This review will focus on Transformers War for Cybertron. It was a brand new adventure which focused on the origins of the war between the Decepticons and the Autobots on their planet Cybertron and actually had the blessing of Hasbro, the original creators. It was being handled by High Moon Studios who had previously worked on 'The Bourne Conspiracy' game which was lukewarmly received. However at the recent VGA's a trailer for the sequel, 'Fall of Cybertron' was released and left everyone very excited. Excited at the prospect of a brand new title to fulfill all their Transformers needs but what better time to go back and check out the previous title to see if it was worth all the fuss.
The story as mentioned earlier depicts the origins of the war that lead to the Transformers leaving their homeworld and blasting off into space. It is told from two perspectives that tie together to create one whole campaign. The beginning follows the Decepticons and quest for an all powerful substance which will no doubt win them the war and enslave all living beings (but said substance will no doubt end up being unstable and dangerous, because these things always are). The second half of the story is told from the view of the Autobots (you've probably worked that out already) and follows their adventures into a desperate attempt to fight off the every growing threat of the Decepticons.
I have to say as someone who really enjoys his story in games above all else I would like to praise the way the story is set out. It has 10 missions split equally and they take place chronologically. This means that they are all laid out and show the progression of the story/war as it unfolds. You can start right at the beginning with the Decepticons or start half way through with the Autobots and it raises and interesting point which I shall dive into with the help of Halo: Reach.
Remember how everyone and their dog knew how Reach was going to end even before the game had shipped. This was obviously because the history of the battle you were about to partake in was already written and Bungie couldn't change history (or risk the wrath of a million fanboys fire bombing their HQ). The point I'm trying to make is that for Reach to work it had to create a tale that was interesting enough to hold the gamers attention even with the threat of unavoidable demise for the character and allies.
War for Cybertron is the same because we all know that the Transformers were forced to leave their homeworld for some unspecified reason and so whatever happens it cannot be smiles and hugs all around. Similarly if you play the Autobot campaign first you are basically told everything that happened in the Decepticon campaign. Therefore the story or rather the events that create the story needed to be interesting enough to hold the players attention even though they knew what was inevitably coming. War for Cybertron I admit does manage to hold the attention of the player just enough to see the campaign through.
However a story also needs gameplay and characters to help it along the way because only the best games (Enslaved as an example) can hold up solely on story. To put it simply the characters and gameplay in this game are dull and tedious.
The gameplay is standard TPS without a cover system. You can equip two weapons at a time, some grenades and you have a melee attack. Fairly basic stuff with a few original weapons at your disposal. However just mindlessly blasting foes without any sort of, how can we say this, 'umph' doesn't cut it any more. TPS's nowadays need something else to for the player to work with and thankfully War for Cybertron does this with the ability to transform into your vehicle mode at any opportunity. Now this mode at first might seem really interesting but it just doesn't really add anything to the game. You just drive/fly around shooting enemies with a slightly different control scheme to what you have on foot. This means that instead of experiencing battles from two very different perspectives you just end up playing in slightly different skins. Never is the ability to transform really explored. There is never a moment in the game where the combat is a necessary mix of both driving and on foot sections. Never are you needed to drive say over a ramp, transform mid air and blast enemies with your newly emerging shotgun. Never are you given multiple routes through the level which can only be accessed through your vehicle mode in order to get a better position of view of the battlefield. It would've been great if the developers had in some way managed to make both modes of your character essential to combat and platforming but they just haven't.
So the final point that I wanted to make about this game is the characters you play as. In a nice touch each mission present you with multiple characters that you are allowed to play as in this mission. The transformers on display all appear different especially when you realise that all the characters fit into classes depending on what their role in combat will be. However they all 'appear' to be different but really, really aren't. Here's the thing. Although each class apparently has unique abilities and weapons and transformations they all just end up feeling the same. You all run around the same. You all sound the same. You all take about the same damage. Your transformations are all useless and the list goes on.
Over the course of the game this dawns on you. The idea that the developers have presented you with a vivid and diverse cast of what at first seemed about 12+ but ends up being about 3. The leader, the grunt and the flying one. Autobots and Decepticons all subscribe to this 'class system' and it's really annoying. After I realised this I had the same feeling that I had when I realised that Super Smash Brothers Brawl had Fox, Falco and Wolf as basically the same character. That is the level on which characters in War for Cybertron are working on and it doesn't feel good.
So basically the previous 1000 words plus have let's be honest, been completely negative. However if you take one thing, just one thing away from this review then take this. The game as an original IP does exactly what it needs to do! Huh? Think about it? War for Cybertron came out of nowhere, created a huge buzz surrounding Transformers in gaming and managed to get a sequel off the ground. That is all you can ask for from an original IP. Look at Dead Space, Mass Effect 1 and Darksiders. All fairly well received in their own rights but now look at what they've spawned. Dead Space 2 was widely preferred to the original and did many things better. Mass Effect has created a timeless trilogy and the third game is just about to hit store shelves (at time of writing). Darksiders 2 also looks to completely blow the original out of the water with a bigger world, side missions, RPG elements and more. An original IP doesn't need to be a killer game really, all it needs to do is set a solid foundation for future titles to build and expand on. This is what War for Cybertron has done and no doubt Fall for Cybertron will be a bigger and better game (it certainly looks to be anyway).
So with all of this in mind, does this game still deserve your time and money? No, no, no, because simply put it's just not very good but who cares really? We can close the chapter on War for Cybertron knowing in our hearts that it did what it set out to do. It got us interested.
Thanks for reading and remember that comments and suggestions are of course welcome.
See you next time!