When first opening this game, I did something I have never done with any other game like this. I rushed over to the multiplayer section. Not really to jump into the online action with other players, but to create my own Transformers. When this game was first announced, I was just a tad bit interested in it. Transformer games aren't usually received with such high praise. However, High Moon Studios came up with an idea that would be sure to entice fans: Create a game that is entirely based on Pre-Generation One of the Transformers Universe. That means no pesky humans are present thinking they too can take on the likes of Megatron. It was a great idea and it does deliver, however with the problems that I came across with the game, Transformers: War for Cybertron could be a title that would be difficult for players to come back to.
The story for this game is one that fans wanted to hear about. When we were first introduced to the cartoon, The Autobots and Decepticons are leaving their home of Cybertron, crash land on Earth and are rendered unconscious for millions of years. Here we get the story of their war on Cybertron. Megatron has discovered a new form of Energon and wants to harness its power to bring a new Golden Era to Cybertron. When we are brought into the Autobot campaign, the remaining Autobots, including Optimus (notice how I don't say Optimus Prime) must make one last-ditch effort to bring peace back to their planet. High Moon Studios really nails the story here by letting players control both sides of the conflict. This also isn't your standard "Choose you own adventure" style story that if you finish the campaign as the Decepticons, you won't change the entire course of Transformer history. The story here is linear with the Decepticon campaign taking place before the Autobot one. It is perhaps the best choice for this game. Transformers is a beloved classic and doesn't need any tweaking to it story wise. Being able to take part in the untold story of their epic war gave High Moon Studios quite a bit a freedom for creativity. It is here we get a slew of gems such as how Starscream joined the ranks of the Decepticons, How Optimus became a Prime and what caused the massive exodus of Cybertron.
The gameplay here is fun to control. Unlike most third-person shooters these days that have a cover system to them, War for Cybertron uses a run-and-gun shooter system making for a more frantic combat feeling. This also goes hand in hand with its very polished transformation system. Here, transforming isn't just tacked on as a secondary feature for the game. It is an essential part of gameplay and does not hinder the action sequences at all. It is quite a thrill to come racing in as a car, quickly transforming into robot form, sliding across the floor firing off a machine gun to take out a few enemies and then transforming back into a car to make a fast getaway. The transformation animations between vehicle and robot look great and are just downright cool. If you can time it just right during heavy action sequences, you can make some fantastic looking firefights. Perhaps the only real upsetting moments come from the final boss battles of each campaign when you treated to a heavy rain of missile fire and death will come within seconds. It makes for really frustrating gameplay moments. There are also "hold your ground" moments that kind of put a quick halt to the fast-paced run-and-gun feeling. This is predominately experienced in the Autobot campaign and it makes it a bit weaker because of it.
Rolled in with the fast-paced action is an excellent sound presentation. Unlike the American version of the cartoons, the robots here do have the sensation of pain and you will hear quite a few screams as you pelt an area with rocket fire. Rolled in with a good soundtrack that gives an even more frantic feeling to levels, it meshes together well with the overall experience. To help sell the game even more is the impressive voice cast. By now, Peter Cullen has cemented himself as a legendary voice actor and not hearing him in the role of Optimus Prime would just seem off-putting. Each character here has a distinct feeling and voice to them and it corresponds well to the style of gameplay you use them for. Megatron sounds like a megalomaniac when he speaks and Ironhide sounds like an old-soul of the battlefield. Perhaps the only non-believable character portrayal here would be Starscream. It's not that they didn't portray him correctly. He is dead on with his commanding tone and mutinous demeanor. It is that this game chronicles his first missions as a Decepticon and it is a bit strange and bold for him to already be plotting his plans to overthrow Megatron as their leader.
If War for Cybertron is to have any lasting power in gamers' libraries, then the multiplayer function needs to have a major overhaul. The character customization of it was a selling point for me. Ever since I was a kid, it has been a dream to actually create my own Transformer and have spent a few hours already just coming with the correct color scheme, chassis and name that says: "This is my Transformer." It is a blast to put your own Transformer through its paces as you take it to the air and careen at high speeds across a multiplayer map. However, the multiplayer function is downright broken here. I have spent more times getting kicked out of matches before they even start because of connection errors than actually playing in them. And if I am even lucky enough to get into a match, I am more times brought into a match that is already in progress and nearly over and have to deal with game-crippling lag that has, in a few cases, cost me a match. There is also quite the number of glitches here where the game will not recognize you have transformed and you are still utilizing your robot form weapon while in vehicle mode and will quickly cause the game to freeze up and crash. This part of the game is not just frustrating, it is downright infuriating. In the rare occasions I did get a decent match going free of lag and glitches, the action does transfer over well and it perhaps even better that the story mode. The modes experienced here are nothing new. You have the standard array of modes such as Team Deathmatch, Capture-the-Flag, and King of the Hill among other modes. You also have a mode called Escalation, which is War for Cybertron's own spin on Gears of War 2's Horde Mode. Here players are put in the shoes of iconic Transformers and must survive wave after wave of increasingly difficult foes. The general rule applies, but it does give players a bit more of a challenge by making them spend points to get essential things such as more weapons and ammunition. Multiplayer would be great to play if the before mentioned problems weren't present.
Transformers: War for Cybertron was set to be a great game. The frantic shooting mechanics rolled in with the fluid transforming sequences, mixed in with a universe beloved by fans and a greatly told origin story makes for fun gameplay. Also the added feature of creating your own Transformer to bring into multiplayer should be a treat for everyone. However, with the massive amounts of dropped matches and game crashes I experienced in multiplayer, it makes it a difficult game to really rely on and return to regularly.