High Moon studios returns with a follow-up to their well received take on the Transformers franchise, the 2010 sleeper hit War for Cybertron. All of the resources on Cybertron are now practically tapped out, and Optimus Prime (fortunately still voiced by Peter Cullen) rallies his Autobots to escape the planet and find a new home in Shia LeBouf’s backyard. Megatron is of course not very supportive of this decision and attempts to defeat the Autobots by preventing their exodus. High Moon doesn’t stray very far from the formula that made the first game successful, and aside from one major omission the game delivers everything you would normally expect from a quality sequel.
The weapons system has been revamped from the previous game; each gun is now upgradable with multiple attachments that are purchased with credits earned in the campaign. You can also acquire “perks” that carry over through multiple campaign playthroughs, these make the game much more manageable on the harder difficulties. This addition is a very pleasant improvement on the first title, adding an RPG element to an already exceedingly polished experience.
Fan service is also prevalent here; many more characters are featured this time around, including the Dinobots, the Combaticons, Metroplex, and the Insecticons. I actually felt like I had been sucked into an eighties toy commercial every time a new character appeared. Hardcore Transformer fans should really find a lot to enjoy here, before I played the game I couldn’t distinguish Swindle from Onslaught, so fans of the source material will really enjoy all of the love taken with the character choices.
The glaring omission is the absence of online co-op play that was so well received in the first game. In War for Cybertron you had the option of three different Autobots or Decepticons per level to tackle each mission with, and your online friends (preferably) or the extremely competent AI would fill the other two slots. This gave each mission the sense you were part of a team, something that is integral to the Transformers franchise by nature. This time the legend takes a grander scope but the co-op element was unfortunately left on the cutting room floor. This doesn’t necessarily hurt the game overall, but it is something I sorely missed because I had grown accustomed to it.
If you decide to try the game based solely on the narrative you won’t be disappointed. I’m not even a huge Transformers fan and I enjoyed playing through the campaign multiple times, the set pieces are much bigger this time around, the annoying boss battles from the first game are thankfully expunged, and the game maintains a truly epic feeling throughout. The final level might be one of the best campaign levels I’ve ever played in any game, it switches between both warring factions and individual characters multiple times, putting you right in the center of the final battle of Cybertron. I know too much of a good thing can sometimes lead to overkill, but I left the experience feeling that if every level would have taken cues from the final one the game could have really been something truly special. I’m not saying the overall gameplay or story is lackluster in any way; it’s just the final level is really that damn quality.
Thankfully the horde mode inspired escalation is still included, as well as an excellent multiplayer component that is actually better (although much easier) than the previous game. The first time I jumped into an online game one of the other participants hilariously greeted me with a throaty rendition of “You’ve Got The Touch”, the seminal cheese ball anthem featured in the eighties movie and also over the end credits in this game. Options for customizing your online Transformer are also much more substantial, you can really create some truly unique characters.
If you are a Transformers fan this one is the proverbial no-brainer, comparing the sub-par movie game adaptations you’ve probably slogged through to the overachieving fanboy love that High Moon injects into their adaptations isn’t even fair. Fans of third person action will also find a highly engaging title that doesn’t skimp on the action and couples a well-crafted yarn with thoroughly enjoyable gameplay.