For the better part of 3 decades there has existed a franchise that has blessed with some of the greatest toys ever created, along with a tremendous amount of nostalgia to boot. I’m talking of course about Transformers, the toy pushing machine that is still going to this day. Though it has seen several different iterations over the years, both in television and (stifles vomit) film. However, game-wise it wasn’t really that well represented until the 2000’s and even then the majority of those games were not that great. That is until we got the Cybertron series of games.
There were two, technically three, entries into the Cybertron series, but for today we will focus on the first one, War for Cybertron. Does it have “The Touch”? Let’s find out. (You know that will be stuck in your head).
So let’s get this part out-of-the-way, for a show in the 80’s with a silly premise meant to sell us all plastic figures, it has a pretty deep lore. So deep in fact, that I’m honestly not super familiar with it. I caught bits and pieces of the original G1 Transformers, I saw the 1986 movie that just celebrated its 30th birthday (time is coming to kill us all!), and the series that I am most familiar with are Beast Wars and Armada. I say this because the overall lore plays a huge part in this game. War for Cybertron is a prequel of sorts, set before the Autobots and Decepticons make their way to our humble planet Earth. Typically I can’t stand prequels, if I already know the ultimate fate of a character then the drama of an earlier story is more or less sucked out for me. However, with this game I can make an exception. Since I am so unfamiliar with the overall lore, learning about the overall wealth of characters that I don’t already know everything about helps my enjoyment.
Speaking of story, this game already offers an interesting narrative option from the get go. You can choose to play as either the Autobots or Deceptions at the very start of the game. I say this is interesting because while you will have to play has both in order to get the full story, you can either play as the Deceptions and play the game in the correct Chronological order or play as the Autobots and then go back and get the rest of the story like a Tarantino movie (Hateful Eight was a fun but brutal flick). Either way you will ultimately see what sets the wheels in motion for the shows we all grew up with.
It seems that the civil war between the two factions has been going on for quite some time and it has officially taken its toll on Cybertron, this is especially kicked into gear once Megatron discovers “Dark Energon” as a power source. This is the focal point of our main story and why the Deceptions are first. You can choose to play as different characters that are each considered to have a unique class and skillset depending on whom you choose and what type of mission it is. I primarily stuck with Megatron/Optimus Prime since they were the leaders/tanks of your three-man team, and Starscream/Jetfire whenever there was a flying mission. Whoever you don’t choose will accompany you into battle anyway.
When it comes to gameplay, there really isn’t anything that revolutionary here. It’s a third-person shooter that honestly has a bit of a Gears of War feel to it. It’s hard to describe why that is, but I can’t help but shake that feeling. Most of the levels feel a little cramped at times in terms of layout and can feel a good like they go too long at times, and yet the final mission of the Deception campaign is weirdly short and a little disappointing. However, with that said one feature in this game that works really well is the ability to transform back and forth on the fly. I adore this feature and it is absolutely necessary for a game in this franchise. Plus, it makes from some pretty sweet melee moments. Oddly enough though, when you change factions, the enemy types don’t change at all. The only thing that changes is their color schemes. This means that there just aren’t that many enemy types. Mostly grunts, snipers, heavies, and the supremely annoying shotgunners. Combine this with an environment that doesn’t change much since all of Cybertron is literally a planet that is itself a giant robot and this can make for a fairly dull and somewhat confusing world to be immersed in.
What does however keep this game from being dull is the superb voice acting. Optimus Prime is yet again voiced by Peter Cullen, who is to that character what Kevin Conroy is to Batman. We also get additional voice talents from Johnny Yong Bosch and Steve Blum, who are two of my all-time favorites. Not to mention Nolan North and Troy Baker, you know “The Essentials”. I love excellent voice acting; it’s a very underappreciated art and it definitely on display here.
What also helps is that while the Deception story line is mostly about Megatron’s desire for even more power, the Autobot story deals with several more elements like accepting the fact that their home world is dying and Optimus himself finally accepting his destiny as both a Prime and leader of the Autobots. It’s actually very interesting in those regards. Not to mention the hints we get that Optimus and Megatron have a much more storied past than what we already know. The Autobot story line also has a very fun final level that basically involves shooting a giant robo dinosaur while falling through space, which is just the right amount of ridiculous.
Ultimately this game definitely has its short comings in terms of length, variety, and overall gameplay, but I wouldn’t say that it’s a bad game either. There is still some charm to it, and I do believe that it was honest effort by High Moon Studios. If anything this game was ultimately a good learning experience for them, which was made very evident in the sequel to this game, but we will talk about that next time. Besides, this is studio that gave us Deadpool so they are getting better. But the big question about this game is: Is it a Snag or Gag. Were it a brand new $60 title, I would say gag simply due to its shortness and lack of variety. But in 2016, this game is now about $15 bucks, and at that price that makes Transformers: War For Cybertron a definite: