This onomatopoeia coined by Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade fame is the sum of my childhood TV time, toys, daydreams and games-played-with-friends. The earnest wish that I were a huge robot, one capable of transforming into some kind of vehicle was both powerful yet unattainable.
It’s hard to nail down exactly what it was about the Transformers that captured the imaginations of so many of my generation. Whatever the reason, the results speak for themselves. Even when the show became little more than a thinly veiled vehicle for toy sales, the fans simply kept watching and begging their parents to buy them the latest of the seemingly endless cavalcade of characters introduced in every single episode of the later seasons.
Growing up, I would approach the idea of painful medical procedures with a bittersweet enthusiasm. Whenever I required an injection, liquid nitrogen wart removal or a tooth filling, I would simply keep reminding myself that following the pain would be a visit to the local toy shop, or as I liked to call it: Transformer Town.
I still have an original cast-iron Optimus Prime, a double-sized Starscream, and a box full of other classic G1 Transformers.
Since then many other beloved franchises have been chewed up and spat out by a Hollywood that insists on constantly repackaging and selling my childhood back to me. I held high hopes for the Michael Bay adaptation of Transformers, only to be shown that some things simply don’t translate well to the modern era.
Subsequently when I initially heard about Transformers: War For Cybertron for the Xbox 360, I was sceptical. Trailers and Dev Diaries slowly piqued my interest until I saw the reveal trailer.
Could this be the Transformers game that we’ve always wanted? Will our dreams of a G1-worthy game or movie finally come true?
The singleplayer side of the game is split into two campaigns, one for the Decepticons and one for the Autobots. They’re designed to be played in this order as the events of the first set up the second, but the player is provided with the option of starting with either. Seeing the fight from both sides would be a interesting experience if it weren’t for the fact that the story side of things is a little campy. The Decepticons are fighting because Megatron wants power, while the Autobots are fighting to save Cybertron from their corruption. It’s all very thin, but that’s ok because it is incredibly true to the source, right down to the Matrix of Leadership and the ‘bot’s ability to scan items onto their form.
I think this is what I like about it. The whole experience shouts of the developer’s love of the Transformers. Especially visually, the character designs, levels and animations are all exactly what the fans wanted to see and were disappointed to find absent in Michael Bay’s attempts. The characters themselves are covered in plates and vents which move of their own accord, their purpose unknown. They make the characters seem like living (albeit, metallic) beings, rather than more generic robots. The voice acting also helps to accentuate this as the talent High Moon Studios have brought to bear can’t be understated, especially thanks to Peter Cullen making yet another return to the role of Optimus Prime. He lends an authenticity to these experiences which can’t be understated. Without him, I’m not sure how future attempts will fare. Perhaps the use of Optimus Prime will be precluded by his eventual absence?
The world of Cybertron itself also lends a lot to the atmosphere they’ve created. As you move through the world, doors open with a mysterious yet familiar transformation, walkways materialise in front of you as you move down them at great speed and even the usual load-obscuring elevator rides all feel very, Transformery.
Unfortunately, all of these things only really appeal to fans of the old TV series. The gameplay itself is nothing revolutionary. All of the usual 3rd person shooter trappings are present save for a sorely missing cover system, the levels are linear and the weapons are bog standard, if setting-appropriate.
The class-based multiplayer is on the other hand, a whole lot of fun. In fact many reviewers believe this to be the meat and potatoes of the title. I have to admit, the aerialbots are going to be where I spend the majority of my multiplayer time. The ability to transform into an incredibly fast-moving aircraft at any time is fun indeed.
In summary, your enjoyment of the game will come down to nostalgia. As a fan of the original series, I found a lot to love in the singleplayer campaign. I can say with absolute certainty that this is the best game of all time featuring an altruistic truck.