guy" campaign. When it comes down to it I would say that the Autobot campaign is better due to there being more unique set pieces and a really cool jet level towards the end of the game. The campaign is filled with good voice acting and the different robots personalities shine through really well.
As well as full 3 player online co-op in the campaign, War for Cybertron also features a full 10 player online competitive multiplayer and a 4 player cooperative wave based horde mode called "Escalation" The competitive multiplayer has 8 maps and a nice selection of modes. The big draw here is the XP based persistent leveling system that rewards you for kills, captures, and many other challenges and goals. Reaching higher levels gets you new weapons and abilities to use. It is also class based so different classes have different selectable abilities as well as their own vehicle form. In multiplayer, Melee is usually your strongest weapon.
Escalation is a wave based survival mode that rewards kills and revives with points to spend on vending machines for weapons, ammo, and health. Escalation is a very frantic and a little too difficult for it's own good given how expensive the items from the vending machines are and how little health you have. If you go down you can be picked up by a team mate but more times that you will like, you will be dead and waiting for the next wave to start. That's if whoever is left alive, pulls through. When all players are dead, its back to wave 1. I have lost at waves as low as 7 and high as 13. I have never been able to make it to the 15th wave as of this writing.
Transformers: War for Cybertron is a great package that is more than meets the eye for a licensed game. High Moon Studios has put together a good set of features for both fans of the series and also players that are just looking for a fun chaotic shooter both online and off. They also managed to break a 6 year cycle of bad Transformers games and that is quite a feat in itself. Autobots roll out!