Review: Transformers War for Cybertron

By Troy Rawhiti-Forbes

New look, same Optimus. 'War for Cybertron' retells the Transformers' story from scratch. Photo / Supplied
New look, same Optimus. 'War for Cybertron' retells the Transformers' story from scratch. Photo / Supplied

They came from beyond the stars to planet Earth to continue fighting a war that's raged for millions of years, hiding in plain sight as "robots in disguise", but how long the Transformers have actually been stalking motorways and military bases depends on which version of the Transformers' backstory you adhere to.

In this latest retelling of the epic war between the Autobots and Decepticons, the metamorphic giants haven't even left their home planet.

Transformers: War for Cybertron's campaign mode is divided into two distinct sections. Players start off in control of the evil Decepticons as Megatron leads his crew to a remote space station in search of a rare power source which could give him the upper hand in the battle against the Autobots.

The good guys' campaign charts the rise to power of a warrior named Optimus as he leads a rag-tag group of fighters in a rescue mission to free their missing commander and stop the Decepticons from conquering their ancient homeworld.

War for Cybertron fuses the aesthetic elements of Michael Bay's blockbuster films and the dark, sociopolitical themes of the Dreamwave and IDW comic books to create another reboot for the decades-old franchise.

The characters look as overtly-extraterrestrial as those in the movies, but the influence of the familiar Generation 1 cartoons keeps them distinct and easily recognisable to long-term fans of the franchise. Cybertron is loosely based on The War Within comic series, with the Autobot capital of Iacon and the Decepticon stronghold of Kaon setting the scene for most of the action.

The voice acting is spot-on. Peter Cullen reprises his role as Optimus Prime, while lesser-known actors Issac Singleton Jr and Sam Riegel pull out their best Frank Welker impressions to deliver convincing voices for key Decepticons Soundwave and Starsceam.

The basic gameplay is solid and the boss battles, without giving too much away, are nothing short of epic. Unfortunately they provide the game's only real challenges. The rest of the time is spent killing drones and navigating through levels which are almost indistinct from one another.

You can transform from robot to vehicle and back again at will, but you lack the freedom to make good use of one mode when the game demands that you use the other. This can be annoying in the game's long, uneventful corridor sequences where you could get into truck mode, tear off at 200kph and risk missing all sorts of secrets, or when you'd like to transform from jet into robot but, since you're playing a been-there-done-that aerial combat mission, to do that is to fall to your death.

Each weapon has a limited supply of ammo and the game offers relatively few opportunities to restock, so what should be thrilling gunfights are often compromised because you need to flee the field of battle in search of that ammo crate you passed while you were tearing off down a corridor at 200kph.

The multiplayer component can be hell for new players, since ranking systems don't figure. Players level-up depending on their accomplishments in the various game types but mismatches are common, and inexperienced fighters can be little more than cannon fodder for hardcore addicts who already have the best guns and abilities.

Verdict: Pre-release chatter predicted War for Cybertron would be the greatest Transformers game ever, and it is in the same way that the 2010 All Whites are our best FIFA World Cup team ever. Take away the exciting characters, remove the hype and what you're left with is a very average robot shoot-em-up.

Rating: 3/5
Format: Xbox 360, PS3
Classification: M

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