Transformers: War for Cybertron PreviewBy Patrick Klepek - Posted Feb 26, 2010
Do you like Gears of War? Do you like Transformers? Wouldn't you like a slick mashup of the two? Then, you'll want to keep a close eye on Activision and High Moon Studio's Transformers: War for Cybertron, which was shown for the first time at DICE in Las Vegas and left me with the impression High Moon's on track to produce one hell of a Transformers game.
Transformers: War for Cyberton has no connection to the two Michael Bay films in the Transformers universe. I'm told the game doesn't contradict the storylines established in either of those films, but High Moon pitched Transformers: War for Cybertron as their own thing, allowing them to reinvision the look of the Transformers themselves and tell a portion of the Transformers mythology that has gone surprisingly untold throughout the franchise's history.
Here's what stuck out the most during my 20-minute demo: three-player co-op. Oh, hell yes. Given that each of us has own favorite transformer, if there ever was a series that was begging for drop-in, drop-out co-op multiplayer, this is it. You don't get to choose from the entire Transformers roster in each mission, however. There are three robots available at the start of each mission, but players can choose whom they'd like to assume control of.
The roster is split into the expected factions of Autobots and Decepticons. Rather than have players swap between the two perspectives, however, High Moon has split the narrative. The Decepitcons act as the prologue, setting the events in motion for the character we more commonly know as Optimus Prime. In this story, he's just Optimus. The "prime" label is attached to the leader of the Autobots. The first half of Transformers: War for Cyberton follows the Megatron-led Decepticons' bid to destroy the Autobots once and for all, while the second half chronicles the Autobots' defense of Cybertron. With a tinge of sadness, we actually know how that story ends: they decide to leave Cybertron, eventually finding Earth.
Earth, however, is not part of this story. Here, it's all about Cybertron, a city that's crumbling from the inside out. And that's probably one of the most impressive parts of the game: the city itself. We've never seen much of Cybertron, but High Moon has taken great pains to help realize this grand, mechanical city that we've always had lingering in the back of our minds. We even get to see what's below the city streets of Cybertron, a place with scary, organic creatures. Sure, it all has a shiny look that comes with many games built upon Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3, but it's easy to look past, simply because, well, it's frickin' Transformers.
It's clear High Moon has played other failed Transformers games as well, including Activision's own effort, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The act of "transforming" should be at the forefront of a Transformers video game, but Revenge of the Fallen made that an awkward experience. That's not the case here. Rather, the game is encouraging players to abuse the transformation button. A quick tap of the left analog stick will morph the player from one form to the other in real-time, no pauses. There is no cool-down period, either. Switch as often as you like! Being able to seamlessly transition between the two forms creates for some great combat dynamics, especially for the characters who have the ability to take to the air.
The biggest complaint I can currently level against Transformers: War for Cybertron is that I wasn't allowed to give the game a test drive so everything is based on observation. I think it's a good game. It looks like a great game. The developers are telling and showing me all the right things. Developing a solid Transformers game seems like a no-brainer, but it's taken us a really long time to get this close. There's no assurance this one won't fall off a cliff, but High Moon are clearly fans of the franchise and without the pressure of hitting a movie's release date, there's reason to have hope.