Childhood television shows are making for popular source material these days. Shows like He-Man get a new animated series, others like Transformers and G.I. Joe get the movie and game treatment – and all of it is received with mixed results. Generally Transformers has fared a bit better than its counterparts, but even then most people felt that the 2nd movie was inferior to the first and that the movie tie-in games were average at best.
Then it was announced that High Moon was making a Transformers game that was a prequel to the movies and cartoons – dubbed War for Cybertron. The graphics looked pretty good in early stills that were released and seeing an intro video with Omega Supreme walking with other Autobots (I loved the Omega Supreme toy as a kid – c’mon, who doesn’t like seeing that one?) to Peter Cullen’s voiceover as Optimus Prime – it sure felt like High Moon was making a game that had the potential to appeal to diehard Transformers fans. So – how’d they do?
Graphics – 8:
What is there looks very cool. The robots are well animated and the backgrounds have a nice look to them too. Cybertron feels alive with movement and energy, just like its mechanical inhabitants. The transformation animations are especially cool and it looks like a ton of effort was put into the entire process. That makes the occasional framerate stutter all the more frustrating during heavy action sequences, because it really pulls you right out of the experience and can impact combat as well. Also, for as cool as Cybertron looks, it lacks the variation of Earth or other organic worlds. After awhile the textures start to look the same and you don’t have a great deal of variation. Color pallets change but you’re still dealing with moving squares and pulsating energy – from start to finish. It’s a limitation of the source material, but it all does still seem to blur after a time with few standout set pieces that games like Bayonetta become remembered for.
Music & Sound – 7:
The music’s good and fits the pace of the action, but there were few parts that were particularly memorable after you’ve turned off the game either. The voice work is good enough and for fans of the series hearing Peter Cullen reprise Optimus Prime’s voice immediately made a good impression. The sound effects are good and help make the environment and combat feel very alive, but as is often the case with games like this where you fire off a few million rounds, they can get a bit repetitive as well.
Gameplay – 8:
The characters handle well and aiming is really sharp so I had have to give it solid marks there. Also the integration of transforming was handled rather well and plays nicely into some of the online modes, giving them a really unique feel while reprising some of the more common online modes you find in other games. I did have a tendency to run out of ammo fairly frequently, which is one of the factors that adds to a shooting game’s challenge of course, but it does feel like perhaps there was just too little ammo spread around the game at times. I’m torn on the boss battles – they looked impressive and had a nice, epic feel to a few of them, but on the other hand they had a tendency to grow a bit repetitive and somewhat boring in a few instances. Also it should be pointed out that the AI for both enemy and ally alike is fairly limited – they were not terribly smart or creative most of the time. Still, the transformation mechanic is huge in this game and it is a lot of fun, where as in the prior movie tie-in games I thought the mechanic was often flawed and cumbersome.
One area that was a miss was a the lack of a cover system. The game in many ways moves and handles like Gears of War, but feels more like a 3rd person Modern Warfare – you can duck behind the environment – and you have to do so often. But it feels like there should have been an actual cover mechanic put in place that would have given the robot mode just a bit more distinction from the vehicular mode.
Intangibles – 8:
Aside from telling a good story about a beloved franchise and shining a light on events that most people would not be aware of, the game itself is simply a lot of fun to play. It does clock in at a modest 11-14 hours for most gamers, which is about average for a game of this nature. Getting to play as both Decepticons for one part of the story and Autobots for another was pretty cool as well. The multiplayer co-op makes this fun for you to sit down with friends or a kid as well. The online modes are pretty good too. They’re nothing terribly new in and of themselves, but they feel a bit fresher thanks to the transformation modes. One of my friends has been dropping a ton of time into the online mode, which has a decent amount of customization to it and gives you a nice sense of ownership over your transformer that is lacking in games like Modern Warfare 2 where you are a nameless, generic charcter.
Overall – 7.75:
It’s nice to see this kind of a game come out of an established IP. I think it helps that High Moon got to work with more original storyline and was not tied to the plot and characters of the movie. This allowed them to flex their creative muscles a bit – though given the excellent handle they seem to have of the source material, I am certain I am not alone in hoping that they continue to make more games in this series down the road.