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Transformers War For Cybertron Review (PC)

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Transformers is one of those things that has gotten away from itself. Most people who try to enjoy Transformers do so from an unfairly critical perspective that is obscured by the thickest of rose colored glasses, and it often leads to some insanely lofty expectations. I am not one of those people. I am a realist. I watched the cartoon as a kid in the 80's, but like most things from the 80's (with the exceptions of Oingo Boingo, and Talking Heads) the Transformers cartoon was something best left in it's own decade. Not to say that it was a poorly done show, or to take anything away from Transformers itself. That's more like me saying that I accepted the show simply for what it was, nothing more. If anything I thoroughly enjoyed Transformers Beast Wars about as much as I enjoyed the original show, but to say anything more about Transformers as a whole as it pertains to the cartoons/comics would be disingenuous.

With that painfully long preface in place, I want to point out that I liked the Transformers movies. Label me a traitor or whatever you need to do to sleep at night, but I genuinely liked the Transformers movies. Why? The reason is simple enough. I don't really expect much from a movie that's based on a cartoon, and action figures. Some people would, and do apparently, but I don't. I don't even see the point in obsessing over any one thing to that extent, let alone something based on a cartoon and action figures. But for others I suppose that the importance of obsession outweighs the need for sensibility. I guess it's that same type of self satisfying expectation that led Gamespot to review Transformers: War For Cybertron so harshly. As if they had the thought that the game should somehow reach an infinite number of barely defined goals, and do so with so much polish that you could go blind staring at it. What are these things? Cover, ammo, difficulty. I mean maybe that's simplifying it, ok, it IS simplifying it, but it is essentially the crux of their jackass arguments.

To say that something like Transformers: War For Cybertron; a game that is based on the premise that you are a thousand ton robot capable of turning into a car or some other vehicular monstrosity, should be completely this, or completely that is fucking insanity. They are robots. That transform into other objects. The basic laws of everything pretty much go right out the window at that moment. But even with that much established you have to look at some of the other complaints of game reviewers that are out there, that are much ado about nothing. Like the fact that the Autobots, and Decepticons don't look like their 80's cartoon counterparts, or the fact that you can't snap into cover, or the fact that...

I want to tackle these issues in my own unique way right now. First of all to Gamespot I say this. I wasn't aware that Gamespot had made it public corporate policy to employ little girls to write their game reviews (note: no offense to little girls intended as I am almost certain that the average little girl could play through this game better than the combined staff of Gamespot.). Seriously Gamespot, your half baked, contrived reasons for disliking the game make about as much sense as anything you idiots have done for the last 3 years. They make mention of a mission where you have to protect Ratchet, while he preps a critical Autobot for release, and how the animation for reviving Ratchet takes far too long, and it left them open to getting slagged. I played the mission. If you are to the point where Ratchet has hit the ground, then you just suck at life. The mission spawns an infinite amount of ammo, provides two Energon beams that heal you and your mates, gives you access to almost every weapon in the game, and provides a healing cannon for one of you to wield... ya know, just in case. I mean Jesus Christ, do you need to have the game come to your house, and cook your goddamn meals too? How much easier does it need to get? And even funnier, I almost felt like I was cheating at times because of the abundance of pickups, or how quickly I could regenerate special abilities, yet Gamespot, felt like the game was too hard, and didn't do those things enough. I also want to punch anyone in the mouth who is stupid enough to make mention of the lack of 80's themed Transformers in the game. In the context of story the Transformers not looking like their nostalgic selves makes perfect sense. If I even have to explain that to you, then you might be unqualified to continue reading this.

So if you've passed my litmus test, and you understand all of those things going into Transformers: War For Cybertron, and you are wondering if the game is any damn good, I'm proud to report it is. It's not just good. It's almost perfect. And I say that not from an unfairly critical perspective. I say that as someone that loved the original show with all his heart, and probably personally sent a few of Hasbro's employee's children to college with the amount of money I spent on Transformers related junk. If there ever was anyone that could be critical of Transformers: War For Cybertron, it would be me. But I can't find the heart or the motivation to do so. If I could find flaws in the game it would be in the execution of certain missions, or just wishing there was a little more to everything, but when I really got down to brass tacks and started thinking about that in the context of Transformers: War For Cybertron spawning a series of High Moon developed Transformers titles, it makes sense to not go all out all at once, and to keep something in the reserve tanks for the imminent sequel. In that larger, and grander sense it's a hell of a lot harder to find flaws in Transformers: War For Cybertron. So take the game for what it is, and enjoy the fact that this is the first time that someone has fleshed out the world that the Autobots, and Decepticons once populated, and they have done so more faithfully than anyone before them.

The combat is tight and fluid and takes quite a few mechanical nods from Gears of War, Halo, and Bioshock in terms of dealing with larger enemies, and at times can seem repetitive. And for some odd reason it bothered the hell out of me that none of the Bots seem to be capable of crouching. I mean, maybe Optimus/Megatron and crew are too bad ass in videogame form to crouch behind objects for cover, but I sure as hell am not, and would like the option to do so next time. But the moments that thrill, and the scale of the game outweigh minor disqualifications like that, and the game is definitely at an advantage by the end of it. There's an especially brilliant flight level in the Autobot campaign that more than any other point in the game, makes you feel like a Transformer. Where at every previous point in the game, transforming is an optional affair, the level has you constantly blending flight, and close combat with some incredibly taut results, and it all culminates with you fighting a giant transforming gun in space, and we all know that doing stuff in space always makes it cooler. As for the story itself. I don't know how to evaluate that. I think the story is more complex than the bulk of the cartoon it's based on, so I was satisfied, but if you find yourself needing more depth or layers, maybe you should just play something else.

As for some PC specific points... I don't like the frame limit. Console gamers can be content to run their games at 30 frames per second, and never notice, and that's fine. I do. My eyes are finely tuned precision machines, and they noticed that shit. That and I had fraps running the whole time. Patch the game, and remove the frame limit, please. Also a lack of built in voice, or any kind of chat in multiplayer is pretty stupid, and seems like a glaringly obvious thing to not include. I do love the PC controls though. I have a 360 controller for Windows, and I've found the mouse and keys to be much more responsive, and more precise, so some close attention has obviously been paid to the PC version with respect to how it controls. As to be expected the visuals in the PC version are spectacular, especially on high end hardware, and where I usually complain when a game takes away the ability to customize graphics options, Transformers: War For Cybertron (or maybe that credit goes to the Unreal engine itself.) does a good job of scaling up or down with just the low, medium, and high settings under the graphics settings tab. And the visual fidelity on display is truly incredible... especially with high end hardware.

At the end of the day I can't find a reason for someone to not want to own this game, and I can't say that I won't revisit it from time to time just because smashing a Decepticon in the face with an energy ax is not something I get to do enough. I know it took me a long time to get here, but this game does for Transformers what Arkham Asylum did for Batman titles. It has secured a videogame future for the franchise. Just like Batman, it's not perfect, but it's very damn close, and I can't imagine wanting more than that as a first entry. If you do, you're pretty disillusioned... after all, it's just a game based on a cartoon and some action figures.

Steve Sawyer
Editor in Chief

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Updated 06-09-10 at 07:53 by SteveSawyer

PC , Editorial


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