I am a huge Transformers fan. I’ve played with the toys since they first came out in 1984, watched the cartoon, as well as the original animated movie. And yes, I was one of those who cried foul about killing off Optimus Prime. At least I wasn’t like others I heard of, such as one kid locking himself in his bedroom for two weeks stricken with grief. Even today I collected many of the reissued figures, and saw both of the live action films. Even with all the negative aspects of the second film, namely the Twins, I still enjoyed it.
As for the games, that’s a different story. I’ve dealt with the somewhat good (Revenge of the Fallen on 360,) the bad (TF: The Movie on Wii and Transformers on Commodore 64) and the absolutely horrible (Convoy to Nazo on the NES/Famicom.) But still, I haven’t experienced a Transformers game that would be worthy of my money, that appeals to both gamers and fans of Transformers alike.
And then I came across War for Cybertron.
At first I thought the game was going to be another licensing cash cow, just a mindless action game with the Transformers title slapped on it. Was I ever wrong.
Yes it is a Gears of War style action game. Yes it is a non stop shooter, but it’s a shooter with an excellent back story that not only fits the Transformers universe, but it is actually accepted by Hasbro as part of the original Transformers canon.
We already knew how the Autobots and Decepticons left Cybertron and crash landed on Earth millions of years ago, but we never knew the origins. We never knew that Megatron had acquired an energy force known as Dark Energon, nor that he would use that power to defeat the most recent Prime, Zeta Prime. We also did not know from the original cartoon how Optimus ends up becoming the last of the Primes, how he acquires the Matrix of Leadership (the McGuffin used in the animated movie) and why they must leave Cybertron.
War for Cybertron answers all of those questions, and does so in an impressive campaign that goes over 10 chapters. The first five are shown from the Decepticon point over few, after which it carries over to the Autobot side to finish the story. Each chapter features multiple checkpoints and can take upwards of an hour and a half to finish. There are many who complained that they are a bit too long, but in my opinion they are about the same length as the episodes in Alan Wake.
However, unlike the boring and tedious narrative that took place in Wake, the non-stop action in War for Cybertron kept me hooked until the very end.
And speaking of end, each faction’s final chapters borderline on epic, featuring battles with the some of the largest Transformers characters that fans know and love. The battles with Omega Supreme alone brought back many memories for this Transfan. Everything they did just felt "right."
The way Omega Supreme was designed is reminiscent of the original toy and animated versions, right down to the serious, analytic, status filled method of how he speaks. This was done in the cartoon, and was recreated perfectly. The amount of fan service done in the game is unbelievable, and unlike other games, it doesn’t detract from the gameplay. Starscream’s constant attempts to overthrow Megatron, Jetfire’s defection to the Autobots, Warpath’s constant yelling of "BOOM!" and other explosion based onomatopoeias when speaking, the Matrix of Leadership, and of course, Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime. You can tell this game was designed for fans of the Transformers. I might say though that this is a matter of personal taste, but the Decepticon boss Trypticon might not be as accurate to the cartoon as I remember. To me he seemed a bit more like Unicron from the animated movie. He even sounded like the monster planet.
The 10 to 15 hour campaign is not only available in single player, but can be played online with two people. An Escalation mode is also available online. Similar to the Horde mode in Gears of War 2 and the Nazi Zombies in World at War, it is a fight for survival again non-stop forces out to take you down. At least when Optimus Prime dies in this mode, I won’t be so distraught to lock myself in my bedroom for two weeks.
Needless to say the production is top notch. I’ve already praised the voice work done by Peter Cullen as well as the remaining cast. Megatron might not sound like the original Frank Welker version, but he sounds more like the Hugo Weaving movie equivalent, which is pretty good.
And yes that iconic "transformers" sound is back. All accompanied by a decent metal soundtrack that will remind fans of the animated movie.
The visuals are quite impressive, taking advantage of the Unreal Engine, and thankfully all the characters look like a modernized version of the original cartoon. The only problem I had with the graphics is the framerate takes a huge nosedive at times, ruining the otherwise gorgeous visuals.
THIS is the game Transformers fans have been waiting for! What I thought would be a licensed cash-in turned out to be one of the best shooters I played on the Xbox 360 since Gears of War 2, and that heavy dosage of fan service won me over completely.
PROS: An excellent original canon-supported backstory, excellent campaign mode, non-stop fan service. Great Multiplayer, Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime! Insane boss battles that take place over multiple chapters.
CONS: Frame rate issues. Some have complained that some chapters are too long.