How badly do you want a good Transformers game? For me — and likely the gamers who grew up watching the ’80s cartoon series — the desire is pretty strong.
We got Batman: Arkham Asylum last year, which seemed to show developers are capable of making quality licensed video games. But does developer High Moon Studios deliver a satisfying and faithful adaptation of those ’80s robots?
Taking place on the Transformers’ home world, Cybertron, this game is a prequel to the animated series. Essentially, the game is broken into two halves, The Decepticon and Autobots campaigns. The Decepticon campaign is about Megatron’s quest to harness Dark Energon — a powerful source of energy that will help him win the war against the Autobots.
The other half follows Optimus Prime’s reluctant rise to leadership in the Autobots campaign. Prime must assemble a group of Autobots and stop Megatron before everything goes to cyber-hell.
The visuals instantly draw you in. Transformers fans will appreciate the level of detail in each of the Decepticon and Autobot models. From Optimus Prime to Soundwave to Megatron, they all look as shiny and fantastic as ever. Each level begins with you selecting one of three Transformers for each level (among the dozen or so playable characters) and trekking your way toward the boss battle.
But ultimately, what’s most important is that the gameplay is exceptionally tight. The game controls well and feels a lot like the third-person shooter Gears of War — but without a cover system. Transforming between the robot and vehicular alter-ego is a fun part of the experience.
For me, one of the strongly enjoyable moments of the game is the wholly original narrative. You’ll learn a lot more about some of your favourite Transformers, why they left Cybertron and how the infamous Starscream became a Decepticon — and there will be a few funny inside jokes along the way.
If you like playing online, War for Cybertron offers plenty of options. At any time, you can drop in or out of any of the mission levels with the three-player coop, which makes the game more enjoyable than playing alone. Or you might want to play the included multi-player mode, which features a good set of modes. The multi-player is pretty chaotic and it was a joy levelling-up characters, and using unlockable cloaks or weapons that will instantly put you on everyone’s hate list.
Despite that, War for Cybertron is only a mixed success. One moment the game seems average, and the next it seems magnificent. The Decepticon campaign feels a little one-dimensional, while the Autobots campaign is more action-packed, lovingly crafted and enjoyable.
Uneven as it is, if you’re looking for something nostalgic, Transformers: War for Cybertron doesn’t disguise itself as anything other than a great shooter.