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Transformers: Robots in Disguise. I heard that a lot growing up but was never really interested in the franchise. It all began with a toy line in the eighties that spawned shows, films, and games. I first gained interest in the franchise when I saw clips of Transformers: War for Cybertron. A game about giant robots running around shooting each other and transforming into different vehicles and aircraft, what’s not to like? Developed by High Moon Studios and published by Activision, Transformers: War for Cybertron was released for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in June, 2010. I’ve been itching to play it for a while. Jeremy and I were looking for some LAN games to play and we initially thought War for Cybertron supported LAN and discovered it does not but we decided to play it anyway. Specifically, the PC version. We did download and use a modified configuration file which is supposed to improve graphical and audio fidelity. In addition to playing through the story mode cooperatively, I also played through it solo. I’m glad I nabbed this on Steam when I did because the Transformers games were eventually pulled from digital storefronts.
The story is set on the planet Cybertron. There’s two campaigns – one that revolves around the Decepticons and the other around the Autobots. Megatron wants to return the planet to his idea of the “golden age” and uses Dark Energon to corrupt life on the planet. In search of a key to enter the planet’s core, the Decepticons launch a full-scale assault on the Autobot city of Iacon. The high council informs Optimus of Megatron’s activity and sends him on a mission to remove Dark Energon from the planet’s core. The plot isn’t bad and you’ll get to play as iconic Transformers like Optimus, Megatron, Bumblebee, Starscream, Ironhide, and several others. The voice acting is often awesome and campy with performances by Nolan North, Troy Baker, Steve Blum, and Peter Cullen reprises his role as Optimus.
The campaigns can be played solo or three players can team up online with an option to enable competitive scoring. The campaigns come with multiple chapters and before each one, you can select one of multiple characters that can utilize different abilities. For the most part, they all play pretty much the same and abilities will have a cool down period or they can be activated after acquiring enough energon shards which are dropped by fallen enemies. Each character can run around, jump, perform a double jump, carry two weapons, three grenades, and use their melee weapons to attack enemies and break objects. They can transform into a vehicle, tank, or jet at will and have multiple health bars that will recharge individually as long as they’re not fully drained. You can restore all of your health by collecting the energon cubes found throughout the environments and when playing with friends, you can revive any fallen teammates. There’s three difficulty modes and checkpoints are frequent so dying usually doesn’t set you back too far. In vehicle, tank, or jet form, you’ll have different weapons and abilities, you can boost for more speed, and vehicles can jump.
War for Cybertron plays like a typical modern third-person shooter except there’s no cover system. Each chapter has multiple objectives for you to complete. You’ll have to go from point A to B, interact with things, and in some chapters, you’ll have to defend things but there’s always going to be enemies to shoot. This is a very action-packed game complete with plenty of firepower, projectiles flying every which way, and tons of explosions. Weapons and grenades can be found in the environments along with ammo, overshields, and energon cubes. Most of the weapons feel satisfying to shoot and the game places plenty of them in the environments so there’s always an opportunity to try something new. This includes the weapon emplacements that can be used and even detached to gun down multiple enemies and/or bring down the tough ones quickly. And when you’re low on ammo, you can always rely on your melee weapon to destroy foes.
Whether you’re playing with friends or solo, you’ll always have two teammates accompanying you. The friendly AI is okay, they can sometimes get in your way, and you will be doing most of the work. In both campaigns, you basically fight the same enemies except they’re different colors. With that said, the gameplay can feel repetitive at times but the action is so much fun that it’s hard to care. You’ll shoot down fliers, cloaked baddies can move quickly and sneak up on you, some enemies can snipe you, and brutes are large tough types with weak points on their backs. The enemies exhibit basic behavior. They run around, shoot at you, and throw grenades. It’s always just shoot to kill in War for Cybertron and the standard foes will go down rather easily. Much of the challenge comes from being overwhelmed and attacked from every direction. Playing with friends does alleviate some of the challenge and every now and then actual teamwork is required, usually when fighting tougher enemies or bosses. There are numerous boss battles throughout both campaigns and some are more enjoyable than others. Each boss has multiple phases of attacks an each phase is usually a checkpoint which is good because some phases just boil down to trial and error. Some boss attacks can kill you in one hit. The bosses all follow the same formula. They do something, reveal one or multiple weak points, you destroy those, they move onto the next phase, rinse and repeat.
The environments are easily the biggest issue in War for Cybertron. They all look the same. It doesn’t matter what campaign you’re playing through, what chapter your on, or what area you’re in, the scenery never really changes. The game funnels you in specific directions and objective markers on your HUD will ensure you never get lost. There are numerous environmental hazards to look out for like hazardous liquids, energy beams, explosive objects, turrets, crushers, blades, and falling off ledges to your death among some other dangers. Battles usually take place in open areas and there are branching paths to explore. One reason to explore is to locate and destroy the hidden Autobot and Decepticon emblems or symbols that act as a form of collectibles. Another reason is to find ammo, weapons, overshields, and energon cubes. The action takes place on the ground in most chapters but there are couple that let you take the fight to the skies. You’ll fly around and shoot down flying foes and at ground forces. Thankfully, the controls are comfortable and responsive, making these chapters a lot of fun. I also like them because the game gives you infinite ammo in aircraft form.
There is a competitive multiplayer component and we didn’t find anyone online playing any of the modes. There’s also Escalation which is basically a survival mode. You choose a map and your character and up to three players can team up to survive waves of enemies. Each wave is more difficult than the last. You can play solo but it’s quite challenging and the enemies are relentless. When you kill enemies, you earn Energon Power that can be spent at machines in the maps on ammo, health, weapons, and doors to new areas. Escalation can be a lot of fun solo but I would recommend you play it with friends.
I think War for Cybertron looked pretty good for its time. We did notice blurry textures when viewed up close but overall the game still looks decent. The animations are solid, the animations for transformations and switching weapons looks cool, explosions result in smoke flying up into the air, muzzle flashes look great, when you take damage, oil will appear on the screen, and many times it’s impressive to see just how much is going on at once. NPC’s moving about, projectiles flying across the screen, aircraft flying around, and it all looks great. Unfortunately, the environments do all seem to look the same as mentioned before. There’s very little variety in terms of scenery. The action is accompanied by a soundtrack with some kick ass tunes and the loud sounds of the weapons along with the screams of dying enemies makes the combat feel intense. On the technical side, characters would get stuck in the environments every now and then and the game crashed on me once. We do have some gripes with the PC version in particular. For one thing, the frame rate is capped at thirty but you can use an FPS Cap Unlocker to play it at a higher frame rate. However, from what I read there are some minor issues that come along with that and it may not work on 64-bit devices running Windows 10. The game does support keyboard and mouse and controllers but you can’t change the bindings in-game. You have to change them in the configuration file which needs to be decrypted first.
I was never a big Transformers fan but War for Cybertron has certainly got me more interested in the franchise than I’ve ever been and this is one of the better licensed games we’ve played in a while. It’s just a great game that will appeal to fans of the franchise and the action genre. It’s biggest flaw is the lack of diversity which applies to both the gameplay and environments, but the campaigns never overstay their welcome or feel bloated or excessive. Playing through the story solo is excellent and playing with friends is even better. The battles are fun and hectic, you can run around, drive around, fly around, and there’s no shortage of enemies to shoot.
We would absolutely recommend Transformers: War for Cybertron to fans of action games. It’s the kind of game that can be enjoyed by those unfamiliar with the Transformers franchise. It’s just a lot of fun. It feels and plays like a typical third-person shooter but with the franchise staple of being able to transform into a vehicle, tank, or jet. If you like giant robots, awesome firepower, explosions, and non-stop action, then you’ll enjoy War for Cybertron.