Transformers: War for Cybertron PS3 1

Video games are quite the unpredictable bunch. Dark horses like Batman: Arkham Asylum and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor will come out of nowhere as surprising Game of the Year contenders, while shocking letdowns such as Assassin's Creed Unity and The Order: 1886 will leave gamers pondering where their promise and potential went upon release.

There are also those underdogs that may be praised by critics and consumers, but still fade into obscurity for unknown reasons. One such title that fits in this category is 2010's excellent Transformers: War for Cybertron – a game that left us reeling due to its depressingly low popularity. We wholeheartedly believe that it's something that nearly everyone will find special in some way, and it helps that it's a perfect entry point for anyone that has even the vaguest of interests in the franchise.

Being a reboot of sorts is why anyone can jump into the narrative. With an extensive lore to explore, War for Cybertron simply goes back to the beginning of the most important historical period in the Transformers universe: the, er, war for Cybertron. Taking place on an entirely metal, mechanical planet, its inhabitants have started to fight over it, with Megatron leading his newly formed Decepticons in a crusade to infuse their home world with Dark Energon, which will ring in an era of chaotic rule. On the other side, the society's ruling council leads the Autobots to quell this immoral rebellion, with soldiers like Optimus (himself not a Prime yet) taking the battle to the frontlines in the name of liberty and the greater good.

Transformers: War for Cybertron PS3 2

The action-packed story that follows is a more mature, dark take on the origins of the Transformers factions and characters that we know and love, but the classic elements of loveable campiness and humour that lie at the franchise's core thankfully remain intact. What's brilliant is that you switch between the Autobots and Decepticons with the single player and get to see the vastly different forms of camaraderie and relationships between the likes of Optimus Prime and Bumblebee and Megatron and Starscream. Being a part of both parties in this conflict just adds a compelling dimension to the adventure, especially since everything that you accomplish on either side's missions has ramifications on the opposite faction – it's almost like fighting against yourself.

It's always been an understandably tough challenge for developers to strike that balance between robot form and vehicular gameplay with Transformers games, and we think that High Moon Studios hit the hammer on the head in this area. In your robotic form, you can perform melee attacks and wield firearms like the Fusion Cannon – which fires slow yet immensely powerful balls of energy – and the rapid-fire Scatter Blaster shotgun. Grenades and diverse sets of abilities that range from cloaking to deploying sentries – different for nearly every character – are also at your disposal. As for the tanks, cars, and jets that you commandeer? They control like a dream, much like the gunplay.

This third-person shooter stands out by allowing you to play as four classes. For example, the Scientist, with someone like Starscream, has a major weakness with health and heavy-hitting weapons. However, the class grants you access to far-range and status-altering weaponry, and the best part is that you can transform into a jet, which is unmatched in helping you to escape and gain tactical positions. Meanwhile, the Soldier class for someone like Warpath turns you into a brute force that's slow and heavy, but makes up for it with a tank form, high health, and a penchant for disastrous weapons. Switching between the two forms of each Transformer is seamless, and both have their pros and cons for any situation. It allows for truly varying playstyles, since you not only choose your class in other modes, but in the campaign with a set of three characters as well, which can all be played in awesome, three-player co-op if you wish.

Transformers: War for Cybertron PS3 3

The shootouts and boss fights speckled throughout the adventure will hold your interest and challenge you well enough, but that especially goes for the latter, which are grand to behold since they usually entail fighting against larger-than-life Transformers. In addition, roaming around the neon-lit world of Cybertron is a captivating tour filled with glorious artistic direction. We marvelled at how the intriguingly designed roads, towers, doors, and other environmental details transform like the robots themselves, and seeing this world in a growing state of ruin has a perplexing beauty to it. While the colour palette may be limited, the visuals are clearly distinct and memorable.

And we haven't even mentioned the multiplayer yet, where you can create your own Transformer and go to town with several modes. We played this for hours upon hours back in the day due to how exhilarating it was to go toe-to-toe against the Autobots or Decepticons, dancing between your two forms as you build up killstreaks and traverse the vertically-designed maps. Then there's Escalation, which is an excellent, four-player, survival mode seemingly inspired by Call of Duty's Nazi Zombies with areas that you purchase access to, weapons you buy off walls, and so forth. You'll be facing more intelligent and diverse enemies as you climb through the rounds, so strategy and teamwork are essential in this tough mode, and we guarantee that you'll be playing it with friends for hours just to see just how far you can get with one more try.

Transformers: War for Cybertron has always been a highly underrated, overlooked game with much more to it than meets the eye. The solid, engaging gunplay works wonders in tandem with the vehicular modes that you'll assume, and the cleverly laid-out campaign, distinctive atmosphere, and, overall, insanely creative yet faithful take on the Transformers license here will have you attempting to scour its multiplayer and co-op modes for more.

Have we encouraged you to join the frontlines of Cybertron with the Autobots and Decepticons, or have you already fulfilled your role in this grand, exciting conflict? Roll out in the comments section below and let us know.