After a barrage of trailers, character announcements and pre-order bonus reveals, I was lucky enough to get hands-on with Transformers: War for Cybertron today at the London MCM Expo. My verdict? A resounding… meh.
I guess I ought to clarify. I’ve never been a huge fan of Transformers, be it the movie series, the original TV show or the Xbox 360/PS3/PC/Wii title Revenge of the Fallen. Sure, it’s good for a bit of fun, but I’ve never felt attached to any of the characters, or even found the concept that cool. If I had played War for Cybertron with an affinity for the series, it’s likely this preview would be very different, and that I would be singing its praises, but as I’ve already mentioned, I left feeling underwhelmed.
That’s because, quite clearly, War for Cybertron is a game made for the fans. That’s not a knock against the game itself — if you’re a part of that fanbase, it’s very likely that you will love the latest Transformers title. If you’re not, however, then it’s likely that War for Cybertron will leave you feeling like something’s missing.
Let’s start with how the game looks in motion. The level we were shown was the first in the Decepticon campaign, taking place on Cybertron, the homeworld of the Transformers. For reasons that were quite unclear in the playthrough, mass chaos was erupting all around and you were charged simply with… running around and shooting things. There was no apparent slowdown despite the carnage on-screen, but the one thing that struck me was the lack of color. Sure, Gears of War was a great game, but that game’s palette was slightly lacking in the eyes of some games — if War for Cybertron‘s entire campaign was as similar in tone as the first level, then it’d be pretty disappointing. Not every game should look like Super Mario Galaxy 2, but when you can’t ever decipher the difference between your character and the world they’re in, there’s a problem.
Then there’s the mechanics of the gameplay itself. From what I’ve read about the world of Transformers, I don’t understand why High Moon Studios decided that a third-person shooter would be the best fit for a Transformers game. Putting aside the fact that the shooting mechanic isn’t particularly fun, I was rather looking forward to on-the-fly Decepticon transforming. Getting low on health? Transform into a plane, speed to your opponent, transform back and then beat down your opponent. To me, that sounds rad. Instead, War for Cybertron has you run around shooting enemies with a gun you picked up along the way, watching your bullet counter rapidly decrease until it eventually hits 0, then eventually hiding to transform and then getting out of harms way as quick as possible. The transforming in this game takes around a second to complete, but in the context of the rapidly changing world, that just feels like too long.
All that said though, I don’t think Transformers: War for Cybertron is a bad game — I just think it demoed badly. In the huge Expo hall, with thousands of people making noise, it was hard to get sucked into the world of Autobots and Decepticons, and as a result, I left feeling as though there was something missing. Again, this is not to say that I didn’t like War for Cybertron! I felt it was a fun experience, but not one I’d pay $60 for. If you’re a fan of Transformers, then definitely keep it on your radar, you’ll likely enjoy it. If, like me, you’ve never cared for Transformers, then take a step back and have another look — there are better examples of third person shooters on the market.
Transformers: War for Cybertron is coming to Xbox 360, PS3 and PC June 22nd 2010, with exclusive content (and gameplay styles) reserved for the Wii and DS versions.