As I mentioned in my last entry, for whatever reason, it’s apparently very hard to make a Transformers game.

I personally don’t get that, as the subject matter would seemingly lend itself to the video game medium. There’s a good game once in a blue Cybertron moon, such as Atari’s attempt for the Playstation 2, or the surprisingly good game on the iPhone, but there’s also such “winners” as the Famicom version.

Along with poor video game translations, there’s also been a billion story variants, some more popular than others. I’m a G1 fan myself, as it relates to my own childhood, and this is about as close to revisiting those days as it gets.

Both Autobots and Decepticons are instantly recognizable (unlike those horribly indecipherable Michael Bay renditions), and the story, while reinventing some aspects, does an excellent job of introducing some elements from both the original series and the animated film. It’s been said that Hasbro is wanting to revamp the origin story of the Transformers with this storyline, and I’d actually be okay with that. There’s a difference between fanboyism and genuine love for the source material, and High Moon gives some great visual and aural homages. The story hits the right notes that it needs to.

There are two campaigns in War for Cybertron. The background story begins with the Decepticon’s uprising for power. The Autobot story deals with the aftermath of the Megatron’s actions. I personally enjoyed the Autobot storyline more, but I actually found a lot of the rapport between Megatron and Breakdown really funny.

The 360 (reviewed here)/PS3 version allow for online multiplayer in both the main campaign, as well as the more “deathmatch” related elements. This is also handled really well. And what of the core element that makes Transformers what it is? Tranformations are responsive and important and can be done on the fly. There’s no penalty or special requirement for transforming (which I always thought was an odd element in other games), and it’s a fun combination to use in attacks.

Graphics are also excellent. Again, I found the Autobot campaign a little more compelling, but the ten chapters that the game offers offer some surprising diversity in an all metal world. I don’t want to spoil some of the highlights of the game, but there are some great boss battles, and they nailed the personality of the characters, from Peter Cullen reprising his role as Optimus Prime to Stan Bush singing a new Transformers song for the game. It’s the same level of giddiness I felt in hearing the main cast reprise their roles in last year’s Ghostbusters game, and Batman and Joker’s portrayal from The Animated Series in Batman: Arkham Asylum. My only wish is that Frank Welker reprised his role as Megatron, but the chosen voice actor is pretty competent. Starscream could have been a little more whiny, however.

For a game that could have gone really bad in a lot of different aspects, Transformers: War for Cybertron really hit the right high notes for me in terms of being respectful to its source material, offering plenty of fan service without getting too gushy, diverse, solid gameplay, and great graphics and music. I would have actually liked the movies had they taken this route, and if this is the future of the Transformers continuity… it certainly breaks new ground and goes its own direction, but it feels unexpectedly familiar and comfortable at the same time. I’d love to see them explore more of this story (and see more of these awesome character designs) in a sequel. I smiled more than a few times at some of the references mentioned here.

Recommended if you like the “old” stuff, or just want a good action platformer-shooter.

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