Friday, November 5, 2010

Transformers: War for Cybertron

After spending a good deal of my summer playing Phoenix Wright games and Demon’s Souls, I was rearing for something a little more..exciting. More fast-paced, that is. Basically, I was looking for a new shooter to toy around with. I looked to War for Cybertron for this, hoping for basically Gears of War, with robots. Instead I got a fairly run of the mill run n’ gun game.

War for Cybertron takes place entirely on the titular characters’ home planet Cybertron, and robots exclusively make up the cast. No humans allowed here. As its subtitle suggests, there’s a war going on. A war between the Autobots, defenders of freedom and all that is right, and the Decepticons, a group bent on basically taking over the world (and beyond). Sometimes they try to justify their actions, but they really are just the bad guys. Each faction has its share of notable soldiers among its rank, from the cunning Starscream to the super-strong Ironhide. The Autobots are led by Optimus Prime, who’s probably what you would get if humility, wisdom, and a fierce sense of responsibility got together and took on a physical form. The Decepticons are led by Megatron, who’s what you’d get if cruelty, ambition and raw determination could do the same thing. But this is the most basic of information. You don’t have to be a fan of Transformers to know about the timeless rivalry between Optimus and Megatron.

The game’s story is split into two campaigns; one where you play as the Decepticons, and one where you play as the Autobots. Chronologically speaking, the Decepticon campaign comes first, portraying Megatron as he finally gains an advantage in the war using Dark Energon. The Autobot campaign starts after the fall of Omega Supreme, their greatest ally. Optimus (not yet elected to Prime status) is scrambling together what’s left of the Autobot forces and manages to organize an effective counter attack. All this while meanwhile, the war is taking a heavy toll on the planet itself.

Gameplay in War for Cybertron isn’t a particularly technical affair. Each mission features three characters who will carry out that chapter, and you’ll get to choose which of the three to play as, while the other two are AI-controlled (or human controlled if you’re playing online co-op). For example, most of missions in either campaign feature the factions’ respective leaders, Megatron or Optimus, taking part, along with two of their trusted allies.

All of the playable characters are separated into a set of classes, including Leaders, Soldiers, Scientists, and Scouts. A character’s class generally determines what it transforms into, and also characters in the same class tend to share similar abilities and weapons. Optimus, for example, is of the Leader class, transforms into a truck, and always has his powerful Ion Blaster (basically a giant gatling gun) with him. His secondary ability lets him set up an AoE that buffs nearby allies’ attack power. Bumblebee is a Scout; he transforms into a car, and has dash abilities.

You can transform just about anytime, anywhere with a click of the left stick. With this, every character has the capacity to carry 3-4 weapons; you can carry two weapons at a time in “bipedal” mode, and vehicles usually have two weapons. For example, Optimus’s truck form has built in rocket launchers, and can also slam into people as its secondary weapon. Since you’re usually faster and a bit more lithe in vehicle mode, this can also act as your “sprint” function.

The thing that perhaps surprised me most about War for Cybertron is the overall simplicity of its gameplay. The character classes throw some variety into the mix, but you’ll probably never feel that under-equipped, regardless of who you choose to play as for any given mission, since there’s usually weapons, ammo and health aplenty, just lying around. You also don’t really take cover; that is to say you can’t stick to walls or objects, or manually crouch or duck. The health system is the same one used in the first Resistance game: your health is split into four sections, and will regenerate up to one of those sections. Once you lose 25% of your health, it won’t regenerate beyond 75%, without the use of a health pickup.

Other than the slightly unique health system, and the fact that you can’t take cover, the game plays like any other 3rd person shooter. You shoot at bad guys, reload when you need to, switch weapons often, and occasionally toss a grenade or three. Since there’s no cover and you can transform on the dime though, you are moving around much more than in the average TPS.

The graphics range from okay to good. Sometimes you’ll notice some nice motion blur and lighting effects, but bland textures, even blander environments, and some crude object models stick out more often. The Decepticon campaign in particular features one of the worst color palettes I’ve ever seen; most of the environments are a pasty blend of gray and purple. The Autobot campaign isn’t much better, but at least generally lighter environments make things feel a bit less..oppressive, maybe? I will say that transformation animations are a treat, though, and do contribute to the feel of the game in a good way.

Audio isn’t too bad either. I can’t remember single one of the BGMs from the game though, so if nothing else they must not have been anything more than serviceable. All of the characters are well-voiced though, and the dialogue is enjoyable, if incredibly cheesy at times. But what do you expect from a game based on a series that’s been around since the 80’s?

Is Transformers an amazing game? Nope. Is it fun to play? Sure. I had a fun time with it, regardless of any issues I may have mentioned above. As for replay value..well, there’s 3-player online co-op for the campaign, and competitive online multiplayer. I don’t really see it as a game I’d be coming back to again and again, though. I didn’t even touch the multiplayer, so I don’t think it’d be fair to give this game a rating.

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