After the somewhat revolutionary events in 1989, the most important thing for the kid I was back then it was the huge amount of cartoons on TV. Among these I saw the first anime/manga series, like Saber Rider or Voltron, but Transformers came on the screen later on (right now Jetix is airing the 2008 series, Transformers Animated). There were 8 animated series in all that were aired in the USA and a few others made only for Japan, but Generation 1 has remained the major source of inspiration.
As a game that’s part of a well established universe, War for Cybertron comes with a special version for the Nintendo Wii and a companion toy line. And the story, too, wants to be special, being a prequel to Generation 1 and explaining how and why the transformers got on Earth. Ages ago, they lived on Cybertron, a planet caught amidst a conflict between two factions, the Autobots and the Deceptions, with the latter being disappointed by the so called decadence around them and led by the rebel Megatron. He wants to bring Cybertron to its former glory and the best way to do it seems to be the use of the legendary Dark Energon. The Autobot leader, Zeta Prime, opposes this plan and he’ll eventually end up in the junk yard, with the legendary Optimus becoming the new Prime, having to stop Megatron’s ascension together with his devoted companions.
The two campaigns have 5 missions each, with 10 chapters and 3 characters to choose from. You can start with any of them, but the order indicated by the producers is recommended, because the Decepticon campaign is a prelude to the Autobot one. The story can be taken on solo, in which case the roles of the other two bots that fight with you will be assigned to the AI, but you can also play cooperatively with friends. Everything is done on the fly, you can join or leave the game as you like, as your character will just be given back to the AI. Obviously, it’s one thing to play along a tiny artificial brain and quite another to have experienced human robots (!) at your side, especially when it comes to the harder and longer boss battles.
With the AI or with your friends, the game offers four classes to choose from – Leaders (Megatron or Optimus), Soldiers, Scouts or Scientists. Each has two predefined abilities and the transformations are different: the leaders become trucks, the soldiers – tanks, Scout – normal cars and the Scientist becomes a jet. The customization is richer in multiplayer and you also unlock two more heroes after finishing the campaigns.
In single-player though, the transformations from robot to vehicle and vice versa seem to be put there just for the visuals. There are areas designed for the jet form, in the missions where you get to control an entire fighter team, but for the rest, I turned into a vehicle only when I was out of ammo or wanted to cross long corridors faster. This reluctance comes from the poor control: the vehicle just swings like crazy, sometimes it doesn’t even react to left-right commands or it stops too late.
Who are the robots?
For the fans of the Transformers series, be it animated, movies or even toys, the heroes in War for Cybertron are well known and loved. But for the rest of you out there I have to present the characters that jump, shoot, transform and fight for what they think is the right cause. Besides the special characters that can be unlocked only in multiplayer, in the special Nintendo Wii or DS versions or from exclusive console codes in certain territories, the PC edition has the following line-up:
- Optimus (Prime) trusts his double bladed Energon axe and the ion blaster; he becomes the Autobot leader and is tasked to supervise the robots’ exile into more friendly space;
- Arcee is a female robot, a Scout that transforms into a car;
- Air Raid, an arrogant robot, like most jets, but his personality flaws are fully compensated by his fighting skills;
- Bumblebee, probably the cutest of the heroes, relies on his small size for recon and espionage missions; young and fiery, he always needs to be tempered by the leader;
- Ironhide, the most experimented fighter is looked upon many bots as a mentor and a role model;
- Jetfire considers that science will win the battle against Megatron; himself an ex-Decepticon, Jetfire becomes an Autobot when he starts to disagree with the rebels’ methods;
- Omega Supreme, guardian of Iacon city;
- Ratchet (without Clank) is the medic, often reproaching his team mates for taking too many hits and thus keeping him busy because of it;
- Sideswipe, a speed car, fights only for the competition; for him, the war is just a bloodier sport;
- Silverbolt isn’t too social, but be also compensates with his aerial fighting skills;
- Warpath, as his name states, specializes in weapons and their repairs; war is his home;
- Zeta Prime is the Autobot leader before Optimus, and the reasons for his demise you’ll have to discover on your own during the Decepticon campaign.
The so-called evil Decepticon side includes the counterparts of the Autobots, with the same types of weapons and transformations, only the story line is different. Thus:
- Megatron leads the fight as a mace and gun wielding robot, or as a tank;
- Barricade relies on his unusual speed to trap unwise Autobots on impossible routes that only he can navigate;
- Brawl only says kaboooooommmmm and cares little for his own life as long as he kills as many Autobots as possible;
- Breakdown is the fits the spy mold perfectly, paranoid and always expecting betrayal, so he is more of a loner;
- Skywarp becomes invisible and strikes in silence and anonymity;
- Slipstream is the Decepticon female, but she becomes a jet, not a car;
- Soundwave is the communication officer, Megatron’s right hand, generally the robot with the practical ideas;
- Starscream places his own ambition first and he would recycle both Megatron and Optimus if he were next in line to assume control;
- Thundercracker is proud to be a jet and despises all other transformers, but his fear of Megatron usually keeps him in line;
- Trypticon is the huge counter-part of Omega Supreme and probably gives the most difficult fight in the entire game.