Transforming is done fantastically and setting all looks fantastic. That's where the excellence ends.

User Rating: 5.5 | Transformers: War for Cybertron X360
I really wanted this game to be great. I really did. It starts off with a fantastic first impression, but unfortunately things start to fall apart very quickly. For starters the campaign is extremely derivative. It takes no risks at all, and puts you on a painfully linear path with only the basic design elements you'd expect to see in a 3rd person shooter. Yes, the setting is certainly very cool. And yes, the game looks absolutely fantastic. The world High Moon Studios has built is both a brilliant homage to the existing Transformers world, but it also feels very original and fresh.

The only real twist, and this game would have been a massive failure without it, is the ability for your character to transform at any time. However, the reasons to do so are pretty limited, and it's a little too obvious when the game puts up a section of a level that requires it. Mostly, this is only effective for the flying alt-modes. The ground alt-mode sections you can walk through in bot-mode and only realize you should transform when the next group of enemies seem to be far away and you remember have a way to get there faster. Transforming is not integral to the campaign unless it is forced on you. There is simply not much choice, or suggestion, for when to use it. The only time I felt like it was best used was during the two boss encounters, and only then did it matter on the hardest difficulty setting. The next best reason to transform is to continue the fight during those very rare situations where you might have run out of ammo, but this also occurs only within the hardest difficulty setting.

Hitting one button to transformer back and fourth between modes, which all use some very slick and flashy transformation animations, remains enjoyable throughout the entire game, as well as all of the multiplayer modes. The only downside to transforming is the amount of time it takes. This may seem like a silly point, but in terms of the gameplay it introduces at least some kind of penalty without making you dread transforming. Most animations are done within a second, and even with them still going on, the shift in control scheme changes almost immediately. You simply have a slight movement sluggishness while the animation finishes. In multiplayer, you can get yourself killed pretty quickly if you decide to transformer so you can flee and someone catches you before you can jet out of there. One of the best ways to explain how smooth this all is comes from a routine tactic I used while playing the Scientist class in multiplayer (all scientists, and only the scientists, have flying alt-modes in multiplayer). This class has the ability to drop a sentry turret while in bot-mode. I would regularly fly over a capture point, and while in mid-air, transform to bot-mode, drop the sentry, and transform back to zoom off to another capture point. All without touching the ground, but still leaving the sentry close enough to the ground to be within range of enemies to shoot at. Long story short, Transforming is ridiculously awesome and fun. Even though the animations fudge it a bit, the are fun to look at over and over. Did I mention the super awesome sound effects that happen when you transform? Those never get old either.

The fantastic setting and top notch animations are tempered by the realization that the look and feel of the game does the majority of the heavy lifting for keeping the campaign interesting. After awhile, much of the game starts to look same'ish as previous levels. When you are blowing through your 300th enemy, it doesn't really register that the wall textures look different than they did when you were blowing through your 200th enemy. The problem here is that the level design itself is all very similar. Ninety degree turns, corridors and bridges abound. And abound. And abound. Adding a few elevators here and there doesn't help the situation.

The campaign is actually split into two major acts with 5 chapters each. You play through 4 Decepticon chapters first, which are the traditional levels. Then the 5th chapter is entirely a boss fight. Once that is done, you get the same treatment for the Autobots. The story itself is entirely Decepticon focused during the first 5 chapters. While this may seem like yet another "Well duh" thing to point out, I do so because I feel like they could have done a lot more for weaving in the other side's POV during either act. Showing more of what the other side is actively doing during either act would have done a lot to make the story more interesting.

Your enemies in each act are mostly generic bots, and lots of them. The opportunity to have famous bots cross paths and duke it out is largely lost. The only real exception is the boss encounters. I would have loved to see the inclusion of smaller sequences involving known 'Cons and 'Bots bashing each other in the face. Reserving these situations for only the boss encounters was a downer. Many of the chapters even take place in settings where it is easy to recognize the opportunity for certain sequences, only to be let down by gunning through waves of generic bots before hitting a boss encounter. These bots would not feel so generic if they didn't have poorly framed AI. Your teammates AI are also equally poor, but at least they can't ever die. However, there are a few times where I would have loved to see them go up in a puff of smoke for being such a pain. One of the golden missed opportunities here is that the game lets you pick which character to play through, out of three choices for each chapter, but does not let you swap between them mid chapter. This means you don't get to really experience what it's like to play other characters unless you complete multiple playthroughs. Your not really missing much though, because all of the characters play almost exactly alike for any given chapter. There are some special ability differences, but for the most part you end up using the exact same guns, and your character moves almost the exact same.

One of the major glaring design decisions that will leave you scratching your head is directly related to how similar all of the bots are. Any Transformers fan will tell you that particular characters have particular traits that make them unique. None of this really comes across in the game. Only the dialogue really sets them apart. Controlling them individually gives no hint that you have a strength to exploit, or a weakness to be cautious of. I might be asking too much by believing a "character card" should exist for each character, along with stats that control how hard they hit, how accurate they shoot or how fast they move. Sadly, none of this was implemented. Optimus Prime, Ironhide and Ratchet all feel 95 percent identical to each other. Even Bumblebee feels just as similar to the larger bots.

The competitive multiplayer options to a LOT to make the game recommendable as a purchase. None of them will give your interest for longer than a month or so, but they are worth checking out. There certainly are problems to deal with, but they can be ignored and overlooked for just long enough to get a good amount of fun from the game. The usual deathmatch modes are available, along with some other options, but the one I found the most interesting is the conquest mode. This is basically your typical domination mode where you capture 3 points and try to maintain control while attempting to get to 400 points before the other team does. This mode does the most to bring out all the different abilities of each bot class without feeling like any one of the 4 is supremely dominant. In this mode, the bots do indeed have different stats, but not all are obvious through the game. A different quantity of healthbar boxes is the first thing you will notice. The big downers for the multiplayer include some horrendous hit detection, overly powerful special abilities and of course the usual killstreak rewards that make the leading team that much more powerful. Unlocks for each class are nice, and let you play each class a little bit differently depending on what you want to do. Getting 3 different loadouts for each class lets you make adjustments during any given match, albeit only within the loadouts that you've got setup.

One of my biggest rage inducing problems with this game involves how the matchmaking works. If you haven't bought the new maps yet, it will become VERY clear to you that they are available. If you chose not to buy them, and I recommend you don't because they are not worth the price, you will be given multiple reminders that you don't have them. Specifically, the game will continue to try to put you in lobbies that are using the DLC maps, only to kick you out to the main menu with a prompt that suggest you buy them. Not only is this astronomically idiotic and flat out RUDE to do to a player that has already purchased the game, but it pours a little extra salt on the wound by kicking you back to the MAIN menu instead of just the multiplayer area. The super added bonus is that a lobby you are in might swap to a map you don't have. When that happens you get a nice little pop-up that suggests you should hit a button to go directly to the marketplace to buy them. This is not, and NEVER will be, the method for getting players to give you extra money. I had actually considered buying them until I ran into this heavy handed idiocy.

The best way to describe the game in as short a fashion as possible is to say that it is a treat for the eyes but ultimately ends up being rather shallow.