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War For Cybertron: Cheaty Demo Impressions

'Cheaty' because there isn't a PC demo as yet, so this is all based on the 360 version. I'm currently trying to get hold of PC review code for the new Transformers game, due for release this week, but Activision UK's continued refusal to acknowledge RPS means I'll probably have to buy a copy myself on release day, and thus can't waggle my finger of judgement until some time after purchasing D-day. I can at least offer a few comments based upon said demo.

I can also make this noise - CHK-CHK-chk-chkchk. No, that's rubbish. Doesn't sound anything like a Transformer transforming. Go on, you do it instead.

Bullet-points if you please, maestro:

  • Visually, it's like a parody of what we briefly referred to as next-generation games. So muted, so brown, so cheerless. The robot designs are fun, a likeable halfway house between the chunk-o-vision of Generation 1 Transformers and the spiky, insectoid Bayformers. Trouble is, they're swamped and rendered homogenous by the palette. I'm not entirely sure why the devs made such a big deal about it being reverential to the 80s bots if they're then going to rip the iconic visual primary colours out of it in favour of bland-o-vision. I'm hoping the PC version will permit a little more sparkle, however. If not, I'll tweak every graphics card setting I can find to bump up the saturation.
  • The multiplayer's based around unlocks, and is exactly as faddish and uninspried as you'd expect. Minor stat boosts and swap-out abilities, all meaning that you care more about what you might get given at the end of a match than you do the match itself. I'm not necessarily that opposed to such systems, but it's particularly irksome here because there's this beautiful promise of designing your own bot, when really it's just about allocating unlocks.
  • The basic combat's a good time. There's sniping, but the map layout and number of players is such that campers can't dominate - fights pretty much have to get close-range and dirty, which is where it feels best. The big silly clang of metal men lamping each other, and all that - c'mon, don't we want that element so much more than we want more shooty-bang-bag? The melee's a little light of touch, but seems, in the one-map multiplayer demo at least, to be ritually employed as a finishing move. There's a noticeable lack of picking up big bits of scenery and lobbing it at people, alas.
  • Vehicle modes are comically slow. Necessary to keep the combat semi-close range as discussed, but it raises logical issues. Why would these robots bother to turn into cars and tanks and whatnot if they can't travel any quicker than when in robot form? Pretty silly. In general, the vehicle modes seem to chuck out more damage and soak up a few more hits, but anti-vehicle rocket launchers do make short work of them. Obviously the community will work out tactics, but in my hour or so with the demo, people generally stayed in robot form. A Transformers game without much transforming? Erk. Hopefully it comes into play more in singleplayer.
  • Talking about what I liked is harder, and not just because I'm a miserable, whiny, bitter ex-fanboy. It's also because, well, (again, going only on the demo) it's a fun a game about robots killing each other in small arenas. Nothing felt new or different despite the giant robotiness (not that the gigantism was ever conveyed, but that's understandable given it's set on a planet occupied only by giant robots), but despite being a bit grumpy about its ordinariness, I definitely wanted to keep playing and keep smashing Megatronalikes around the chops. Or did I just want to unlock new abilities? Hmm. I am weak and needy, after all.
  • The best bit, with quiet inevitablility, was hearing Peter Cullen as the announcer for the Autobots. That made it feel like Transformers; without it, it may not have done.

Again, all of this is based on a one map, four character, multiplayer-only demo. I wasn't wowed, but I wasn't driven into the blood-red mists of infinite fury either. I actually have mid-to-high hopes for the singleplayer, where I'll have purpose beyond high scores and ranks, and can helplessly geek out over various character cameos.

So, there'll be a WIT probably early next week so long as I can get hold of a code in a timely enough fashion. If I can't, I likely won't bother as it won't be much help as buying advice after that point. Either way, we'll definitely be wanting to hear what you merry onlookers think.

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