Fans of the franchise will know that it's at the start of said series where the Transformers take their fight away from their native land of Cybertron to the energy-ridden plains of Earth. War For Cybertron, as the title suggests, is set entirely on the robot's home planet.
The narrative plugs a few gaps in Transformers lore — what's the deal with Starscream and Megatron's strenuous relationship for example? And how exactly did Optimus Prime rise to power? It's cannon and therefore essential for fans. It feels true to the characters and true to the story, and for many that'll probably be the biggest compliment you could pay War For Cybertron.
Transformers: War For Cybertron features two four hour campaigns, one for the Autobots and one for the Decepticons. These campaigns can be played co-operatively online with two other players. The game also includes a full competitive multiplayer component and co-operative survival mode, known as Escalation.
Transformers: War For Cybertron is a Transformers game, and it's proud of being that. Developers High Moon Studios have done a fantastic job playing on the history of the franchise. From the names of trophies, to the use of Energon Cubes, to the lovingly crafted credits video — this is fan-service. It's a game for fans of Transformers. Even the character models are familiar — Bumblebee, for example, is no longer a hunking great warrior (as in the Bayformers movies). He resembles his cartoon form. A smaller, agile, spy robot. Such attention to the original material carries across War For Cybertron's impressively large roster. There are a ton of familiar faces here.
Transformers: War For Cybertron is a third-person shooter, akin to Gears Of War. It'd be fair to critique that it often doesn't feel like you're controlling a robot in this game. There's a lack of inertia. But in our opinion, that works to the game's advantage. War For Cybertron controls like a dream. Sure, it's familiar to other games on the market, but it just feels right. And that carries over to the Transforms. Here you push in the L3 button to assume your vehicular form. And it just works. The controls in vehicle come completely naturally. It's the first time, to our knowledge, a game has managed to nail the transformation aspects of the franchise. It simply feels good.
Even if you're not a fan of the Transformers franchise, War For Cybertron is clearly a competent co-op shooter. Each of the games missions are playable in online co-op, but even alone they are plenty of fun. Some missions are slower than others, opting to simply throw numerous enemies at you, while others are more ambitious. The Omega Supreme mission, for example, is particularly worthy of note. This mission has you fighting in numerous large, open environments, aswell as taking on a stand-out boss battle against Supreme himself. While the campaign typically boils down to "go here, shoot that" type objectives, there are plenty of set-piece moments dotted out throughout the campaign to keep the gameplay interesting. And, as detailed earlier, the story's pretty great for fans of the franchise, though it does skip a few beats and leave you scratching your head at times. It could have done with a couple of extra missions to keep the story cohesive.
Aside from online co-op in the campaign, Transformers: War For Cybertron has two pretty fantastic multiplayer components. The standard multiplayer affair allows you to create your own Transformer in four different classes, levelling up their unique abilities and earning perks. War For Cybertron has a similar upgrade progression to the Call Of Duty franchise, with perks and XP earned for completing various objectives. It's standard fare stuff, but some good map design and the inclusion of the transformation abilities make it feel fresh enough to keep you playing for a good span of time. War For Cybertron's other multiplayer component, Escalation, is a co-operative "Horde" mode affair, which has you shooting down waves of enemies to earn points. Points can be spent on health, weapon and ammo upgrades during the fight, so there's a real sense of risk and reward here. You need to work as a team to succeed. Despite some net-code hiccups, War For Cybertron's multiplayer is pretty darn enjoyable on the whole. It does absolutely nothing to push the concept of online shooters forward, but it sticks close enough to recognised blue-prints - while adding a touch of its own personality - to really stand out as an experience. There's a lot of fun to be had here.
War For Cybertron's graphics are extremely poor. The frame-rate stutters, the textures take an age to load in and the colour palette is particularly flat. Part of the problem is due to War For Cybertron's setting, but also, the use of the Unreal Engine never makes for a particularly stunning graphical presentation. The character models look good, and there are some stand-out visual moments, but on the whole the game looks very weak.
For some reason, ammo is really scarce on Cybertron. Like, ridiculously so. That can lead to frustrating moments during the game's campaign, where you just feel underpowered. Given most of the enemies are serious bullet-sponges, it would have been nice to know that you had a nice full ammo clip at all times. But in War For Cybertron you never do. Ammo capacities are painfully small considering the fire-rate of the weapons in this game, and additional ammo packs are few and far between.
Transformers: War For Cybertron's campaign has some pretty exciting, stand-out moments. But these are usually padded out by long, drawn-out sections of corridor shooting. The game could have done with a bit more variety - perhaps more use of the character's vehicular forms. Either way, the rather short campaign can often feel like it's dragging.
Transformers: War For Cybertron is a little rough around the edges, but there's enough fan-service and decent gameplay in here to make it a compelling package for fans of shooters and Transformers alike.