Transformers: War for Cybertron (Xbox 360) Review

Author: Lydia Sung
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Saturday, July 3rd, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (
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Questionable fashion and excellent music define the 1980s. If you’re an Eighties (or even Nineties) kid, then you probably remember when The Simpsons and MTV were still good. Hell, anything you saw on TV was better than the remakes and brain-melting fodder of today. Remember when Disney was known for quality without relying on Pixar? I do.

And the toys we loved. Amidst the Ninja Turtles and A-Team action figures, we had Transformers. Hasbro’s line of “More Than Meets the Eye” robots inspired an epic cartoon series that ran for 98 episodes and four seasons, what we now refer to as “Generation 1.” 

Decades later, the transforming robots have returned to woo today’s younglings. In the mean time, the rest of us are busy clawing our eyes out. Michael Bay sullied our childhood memories by slapping decals on Optimus, turning Jetfire into a crotchety ol’ fart, and casting Shia LaBeouf as the already annoying Witwicky boy. Let’s not even mention the new cartoons.

So when Activision announced another Transformers game, following their movie-based ones, we were all understandably wary. High Moon Studios was named the developer, and they hadn’t yet established much of a reputation, good or bad.

Turns out the folks at High Moon know exactly what they’re doing.   War for Cybertron is to Transformers what Arkham Asylum is to Batman. The game has its fair share of canonical errors (What the hell is Trypticon doing here?), the liberties High Moon took with continuity allowed for maximum fan service. Just about every major player you remember from G1 is duking it out on Cybertron, and the accuracy with which the Transformers are portrayed is what makes War for Cybertron irresistible to many.

The story serves as a prequel to original '80s cartoon, encompassing events prior to the Transformers' arrival on Earth. The war between Autobots and Decepticons is reaching its apex on Cybertron, and Megatron’s massive superiority complex is screwing over the entire planet. The campaign is split in half, starting with Decepticon and switching to Autobots midway. Chapters one through five encompass the Decepticon leader’s insane plans for “restoring” Cybertron, leading up to the Autobot storyline between chapters six and ten. Basically it’s the bad guys doing a bunch of stuff, then the good guys undoing everything.

Every chapter is broken into a long series of missions. The entire campaign can be soloed but also supports online co-op (no split-screen). Every mission has room for up to three players, translating to two AI partners in single-player. Shockingly enough, the AI demonstrates more competence than most human players in any online game. They’re proactive in battle, have perfect aim, and make excellent meat metal shields, since bots can’t die.

Considering Cybertron is a completely synthetic planet, environmental variety comes as a big surprise. Players travel from the globe’s mysterious underground Energon caverns to orbital space that’s littered with debris, unraveling secrets even the Transformers themselves weren’t aware of. The planet isn’t just gorgeous – it even feels like a living, breathing entity. All around you, the devastating effects of war are made apparent by crumbling towers and dismembered soldiers crawling away or moaning in agony, even being “recycled” by Decepticons. WFC really gets away with a lot for its “Teen” rating, likely because everyone is a robot.

Combat feels fluid and familiar, like if Halo were a third-person shooter. When performing a melee attack, your robot whips out a wicked glowing axe, sword or hammer to perform a brutal one-shot kill. No matter how you take down the enemy, the results are tremendously satisfying. Default weapons like assault rifles and shotties hit hard and loud, so you won’t be ditching them for late-game rocket launchers or plasma cannons. 

In vehicle form, ground vehicles usually have a slow-firing canon, and fliers can alternate between a machine gun and rockets. Players may transform at any given time during play, and while the cool factor is obvious, this option is extremely convenient to have in battle. 

During one space sequence as Silverbolt (the Aerialbot with acrophobia), curiosity compelled me to switch into robot form, and poor Silverbolt immediately started to plummet. Humiliating death imminent, right? Wrong, because fortunately, the transformations are completely spammable and free of cooldowns.

Multiplayer is a big part of WFC and caters to just about everyone’s MP needs. Regular multiplayer comes complete with the usual match options, such as deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and so forth. Aside from the roster of named Transformers from the campaign, you have the option of creating a custom character. Escalation works like Gears’ Horde Mode or ODST’s Firefight, pitting human players against waves of enemy ‘bots. It’s the perfect alternative if you’re more into the co-op survival experience than online free-for-alls.

The campaign does carry a few flaws, the most noticeable being each chapter’s duration. Autosaves are frequent but not always where you might want them, so a manual save option really would’ve helped. On the flip side, the missions pace themselves pretty well and you’ll never lose sight of the overarching story. Again, canonical errors are present, butHigh Moon more than makes up for these inconsistencies with character portrayals. Starscream is screechy and treacherous as ever, and Thundercracker still can’t stand him; Ironhide reflects experience and wisdom, contrasting Bumblebee’s (He speaks!) youthful enthusiasm. Downtime between battles is stuffed with dialogue, highlighting character relationships and portraying the Transformers as we remember them.

If you loved the old TV show with all the cheese and muddy animation, War for Cybertron is everything you could ever want in an adaptation. On the other hand, anyone who thinks Bumblebee is cuter as a mute and calls a 1976 Camaro “a piece-of-crap” should probably stick with Bay.


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