Counterpunch wrote:Well, confession time...I'm a gamer. Even now, approaching 30 that fact doesn't seem to be changing. True story, I was asked to fly out to San Diego in order to preview Transformers: War for Cybertron on very short notice. Imagine the fun when I go to my boss and say, "I need a few days off. I have to go out to California." Mind you, I work in a professional office setting where most of my co-workers have very little idea about how I spend my free time (I'm at least 10 years younger than most). Of course, I was asked why I have to go to California. "Because a video game company is flying me out there to play and review a Transformers game..." That's right baby, I said it with a straight face. A blank stare and the requisite..."Why?" followed.
"Because people online need to hear my opinion on pressing matters regarding Transformers."
Ok, I didn't actually say that last part. But I was thinking it, and that's the important part. (For the record, my boss is very cool about these kind of things.) Now, as to video games? I've been at it for a while. My credentials to this fact include owning a Nintendo prior to Nintendo being packaged with Super Mario Bros. My long history of gaming has blessed me with the ability to know a fun game when I see it. I have to go ahead and state this upfront, Transformers: War for Cybertron is the Transformers game you've been waiting for.
I think there's a tendency for reviewers (particularly game reviewers) to lend credit to their opinion by focusing on the negative aspects in their reviews. I don't really find this to be helpful. That being said, the problems and complaints I had about the game were this:
1. I'm really bad at shooters.
2. I kept accidentally transforming.
While I'll cover the controls in depth later on, you should know that the default setting for transformation is a click (inward press) of the left analog stick. The idea is that all movement is controlled via the analog sticks and that you don't have to remove your thumbs from them in order to move, transform, strafe, aim, or whatever. It makes sense. Remembering that I'm bad at shooters and understanding that the play testing was on a XBox360, where as I am used to the PS3 controller (it's harder to click the PS3 controller analog stick than the 360 one), I really do think that some of my difficulties in this regard were more my own failings rather than the design layout. Never the less, an option to move the transformation button is present (and I will probably take that option when I get my copy).
So, that's the extent of my complaining. There's a quote I want to reference from Pete Hines "It's easy to be a dick. It's defensible. If you score something higher than everyone, well you're just a moron. But if you think a game is worse than everyone else, then you're the cool, see-through-it, not-buying-the-hype guy, who's not afraid to tell the truth." Happily, I think my reputation around here gives me enough lead-way for you to know that when I say that this is shaping up to be a really good game, that you know I'm giving you an honest report. To start, I'm going to discuss the factual aspects of gameplay.
First thing to know is that this is a 3rd person shooter, meaning you play from an over the shoulder perspective of your character. Matt Tieger, lead designer for the game began a demonstration of the gameplay by telling us that the control scheme was directly influenced by the Gears of War games. This sets movement to the analog sticks while firing functions are attached to the triggers. Each character has two special abilities that were attached to the L & R bumpers on the 360 controller and would be attached to L1 and R1 on the PS3. Face buttons on the controller provide a variety of functions from interacting with the environment to jumping. Transforming, as mentioned above is done via depressing the left analog stick with a click. Converting back to robot mode is much the same. As mentioned before, transforming can be changed to set it to the 'Y' button on 360 or the  button on PS3.
Not having a 360 myself and therefore never having played Gears of War, the controls were fairly easy to adapt to. Aiming was precise, though I imagine experienced shooter fans will want to increase the sensitivity from the default settings.
Single Player Campaign
The single player campaign is broken into two segments. The first story told is from the Decepticon point of view and deals with the amplification of the conflict. The second story told is from the Autobot point of view and deals with Optimus growing into his role of leader. More details about that can be found later in this review.
Combat is squad based. You operate in a group of three Transformers for each mission and you get to select which of those characters you will control as you play. The single player mode is on-line capable with drop-in, drop-out support. So, as you play your friends can enter your session and fight alongside you. In-game voice chat is supported and the difficulty of the AI increases as human players enter your campaign to assume control of the rest of your squad.
We saw that there were ten chapters total with five per campaign. Each of the individual characters has a payload of weaponry and special tactics that are unique to either their character design or character class. For instance, Optimus can ram enemies in his truck mode or boost his team mates via a rally cry in robot mode while Ratchet can create barriers or turrets with his scientist abilities or heal allies with his medic gun.
We were given access to try out two levels with the first being a raid on a mining facility where a mini-boss essentially teaches you to use your alt mode. Your robot mode isn't agile enough to deal with some of its attacks, so use of and quick shifting to your alt mode is required. The second level we previewed dealt with a small scenario where Prime, Ratchet, and Bumblebee had to break through a Decepticon embankment to enter a facility. This level required more of the bot mode as the terrain didn't allow for easy driving, much less shooting.
So, in the short preview we had of the one player campaign, the game seemed to require varied play styles and use of most of the available functionality.
The game supports a multi-player battle with what I believe was up to 16 players (I maybe wrong on that account, but I think I remember 8 player slots per team). All the traditional shooter gameplay options were there from pure deathmatch to control points to team play. There are four different classes of characters to play with numerous different weapons payloads that affect how you will play the character. If you're familiar with Team Fortress 2, you'll feel right at home strategy-wise.
The different classes were as follows:
Large build character with powerful attacks in vehicle mode and a medium to heavy weapons armament. This class makes the rest of his team mates better during game play.
Medium to heavy build character with heavy weapons and lots of life. This class had access to the more damaging, straightforward weaponry.
Medium to light character build with flying alt modes. This class had specialized weaponry including healing and life siphoning weapons.
Light build character with rapid fire light damage weapons. Scouts are the car alt modes. This class has powerful specialized abilities and a fast agile alt mode.
In addition to choosing your class, you choose a set of weapons and abilities for the character. For instance with your scout you may choose to use cloaking or you might choose to set up weapon-drop beacons for your teammates. As a scientist, you may go with a medic build or you may go with abilities that let you appear as one of the opposing faction's soldiers.
Character creation did not stop at abilities though, you were given mostly free range to customize the look of your transformer from color to body design. One of the best features was that in the lobby while waiting for matches, you can work on your in-progress customs with the downtime. Several character slots were available for you to create, save, and develop your own Transformers.
Creating a character involves both the Autobot version as well as a Decepticon version as you won't necessarily know ahead of time which side you'll be on when you join a random game. A leveling-up system was incorporated into multi-player, but aside from knowing that accumulated ownage of other players equates to a higher level, I do not right now know how this affects long term game play and match making.
Play Through Final Word
I liked this title. Games should be fun, diverse, and immersive. Though my time playing was limited, I think that Transformers War for Cybertron does exactly that. The game plays well, the characters are clear representations of the Transformers we know and love, and there is a good back story to be experienced that really does add to the TF lore in meaningful ways. If you're the least bit hesitant after the previous Transformer games, you may just want to go ahead and dive into this without hesitation. As I said earlier, this is the Transformers game you've been waiting for.
Spoilers to follow:
We've heard previously that the idea with Transformers War for Cybertron was to make a great game that happened to be a Transformers game at the same time. Knowing that, what impressed me in genuine fashion about the game was the amount of care put into knowing and understanding the Transformers mythos. Sure, there are deviations and adaptations, this is necessary for growth in any long term franchise; but the core elements of who these characters are and more importantly WHY they do the things they do was examined in detail. Allow me to relate a bit of information regarding Megatron and Starscream and the reasons why Megatron values his lieutenant.
One important premise for the story is that Megatron has found ancient information on a process to refine energon in dangerous but effective ways. This information was purposely sealed up and sent away on a space station, protected by guardians who's job is to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. It turns out that chief among these guardians (seekers?) is Starscream. After listening to Megatron's great plans for remolding Cybertron into a great society he is convinced to hand the technology over to Megatron, thus Starscream's importance to the cause is established.
Cool right? I mean, from my perspective something like this makes perfect sense. That wasn't the hook though. On the other side of the equation is Jetfire...who upon hearing the same story from Megatron is appalled and wants nothing to do with the Decepticons.
It takes care and research to begin putting a story like that together. Hearing those kinds of things about the story was really what convinced me that the single player game alone would be worth my time. There's more to tell of course. You'll remember earlier in this article how I mentioned the team aspects of the single player game, well, each of those groups has their own dynamic that evolves as the game plays out. Things like how and why Bumblebee follows Prime and the contrast between the gritty war-weary Ironhide and the brash, saber rattling Warpath's view on the conflict really showcase the character development.
I touched on the fact that the Autobot campaign deals with Optimus Prime's growth as a leader. Well, from what we know in fact, he starts out as just Optimus. The story explains how he becomes Prime. On the Decepticon side of the equation, we learn why Megatron's ambitions lead to war and why his hatred of Prime is so deep-rooted.
Now, one opportunity that I had was to chat with the developers and talk about not only the game, but how the game came to be and all the things that surround that. So, to wrap this up I'm going to give you a list of interesting bits of information that played out over our various discussions with the development team. Enjoy and thanks for reading.
-Development started with Bumblebee. His was the first design presented to Hasbro and the project went from there. Very few revisions were done over the course of his development.
-Hasbro provided dossiers on the characters in the game that detailed their personalities and signature physical characteristics.
-The development team made regular and significant use of on-line fan communities for information and research.
-One central development aspect of the game and its tie-in to Transformers was that the game is intended to reach several different layers of audience from people who are looking to play a good 3rd person shooter with no knowledge of Transformers, to casual fans, to the most hardcore Transformer fans.
-Decisions were made to limit the character cast to a degree in order to develop their personalities further (though, from what I've seen the cast is really large, even if just in sighted appearance)
-The toys were a surprise, while happy to see the result, the game developers were not restricted ahead of time by needing to create character models who could be converted to toys.
-Megatron was required to be a tank in alt mode by Hasbro.
-The designs of the Decepticons being angular and harsh are a reflection of their purpose, the same is true of the Autobots.
-A sequel is very possible if sale support it.
-DLC is coming and will be character based.
“The evaluation is self-evident: one of their lives is not worth one of ours. That’s what the math dictates.”
“Hi, I’m EJ Su, you may remember me from such previous Transformers stories as Transformers: Infiltration, the hiding, and Transformers: Escalation, the slow build.”
Preserve: At Toy Fair this year, a Classics 3.0 Drift was shown. Has a redeco/retool been planned for this toy at this time?
Hasbro: Yes, we have planned a redeco for this item. So to beat you to your next question, it will be Blurr. We have tooled up a new head and weapons for him and let us say, he looks awesome!
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