This past Thursday was my first visit to San Francisco, and it did not disappoint. Not only had the weather apparently recovered from days of rain, but a group of journalists and I had the opportunity to attend a press event covering the upcoming third-person shooter, Transformers: War for Cybertron
I know what you're thinking: "Great. Another ploy to exploit fans' irresistible urge to know and have all things Transformers," but it's not as simple as that. High Moon Studios understood the concerns of Transformers fans looking for a more legitimate connection to the franchise they adore, as well as the concerns of a gamer looking for more impressive gameplay. Although they may not have created an imperfect title, and although not much of the game is groundbreaking, my gaze was held on the big screens and my hands glued to the controller.
You might have heard the term "canon" being passed around in reference to War for Cybertron. Perhaps you've seen appearances of fan-favorite characters like Shockwave and Starscream in the trailers that have been released. That, coupled with admissions of inspiration taken from the Generation 1 series have possibly piqued your interest in a game that seems to be moving in the right direction. The ideas behind this particular Transformers game all stem from the right mindset. The setting - the Cybertronian war where the Autobots and Decepticons battle it out on their home planet - is a unique and relatively undiscovered area in the history of Transformers. The justified qualms of fans - that of a Transformers game being developed strictly for the consumer and lacking the quintessential Transformers qualities - are likely satiated by developers' convincing assurances of their legitimate intentions in place of that greed. What about the qualms of the gamer crowd?
The purpose of this press event, at least from my perspective, was to test this last thread. Interviews conducted with the developers all resulted in their insistence that gamers and fans alike will be pleased with the outcome of this new Transformers game. Character renders and references to the original storyline were proof of the former. Fortunately for my hopes, this event was definitely proof of the latter.
I started off the way I always do with a new game: campaign mode. After sorting through the classes
I chose Bumblebee, the Scout stealth warrior. He's best for "hit-and-run" attacks given his dash and cloaking abilities. Hopping onto the PS3 systems with two other journalists, we let the epic cut scene introduce us to what definitely appeared to be a war-torn planet. Racing across dilapidated roads, we fought off the Decepticon troops while experimenting with transforming to and from our vehicle modes. While Bumblebee was quick on his feet, I wasn't much a fan of the Ion Blaster he has equipped. I found myself preferring to fight from his vehicle adaptation, however significantly slower it was.
The environment encourages you to respond to combat directly rather than taking cover to aim your shots. I disposed of the Decepticons in my vicinity and, when out of ammo, quickly transformed to my vehicle to fire heavier shots in the direction of those remaining. Then, I boosted across the floor to smash a box and replenish my ammo and health. Transforming back to our vehicles, my team and I were off to face the next batch of enemies along the way to our goal point. At times, we came across highly Decepticon-infested areas, but with the advantage of mounted turrets. After blasting through every moving object my eyes could identify, I tore the turret from its stand and carried the heavy weapon with me for ultimate damage.
Combat is very fast paced. Before I knew it, we had flown past gaps and destructed paths to find ourselves face to face with the mini-boss - an Energon Corrupter - of the level. My feelings toward the battle were essentially vocalized by our audience, namely the Hip Hop Gamer who often proclaimed excitement at our near encounters. Reviving a companion while under the pressure of the nearing attack of the boss's Energon lasers and missiles definitely creates a challenge. If this mini-boss and the trailers are any indication, it seems we would have been in for even more entertaining boss fights. I'm told that the particular Autobot level we were traversing eventually ends with a fight against the infamous Starscream, whose appearance will undoubtedly be received warmly by Transformers fans.
Needless to say, I left the campaign demo enthusiastic to play through the rest of the levels, and the entirely separate Decepticon campaign. The two other modes available, both multiplayer, were next to tackle. Team Deathmatch was fairly standard. All the typical qualities of this multiplayer mode were to be found, with the addition of the Transformers' specific abilities and the unique characteristic of being able to instantaneously transform into their respective vehicles. What I really wanted to experiment with, however, was the reveal of a different multiplayer mode: Escalation. This mode has all the qualities of what is most commonly termed "Horde" mode. Because of the unique combat tactics of the Transformers, however, I found this particular mode to be incredibly fitting for the game's style of combat. The gamer in me got the better of me, resulting in my sitting in for several rounds of confronting progressively more difficult waves of enemies.
Iron Hide quickly became my favorite character. He performs in the exact way I like to kill things: brute force and effective weaponry. With my shotgun in one hand and a melee axe to be reckoned with in the other, I was on the hunt for more enemies. I was literally running around in search of my next victim. Sniffing out the Decepticon troops on the ramps above us, I switched to Iron Hide's jet to fly up and blast through them. The melee attack is savage; I ripped through every Decepticon that had the misfortune of wandering too close to me. I think I might have even involuntarily burst out in cackling laughter at one point out of sheer enjoyment.
I'm not the most knowledgeable in terms of the Transformers storyline. I was more keen on exploring the gameplay to put this new title to the test, one that it certainly passed in my eyes. From my research
and discussions with Transformer fans, it seems that the test of a respectable Transformers storyline is meeting the fans' standards, as well.
I think I've sufficiently gushed about my pleasant experiences with playing the game, but be sure to check our interview with the sound effects specialist to gain some further insight into the development process at High Moon Studios.
We'd like to thank Activision for arranging travel and hotel accommodations, the representatives at Step 3, and the team from High Moon Studios who were on hand at the event.