Bah Weep Granah Weep Ninni Bong! As many of you know, I am a big Transformers fan, so the task of critically reviewing this game is akin to asking a parent which of their children they like the least. There are so many little touches for Transformers fans that they will be in robotic heaven, even the Trophies are named after famous quotes or comic titles. However, many of you are not fans and I have to be subjective. So how does the game play if you only have a passing knowledge of Robots In Disguise?
Let’s start, logically enough, at the beginning. Upon first inserting the disk the game sits with ‘Loading’ on the screen for about two minutes, during which I assumed an install was going on. This was an incorrect assumption as after it decided to load it was time for an installation and it’s a big one: 4.7 gigs of spare hard drive space is required (on the PS3 version, at least) and although the install time is not quite up to Bioshock levels it is certainly enough time to wolf down a pizza.
One pizza later (ham and mushroom, thanks for asking) and the game has installed. It’s time to load up and very, very annoyingly it then decides to check the installed data. This adds another 30 seconds or so starting a game. Quite why this happens I am not sure, I’ve yet to play any other game that has to check the install file every single time you load up.
Finally, reaching the menu screen gives you three options which are ‘Escalation’, ‘Multiplayer’ and ‘Campaign’. Escalation is set on a small number of maps in which you and a number of online friends fight against wave upon wave of AI controlled bots. The more bots you kill, the more points you have and these can be spent opening doors or buying more ammo or health. How much you enjoy this mode depends entirely on who you are playing with as the stronger players really need to spend their points to help out those who are doing less well so it is best to play with friends.
Assuming you do have a decent party who look out for each other this a great way for those just venturing out in the world of online gaming as everyone is on the same team. One small problem is that High Moon saw fit to include a trophy for reaching level 15 in Escalation mode so I have played a number of games where the host quits the game as soon as that magical trophy pling has chimed.
The multiplayer games have the usual deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag type games but as games are limited to a relatively small number of players (10 is the maximum) you will find the games do not degenerate into to massive frag fests in one small area. Conquest mode is always a tight battle and the winning team can switch at any moment.
In both multiplayer games you can chose between four different classes; Leader, Scout, Scientist and Soldier. Each has unique abilities and weapons, more of which can be unlocked as you progress through the ranks. Kill streaks are also rewarded with various bonuses including guided missiles and spotter satellites to mark out the enemy. The games are fun and the ability to transform does add an extra level of gameplay. Discovering new tactics with the different classes is a worthwhile endeavour, mastering the “sneak up behind someone whilst cloaked and smack them on the head” move is a must.
Some maps (both multiplayer and campaign) have that most annoying of features, instant death. You can drive your vehicle off the side of a platform and plummet to your doom, a gameplay idea I thought we had seen the back of some years ago. Also, for death dealing robots made out of Cybertronian metal they are as weak as kittens. If I am Tank I expect to be able to take more than a couple of shots before I collapse like an IKEA coffee table.
There are no features to create clans so sadly the TSA Wreckers will never be formed. You can invite your friends to join your game although on the occasion I tried this it did not work.
The main campaign is split in to the usual Autobot and Decepticon stories and follows the sides as the battle for control of Cybertron. Both campaigns are part of one story, the Deceptions taking chapters 1-5 and the Autobots 6-10. You will witness Megatron as he attempts to harness ‘Dark Energon’ whilst the Autobot campaign follows Optimus as he becomes the ‘Prime’ leader. In between cutscenes the game follows a simple pattern of traveling through some tunnels to section X and then kill Y number of enemies. There are occasional driving sections one of which during the Decepticon campaign sees you dodging huge trains in a Cybertronian version of Frogger.
The campaign modes can be played by yourself or with on-line co-op. Just to spice things up you can play ‘normal co-op or ‘competitive’ during which players compete to get the highest number of kills. As always, the addition of human team mates makes the game infinitely more enjoyable as the AI players are rather stupid.
The graphics are quite impressive and during the single player campaign there are number of moments in which it is worth stopping just to gaze at some of the awesome vistas, the sight of a space station falling apart around you is rather magnificent.
The game is also rather dirty. Not in an ‘Oops, Barbara Windsor’s bikini top has flew off, haw haw haw’ Sid James type of dirty, but grimy. This appears to be one of the influences of the Transformers movie as the bots are battle damaged and less than pristine. I understand this is meant to be a warzone but when did you last see a Helghast with mud on his uniform? The general griminess of the characters coupled with their intricate design occasionally makes it hard to make out just what is going on, there seems to be an awful lot of black on the screen at some points.
Technically the game it is lacking in special effects but I think this is more of a limitation of the Unreal engine rather than lazy design. When developers create their own engines the improvements are noticeable – Uncharted 2 and Killzone spring to mind – games that are churned out using the Unreal engine are all beginning to look very similar.
The transformation theme is not limited to the ‘bots. Doors transform to unlock, turrets transform and lock on to you character and rather spectacularly, roads transform as you race across them. The game is full of little touches such as the constantly moving bodies of the robots, panels are moving and wheels lifting about which makes them look ‘alive’. The occasional set pieces are well designed but seem to lack the scale of other games.
Of particular note is the constant chatter between the mechanical beings, something High Moon have really gone to town with as there is barely a moment during the game when someone is not speaking. Again, the movies seem to have been an influence in the sound design with an altered version of the classic transforming sound in place and of course the one and only Peter Cullen reprising his role as Optimus. You may also recognise the voice of Nathan Drake Nolan North as Decepticon tank Brawl. Battle is suitably noisy and there are many incidental sound effects that bring great ambience.
Initially I was rather unimpressed by Transformers: War For Cybertron and had a dreaded feeling of deja vu - Oh god, yet another dull Transformers game. However, repeated plays have revealed it is more enjoyable than first impressions. It takes a while to get used to the controls but when you have mastered them pulling off acrobatic moves blasting your foes to itty bitty pieces is immensely satisfying.
- An excellent introduction to online multiplayer
- Superb story that fans will adore.
- A solid third person shooter
- Graphics can be a little messy, limited colour palette.
- Repetitive missions
- Load times are annoying. Why does it take so long to save after a multiplayer match?
So is the game worth buying? If you are a Transformers fan, skip to Option A, if you are not, Option B is for you.
Option A: Buy this game now and then spend an awful long time grinning with joy as Megatron shouts at Starscream, Skywarp and Thundercracker bitch and squabble, Ironhide is gruff and Jetfire is a pompous snob. Half moon have captured the very essence of Transformers and put it on your PS3, right down to the Casey Casum sound-a-like doing the introduction to each episode. Hell, there is even a G1 inspired credit sequence with a Stan Bush song. Easily the best Transformers game ever, you need this to go with your Masterpiece Optimus Prime.
Option B: Certainly there are many worse games on the shelves and it is a shame some of the minor annoyances (load times, instant deaths etc) could have been picked up in play testing. You will enjoy the story but the many fan pleasing aspects will be completely lost on you which leave you with a solid, but not spectacular, third person shooter.