May 26 //
Hamza CTZ Aziz
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, 3DS)Developer: High Moon StudiosPublisher: ActivisionTo be released: June 14, 2011
The first two levels I demoed saw me playing as Bumblebee and Ironhide -- they had to repeal Decepticon attacks against humans. Basically, I was running around cities shooting at no-name Decepticons until reaching the end of the stages.
The third Autobot-focused level was a stealth section due to main character Mirage suffering some damage that leaves him without his weapons other than his blades. Because of this, Mirage has to slowly creep through the stage and try to take out enemies from behind.
The final section I played saw me siding with the Decepticons as Megatron. He was badly damaged at the end of the last movie and this stage puts you in the role of the big bad robot as he's slowly trying to rebuild himself.
Dark of the Moon will have you jumping between Autobot and Decepticon characters and the levels will be built around what makes each specific Transformer special. So, expect a flying-focused level when you play as Starscream, for instance. One promising level will see you switching between Soundwave and Laserbeak as they work together.
The basic formula of all the levels is that you have to mindlessly shoot at nameless robots until making it to the end of the stage where there may or may not be some kind of boss fight. The overall sections I demoed were fairly generic, but playing as Megatron was at least somewhat satisfying; I secretly cheered for the bad guys.
As for the multiplayer, it has a very Call of Duty vibe to it. There are the staple game modes, support for up to ten players, different classes, upgrades, abilities, leveling up and even killstreaks. There are four classes to choose from with each being associated to a specific Decepticon or Autobot. Scout class will include Bumblebee, Commander class sees you playing as Optimus Prime or Megatron, Warrior class features Ironhide and the Flying class features Starscream. There are other robots to play as, but none that High Moon or Activision wanted to divulge yet.
I definitely had a load more fun in multiplayer because I was fighting actual known robots and not dealing with waves of generic ones. Above all else, flying around as Starscream was ridiculously fun. I loved his transforming sequence, especially when I was getting surrounded by enemies. Battle getting too hot? Transform into a jet and get the hell out of there! Plus, the Flying class is basically like a sniper and I love being the sniper in any shooter.
Finally, I gave a quick test drive of Transformers 3DS and it's largely the same as the big brother console versions, except you're limited to only automobile and Stealth Force mode. If this were a car combat franchise then it would have been fine. But this is Transformers. The whole appeal of the Transformers franchise is that THEY'RE TRANSFORMING ROBOTS.
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[Update: All codes given out via Twitter!]
We're giving away 20 codes for the Map/Character Pack 2 for Transformers: War for Cybertron on the PlayStation 3! All you need to do follow us on Twitter and retweet the @Dtoid tweet associated with this post. We'll be randomly selecting 20 winners to give the codes to by the end of the day. Good luck!
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Jun 29 //
Transformers: Cybertron Adventures (Wii)Developer: Next Level GamesPublisher: ActivisionReleased: June 22, 2010 MSRP: $49.99
While War for Cybertron is third-person-shooter with free movement and the ability to transform at any time, Cybertron Adventures takes the form of an on-rails arcade shooter with compulsory vehicular sections strewn throughout each level. Players have no control over the movement of the Transformer in robot mode, except for the fact that they can choose when to take cover from enemy fire. As a robot, players are simply concerned with aiming and shooting. It certainly came as a shock to me, but it's actually not that bad at all.
Each character gets four weapons -- a sniper rifle, a gatling gun, a missile launcher and a useless weapon that will either be a cannon or a blaster. The game is all about popping in and out of cover to take on hordes of enemy Transformers and score points. It's quite simple, and the challenge is relatively easy going on normal difficulty, although the occasional boss fight or timed objective can through up some stiffer opposition.
At certain points in each level, the player will be forced to take a vehicle form in order to race to another section. Sometimes there's a time limit, but the general idea is very much the same as the robot sections -- shoot everything and score as many points as possible. Vehicles can lock onto opponents with missiles or shoot ahead with a machine gun. Again, players have no choice when to become a vehicle, although there's a lot more direct control in these sections.
The robot sections are arguably the stronger of the two elements, with decent controls and even a unique attempt to put stealth into an on-rails shooter. The vehicle sections are alright, but the controls are a little unwieldy and the vehicles can be rather slow, especially the disappointingly sluggish jets. Even worse is the fact that if a car flips upside down, it's game over. Yes, these are cars that can turn into robots at any time, yet apparently they get stuck like beetles if their wheels are in the air. Makes no sense, and it's a little weird that the cars have no real weight to them in the first place.
The most impressive element of Cybertron Adventures, however, is the story. High Moon Studios promised a lot of interesting narrative in War for Cybertron but didn't really deliver. Apparently it was all hiding in Cybertron Adventures. Megatron and Starscream have a much more interesting set of altercations in the Wii version, and many characters like Thundercracker and Ironhide get a lot more of a spotlight, with their own levels and dialog that more greatly reflects their personalities. The fact that Cybertron Adventures features a "Starscream goes for Megatron, gets smacked down and begs for his life" moment is enough to give it a narrative edge over its bigger brother.
Overall, it's a very solid game, although it can get quite repetitive. None of the characters really have any variety to their weapons and the vehicles aren't all that different either. The action itself is rather fun and there's co-op and special challenge modes to keep things interesting, but it's not a game you could play for hours and hours on end. It also looks really grim compared to War for Cybertron. It may be unfair to compare a Wii game to a PS3/Xbox 360 game, but if you're playing this as a supplement to the main game, the difference is scorching to the eyes. Not to mention the fact that Wii games can and do look better than this rather murky title.
Ultimately though, Cybertron Adventures is surprisingly good. It's definitely not as great in the gameplay department as War for Cybertron, with a lot less to do and a far more restricted format, but its superior narrative and decent arcade action is at least enough to make it worth picking up on its own. If you loved War for Cybertron and want some more Transformers fun, then this you won't go far wrong in picking it up. Likewise, if all you own is a Wii but you want to get your Optimus on, then this will at least give you a nice little fix of your favorite robots in disguise.
Score: 7.0 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)
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Jun 22 //
Transformers: War for Cybertron (Xbox 360 [reviewed], PS3, PC, Wii, DS)Developer: High Moon StudiosPublisher: ActivisionReleased: June 22, 2010 MSRP: $59.99
War for Cybertron is a prequel to the established G1 canon in which the Transformers drained their home planet of Cybertron and ended up on Earth. Pushing the story right back to the heyday of the Cybertronian civil war, War for Cybertron sets out to explain and define many key plot points of the entire franchise, such as Optimus Prime's rise to power and Starscream's joining of the Decepticons. Although some elements of the story are disappointingly glossed over, possibly to sell the accompanying novel, it has to be said that War for Cybertron's narrative is surprisingly tight, exciting and surprisingly witty.
The story mode is split into ten chapters, five for the Decepticons and five for the Autobots. The Decepticon campaign details Megatron's quest for Dark Energon, a new power source that he believes will help him win the war. The Autobot campaign sees Optimus and his friends struggle to survive a Cybertron that has almost been totally dominated by Megatron's forces. Both campaigns are solid, although the Autobot campaign is far better, with a wide variety of killer setpieces, brilliant references to the 1986 movie, and a fantastic selection of boss fights. I won't spoil the bosses, but fans of Soundwave will be thoroughly impressed by his particular appearances in the Autobot campaign.
Both campaigns are quite short, but can be replayed with different characters and taken on in three player co-op mode. The co-op is highly recommended as the game's difficulty is clearly designed with it in mind and does not scale for single players. The Transformers don't take much damage at all before they go down, and while co-op players can revive each other, single players will be helpless.
One other thing worth noting about the story mode is its restriction on playable characters. Each game's chapter limits you to a pool of three predetermined characters. The Decepticon Seekers, for example, can only be used in Chapter Two and the Autobot jets can only be used in Chapter Nine. Not having the ability to decide which character you want to play in any chapter isn't the biggest deal in the world, but it's a little bit of a letdown.
Unlike previous Transformers games, the controls in War for Cybertron are rock-solid. Predominantly a third-person shooter in the vein of Gears of War, each Transformer handles perfectly, carrying with them a feeling of weight without a sense of sluggishness. There's a wide range of weapons, most of which are useful and suit a particular style of play. There are options for sniping, exploding, or outright bullet spraying. The lack of a cover system hurts somewhat, especially in single player when enemies can become overwhelming, but so long as players remain aware of their surroundings, it shouldn't be too big a deal.
It's the vehicular alt-modes, however, that really steal the show. The vehicle forms are often where games fall apart, as they're usually either worthless or impossible to control. On the contrary in War for Cybertron. Each of the game's four vehicle types -- cars, trucks, tanks and jets -- work perfectly and are outfitted with their own weaponry for devastating firepower. With full maneuverability and an optional speedboost, alt-modes are no longer just something relied upon to get from A to B quicker.
Each Transformer also gets two special abilities that range from pointless (Dash) to brilliant (Whirlwind). The various abilities are easy to forget about but can have a real effect on the battle, although a few of them, like Hover, can make players more vulnerable to attack. Depending on the ability, they are either subject to a Cooldown limitation, or need to be recharged with Energon Chips taken from downed enemies. It would have been nice for the campaign mode characters to get their own unique special ability as opposed to drawing from a restricted pool of multiplayer abilities, as the characters aren't quite as varied as they could be. Nevertheless, the abilities are a welcome addition, provided you have the right ones.
Multiplayer is a key factor of War for Cybertron, and the short version of the story is that it can be pretty damn fun. Absolute chaos and anarchy, but fun nonetheless. There's a healthy selection of game modes, such as the territory-gaining Power Struggle or bomb-planting Countdown to Exctinction, although your main focus will always be kicking the tailgates of your opponents in a variety of destructive ways.
Players must create their own characters for competitive multiplayer, choosing from four character classes to build the bot that's right for them. Leaders transform into trucks and can buff/debuff other characters, Soldiers are hard-hitting combat troops that turn into tanks, Scientists turn into jets and specialize in both healing and sabotage, while the Scout transforms into a car and deals in hit-and-run tactics, as well as cloaking abilities.
Experience points are earned with each game, and as character classes level up, they gain access to new weapons and a range of unique active or passive abilities. Each custom character can select two weapons, two active abilities and three passive abilities, and there's plenty of room for multiple character builds of the same class. The most versatile is the scientist, who can be built to act as a medic, or to go behind enemy lines in disguise, or to unleash sentry bots that can spew rockets at the enemy. It's not the deepest system in the world, but it's versatile enough for players to feel that they've created their own unique set of robots in disguise.
One disappointing factor is the appearance of the characters themselves aren't open for too much customization. Essentially, you pick a skin and give it a paintjob from a rather restricted selection of colors. Fans who may have it in mind to create their own versions of classic G1 characters will be disappointed, You won't be able to fit Wheeljack, Sunstorm or Grimlock into this game, because the skins and colors just aren't up to it.
The multiplayer can be incredibly enjoyable, but it can also be incredibly frustrating. With so much chaos, it can often be a case of pure luck as to whether or not you live or die. Using the melee attack is like rolling a dice, and some of the weapons currently feel very imbalanced. It's no fun unloading two clips of ammo into an enemy, only to have them take you out in two shots. The game also exasperates with a huge amount of Assist Kills, which donate nothing toward a player's game score. This means you could get up to eight assists yet end up looking like the worst on your team. Assists should count toward the game as they do in Call of Duty, especially since losing kills to other players seems to be a very common issue in War for Cybertron.
It's a shame that the multiplayer can be so annoying with lost kills and overpowered weapons, because it's nicely put together and really kicks ass when you get into a great game. With a little tweaking, it could be thoroughly superb, but it's still most assuredly worth sinking some hours into. As it stands, I've certainly had my fill and I think I'll be waiting to see if any patches come in before hopping back into it.
Backing up the competitive multiplayer is a co-op "horde" mode known as Escalation. This incredibly challenging mode pits up to four players against waves of enemy Transformers. Things get very difficult in this game very quickly, and players will have to work together in order to survive. Each player earns Energon from their kills, and can spend them on ammo, weapons or health. They can also buy items for other players, meaning that, with good teamwork, a group of players can pool resources and ensure the entire party remains healthy. Unfortunately, the lack of host migration in the game can make Escalation a bit of a time risk. I played through a lengthy dose of Escalation, only to have the host quit and cause me to lose all my progress. It's very annoying, so it's best to make sure you play Escalation with good friends who have solid connections.
It's worth noting just how good War for Cybertron looks as well, both in terms of its graphics and its artistic style. The quasi-G1 design of the Transformers themselves is fantastic, being familiar yet original, and avoiding the overcomplicated mess of the Michael Bay monstrosities. High Moon has done an amazing job of making these robots feel alive rather than just dull metal constructs. Mechanical parts move and flex, portions of the chassis subtley glow, and the transformation animations are superb. The voice cast is also rather excellent too, headed up by Optimus Prime regular Peter Cullen and joined by a host of solid actors who do their best to bring the Transformers to life.
Transformers: War for Cybertron is a rousing step forward for the franchise as it pertains to videogames. A thoughtfully crafted story mode, an intense multiplayer mode, online co-op and a full on horde addition makes this the most robust, lovingly developed and authentic Transformers experience you could hope to get on a home console. Some of the character and customization restrictions are disappointing and the frustrations of multiplayer can sometimes provide cause for tooth grinding, but the overall experience is a most worthy one indeed. Transforming your cash into a purchase of this game is something you may want to seriously consider.
Score: 8.0 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)
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Jun 04 //
Jim Sterling 1. Controls are great:
One problem Transformers games have always had is that they control like crap. Usually the robot modes feel halfway decent, but as soon as they switch to alt-mode, everything sucks horribly. This is especially true of jets, which tend to fly out of control as soon as the unfortunate bot transforms. Not so in War for Cybertron. The vehicles are almost as easy to use as the robot forms, and even manage to be useful in combat as well as in covering distance. The problem of jets has been eliminated thanks to the extra level of control players get. Aircraft can now hover so players get to hold a position rather than being forced to move at all times. The land-based vehicles can have some pretty brutal attacks, and zipping around the map as a scout car just feels good.
Transforming is done with a click of the left stick, which is pretty convenient, although it can lead to accidental transformations at times when getting in the thick of action. However, vehicles are just as able to hold their own in combat as robots so even an accidental transformation won't break your gaming flow. It really feels as if both modes are crucial to the gameplay, and they both control perfectly fine.
2. It feels heavy without feeling clunky:
It's difficult to capture the feel of "being" a Transformer in a game. You have to make the robots feel big and heavy and clanking, but in doing so the robots often feel weird and disconnected with their environments. Nobody wants a clunky characters to control that feels like it's sliding around on the map rather than thundering around. War for Cybertron has a very "heavy" feel to the gameplay, but the movement is tight, allowing you to feel like a robot without feeling out of control.
When in vehicle mode, each alt-form feels how it should. It's great to thrust through the air as a jet, zip out of danger as a car or thunder into combat as a tank. Everything feels big, loud, weighty and powerful, yet they also feel totally natural, which previous games have always wrestled with.
3. The four classes kick ass:
The game has four classes -- Leader, Soldier, Scientist and Scout. They generally play how you imagine them to play, with the Leader specializing in buffs, the Soldier specializing in brute force, the Scientist specializing in tech, and the Scout specializing in stealth. However, the amount of flexibility you get within the classes means that you have some really cool ways to make each class deadly. For instance, the Scientist can heal other players, but he can also spawn a sentry bot, giving him the roles of both a medic and an engineer in more conventional games. Most classes have special skills that can help the team and harm the enemy, allowing plenty of scope for making a useful robot with any class you pick.
The classes level up as you earn experience in the multiplayer and have access to all manner of new weapons, special attacks, and passive abilities. Each Transformer is limited by equipment slots, and the special abilities all look so tempting that choices are bound to be hard. Each class gets its own unique kill streak bonuses that help out the entire team. The classes are really distinct, not just for their unique transformations (leaders are trucks, scouts are cars, soldiers are tanks and scientists are jets) but for the unique things you can do within each class. A lot of work clearly went into it.
As well as picking a class, players get a limited amount of customization too. I played around with making my own character, which basically means picking a predetermined chassis and changing the colors. The colors are restricted depending on if it's an Autobot or Decepticon, which was a bit frustrating. I understand why this was done, to make the factions distinct, but it's a shame that the Autobots got the bright yellow and orange, meaning I couldn't make Sunstorm for the Decepticons. I was able to compromise and make Acid Storm though, so I suppose it'll have to do.
4. Horde Mode:
Or, as War for Cybertron calls it, Escalation Mode. Yep, WfC is getting its own Horde Mode and it's really promising stuff. On the surface, it's your usual brand of wave-based co-op gameplay as friends team up to tackle increasingly difficult baddies. However, communication is key, because each kill awards points to the players which must be spent between rounds on ammunition and firepower. Players running low on ammo need to ask point-heavy players to buy them more rounds, and the whole team needs to pool their individual resources in order to succeed.
It's a really cool concept and should make Escalation stand out from other "Horde" style game modes.
5. Cyclonus, Dirge and Grimlock are in the DS version:
The DS version isn't going to get as much spotlight as its console-based big brother, but it's still a pretty ambitious little title. As well as a robust multiplayer game in which players can "wager" their leveled up characters against each other, WfC DS also gets ten all-exclusive characters thrown in simply because they were favorites of the developers. Cool characters like Cyclonus, Dirge and Grimlock have been tossed in, and although their transformations have to conform to the game's four vehicle modes, it's still awesome to see that they were included.
I briefly played the DS version and it seems to work similarly to the Revenge of the Fallen game, albeit with more platforming and a cool tag team system (and when you tag in Megatron, he says "Nobody summons Megatron" for a lovely movie callback). Not too shabby, and it's clear they put some love into it. It's also where I finally got to hear Starscream. He's not quite as squealy as he used to be, but I am pleased to report that the voice actor made him sound like the serpentine prick he should be.
And that's your five reasons why War for Cybertron has got the touch! I must say I was not disappointed by what I had played and this looking like it'll be the game Transformers fans have wanted for years. At the very least, it's chaotic, action-packed and very fun, and really, that's all you could ask for in a game. It fills me with no displeasure to say that I have not been let down by this game.
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