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Impressions: Transformers: War for Cybertron


Remember those other awful Activision Transformers games based (in some part) on the Michael Bay movies? No? Good, let's work from there.

Transformers: War for Cybertron
, developed by High Moon Studios (The Bourne Conspiracy, Darkwatch), takes its inspiration from the G1 universe of the '80s cartoon. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. It's more like what the new J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie is to the original. The characters are the same, their motivations are similar; however everything has a whole new (in this case, literal) paint job. Lead Designer Matt Tieger tells us the game presents "nothing that violates your expectations" and the studio worked closely with Hasbro to stay true to the original idea of the Transformers ... speaking of the original idea of Transformers, there will also be action figures based on the game's interpretations of the characters.

In War for Cybertron, players participate in two campaigns, one following the righteous Autobots and the other shadows the misunderstood Decepticons. Both campaigns take place on the Transformer home planet of Cybertron and, as Tieger puts it, "Ends up with them having no place to go."

Each campaign features three-player online (no offline or "couch") co-op. For the Autobots, the level we saw featured Optimus (not a Prime, yet) and Bumblebee meeting for the first time, and rolling along in the always awkward "third wheel" spot was Ratchet. The Decepticons included Starscream, Thundercracker, Skywarp, Soundwave and Megatron. Of course, in both cases, there are several more playable characters. For fans of the original series, many of the voices will sound wrong -- sadly, in some very important instances, the cartoon's original voice actors have passed away.

Gallery: Transformers: War for Cybertron (2-26-2010) | 11 Photos

The game features no cover system and is similar to third-person action games like Ratchet and Clank (or Crimson Skies in vehicle mode), with the idea being for the Transformers to always be moving forward through the game's linear path. The characters can switch from robot to car (plane, tank, truck) at any time and the weapons have similar strengths in both modes -- so as to not penalize players for transforming. Vehicles have a standard (boost) driving mode and a hover mode, which controls the same as the robot. Each character also has special abilities, like Optimus has an area of effect "war cry" stat boost, Soundwave has ... a shockwave (not to be confused if Shockwave has a soundwave) and Ratchet can heal. Transforming can occur at any point, with no break in the action, and is's easy as clicking the L3 button. Melee takes the modern warfare approach on the R3 button.

After watching the massive arena-style battle between the Decepticons and the immense Omega Supreme, this Transformers title feels like it has a lot in common with Activision's X-Men Origins: Wolverine game. That is, it may be based on a license but, like Tieger explains, they were trying to "make a great game" that is "true to the spirit" of people's expectations. There was no shame in acknowledging that focus testing Transformers fans, both young and old, helped shape this game.

Transformers: War for Cybertron may not be anything revolutionary for gamers, but for fans of the franchise, at least it's not insulting and seems like a respectful re-imagining of G1. The game also features a competitive multiplayer mode that Activision wasn't ready to talk about. T:WoC releases "this summer" according to the devs, in May according to Activision.

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