Transformers: War for Cybertron
North American box art
|Developer(s)||High Moon Studios|
E. Daniel Arey
|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
Transformers: War for Cybertron is a third-person shooter video game developed by High Moon Studios and published by Activision. It was released in North America on June 22, 2010 and in PAL regions on June 25, 2010 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Two portable versions were released for the Nintendo DS, one featuring an Autobot campaign, the other a Decepticon campaign. A game for the Wii called Transformers: Cybertron Adventures was developed by Next Level Games and utilizes the same characters and setting as War for Cybertron. A sequel, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron was released on August 21, 2012 in North America and on August 24 in Europe.
The game takes place on the planet Cybertron, prior to the Transformers arrival on Earth. The Autobots and Decepticons are engaged in a civil war. The game can be played starting from either faction's perspective, but begins chronologically with the Decepticon campaign. The game revolves around the use of a substance known as Dark Energon, which the evil Decepticon leader Megatron believes will allow him to return the planet to what he refers to as a golden age.
War for Cybertron received generally positive reviews from critics. Aggregate websites GameRankings and Metacritic report scores in the mid 70% range across all three platforms. Several reviewers cited it as an improvement over past Transformers games. Critics generally felt that the cooperative and multiplayer versus modes were solid, but cited repetitive visuals in regards to the game's setting.
War for Cybertron is set on the planet Cybertron, prior to the Transformers' contact with the planet Earth. Robotic in nature, each Transformer has the ability to transform from their robot mode to an alternate form, such as a tank or jet. The Transformers are engaged in total civil war with one another. A group of evil Transformers form a splinter group separate from the main faction. Known as Decepticons, they follow Megatron, their powerful and ruthless leader. The main faction, known as the Autobots, follow the command of Zeta Prime. However, Zeta Prime is killed, leaving behind an inexperienced leader, Optimus, who must lead the Autobot forces to prevent Megatron from corrupting the planet, itself a Transformer, with Dark Energon. The Decepticon story is told in the first five chapters of the game, with the Autobot story directly following it. Players may choose to start either campaign first regardless of chronological order.
In the Decepticon campaign, Megatron fights to return the Transformers' home planet of Cybertron to what he refers to as a golden age. It opens as Megatron, having heard legends about Dark Energon, an unstable substance with the power to corrupt life on the planet, and the Decepticons attack an orbital research station guarded by the Autobot Sky Commander named Starscream and his forces. After fighting through hundreds of Starscream's soldiers; Megatron, Barricade and Brawl reach the Dark Energon manufacturing plant, and Megatron immerses himself in it. Inspired by Megatron's ability to handle the Dark Energon, Starscream asks him to teach him how to control it in return for his service. Shocked by his betrayal, Starscream's colleague and best friend Jetfire escapes the space station, vowing to warn the Autobot leader Zeta Prime.
Megatron sends Starscream, and his twin brothers Thundercracker and Skywarp to reactivate an Energon bridge which will feed the station with raw Energon, allowing the manufacturing of more Dark Energon. Once they succeed, Megatron then develops a plan to infect the core of Cybertron with Dark Energon, feeling that he can gain control of the planet once it is infected. He launches a full-scale assault on the Autobot capital city of Iacon, looking for an item called the Omega Key, which he will use to enter Cybertron's core and infect it. The Decepticons learn that Zeta Prime has placed the key under his personal guard. Megatron's forces enter the chambers of Zeta Prime and defeat him in battle. Zeta Prime tells Megatron that the Omega Key is not actually what unlocks access to the core, but is the means to activate the true key, a colossal Transformer known as Omega Supreme. After hearing this, Megatron presumably kills Zeta Prime.
Now activated, Omega Supreme pursues Megatron and his minions relentlessly. Megatron, Soundwave and Breakdown devise a plan to lure Omega Supreme to a rooftop defended with turrets, where the giant Transformer is ambushed. Omega Supreme sustains heavy damage and plummets to Cybertron's lower levels. The Decepticons follow Omega Supreme and engage him in a lengthy final battle, in which Omega Supreme is finally defeated, infected with Dark Energon, and captured by the Decepticons. Megatron forces Omega Supreme to open the door to Cybertron's core and travels there with his minions. Upon arrival he infects the core of Cybertron, also a Transformer, with Dark Energon, which then begins to spread over the entire planet.
The Autobot campaign starts with Zeta Prime, leader of the Autobots, being reported dead by scout Bumblebee who personally informs Optimus of this. Optimus then decides to temporarily take the mantle of leadership. Optimus, Bumblebee, and Optimus' friend Ratchet lead a defensive campaign to protect their home city of Iacon. The trio activate the city's defense guns and reactivate the communication grid. They then travel to the Decagon Plaza where the three Autobots battle the former Autobot Starscream and after severely wounding him, they force him to retreat.
Shortly afterward, the Autobots receive a distress call from Zeta Prime, - revealed to be alive - who informs them that he is being held at Kaon prison. Taking Bumblebee and Sideswipe with him, Optimus allows himself and the others to be captured in order to infiltrate Kaon. With help from Aerialbot Air Raid, the Autobots succeed in releasing all of Kaon's Autobot prisoners, who escape on Decepticon transports. Optimus, accompanied by Bumblebee and Sideswipe, find Zeta Prime's cell guarded by the loyal decepticon communications officer Soundwave. A fight ensues in which he deploys his minions Frenzy, Rumble and Laserbeak. Eventually, Soundwave and his minions retreat due to extensive damage, but not before Soundwave delivers a fatal shot to Zeta Prime. The Autobots release Zeta Prime, who dies shortly thereafter from his previous injuries after his battle with Megatron and being shot by Soundwave. Optimus returns to Iacon with Zeta Prime's body and speaks with the high council who declares Optimus the new Prime and informs him of Megatron's activities.
Optimus is given the task of removing the Dark Energon from Cybertron's core by the council. Optimus and his old friend Ironhide, along with rookie Autobot soldier Warpath first attempt to rescue Omega Supreme from the Decepticons, who is being tortured by Dark Energon. They call in Ratchet who heals Omega Supreme. The Autobots free Omega Supreme and gain access to Cybertron's core. Struggling against a mysterious corrupted worm and countless Decepticons, Optimus then speaks with Cybertron's core, which informs him that it has been heavily damaged by the Dark Energon. It states that it can repair itself by shutting down, but the process will take millions of years during which Cybertron will become cold, barren, and lifeless. The core then tells Optimus that if he carries a small piece of the core with him, the core can still survive during the repairs. Optimus accepts the burden and the core relinquishes the Autobot Matrix of Leadership.
With the planet soon to shut down, Optimus orders the evacuation of all Autobot cities. As the Autobot evacuation transports reach orbit, many are attacked by Megatron's orbital space station. Silverbolt, leader of the Aerialbots takes Air Raid and Jetfire with him to reclaim Starscream's station - which belonged to the Autobots - and destroy vital systems, but during the attack they realize that the station has been altered by Megatron and it is now a massive Decepticon known as Trypticon. After fighting him outside Cybertron's orbit for a while, the Aerialbots witness the damaged Trypticon plunge into Cybertron, and the Autobots band together to narrowly defeat him in one final battle. In the aftermath of the battle Optimus commissions a massive vessel known as the Ark to transport the remaining Autobots into space. Optimus and a small band of remaining Autobots stay to defend Cybertron from Megatron for as long as possible.
War for Cybertron is played from a third person perspective. Transformers are classified into four main categories, Leader, Soldier, Scientist, and Scout. Each character in the campaign is classified as one of these types, and their weaponry, abilities and vehicle form are largely influenced by their character class. Players can change between forms at will, and each form has unique abilities. While in robot form characters can also collect different weapons, reminiscent of those found in first-person shooters. While in vehicle form each character can boost their speed.
Each campaign level gives the player a choice of three Transformers. The campaign can be played in single-player or cooperatively via online multiplayer, and players can enter or leave the game at any time. If fewer than three players are present, the game's AI controls the remaining playable characters. Cooperative and competitive modes of the game are limited to online play, with no split screen features available. The game levels are designed to allow characters to comfortably navigate and play the game in either mode.
Competitive multiplayer games do not allow players to control official, named characters, and instead must design their own Transformer. Similar to the campaign, generic multiplayer characters are split into four character classes. Contrary to the campaign, however, each created character features some amount of customization. Players can select a base model and vehicle form, then alter major colors for their character and modify weapon loadouts and abilities based on that character class. The multiplayer aspect also features an experience and leveling system, including perks, and upgrades reminiscent of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, another Activision game.
War for Cybertron has several multiplayer modes to choose from. Deathmatch is a free-for-all game type where the player with the most kills at the end of the game is the winner. In Team Deathmatch players are divided into Autobot and Decepticon teams. The winning team is the one who earns the most kills. Conquest is a capture-and-hold style game, similar to the conquest mode found in the Star Wars: Battlefront series. Multiple control points are spread across the level. The object is for players to capture enemy control points by standing near them for a set amount of time while defending their own control points. In Countdown to Extinction players must take an active bomb and place it at an enemy base, similar to the Assault mode in the Halo series. Power Struggle is the game's equivalent to the common King of the Hill game type. Finally Code of Power is a mode consisting of two and a half minute rounds where teams vie for a giant melee weapon. Also available is the Escalation game mode, the only multiplayer mode where players can control characters from the campaign or downloadable content. Players choose a faction and then work cooperatively to defeat continuous waves of enemy robots until all players are defeated, similar to the Horde mode found in Gears of War and the Halo series Firefight game modes. Players earn credits by defeating enemies which can be used to unlock ammunition, weaponry, health and new areas in each map.
Development and marketing
War for Cybertron was announced December 16, 2009, and was released in North America on June 22, 2010 with the PAL region release following on June 25, 2010. It is powered by Unreal Engine 3. Physics for the game are handled using the Havok physics library. A demo was released on June 10, 2010 which allowed for players to play various multiplayer matches using two of the game's character classes. Developer High Moon Studios designed the friendly AI so that as a player progresses through the story any accompanying characters will help the player, but still require the player to advance through the game. "The buddies don't advance the story for you. They get to the point to kinda show you where to go, but then they'll take up defensive positions and wait for you to progress the story" said Game Director Matt Tieger. "They're not finishing objectives for you, but they like to stay near you, they'll heal you if you get too wounded, they're pretty smart."
Setting and plot
War for Cybertron developer High Moon Studios and publisher Activision worked closely with Hasbro to create the design and story for the game. "I want to make the game I've been waiting 25 years to play" said Tieger. The studio brought the concept and idea to Hasbro for approval. It began with a sketch of Bumblebee. "That was that first sketch that we slid across the table to Hasbro and said 'What do you guys think?' And that's where it all started" said Tieger. High Moon presented the idea of setting the game on Cybertron during the Transformers' civil war between the Autobots and Decepticons. Aaron Archer, Senior Design Director for Hasbro, stated of the Cybertron-based setting "that's a really cool place [...] and the early days of that civil war between the Autobots and Decepticons was a story that hadn't really been fleshed out in any format."
Each of the characters were totally redesigned for the game, taking cues from previous iterations from the Transformers lore. "What they've allowed us to do is take a licensed property and treat it like a brand new IP" stated Tieger. The vehicle modes for car-based characters initially consisted of wheels, however the developers found that it crippled gameplay by removing the player's ability to strafe while in vehicle mode. Taking the dilemma to Hasbro, the two companies agreed that characters would turn their wheels down and hover while in vehicle mode, allowing for more movement. The vehicles would then revert to the traditional wheeled mode while using a character's boost, maintaining what the Transformers license had established with previous canon.
The world of Cybertron was designed in such a way that the Transformers would have a proper scale on their homeworld. "It doesn't make sense that things would be smaller than them in their world," Tieger said, adding "the key character in scale was making their world gigantic and huge." Matt Krystek, Lead Designer at High Moon stated that since the game is not tied to a movie they were able to tell their own story. He cited the G1 universe as the inspiration for the game. Jim Daly, Lead Concept Artist at High Moon also cited the G1 universe as the main inspiration for the design of Cybertron itself, also stating that there were elements from Disney's TRON, Blade Runner, and the Aliens franchise.
Hasbro's Aaron Archer stated the game would be only part of a bigger group of media. "This won't be the only touch point. It's a big place that we're going to build off of." At a BotCon 2010 panel, War for Cybertron Creative Director Matt Tieger stated Activision is currently in talks with Hasbro on creating additional titles. He also added that Hasbro is "considering" expanding the brand further into the realm of video games. Joe Moscone, Senior Account Manager for Hasbro's public relations team, further clarified that War for Cybertron is in the same continuity as the Transformers: Prime animated series and Transformers: Exodus novel, and that this would be the primary continuity going forward. Hasbro has released a toy line based on the War for Cybertron setting. Transforming figures of Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron and Soundwave from the game have been released by Hasbro under the Transformers: Generations banner.
The soundtrack for the console versions was composed by Tyler Bates. The ending theme is "Till All Are One" by Stan Bush, from his 2007 album In This Life. Peter Cullen returns to voice Optimus, having voiced the character several times in the Transformers franchise. Other voice actors include Kari Wahlgren as Arcee, Liam O'Brien as Air Raid, Johnny Yong Bosch as Bumblebee, Fred Tatasciore as Megatron, Ratchet, Omega Supreme, and Trypticon, Keith Szarabajka as Ironhide, Steven Blum as Barricade and Shockwave, Nolan North as Brawl, and Sam Riegel as Starscream.
Two downloadable content packs were produced for console versions of the game. The first, entitled simply Character and Map Pack 01, was announced on July 2, 2010. Character and Map Pack 01 contains the three previously pre-order exclusive characters, Demolishor, Jazz and Shockwave, as well as two new characters, Onslaught and Scattershot. Four new multiplayer maps are also included. Two maps are exclusive to the game's Escalation mode, while the other two are used in all other game modes. It was released July 27, 2010. The second pack, known as Character and Map Pack 02, adds the characters Dead End and Zeta Prime and five new maps. It was released September 7, 2010.
|Transformers: War for Cybertron|
Critical reaction has been generally positive, with many reviews citing that War for Cybertron is an improvement over past Transformers games. Aggregate scores across all three platforms were fairly uniform. The PC version holds a score of 76.25% at GameRankings and 76/100 at Metacritic. The PlayStation 3 version has a 78.47% and 77/100 at the two aggregate sites, while the Xbox 360 version reports scores of 79.45% and 76/100. Individual review scores ranged from a 50% approval by Edge magazine to a 94% approval by Gaming Trend.
Reviewers praised the in-game voice acting. G4TV's Matt Kell noted that Peter Cullen's voice work as Optimus was "commanding and familiar", adding that the other actors "even do their best to replicate the voices of the original cartoon." Mike Nelson of Game Informer agreed and noted the game's excellent dialogue, stating "the script has all the overwrought melodrama you’d expect from giant talking robots." Several critics also gave high marks for War for Cybertron's multiplayer. IGN's Arthur Gies noted the influences from Unreal Championship, Tribes, Team Fortress 2, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 adding that "War for Cybertron leverages its transformation mechanic to create something that feels shockingly new." Tom McShea of GameSpot noted that the game's Escalation mode provided a Transformers twist on Gears of War's Horde mode. GamePro's Kat Bailey noted that the multiplayer was "probably the most appealing part of the package", adding it had a "strong suite [of] options." 1UP.com's Matt Miller lauded the ability to play through the game's campaign with up to three players online, as did G4TV's Matt Kell. Both reviewers also praised the new character designs, with Kell calling them "inventive." Wired.com's John Mix Meyer gave praise to the game's campaign length, stating "The game’s 10-hour single-player campaign means there’s plenty of time for the crazy transformations to strut their stuff." John Hamblin of Eurogamer praised the transformation animations. He stated players will "occasionally wish there was a Max Payne slow-mo option so you could appreciate the nuance of these feats a little more."
The repetitive visual design of Cybertron drew criticism from critics. Tom McShea of GameSpot stated that "the majority of the game entails walking through similar-looking corridors." Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann also cited repetitive visuals, but conceded that "the metallic world of Cybertron doesn't lend itself particularly well to a lot of environmental variety." 1UP.com's Matt Miller also raised issue with the repetitive visuals, but provided a counterpoint in saying "there are a host of features in place to save the game from spiraling into mediocrity." John Hamblin of Eurogamer and Tom McShea of GameSpot also pointed out the game's vast lack of ammunition. "Watching Lord Megatron repeatedly suffering the indignity of being shot at by drones while he desperately scours the debris looking for an elusive ammo box [...] is just sad" stated Hamblin. He was further critical of the game's checkpoint system, which often leaves players in difficult situations upon respawning.
The first downloadable content pack received mixed reception from IGN's Arthur Gies. While he praised the design of the multiplayer maps, he noted that the lack of online players for War for Cybertron hurt the ability to play the new content online. Gies stated that he attempted to host the two Escalation maps, adding that he waited for several minutes for players to join, but had no success. "That's the problem", he stated. "War for Cybertron's multiplayer is all-but-abandoned." Gies went on to cite a peak population of approximately 4,600 players on Xbox Live, 800 on PlayStation Network, and only 158 players on the PC version at the time of his writing. Despite the lack of online players he felt the content may fit a player's needs, stating "If you've got nine other friends who bought War for Cybertron and can set up your own private matches, then Character and Map Pack 01 might be worth checking out."
A sequel to War for Cybertron was announced in November 2010. "This is the most highly-rated, critical success of any game that's had the Hasbro brand yet and we're looking forward to a sequel in 2012," stated Hasbro representative Mark Belcher. The game was slated for a 2012 release  and its official title, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, was revealed on October 6, 2011. It is a direct continuation of War for Cybertron, completing the story of the planet Cybertron's demise and the exodus of the Transformers. One new Autobot, Grimlock was confirmed in the title announcement.
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