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GDC 10: Transformers: War for Cybertron meets my eye

11:00 AM on 03.10.2010 // Dale North

What if you were to build a full-on third-person shooter from the ground up, with the controls and action that you're used to, and then work the world of Transformers on top of it? That's exactly what they did with Transformers: War for Cybertron. This way, the design focus was on control, and the end result of this is a game with third-person shooter controls and concepts that you're already familiar with. Exploration of the Transformers world is like icing on the cake, especially for fans that would like to fully explore the lore.

So, think third-person, like Gears of War, but you're controlling Autobots and Decepticons. Yeah, it's like that, and it looks pretty sharp so far.

This game takes place totally on Cybertron, set in the last stages of the civil war there. This all goes down well before planet Earth is ever involved, so you need not worry about any of that Michael Bay nonsense. The opening sequence was set in Cybertron's capitol, in a vast, skyscraper-filled, all metal world where doors and gateways sort of...transformed open. Imagine the peak of Transformers civilization, and you'll have a good idea of how this city looked. Being set during the war, gunfire lit up the sky and ships came crashing down into set pieces. The stage looked to be perfectly set for an immersive third-person shooter.

T:RotC supports anytime jump-in-or-out 3 player cooperative play, and we were teased with the multiplayer aspect, though no details were revealed yet. With the co-op, you can play with anyone on your friends list, or let AI take over at any time. There's two separate campaigns, with the stories of the Decepticons and Autobots being the obvious focus. Each feature completely different stories with completely different levels, characters, and content.

The first segment I saw was played as Optimus in his pre-Prime stage. The Autobots story side follows his rise as a leader. In this time of war, all hopes were on him for arising as a new leader for the Autobots, but he is still a humble up-and-comer at this point.

Gameplay wise, you're looking at a game that is set up just like many other shooters that you've played. A similar HUD, damage and weapons status reflected in the mid-screen reticule, equippable weapons, grenades (on a dedicated button), and the like. R3? That's a melee attack. The bots all have character-specific abilities. Optimus has a fast-moving dash ability and a resource-based AOE damage buff called Warcry.

I watched on as Decepticon troops were blasted and smashed in a cinematic style. Gateways opened up in a fantastic, multi-staged way (very Transformer-ish), and explosions lit up the sky. Later, I saw some turret game play. Optimus and his two mates were able to walk up to a turret and then unify with it, making a sort of fused weapon. Later I saw that you were able to break the turret off and use it as a limited-time weapon. And here's a really nice touch: each weapon picked up sort of becomes a part of the bot using it. Even the colors change to match the user. For example, if Bumblebee were to pick up a gun, it would turn yellow.

The difference, of course, is the ability to transform. All the bots can transform anywhere and at any time between vehicle and bot forms. Driving and flying (as a jet) game play features the same controls as the walking/running play, encouraging players to switch as they please. In each form, each character will see different advantages, such as weapons that are set to specific modes. For example, while driving, you may not have access to your abilities, but you could have something like a ramming ability. Driving, you can both hover and boost. Hovering has players strafing while floating over the ground, making for fast movement. Changing does not change the pace of play. Boosting (holding down a trigger) is more traditional, like a nitro boost on wheels. Finally, I saw some jet game play. Each jet has two weapons, dodging and evades, like barrel rolls. The idea is to combo from one form to another to best fit the situation.

You might have plenty of shooter notches in your belt, but Transformers: War for Cybertron is unique in that you can change forms on the fly, making for a game that opens itself to a new kind of flexibility. And while we didn't get to see much of it yet, I feel like these forms will work with the game's three-player cooperative play in some pretty interesting ways, promoting teamwork play. Aside from speaking to the dedicated Transformers fan, I feel like Transformers: War for Cybertron is equally inviting to those want to try a new twist on the third-person shooter.

Dale North, Former Dtoid EIC
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