Evidently, creating an action game around excessively armed, mechanized combat units has been a persistent challenge. How else could one explain the succession of mediocre titles which have permeated the Iron Man, Armored Core and Transformers franchises? While exceptions exist within the 2D simplicity of 1993’s Cybernator or the forty button intricacy of 2002’s Steel Battalion, the majority of mech (or in Iron Man‘s case, mech-like) games consistently fail to exemplify the gratification of directing a thickly armored death-tank down a annihilation-bent warpath.
Strip away the jingoist rallying orations dispensed by Optimus, dialectic interludes where giant robots awkwardly ponder existential issues, along with the healthy servings of canonical back-story and Transformers: War for Cybertron is a competent third-person shooter which will undoubtedly charm Autobot aficionados. Skillfully, there’s just enough wonton destruction to satisfy action fans who don’t know a Megatron from a metric ton.
Capably blending equal parts creation myth and ecological admonition, the game commences as the nefarious Decepticons are threatening the livelihood of Cybertron by introducing Dark Energon into the planet’s core. Recognizing the potential for catastrophe, the ever-valiant Autobots dispute this tactic, escalating both factions into an impassioned confrontation. Through the duration of the game’s twelve stage main campaign, players take control of combatants from both sides, offering a pleasing perspective on the dispute. Perks such as three player online co-op, a stout selection of weaponry, and the choice of three different mechanized soldiers for each fracas help elevate War for Cybertron. Sadly, the game is slightly hampered by dubious artificial intelligence- CPU cohorts offer a modicum of fire support, while computer controller opponents are far too predictable.
More enjoyable are Cybertron‘s online multiplayer matches which offer groups of up to ten online competitors a variety of skirmishing variations. Beyond the requisite Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Conquest modes, there are deviations which task players with planting explosives, and a Capture the Flag mode where the pennant is a devastating melee weapon. To add depth to the matches, players are permitted to choose a character class. The selection also determines the secondary form which each player can morph into. Ranging from formidable tanks to cloaking cars, each converted forms influence a particular play style. Cybertron’s multiplayer component ensures gamer retention by offering additional loadouts, as well as active and passive abilities. Sadly, there appears to be some balancing issues with the weaponry- some of the unlockable artillery was able to put a mech down is a single shot or two. Additionally, there’s an cooperative mode known as Escalation which presents an perpetual procession of encroaching foes. Teams are obliged to coordinate their attacks and share resources, lest they’ll be quickly overpowered by the stalwart hordes.
Even the most fastidious set of eyes will be pleased by the title’s visuals and typically solid framerate. Each Transformer is delicately detailed and recalls a G1 vibe rather than the more contemporary Michael Bay interpretation. Cybertron itself feels forlornly mechanical, as natural formations intermingle with high-tech hardware. Hearing Peter Cullen robotic intonations will stir the emotions of even casual admirers; the rest of the cast offers an admirable performance, as well. Soothing orchestral passages give way to rock chords as antagonists approach, offering a solid soundtrack to underscore the action.
Devotees will undoubtedly revel in War for Cybertron; the game combines the personality of the series with the playability of a box full of G1 action figures. Those less fascinated by the versatile robots may still appreciate the game’s core campaign while finding the title’s online components present “more than meets the eye.”