Transformers: War for Cybertron First Look

We get a look at Activision and High Moon Studios' surprising new Transformers game.

At this point just about everyone knows who the Transformers are. The robots that made children across the world wonder about cars, jets, trains, insects, and dinosaurs got reinserted into pop culture thanks to Michael Bay and his two explosive films that reimagined the mighty bots for the modern day. Unfortunately, more than a few purists were torn by the films because of some unsettling departures from canon, such as a mute Bumblebee, an Optimus Prime with lips, a genital-sporting Devastator, Ebonics-speaking bots, and Shia LaBeouf (although Megan Fox gets a pass) to name just a few. Thankfully the movie's popularity has led Activision and developer High Moon Studios to try their hand at a Transformers game that aims to give fans of the robots in disguise a fun and less unsettling experience rooted in the past. Transformers: War for Cybertron drops you into the Transformers universe as the conflict between the Autobots and Decepticon escalates into the events that led the dueling bots to leave their homeworld of Cybertron to come to Earth. We recently met with Activision and High Moon, who gave us a demo of the game on the Xbox 360, which showed off the Autobots and Decepticon campaigns and showed more promise than we would have expected.

The game's story is split into two narratives that follow the two bot factions as they take shape, with the Decepticon story set before the Autobot story. The Autobot story is set before Optimus Prime assumed the mantle of prime and follows the unassuming Optimus as events unfold and he becomes the greatest leader the Autobots ever had. The Decepticon story follows Megatron, who, unlike Optimus, is well on his way to becoming a robo jerk. The narrative follows Megatron as he sets out to restore Cybertron to what he feels is its former glory, which, not too surprisingly, involves a whole lot of mayhem and destruction. The interesting wrinkle to Megatron's tale is how he gathers together his crew: one of his first recruiting missions has him meeting a promising young bot named Starcream. The Decepticon campaign also shows Megatron clash with Autobot leader Zeta Prime (one guess how that goes).

The demo we were shown highlighted excerpts from the Autobot and Decepticon campaigns. It gave us an idea of what to expect from the third-person action game and made a great first impression. Before we dive into specifics, we'll offer up some general bits of info: the game features a single-player mode, split into two campaigns as we mentioned, as well as an online multiplayer mode that supports competitive and cooperative play. We're especially intrigued by the game's cooperative mode, which supports drop-in, drop-out gameplay for up to two other players so that you can go through the campaign story with two other friends.

The Autobot segment of the demo focused on an early part of the story that set the action up. You will be able to choose one bot to actively control and two others to join your party of three. The segment we saw focused on Optimus, Ratchet, and Bumblebee--all meeting for the first time. One key thing to note about the game, which is a very cool bit, is that the bots have been reimagined in their native Iacon forms, well before they began mimicking cars. High Moon worked closely with Hasbro to settle on a look that is close to the iconic Transformers look but is unique. The result is a very smart, futuristic look for the vehicles that everyone transforms into. The sequence followed the trio as they set out to escort Bumblebee to deliver bad news on the state of the leading bodies of the Autobots. Basically, things are pretty bleak: Zeta Prime has been taken out, and the high council has disappeared. All the three bots can do is head out and try to marshal their forces to deal with the Decepticon threat and help where they can. In the demo, the trio had to reactivate several turrets to help fend off an assault from Megatron's crew.

Optimus Prime with no lips.

The race to get to the turrets showed off the stunning metropolis of Iacon, which, despite being under siege, looked fantastic. The journey to the turrets showed off the very cool art direction in the game, which is big on small details, such as showing how the Autobots physically plug into terminals, or even turrets, in order to interact with them. More importantly, the sequence showed off how fluidly the bots switch from vehicle form to robot form, as well as the game's combat mechanics. Basically you'll be able to transform at any time by clicking in the left analog stick, which frees you up to use the robots' other abilities in combat. War for Cybertron plays around with the standard Transformers action formula by mixing up each robot's abilities. Besides the expected melee combat and transforming, you'll be able to use two types of special attacks. One is dependent on resources, namely orbs that you'll collect off of defeated enemies, and the other has a cooldown period you just need to wait out. From what we saw, the resource-dependent attacks are basically different weapons you can pick up (the bots can carry two at a given time and swap them out whenever they find something new). The cooldown attacks were an interesting mix of active and passive abilities. For example, Optimus has a war cry that essentially serves as a damage increase to those near him, while Ratchet has a ray he can use to heal himself or others. The system looks suitably spectacular when you're watching the game, so we're anxious to see how it will play and how you'll combo all the different abilities. The Autobot portion of our demo ended with the massive turrets being reactivated and a Decepticon warship being taken out. The subsequent story cinematic showed off Jetfire, whose history is being tweaked some for the game in order to better fit the story. From what we could see, it's nothing too drastic, just a slightly more logical setup for his joining the Autobots.

The Decepticon sequence showed off Starcream, Thundercracker, and Skywarp in a mission that showed off how jet gameplay will work in the game. The High Moon reps noted that the strafing, hovering, and boosting mechanics were inspired by old-school gem Crimson Skies. The flight action looked sharp and was a smart showcase for the game's variety. The level featured a mix of open spaces that were conducive to proper flying and more cramped areas that required a bot change or hovering and sniping (both of which seemed to be easy to transition to). We were also able to check out the jet barrel roll special ability, which looks exactly like you'd expect. The sequence also showed off an underground area on Cybertron. The second Decepticon bit we saw showcased a boss fight that pit Megatron, Soundwave, and Breakdown against Omega Supreme. As intimidating as the massive Autobot min city looked, the trio was able to take it out in a lengthy multipart boss fight.

Overall the game looked pretty fantastic thanks to its unique art direction. The reimagined transformers look great and shine because of a host of little touches. Whether it's the hovercars the Autobots turn into, the way the turrets and consoles they interface with change to match their color, or the new look for energon cubes, Cybertron looks to be brimming with activity. Besides the impressive detail and effects, the game's performance is impressive. The hectic action, explosions, and transformations look stellar and zip along at a brisk pace regardless of the onscreen mayhem. The audio was pretty much you'd expect for the special effects and musical score. As far as voice goes, Peter Cullen, geek national treasure of the highest order, is back to bring Optimus to life. Sadly, Cullen is the only classic cast member we recognized, so anyone hoping for some old-school Megatron action is out of luck.

Here's our chance to see the Transformers duke it out on their home turf.

While some of this may sound too good to be true, the game is looking like it just might be the real deal. High Moon's approach is benefiting from no movie to tie in with and a respectable dose of geek love. The results we've seen so far seem to be paying off in the most promising Transformers game we've played in years. We're anxious to get our hands on it, especially the online multiplayer, to see if it plays as good as it looks. Look for more on Transformers: War for Cybertron in the weeks to come. The game is scheduled to ship on the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 later this year, with Wii and DS versions of the game, from Next Level and Vicarious Visions, respectively, hitting at the same time.

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Discussion

168 comments
1_wing_fighter
1_wing_fighter

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

1_wing_fighter
1_wing_fighter

i actually got the before i got a PS3 (it was a gift ok) but i thought they were going to use the designs from war within and i thought the sentinel prime was the original leader not zeta prime

dramabayb
dramabayb

I hope dis game is pretty good i get it early i just got it it looks amazing but i wish you could make your own characters i believe it would have made it more exciting but off to play dis game

GunGriffin
GunGriffin

Guys for the last time this game is not part of the MB bull crap fest....... It's based of of the G1 cartoon shows, and Comic books.......... Not the crapy Bay Movies that I could of done a better job with.

jbahari
jbahari

I am in love with the idea of this game! I grew up watching Transformers, playing with the toys and reading the comic books. I miss the design of the original characters compared to the Spielberg movie designs. Less organic more geometric. Fewer parts and simpler recognizable Characters. I will be watching for news until this games release!

vicsrealms
vicsrealms

Might be interesting if you are capable of making your own characters and the story is well worth it. The only other problem I see is that it is an Activision game, and after they ruined CoD I no longer purchase games from Activision.

blowtrees
blowtrees

Reminds me of 'the war within' miniseries from dreamwave comics. Hope it doesn't suck.

nazgul9910
nazgul9910

just preordered, hopefully its not a disappointment

icejew007
icejew007

This game better have some great customizations (weapon, attributes, skins, etc.). Thatll keep players from using this game once and never again after a week like so many other movie-based titles.

Black-X-Destiny
Black-X-Destiny

I hope this one is far way better than the last Transformers i played on PC..

battu1
battu1

when does the demo come out

wide_ocean
wide_ocean

As it was said, shallowness could be a problem here, it looks really good though, yes

namingmyself
namingmyself

Again, DS gets two versions of the game... and PSP is still missing out... I hope this game will be a 'lets just blow stuff' type of FPS. The explosions looks so cool.

k0k05_1980
k0k05_1980

hmm looks nice but i keep my expectations low. let's wait and see

BrokenPad
BrokenPad

I think it will be a god one. At least it looks promising ....

nveg112
nveg112

The game looks good, but the other Transformers games lack depth, I think that it will be the same with this one. However I always look forward to a good action game so I'll definitely get it.

marcecko
marcecko

The game looks awesome ! But the boss fight seems a little strange, just like the boss is at the center and you run around him to shoot him and evade his attack.

raith616
raith616

if this is as good as it looks this will rock!

Triangly
Triangly

@solidniko megan fox isn't that hot.. you need to get out more

td_tempest
td_tempest

... This actually looks quite good, for a game of a movie. Then again, it's technically based off the series, so hopefully it shines.

solidniko
solidniko

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

drknessfeeds
drknessfeeds

@solidniko I only want megan fox in the game if I can SHOOT HER...

drknessfeeds
drknessfeeds

Im confused, is this Transformers of Final Fantasy Summons battleing it out...Seriously looks promising.

LordRork
LordRork

Let's hope it lives up to the shiny trailer. I've been an on-off fan of the series since the 80s...happy times. p.s. lordborg...I think you mean soundwave :). Shockwave was the big purple one with a single glowing eye. (I'll get my coat)

Lordborg909
Lordborg909

OMG Awesome looking Shockwave! Hope he has some cassette bots like the cartoon.... before Michael Bay screwed transformers up :/

Dark-Star13
Dark-Star13

@Purplekjw: It's Starscream, that's just a dumb error.

Purplekjw
Purplekjw

Is Starcream a typing error? I began to doubt it when I saw it a second time. I'm no big Transformers-know-it-all but I thought it was Starscream? Starcream... Sounds palatable, not fierce.

ithilgore2006
ithilgore2006

This year's Batman Arkham Asylum perhaps? Maybe not on that level of greatness, but I mean a legitimately great game in a licensed franchise that has usually produced crap.

sakurayuri
sakurayuri

ufck Michael Bay. I will be buying this as I isht on an effigy of his face stapled to both of his ishttty Transformers Movie iterations while I'm in Best Buy.

covertgamer78
covertgamer78

FINALLY!!! A TRANSFORMERS GAME THAT LOOKS LIKE IT OWNS ALL!!!! ( I hope it really does)

DaveA6489
DaveA6489

This actually looks pretty good. May have to get this one :)

Exia2004
Exia2004

i hope they ll make something worth to play not like the others 2 games

knoxyknight
knoxyknight

It would be awesome if they added an unlockable sound filter that had the classic gunfiring and impact sounds. Also I think a level inspired by the 1986 movie attack on the shuttle scene would be awesome. Playing multiplayer on a shuttle thats flying above cybertron, damn that would be cool. Link to attack on the shuttle scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umwZ8qVorwo

solidniko
solidniko

first day buy if megan fox is in this

01-cannon-mpc
01-cannon-mpc

But reguardles of what you think of the movies. The only reason the Transformers have goten popular again is only thanks to Michael Bay and his Transformers movies. I just think that the Transformers fans love ther fav Autobot or Decepticon to mutch as thay are and wherent realy feelin it with the movies.

01-cannon-mpc
01-cannon-mpc

Im a big Transformers fan and im realy lookin forward to this game. Looks realy cool so far. Like the G1 and thought the movies wher cool. Maby not perfect but still cool. And this is like not realy the movies and not realy the G1. But its still G1 but with a modern look to it. And we finaly get to run around on Cybertron! =)

robph4
robph4

the graphics look great ill have to rent this one cant w8 to play it looks fun

flammable_zeus
flammable_zeus

Nice to see that the Wii and DS counterparts will be handled by other teams so that each version can be the best it can. Looking forward to this.

flammable_zeus
flammable_zeus

I'll finish reading the article in a moment... But Megan Fox gets a pass? She was the worst thing to happen to Transformers!

superclocked
superclocked

2010 just keeps looking better and better :)

GR1mL0cK
GR1mL0cK

P.s again - Would have been nice to see Frank Welker join in and resume the reigns of Megatron but Peter Cullen is the MAN!

GR1mL0cK
GR1mL0cK

Omg finally a TF game that looks like a TF game.Sad that the best Tf game to come out in the last 20yrs is the one on my ipod.I agree with the person that said something about wanting an RPG TF game but this one looks bad ass.G1 is the way to go,they are the best and always will be.P.S better see some Dinobots happening in this