Critical Reception: Activision's Transformers: War for Cybertron

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to High Moon's Transformers-branded third-person shooter War for Cybertron, which reviews describe as "the best Transformers game yet."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to High Moon's Transformers-branded third-person shooter War for Cybertron, which reviews describe as "the best Transformers game yet." War for Cybertron currently earns a score of 84 out of 100 at Matt Miller at Game Informer scores War for Cybertron at 8.5 out of 10. "War for Cybertron succeeds by recognizing two things: what makes a good game, and what makes Transformers cool," he explains. "By nailing both points, High Moon has struck a wellspring that could easily fuel an entire series. It bucks the trend of licensed titles and emerges as one of the few outstanding examples of how to honor a property's history and move it into the future at the same time." "War for Cybertron's tale acts as a prequel to the many mythologies the franchise has built over the years through comics, cartoons, toys, and movies," Miller continues. "Megatron lusts for power, and he's not afraid to pull the planet down around him to get it. A new Autobot leader, Optimus Prime, must rise to the challenge and face insurmountable odds to thwart the villain." Miller believes that High Moon has created an experience worthy of the Transformers mythos. "Amid that framework, High Moon has inserted more fan service than I've ever encountered in a game," he praises. "Favorite characters make cameos, like Soundwave's tape collection. Classic character relationships are highlighted, like Megatron and Starscream's angry banter. Central elements of the mythology, like the origin of the Matrix and the role of Omega Supreme, emerge as integral plot points. In every case, these features are handled with the joy that only real fans of the franchise could accomplish." Even for non-fans, however, War for Cybertron remains an entertaining experience. "If all those names sound like nonsense to you, you'll be happy to know that War for Cybertron is also an excellent action/shooter, with well-designed levels, strong gunplay, and a barrage of combat that never lets up or gets boring," Miller assures. Miller issues a strong recommendation, despite questioning a lack of cover mechanics and wishing for more difficult enemy AI. "War for Cybertron isn't a perfect game," he admits, "but it fulfills my youthful fantasies in a way that has me believing the developers had a window into my boyhood imagination. If Transformers dominated your early years, you owe it to yourself to see them brought to life in the way you always dreamed." Games Radar's Henry Gilbert rates War for Cybertron at 8 out of 10. "Transformers haven't had the greatest track record when it comes to games," he begins. "Among loads of crap, there have been a couple of serviceable-to-good titles, the most recent being last year's Revenge of the Fallen – which, despite being approximately 263 times better that the film it was based on, received the damning praise of 'good...for a movie game.'" "Now Transformers: War for Cybertron is upon us, and we finally have a game that isn't beholden to any film or modern cartoon," Gilbert continues. "It's really just based on the idea that Transformers as a concept are pretty cool, and then it just goes from there." Gilbert explains that War for Cybertron takes many of its gameplay cues from Epic's Gears of War series. "War for Cybertron has Gears' heavy, lumbering pace, and mimics its shooting mechanics pretty well, as the automatons march through warzones and blast their fellow metal men to pieces," he writes. "It would have been better if War for Cybertron had included Gears' amazing cover system in that homage. Instead, it's been (barely) replaced by sporadic chunks of debris to stand behind, without any actual snap-to-cover feature." "Then again, the meatheads from Gears can't change into vehicles," Gilbert says, "which is a lot more fun than simply sprinting. Transforming is always quick and simple – just a single button press away – and it really changes the pace of the game, since the car or plane versions of each character move much faster than their other forms." The result is a familiar experience that nevertheless is a solid tribute to its source material. "By taking ideas from some of the best games of the last five years and combining that with a respect for the material that isn't so excessive as to alienate non-fans, War for Cybertron ends up being the best Transformers game yet," Gilbert praises. Wired's John Meyer gives War for Cybertron a score of 7 out of 10. "In a recent interview, developer High Moon Studios said its goal for the title wasn't just to please the Transformers faithful but to create an 'awesome action game for any shooter fan,'" he begins. "The fruit of High Moon's labor is a game that combines Gears of War-style third-person shooting with a multiplayer setup reminiscent of Modern Warfare 2. No, War for Cybertron isn't very original. But the gameplay it cribs from other shooters is nicely polished." "Even [if] it borrows heavily from its contemporaries, Cybertron is still very much a Transformers game," Meyer assures. "Everything central to the series, from the characters to the original voice actors, is kept intact." The Transformers characters also allow for varied gameplay. "The game's 10-hour single-player campaign means there's plenty of time for the crazy transformations to strut their stuff," Meyer says. "You can morph your hulking, mobile mech into its vehicle form at the push of a button. Each type of vehicle — jets, tanks, trucks, sports cars, etc. — has its own abilities, which allows for more dynamic gunplay." "Cybertron also features robust, if derivative, online multiplayer gaming," Meyer notes. "Multiplayer mode features the standard array of variations on deathmatch and capture-the-flag gameplay that's as fast-paced and chaotic as the single-player mode's. The transformations, however, lend a spark of originality to an otherwise completely derivative game. Players who use them cleverly can dominate the battlefield with their increased mobility and sometimes-unorthodox strategies." "I think Transformers: War for Cybertron's full impact was slightly lost on me, since I have no fond childhood memories to attach to the action," Meyer concludes. "But if the goal was indeed to create a game that could appeal even to the rawest Transformers newbies, then High Moon has succeeded."

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