Due to the technological nature of the environment, there's a bit of sameness to the surroundings in War for Cybertron, which gives you a feeling of deja vu every once in a while. Though things look similar throughout, the graphics are quite good, especially the robots themselves, who have hundreds of moving parts, constantly twitching even when standing still. This visual complexity adds a level of difficulty, as it can be tough to tell what's hostile and what's not. The transformation animations are particularly well done, very clean and fluid and yet complex at the same time.
The transformation mechanism is a not an afterthought, but instead is a key aspect of gameplay. My initial impression of the game was that there was a severe shortage of ammunition, but then I realized that I was staying in robot mode too much. Weapons and ammo in each mode are distinct from one another, and can be combined to great effect. This alleviates the ammunition issues considerably. It's also wickedly impressive: for example, Optimus Prime can transform into truck mode, accelerate into a pack of Decepticons, while shooting missiles all the way, before ramming them, knocking them aside like bowling pins. The surviving bad guys can be picked off after transformation with short bursts of gunfire, or taken out with a sweep of an energy axe at close range. The flow of combat with transformation added in is visceral, brutal, and incredibly fun.
The level of difficulty in War for Cybertron is a bit daunting. There are some points when it feels as if the game is almost unbeatable. Granted, I played most of the game through with only two human players, but still, even on normal difficulty, some chapters took what I consider to be an inordinate number of reloads. The final Autobot battle, for example, took us three hours over two sessions, and we finally had to turn the difficulty down to easy in order to complete it. It has been quite some time since I saw one hit kill attacks, but most bosses have at least one. Even with the ability to revive fallen characters, the campaign can be quite unforgiving at times.
Once both campaigns are finally complete, which will probably take you between 8 and 12 hours on average, there's still plenty of game left. Escalation mode is offered alongside a particularly robust competitive multiplayer suite. Escalation is a variant of the Horde/Survival modes that are so popular in co-op games today. Up to four players online can team up to defeat waves of enemies. All of the characters playable in the campaign can be selected, plus there are a few unlockables like fan favorite Arcee. Slain enemies drop energon chips which can be used at the Cybertronian equivalent of vending machines to heal, reload ammo, get new weapons, or even unlock doors on the map. Sadly, there are only two levels to choose from, one for each faction. The cap is supposed to be wave 18, but I never made it past wave 8 in any group. I'm sure with a good team, working together and planning effectively, 18 is quite possible. I do wish the custom Transformers and level up system of the competitive multiplayer were available in Escalation. Hopefully, those features, as well as more maps and a higher wave cap, will be added in at a later date.
Considered as a total package, War for Cybertron has a lot going for it. A solid third-person action template, combined with a good variety of characters with varying abilities, would be enough to make a good game. But add in the transformation mechanic, slick visual style and online co-op campaign, plus Escalation mode, and you've got a great game. It isn't flawless, particularly in mission variety and the overly strict difficulty, but Transformers: War for Cybertron is definitely a title that fans of co-op should check out, particularly those with a fondness for robots that change into spaceships, trucks, tanks, and other cool stuff.
The Co-Op Experience: Until the servers were shut down, Transformers: War for Cybertron featured a 3 player co-op campaign. Players can take the role of different class transformers to team up as both the Decepticons and Autobots. After you're done there you can hit up the game's 4 player co-op escalation mode where players work together to survive infinite waves of enemies while strategically spending points for weapon upgrades, health and more.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.