As Jim brain-farted last week, something has to follow/replace the current zombie trend, as its time basking in the golden light of zeitgeist can't last forever. Giant robots seem a pretty good bet: a nerd-loved science-fictional touchstone that's lately found traction amongst the streamiest of mainstream. That is, of course, due in large part to Michael Bay's Transformers movies. The problem is 1) those movies are pretty bad and 2) their associated games have been really bad. But what happens when there's a giant, shape-changing robot game, starring Mr O. Prime and chums, that isn't churned out in a matter of months to coincide with a beyond-mindless movie? In other words - would it be totally stupid to start hoping that the newly-announced Transformers: The War For Cybertron could do for big robots what Arkham Asylum did for superheroes? A superb* Transformers game is the right of all sentient beings, after all.
Alas, information on The War For Cybertron is limited to summaries and scans from the most recent Game Informer - which I won't link directly to here, because it's naughty, but a cursory browse of the strange but enthusiastic world of TF fansites will yield 'em.
Key points, though:
- visually, it's much more Generation One (i.e. the blocky, colourful character designs of the 1980s toys and cartoon. Oh, and of the comics that effectively taught your humble correspondent how to reed and rite) than the spiky indistinguish-o-bots of the Bay movies. Set in a continuity of its own, it features bespoke Cybertronian- rather than Earth-mode versions of the Autobots and Decepticons, but as you'll see if you find the scans, they're very much designed to evoke the G1 toys. The Soundwave design in particular pleases me greatly. And the fact I currently have three different Soundwave toys bluetacked to the top of my monitor has absolutely nothing to do with that. Also so far confirmed as appearing are Ironhide, Megatron, Blitzwing and Obvious Prime.
- it's a Gears of Warian viewpoint, with the inclusion of AI-controlled fellow bot-soldiers no doubt reinforcing that comparison. Hopefully the need/ability to transform into cars and planes means Optimus Prime won't spend his time hiding behind small walls and crying about Elita-1 being dead, however.
- Robots come in both ground and air varieties, and you can play as Autocon or Deceptibot, and there'll be some sort of online mode.
- PC! And 360/PS3, but whatevs.
Pick up the impending new issue of Game Informer for a full feature that isn't my summary of someone else's summary of someone else's write-up of someone else's marketing, and thus will be replete with far more details and insight than that.
Given Activision's unseemly treatment of Transformers so far, there's every chance this'll be a load of knob with poo on top - but the fact it's not hung around a movie release date (let alone a movie that's mostly about Shia Lething shouting) gives me hope. It's a concept and - kill me, kill me now - a brand with a frightening amount of gaming potential. So long as Activision are willing to pour money and talent into it, there's no reason it couldn't work. Troublingly, the developer is High Noon Studios, who've previously been responsible for the limpid Bourne Conspiracy game and something called Darkwatch. Obviously, I don't use Metacritic to inform my opinions, but if I did it'd probably tell me the latter seems to have been resoundingly hailed "okay." Probably. Then again, there are plenty of devs who've turned things around once they've reached a certain point - look at Traveller's Tales and their Lego games. Unjointed plastic fingers crossed. Or at least they would be if they hadn't been moulded into a clenched fist shape.
* Yes, I know the PS2 one was pretty good. But PS2! And Armada!