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Transformers: War for Cybertron

Transformers is the kind of series that will live on for much longer than you or I, partly because the classic cartoons have etched a warm fuzzy feeling into the hearts of older generations, and partly because cinematic eye-candy featuring “foxy” (pun intended) babes and cool modern robots are continually reviving the franchise. Yes, it’s fair to say that Transformers has very successfully appealed to nearly every generation from the ’80s onward, which makes it all the more a shame that Transformers: War for Cybertron has done such a lackluster job of appealing to any specific crowd for more than an hour or so.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater – I came into War for Cybertron as excited as any fanboy who scoffs at the stone stroll who can’t tell the difference between an Autobot and a Decepticon, but the thrill and cheer of transforming on the fly wore out faster than a battery made by Apple. Maybe it was the painfully short campaign, maybe it was the emphasis on transformations that had no relevant application, or maybe it was the shallow class system that gave the game its sense of tedium. In any case, the disappointing truth that ultimately shows Transformers: War for Cybertron for what it is became clear all too quickly: unimpressive.

For the sake of fairly representing the good alongside the bad, let’s go right ahead and dust away what tiny particles of triumph Transformers: War for Cybertron provided to make it a passable gaming experience, and move on ahead. The game itself is far from flawed and plays well on nearly all fronts. Both the Autobot and Decepticon campaign are well explained and provide you with the option of starting with either or, though chronologically the Decepticon campaign takes place first, taking what choice you had and effectively eliminating it in what I like to call “Activision’s bottomless bag of paradoxical game-breakers” – unless you’re prone to forcing spoilers upon yourself and rendering the storytelling of both campaigns relatively redundant.

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The story itself is actually quite fresh and engaging, while remaining loyal to the Transformers legacy that has carried it through from the 80s. Fans will also be pleased to know that the voice acting follows suit to a tee. Megatron has successfully sought out a power-source that will rot and rebuild the transformers’ planet Cybertron from the inside out and effectively place him as its supreme tyrannical ruler. Optimus is forced to step up and take his place as leader of the Autobots in order to oppose him, and the rest as they say, is history. The Decepticon campaign is riddled with humour and intrigue, but what one campaign boasts the other severely lacks. The Autobots have been successfully made out to be the honorary team-oriented crew that nobody would ever want to play as unless they had to. The game also comes to the table with the boy-scout badges of “I have online play” and “I support multiplayer co-op”, both of which remain so flawed that I struggle to claim they’re positive qualities.

Transforming, the most exciting factor in any game of the series, is pretty cool the first five times, and driving at top speed just to perform a mid-air transformation followed by an enemy-severing melee attack is fun for the first ten, at which point everything begins to go downhill. After mastering the art of pressing the “transform” button and containing your inner-child’s glee, it quickly becomes apparent that there are no real useful applications for said transformations. No narrow corridors that demand a speedy reaction, no highway gunfights with falling tiles of road speeding you along (though there is a linear, enemy free highway level that leaves much to be desired) and no enemies that are susceptible to anything in your vehicle form that can’t be done, and done better, in your robot form. It leaves one with the question “what’s the point” and the feeling that you’ve been scammed into spending your precious dollars on a title that takes full advantage of your childhood desire to be a transformer and then spits in your face after it gives you that and nothing more.

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“Simply put, Transformers: War for Cybertron is starved for even a hint of diversity that’ll set it apart from any game released in the last 10 years.”The vehicle aspects of the game are nearly as absurd as the class system, which gives the player a choice between a warrior, a leader, a scout, and a scientist (medic), and anyone who has played any game even remotely akin to an RPG or class-based shooter will know to expect and how each class functions. Simply put, Transformers: War for Cybertron is starved for even a hint of diversity that’ll set it apart from every game released in the last 10 years. Each class can wield all the same weapons, and apart from some special abilities that essentially all function as a “kill everything in the room” attack. You could throw on a blindfold at the character selection screen and wind up with the same vehicle speeds, weapon choices, and play style outcomes. Hell, you can’t even use flying transformers in campaign levels that stick you with your faction’s ground forces. There is absolutely nothing here to keep you from feeling stuck in a very straight and narrow hallway from start to end.

The online play suffers from the same symptoms as the campaign and more. The co-op presents the player with the option of siding with the game’s horrendous AI, or choosing to work in concert with what will potentially be a Dorito eating twelve-year old whose blunders cause both players to inevitably restart each of the game’s many dragged out boss encounters. Disappointingly, there isn’t even local co-op incorporated into the game to provide the relief of giving your teammate a much-deserved slap to the back of the head when he gets you both killed for the fifth time. The other online modes all maintain a steady degree of fun until they’re overwhelmed by the same inadequacies that bring down the campaign: a lack of any real variation between game modes, classes, and stages seen in other games on the market with a kinder price tag.

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Transformers: War for Cybertron passes as a title that will provide only the basic levels of enjoyment for any third-person shooter, and may even struggle to keep fans of the series interested for longer than the campaign runs, which is short at best. Where Transformers: War for Cybertron failed was in its use of transforming – what should’ve been a key element in both the campaign and the online play in pursuing success – and its utter lack of personal style. Though one could claim that the campaign and online rewards/achievements and the mediocre level of character customization online make the game worth looking into, in truth, this is a title that doesn’t warrant your attention unless you’re starved for a taste of Transformers flavour and the most basic gaming experience.

5 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2008.

Gentle persuasion

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