A War Worth Fighting
The Transformers are basically a race of robots that live somewhere out in space on a huge metal planet called - ready for this? - Cybertron. These giant robots are about two stories tall and able to change shape into a vehicle at will. Cybertron is not a peaceful place; there are good robots called Autobots, and bad robots called Decepticons. They hate each other's guts, basically because the Decepticons are evil and want to take control of the planet. Therefore, they are fighting each other in a war, and have been for a very long time (at least a couple thousand years). This storyline was the basis for a children's cartoon from the 80's, so I don't think anyone can blame it for its simplicity. Anyway, you don't play War for Cybertron for its story. It's played for the fantastic visuals, the intense gameplay, and the nostalgic throwbacks to one of the best shows of its era. You play it for the ridiculously awesome ability to be a robot and a truck at the same time.
Megatron; full-time evil overlord, part-time battle tank, badass at all times
War for Cybertron is a third person action game - it focuses on running and shooting. To mix up this time-tested design for a game, it also features melee attacks, special abilities, and the ability to become a vehicle at any time. Each robot only gets one vehicle form at a time, but they all have their unique uses. Need to get to an area across the arena quickly? Within a second, you're a car and zipping there at 100km/h. Need to get to a platform way up high? Just press a button, become a jet, and hit your afterburners. Out of ammo and the enemy's still alive? Turn into a tank and... well, I don't even need to explain the rest. What I want to drive home is that transforming is incredibly rewarding and elevates this game to a whole new level of fun. It gives you, at any time, possibilities and options that completely alter how you play. It also looks really cool, which is reason alone to transform from time to time.
Optimus, before he was Prime. Did I mention you can transform in this game?
Transforming to and from vehicles is backed up by a solid stable of weapons, which vary a lot and are pretty well-executed as a whole. You know, your standard stuff: assault rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers, plasma cannons. There are also several different varieties of grenades you can throw or mines to place. Although you can only carry two weapons at a time, and ammo is somewhat limited, you've always got your vehicle form to back you up or a melee attack (Call of Duty, middle mouse button style) to smack opponents around. Finally, there are special abilities. These vary from robot to robot, but they include basic - but useful - things like barriers, turrets, hovering, and cloaking, among others. Everyone gets two different abilities at a time and they manage to intensify the already heated battles you'll be waging across the campaigns or online.
Optimus Prime - character robot and vehicle forms are all intricately detailed
The single player campaigns are basic, but generally pretty fun. It starts off with the Decepticons (evil) and progresses eventually to the Autobots (good), although you can just start with either one at any time if you wish. The missions are pretty linear, room-to-room affairs where you get to blow a ton of enemy robots to bits and fly through some amazing scenery in between. I'd like to take some time to stress this; War for Cybertron is a great looking game. It's the best looking Unreal 3 engine game to date, in my humble opinion. The animations are fantastic and the environments nothing short of breathtaking. Effects are flashy and vibrant, perfect for this sort of game, and it's all backed up by a suitably science-fiction soundtrack and sound effects. The voice acting is intentionally cheesy, just like the old cartoon this is all based on, and that's what makes it so great. I think the actual guy who does Optimus Prime's voice (from the original series) is in this game, so you know it's legit.
Scouts are fast; Scientists fly; Leaders are versatile; and Soldiers are literally tanks
The single player is a wild, roller-coaster style affair that'll last around seven to eight hours. It's not really groundbreaking or terribly innovative. Still, the super-solid gameplay, graphics, and pacing make it fun as hell and the fact you can select different characters for every mission means there are multiple ways to play through the game. This ties into another great feature of War for Cybertron; it has up to 3-player online co-op for both the Decepticon and Autobot missions. Although I did not try this out personally, I can plainly see (having finished the game myself) how it could be a truly enjoyable experience. Another co-op mode included is a wave-battle horde mode style of game where you and your allies try to defeat as many enemy transformers as possible.
The real multiplayer mode, however, is the online team deathmatch. Here you can create and customize your robots for battle, and bring them into surprisingly intense 5v5 games. There are four basic classes; scouts are cars, low on health but high on speed ( LOL) and featuring cloaking abilities. Scientists are planes, having the most mobility and able to give repairs but have very little health. Leaders are trucks with good health, firepower, and group-boosting abilities. Soldiers are tanks, slow but packing a lot of firepower and the most overall health. These classes can all be leveled up and given custom weapons, abilities, and passive traits to improve your combat style. It's actually a lot of fun and at any time I had no trouble finding matches online, even though I was inexperienced and new at the game.
Gonna take it riiiiiight innnnntooooo the danger zonnneeeee
If I had to find some negatives about War for Cybertron, I'd have to say that at it's core, it's a very basic game. This doesn't have fancy strategy, statistics, or anything really very deep about it at all. If you absolutely need that kind of thing to enjoy your games, you might be a bit disappointed with this title. It's a throwback to many of the simpler games from one or two generations ago, but with an excellent implementation of its Transformers license and a lot of smart design decisions to keep it feeling fresh and updated for modern audiences. Still, if you don't care for the license and can't find any love for third person action games, then I can't say this will be worth your time or money. Mind you, it's worth at least a try - even I was skeptical at first but after the first five minutes I was hooked.
That aside, if you are willing to give this game a chance and/or you just love Transformers, War for Cybertron is an absolute joy. It's smartly designed, simple but intense, and it's got outstanding visuals to back it all up. This game would have been worth $40, easy, but it's regular price on Steam is only $30. Considering it's got a good campaign, full co-op, and fully-featured online play, it's value is pretty self evident. To sum it up; unless you hate 3rd person games or Transformers, War for Cybertron is not to be missed.