I used to be a pretty serious Transformers fan as a kid in the 80s. I own a sizeable collection of the toys, especially the first generation, such as Sideswipe and Brawl (one of my favorites), both featured in Transformers: War for Cybertron. I spent countless hours playing with them, thinking about them, and pestering my dad to buy more of them. So, needless to say, I have a pretty serious relationship with those guys. Also, as a kid, I used to have some pretty strong opinions about the way Transformers should look, sound, and behave. So strong, that I felt very critical towards essential parts of the franchise, including descriptions on the toy boxes, the Marvel comic books, and the original movie.
The childhood experiences have afflicted my grown-up counterpart, as I have retained my feelings about how Transformers are 'supposed' to be, which has kept me from gaining any enjoyment from the Michael Bay movies. Also, I believe they are just awful movies in general.
'Transformers: War for Cybertron' is a game I couldn't even have dreamt of as a kid. It has a grand vision of a wartorn Cybertron, it features classic characters in interesting Cybertronian versions, and a plot with crazy huge moments, intriguing for any Transformers fan.
However, as mentioned earlier, I have some pretty specific opinions about Transformers. So how does this game stack up?
First, let's look at the obvious: the transforming characters themselves. The characters are as ridiculous and one-dimensional as always; no disappointment here. The game does not really delve into fourth wall-breakage or testicle-based comedy like Michael Bay's work, it has a more serious tone, as if made by grown ups who actually enjoyed the toys as children.
The transformations in the game are complex and fast, look reasonably good, except there seems to be some amount of matter appearing and disappearing. I didn't like the same thing in the old comics and the animated movie: the transforming parts were stretched to look good in vehicle and robot forms, which is kind of a cop out.
Most Transformers' alternate forms are vehicles, even Megatron and Soundwave. It seems to be a conscious design choice to reduce the number of different types of forms, but unfortunately it makes the transformations themselves much less interesting. The car forms control a bit too similarly to the robot forms - which makes the transitions easier to control, but less interesting. Who ever heard of a side-strafing car? Actually, many of the car forms look straight out of Back to the Future, folding their wheels up to reveal lifter rockets. Very original.
Most of the weapons are modelled very closely to weapons of other shooters: you have your assault rifles, pump guns, double-barelled shotguns, grenade launchers. The weapons fire bullets and use ammo. They mostly feel pretty good, but here is what I don't like: Transformers should not fire regular guns, they should have zapping laser beams and missiles.
And about Cybertron: I like the general vision of the chaotic, super-complex structure with its weird indigenous life forms, but the actual rendition in the game is less than perfect; the graphics is muddled and confusing to look at. It looks a bit like every graphical filter and effect is turned to max, but the textures and models themselves do not have the required detail and it all just runs together.
Transformers: War for Cybertron is a pretty decent third person shooter, the transformation abilities lend the gameplay a little extra depth, which keeps it from being too boilerplate. The fiction and world is handled with enough care, and the story is entertaining enough, but the transformers themselves are a bit lacking in their forms and variety, and the graphics could be better. The game has some suprisingly good multiplayer modes, providing some extra icing on the cake. Even with the caveats mentioned above, I would recommend the game to all Transformers fans - this is probably the best Transformers game ever made - but the rest of you might want to go with another third person shooter. Maybe one that features some sort of chainsaw attached to an assault rifle.