War for Cybertron is a truly definitive Transformers game, succeeding where many others have utterly failed.
War for Cybertron explores the history of both the Autobots and Decepticons; both of whom ,surprisingly enough, were united as one culture. And Cybertron was once a peaceful planet until greed and pride tore it asunder, erupting into a bedlam of brutal civil war between the two divided factions. The player is given the opportunity to choose which of these factions to start with, but the chronology of the game's story begins with the Decepticon campaign, overseeing Megatron's violent rise to power and his ambition in creating a "golden age" for all of Cybertron by any means necessary and at the unfortunate expense of those foolish enough to stand in his way. (Well, Starscream has always been vocal about his opposition to one of the most dangerous Decepticons ever built; keeping his head screwed on his shoulders all the while.) Likewise, the Autobot campaign explores the early exploits of Optimus Prime before and leading up to his tenure as the legendary commander of the Autobots. With its previous leader, Zeta Prime, abruptly killed in the line of duty, Optimus assumes the mantle of leadership in a concerted effort to amass a willing army of warriors to take up his cause, confront Megatron and his cronies, survive an onslaught of Decepticon fire, contend with the environmental destruction of Cybertron all around him, and get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding Megatron's dealings with Dark Energon. Despite the set chronological order of things, you're perfectly free to start either campaign if you so desire with any one of three difficulty settings, and successful completion of both campaigns gains you achievements and a neat reward which I will leave for you to discover.
War for Cybertron is an enormous departure from the disappointing movie-based Transformers games. First of all, the Transformers have been returned to their pseudo-80s incarnations; albeit their original Cybertronian forms but nothing like the insectoid, unrecognizable abominations of the recent films. It also has absolutely nothing to do with the films storywise, so this will prove to be a great source of relief for hardcore Transformers purists who didn't take too kindly to the Michael Bay movies. (No Megan Fox to serve as a distraction either.) Gameplay wise, War for Cybertron veers away---as far as it can possibly go---from totalitarian exploration and one-dimensional combat that made previous works such a downer, opting instead for a purely third-person shooter experience similar in vein to the likes of Gears of War. Autobot or Decepticon---these Transformers weren't built to walk around and collect medals; they were built to tear each other apart, and War for Cybertron fully emphasizes that to a foreseeable fault-giving the franchise the due respect it deserves. And it's all fast-paced, explosive and exciting. From every angle, sounds of explosions, gunfire, and destruction emanate all around, giving you a heightened sense of being in the middle of a battlefield and literally having only seconds to shoot or get shot. This sort of formula is what makes most first-person and third-person shooters so successful, and it's done to great effect here. And, as Optimus Prime says to Bumblebee in the opening cutscene of the Autobot campaign, "you should never fight alone." Fortunately, you don't have to. Be it artificial intelligence or online cooperative, two allies will acccompany you during your journey. You can gather up to two other online friends to take control of your fellow allies and complete campaigns and objectives together. (There is no split-screen local play available.) You also needn't worry if a player suddenly drops out due to a lost connection or a crummy attitude; the AI will immediately pick up the slack almost seamlessly, preventing interruption of gameplay.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Transformers game without the opportunity to….well, transform and roll out. No matter which Autobot or Decepticon you're handling, you can switch between robot to vehicle as quickly as pressing the left analog stick. The vehicle modes of the Transformers might take some time to get used to, and oftentimes it does get a little slippery, but once you get the handle on it, you should have no problems navigating the complex and consistently changing Cybertronian landscape. In robot mode, your character will be given opportunities to find different weapons to use against their enemies---most of them happen to be guns, and REALLY big ones. Unfortunately, ammo isn't always easy to come by-with the exception of major boss encounters---and there seem to be more Decepticons than ammo cartridges, so emphasis on conservation is readily apparent. But, in the event that you run out of ammo anyway, don't fret-you have access to a cool melee weapon; like Optimus Prime's Heat Axe. Using a melee weapon requires pressing the Right Analog Stick, which is peculiarly odd seeing how it can be a little unresponsive at times, and you cannot attack in succession. Still, it is one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal---scrapping most larger enemies with one swing---and a perfect fallback strategy for when your ammo runs out. And if all else fails, you've also got your Energon ability---a powerful character enhancement that temporarily gives you a bit of an edge over difficult enemies and situations.
The solo campaigns are exciting enough, but for those itching for multiplayer, War for Cybertron delivers the goods and then some. There are a total of six multiplayer modes ranging from traditional deathmatches, to capture the flag, conquests; in naming a few. One such example of a multiplayer mode is the Countdown to Extinction mode; which has players retrieve a time-delayed bomb found in the center of the map, plant it in their opponents' base, and prevent them from diffusing it long enough until it goes off. You can use any one of the renowned Transformers from either faction, or create a unique Transformer of your own using a modest template. Like the existing characters, each Transformer is class based, adding a strategic savor-faire to multiplayer skirmishes. For example, a Scout is a bonafide expert in hit-and-run tactics, while a Leader boosts strength and defense of any characters under their command. In keeping with the variable strategic element of its multiplayer competitions, War for Cybertron distances itself from most other formulaic standardfare and offers a great degree of flexibility that is sure to please gamers who love a little spice in their online fights.
Visually, War for Cybertron is exceedingly gritty and morose, but this is far from a bad thing. Apart from Optimus Prime and Megatron, fan favorites such as Starscream, Bumblebee, Jetfire, Soundwave, Ratchet and even Skywarp and Thundercracker have all made the cut and are completely playable in either solo campaign or multiplayer mode. The music is composed of thundering, Klaus Bedelt inspired toccatas typical of high-budget action movies, with a nice rock guitar thrown right in for good measure. Sound effects sound great, and voice overs are well done. Peter Cullen reprises his role as Optimus Prime here, and he's never sounded better.
It is often wondered by many among the die-hard Transformers fan elite as well as those who remember the cartoon back in the 80s if a truly great video game based on the franchise could ever be made. It is my firm belief that War for Cybertron is that game, succeeding where most other games of its like have failed, because it is a representational account of the raw, inherent nature of these hulking, shape-shifting behemoths. Yes, the Autobots are diplomatic, but bear in mind---they're purely designed to kill Decepticons. And Decepticons just like to kill Autobots in general. Thus, their eternal struggles, violent battles and epic confrontations are what define the Transformers as a memorable element in our pop culture. War for Cybertron achieves this referendum wholeheartedly, delivering a purely great gaming experience for Transformers fans who have long waited for something like this to come along. And even if you're not a fan, you still get a lot of action for your money, and you certainly don't need to know everything there is to know about the Transformers universe to maximize your enjoyment. Whatever category you happen to fall into, War for Cybertron is an excellent thrill ride.