Whoa. So that’s where all the hype for Transformers: War for Cybertron is coming from. The game is actually pretty fun, pretty cool.
A multiplayer demo for the upcoming game from High Moon Studios, Activision, and Hasbro was posted on XBOX Live today so I took it for a spin. The first thing I noticed was this incredibly detailed 3D render of the planet of Cybertron. Breathtaking. In fact, for those of us who are particular about game user interfaces, Transformers is quite a treat. Perhaps not on the level of menus in Dirt and the like, every aspect of the game’s menus, the typefaces, the shape of the buttons, the colors for each element, the animated transitions, all fit well with the Transformers property. It looks really nice, especially compared to the incredibly sparse menu’s of Modern Warfare 2.
Yes, MW2, you can not escape your crappy menus. So bland, so outdated. How many more games do you intend to use the exact same UI in?
Speaking of MW2, Activision seems to be confident that they’ve found the Holy Grail of addictive, online, multiplayer gaming. As with Blur, the “get kills, do challenges, unlock new weapons, loadouts, perks, killstreaks” formula made popular by COD: Modern Warfare is present on Cybertron. Whether you like this or not is a matter of tastes, but as the game features alien robots (Transformers are aliens, right?) instead of regular soldier people, the equip-able abilities and “perks” can be a lot crazier than things like more health or faster reloads. Personally, half the fun of this type of system is getting to try out new abilities every few levels, so the crazier and more varied they are the better.
There are four different classes available to choose from in Transformers multiplayer, two of which, soldier and scout, are in the demo. Each has two slots for abilities unique to each class, mapped to the bumper buttons, two weapon slots for primary and secondary weapons, and three slots for “perks, “ or Upgrades as they are called in this case, which are also unique to each class and in general do things to augment the role that class plays on the battlefield. So scouts get upgrades like increased cloaking times or damage and armor bonuses when coming out of cloak.
Yep, cloaking. And there’s a hammer-throw-like whirlwind melee attack ability too. It’s abilities like these that really make Transformers play differently than other games of this type. In all honesty, without the abilities, Transformers would basically be an Unreal Tournament III mod that was played in third-person. It has a similar gameplay style, similar weapons, and the same graphics (and engine). The abilities add that extra layer of options and strategy that a modern, addictive, game really needs to keep people interested in the long run and keep the game from becoming just another circle-strafing fest.
Of course, this wouldn’t be Transformers without robots turning into vehicles, and that is definitely here. A quick click of the left stick, at any time, and scouts can turn into small cars while soldiers can turn into tanks. Apparently, these vehicle chassis can be customized as well in the full game, so your scout could turn into a jet or something more to your liking. Handling in vehicle form is similar to Twisted Metal in that you can rotate your car-self without any forward momentum. ( I guess alien cars hover) So as far as the differences between this and robot form, it’s mostly a matter of forward moving speed and the abilities you can use. In car form, your left bumper ability is disabled while your right bumper ability is replaced with a quick jet boost that lets you dodge attacks quickly.
Other than that, vehicle form is essentially a third weapon in your arsenal. For example, the default loadout for the soldier is an automatic rifle, a rocket launcher, and a vehicle form tank gun which seems much more powerful than the rifle and is a bit faster to fire than the rocket launcher. Each weapon is good for different situations and gives you more options. Since games started to limit weapon capacity to two to make the characters wielding them seem more human, it’s nice to see that the developers at High Moon have bent that formula here as it is appropriate and fits the world’s fiction.
The demo released today has only one map and only two mode so I don’t have a lot to go on to determine if this game will be a must buy or not. Judging from the inaccessible, but visible menu options, in addition to the 3 player co-op campaign, there will be a 3 player co-op, waves of enemies survival mode called Escalation, a mode similar to Search & Destroy, one like Demolition, one like King of the Hill – basically, your typical suite of online competitive modes. Team Death Match and Conquest (which is basically Domination) have been pretty fun. I suspect the rest will be as well, given that the core running, gunning, transforming is fun, but I can’t be certain.
I can tell you that the fans of this franchise are really going to dig the presentation. The sounds in War for Cybertron are great. The voices of the Transfomers and the old school transforming sound are incredibly nostalgic and wonderful on their own, but they’ve also been transplanted into the rich soundscape of bullets, explosions, the clinking of metal feet on metal floors, running water, and other environmental effects that really made what was coming out of my speakers stand out.
You probably don’t need to be told, but the Transformers themselves also look great. Transformation animations are slick, quick, and cool to watch, even when you’re just switching weapons which transforms your arm. As I mentioned earlier, the environment feel like something ripped right out of UT3, but that could be because there’s just the one map and the game’s built on the same engine. As such, Transformers also has the same texture pop-in “issue” characteristic of all Unreal Engine 3 based products. Still, it is apparent that great care and love of the subject matter were put into crafting the visuals for this game. Little things like Energon cubes as health packs or the neat HUD animation when you bring up the sniper scope all add greatly to the experience.
It’s a shame that Activision has decided not to put a demo of Transformers (or Blur) on the PS3 as well, since actually playing this demo would surely make Transfomers fans and many of those MW2 gamers cast aside some doubts and make them anxious for more. High Moon Studios seems to have put a lot of thought into this one, and judging from the demo, Transformers: War for Cybertron is going to be a great game whether you’re a fan of the franchise or not.