Transformers: War for Cybertron Preview
They always have loads of potential but can never quite crack through the layers of average mechanics to become full-fledged AAA titles. But we always hold out hope for any new Transformers game, solely due to that aforementioned potential; after all, it’s tough to think of a better video game setting that giant robots bashing on each other. Besides, High Moon Studios really appear to be sinking their teeth into the new War for Cybertron, which features two separate campaigns – one each for the Autobots and Decepticons – and enough action to satisfy even the most die-hard twitch gamer. We’d like to think there’s a fairly decent story to go along with it, too, as we learn that Optimus Prime has only assumed the role of Autobots leader because nobody else is up to the job, and Megatron isn’t necessarily pure evil. Thing is, he actually wants to restore Cybertron to its former glory and although he’s ruthlessly determined, he’s not a mindless bad guy hell-bent on destruction and chaos. The Decepticon campaign is technically a prequel to the Autobot story, so keep that in mind.
Control has always been an issue in just about any game based on these gigantic futuristic robots, and it’s usually because of a lack of tightness and polish. However, we’re definitely anticipating something smoother and more refined with War for Cybertron, as we’ve heard it might actually control more like Gears of War or Uncharted (although we’re not exactly expecting Game of the Year quality). You will move with the left analog and aim with the right, which is pretty standard, and transforming is as simple as pressing the L3 button. That transformation process may be quicker than you anticipate, as High Moon’s primary goal is to clean up the clunkiness of past efforts and provide players with a faster, more fluid gameplay experience, while at the same time maintaining the appropriate heavy feel of a massive robot. It’s tricky and we don’t envy the developers. This has proven to be a difficult task over the years; mech-based action games almost always suffer from the dreaded “clunks.”
But with a variety of melee and ranged attacks along with speedy movement, rapid transformations and an assortment of character-specific skills, the fun factor ought to be quite high. You can carry two different weapons at any given time, along with grenades and two equipped skills: the cool down and the resource. These abilities will come in handy in different situations and if you get backed into a corner, you can always fight your way out with the melee option. This is mapped to the R3 button like it often is in first-person shooters, and we’re a little worried about that idea. If we have to use it a lot, it may prove cumbersome and annoying. But we’re assuming it’s more about the skills and the firing of those weapons you’ve got, so we won’t worry about it right now. The only other possible issue centers on your apparent lack of defense; it may control like other third-person titles but we won’t have the now-common cover mechanic. You’ll always be out in the open and susceptible to enemy fire, so moving quickly and doling out your own personal brand of justice will take top priority.
And of course, the vehicles the Autobots and Decepticons can transform into will also hold the limelight for most of the experience. These guys will change into everything from tanks to jets to a variety of cars and trucks, so that means High Moon has even more work ahead of them…they need to find a way to implement great driving and flying controls into a game that already requires a top-notch third-person shooter system. In other words, getting Bumblebee and Starscream to control equally well will be a definite task, so we’re hoping the designers are working hard to impress everyone with their diversity. Just as a suggestion, I’d like to have the flying feel just like Warhawk. All vehicles in the game will be able to hover and strafe back and forth when necessary so that’s a good sign, but with so many distinctly different characters and so many gameplay elements, it’s a veritable minefield for High Moon. We will definitely be interested to see how it comes out, though, and if you’re wondering, the game really doesn’t have anything to do with any of the movies.
Transformers: War for Cybertron is slated to arrive for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC on June 22.
3/2/2010 Ben Dutka