War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 2:45PM CDT

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April 27th, seibertron.com was invited to preview the new Transformers: War for Cybertron game at High Moon Studios in Carlsbad California. We were privileged to attend the event, unfortunately the only person on-call was Counterpunch. Here is his review of the game:

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.

Style/Controls/Feel
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.

Multiplayer
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:

Leader
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.
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Soldier
Medium to heavy build character with heavy weapons and lots of life. This class had access to the more damaging, straightforward weaponry.
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Scientist
Medium to light character build with flying alt modes. This class had specialized weaponry including healing and life siphoning weapons.
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Scout
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.
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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.



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Credit(s): Counterpunch
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Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071299)
Posted by kirbenvost on May 5th, 2010 @ 3:03pm CDT
Well, there we have it, straight from the source. CP, you are one lucky SOB. :lol:

I am super stoked for this game. Now I just need a PS3... #-o

I really hope a lot of the characters get figures eventually.
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071306)
Posted by sabrigami on May 5th, 2010 @ 3:14pm CDT
kirbenvost wrote:Well, there we have it, straight from the source. CP, you are one lucky SOB. :lol:

I really hope a lot of the characters get figures eventually.


I couldn't agree more. I wonder which versions will be better though. In most cases on multi platform games, one version plays better than the other. Usually xbox has a smoother performance than ps3 for instance. Sucks cause I want to pre-order but I don't know for what console. My Xbox doesn't have wireless, but I don't want the ps3 version if there's going to be lag and junk. Guess I'll just have to wait and see. Good thing at EBgames you can still pre-order stuff till a few days before release. God I can't wait for this game, even though I suck at shooter games :BANG_HEAD:
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071314)
Posted by vegetacron on May 5th, 2010 @ 3:25pm CDT
sabrigami wrote:
kirbenvost wrote:Well, there we have it, straight from the source. CP, you are one lucky SOB. :lol:

I really hope a lot of the characters get figures eventually.


I couldn't agree more. I wonder which versions will be better though. In most cases on multi platform games, one version plays better than the other. Usually xbox has a smoother performance than ps3 for instance. Sucks cause I want to pre-order but I don't know for what console. My Xbox doesn't have wireless, but I don't want the ps3 version if there's going to be lag and junk. Guess I'll just have to wait and see. Good thing at EBgames you can still pre-order stuff till a few days before release. God I can't wait for this game, even though I suck at shooter games :BANG_HEAD:


Its ok though. 3rd person shooters are way more forgiving than 1st person shooters, in terms of skill.
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071320)
Posted by Blackstreak on May 5th, 2010 @ 3:32pm CDT
I am so jealous. I sit at home laid off doing nothing but gaming and projects for gaming. What I want to know are the computer specs required for this game. I'm planning to build a computer tough enough to handle this game with absolutely no lag.
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071324)
Posted by Megatron Wolf on May 5th, 2010 @ 3:55pm CDT
They show a hands on demo on x-play last night, from what they showed this game is gonna be amazing. Im just a little doubtful on the controls. Sorry if this was mentioned i didnt read every thing here but any word on a demo?
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071337)
Posted by Abraxsis on May 5th, 2010 @ 4:50pm CDT
This is still a pass for me, I'm not a fan, at all, of squad based games, nor do I like 3rd person perspectives in games either. Plus I still hate the fact that every decepticon looks the same, all pointy. Add in the fact that it seems to be lopsided, with more emphasis on multiplayer, def leaves a sour taste. I just don't do multiplayer. Overall this game seems like an epic fail, and just isn't worth the money, to me.
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071358)
Posted by Varia31 on May 5th, 2010 @ 6:16pm CDT
This is definitely a game to look forward to, especially since a Transformers fan liked it so much. I'll be getting it for my PS3 no doubt, it'll be really fun playing it with my clan too. I know it'll keep me occupied 'till Metroid: Other M comes out in August! :lol:
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071363)
Posted by Lapse Of Reason on May 5th, 2010 @ 6:35pm CDT
CP's transformer fandom street cred just skyrocketed. Nice score - boarding a plane to preview a Transformers video game = superstar status. :APPLAUSE:
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071364)
Posted by Dr. Caelus on May 5th, 2010 @ 6:38pm CDT
@ Counterpunch:

How many of the weapons did you get to experiment with?

Are any of them effectively analogous to a sniper rifle?

The Null Ray looks like a sniper weapon, and attached to a scout with cloaking ability that makes sense, but I never thought of Starscream's weapons as high-power long-range guns.

Also - can you not custom-choose the melee weapons like you can the guns?
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071403)
Posted by Blurrz on May 5th, 2010 @ 8:05pm CDT
Love it. Can't wait to play as a Scout.. sniping down some 'cons.
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071428)
Posted by Robinson on May 5th, 2010 @ 9:13pm CDT
dammit, I live in San Diego, why couldn't I have gone.
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071584)
Posted by Forgotten on May 6th, 2010 @ 7:55am CDT
Blackstreak wrote:I am so jealous. I sit at home laid off doing nothing but gaming and projects for gaming. What I want to know are the computer specs required for this game. I'm planning to build a computer tough enough to handle this game with absolutely no lag.


I would recommend building to Crysis specs and you should have no issues(recommended not minimum). I would say a 2.6GHz Quad core or higher processor(recommend Intel AMD blows), 4Gigs DDR2/3 1066 or higher, WD Velociraptor or SSD hard drive, sATA DVD-ROM(faster read than burners) GTX280 or higher video card, 7.1 sound cards are great(X-Fi Titanium is what I use), & cap it off with good cooling & a 800W or higher PS. :CON:
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071595)
Posted by GEEWUN on May 6th, 2010 @ 8:19am CDT
I MUST KNOW THE COMPUTER SPECS OF THIS GAME.... Plus the story seems great about the seeker guardians and refined energon!!!
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071632)
Posted by Prankmeister on May 6th, 2010 @ 9:36am CDT
Should this game run fine on a basic iMac with Windows 7 Bootcamped to it? Every other game I've played seems to run just fine so far, and I practically never save things to the computer itself (I use an external hard drive to install software to).
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071662)
Posted by AutobotTrainer on May 6th, 2010 @ 10:55am CDT
What about the Wii? I would love to know the differences for that console, as I'll be buying that version for me and my son to play. I'll have XBOX360 for personal play. Any word? Hello? Anyone?
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071666)
Posted by Iron Prime on May 6th, 2010 @ 11:11am CDT
AutobotTrainer wrote:What about the Wii? I would love to know the differences for that console, as I'll be buying that version for me and my son to play. I'll have XBOX360 for personal play. Any word? Hello? Anyone?


My observation has been that for games like this there is usually no Wii version. Although a 'similar' game will be made and marketed along with this one for the Wii.

I believe this time it is called Cybertron Adventures or something like that....
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071697)
Posted by Forgotten on May 6th, 2010 @ 12:58pm CDT
Prankmeister wrote:Should this game run fine on a basic iMac with Windows 7 Bootcamped to it? Every other game I've played seems to run just fine so far, and I practically never save things to the computer itself (I use an external hard drive to install software to).


I would say yes aside from the graphics may suffer if set to very high/maximum settings. Most iMacs use a Nvidia 9 series graphics chip generally 128Mb-256Mb. So the video memory may make gameplay suffer slightly. :CON:

When the final specs for PC are revealed anybody that thinks they may have a problem can message me your specs/system model & i'll let you know what you can do to improve performance at the best price.
:G2CON:
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071720)
Posted by Prankmeister on May 6th, 2010 @ 1:46pm CDT
Forgotten wrote:
Prankmeister wrote:Should this game run fine on a basic iMac with Windows 7 Bootcamped to it? Every other game I've played seems to run just fine so far, and I practically never save things to the computer itself (I use an external hard drive to install software to).


I would say yes aside from the graphics may suffer if set to very high/maximum settings. Most iMacs use a Nvidia 9 series graphics chip generally 128Mb-256Mb. So the video memory may make gameplay suffer slightly. :CON:

When the final specs for PC are revealed anybody that thinks they may have a problem can message me your specs/system model & i'll let you know what you can do to improve performance at the best price.
:G2CON:


Hmm, mine seems to be an ATI Radeon HD 4670. That's good, right? I know next to nothing about video cards and such. Had to search the web to even figure out how to check what my computer had in it. X_x;
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071726)
Posted by Forgotten on May 6th, 2010 @ 2:07pm CDT
Prankmeister wrote:
Forgotten wrote:
Prankmeister wrote:Should this game run fine on a basic iMac with Windows 7 Bootcamped to it? Every other game I've played seems to run just fine so far, and I practically never save things to the computer itself (I use an external hard drive to install software to).


I would say yes aside from the graphics may suffer if set to very high/maximum settings. Most iMacs use a Nvidia 9 series graphics chip generally 128Mb-256Mb. So the video memory may make gameplay suffer slightly. :CON:

When the final specs for PC are revealed anybody that thinks they may have a problem can message me your specs/system model & i'll let you know what you can do to improve performance at the best price.
:G2CON:


Hmm, mine seems to be an ATI Radeon HD 4670. That's good, right? I know next to nothing about video cards and such. Had to search the web to even figure out how to check what my computer had in it. X_x;

Well those provide 256Mb GDDR3, which is pretty much the same as a budget video card. I must say that I am an avid ATI/AMD hater. But the 4670 is one of their better chips. You should have no problems playing on medium-high to high quality settings with that.
Re: War for Cybertron - Hands on Impressions (1071730)
Posted by Prankmeister on May 6th, 2010 @ 2:25pm CDT
Forgotten wrote:
Prankmeister wrote:
Forgotten wrote:
Prankmeister wrote:Should this game run fine on a basic iMac with Windows 7 Bootcamped to it? Every other game I've played seems to run just fine so far, and I practically never save things to the computer itself (I use an external hard drive to install software to).


I would say yes aside from the graphics may suffer if set to very high/maximum settings. Most iMacs use a Nvidia 9 series graphics chip generally 128Mb-256Mb. So the video memory may make gameplay suffer slightly. :CON:

When the final specs for PC are revealed anybody that thinks they may have a problem can message me your specs/system model & i'll let you know what you can do to improve performance at the best price.
:G2CON:


Hmm, mine seems to be an ATI Radeon HD 4670. That's good, right? I know next to nothing about video cards and such. Had to search the web to even figure out how to check what my computer had in it. X_x;

Well those provide 256Mb GDDR3, which is pretty much the same as a budget video card. I must say that I am an avid ATI/AMD hater. But the 4670 is one of their better chips. You should have no problems playing on medium-high to high quality settings with that.


Alrighty, thanks! I play a few other games on this machine using the highest settings and can still average between 58 and 62 frames per second, but they're all free-to-play so I wasn't sure how much things would change between those and a higher end game like this.

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