War for Cybertron  War for Cybertron / Interviews

Transformers: War For Cybertron Exclusive Preview

We are just back from an exclusive preview with the people from Activision and High Moon Studio covering the Transformers: War For Cybertron game. Tformers was there with High Moon Studio's Game Director Matt Tieger on hand to get a first-hand look at the new game. We've got a ton new details and information on the game. Sorry, this is a really long report, but there's more than meets the eye in WFC! Read on below for all the juicy details.

Transformers War For Cybertron is dream project to work on as game developer and a dream gaming experience for Transformers fans. Activision stared by building a solid relationship with Hasbro, pitching a lot of ideas about what they wanted to do and thought could be done. Rather than follow the usual model of starting with the licensed elements and trying to cram a game into them, War for Cybertron’s original concept was to build a great non-movie game with the core principles of third person shooting and then infuse the Transformers into it.

The central pillar of this play dynamic is an exciting three character model that allows for organic three player co-op. Co-op will be available on every level including boss fights. Players can jump in and jump out of another player session seamlessly at any time. Characters not controlled by a player will be piloted by advanced AI. While the game is amazing with AI assistance, it reaches new levels of dynamic fun with friends to join you. Especially exciting is that friends will be able to join you in co-op online!

Before each level you will select which Transformers you want to take into battle. You’ll want to take into account the alternate modes of your team as well as their special abilities and weapons. Finding the dynamic of long range attackers, like Bumblebee, Healers like Ratchet, and Melee brawlers like Optimus Prime himself will be essential. It’s not always the same dynamic; there are a multitude of different ways to utilize your team. Each character has two abilities: cool down ability -- which is a self-replenishing power -- and a resource-based ability. Resource-based abilities will require the character to find and collect Energon from fallen foes to power. There are several types of Energon based power, shards provide weapon power, cubes provide health, but unrefined Energon can kill.

This combination of weapons and abilities were designed to allow players to develop their own strategy. So for example, playing as Optimus Prime allows players to utilize his Leader ability, "War Cry," that will boost the damage he and his team inflicts and reduce the amount of damage they take. Learning to use these abilities will be key to your success in the game.

War for Cybertron has been designed from the ground up to serve a multitude of fans. Whether you’re new/casual fan of the Robots in Disguise, a Transformers vet, or even a hardcore gamer, War for Cybertron has something for you. High Moon is proud of the focus they’ve put on creating a game with enough information for new fans to acclimate quickly and that longtime fans will find their familiar Transformer lore explored to new depths as they progress, all in a game that will entertain the purist of gamers.

War for Cybertron spans two expansive campaigns, one for each faction, Autobot and Decepticon. Each campaign takes exists in a completely different environment, and what you do in each is unique to its campaign. The Campaigns are sequential; the Decepticon story comes before the Autobot. Autobot and Decepticon fans alike will be able to rein triumphant.

What we saw of the Autobot campaign is a dark place. Their Capital Iacon, has been torn asunder. The powers that were are gone. From the carnage rises a reluctant leader. He doesn’t want the mantle of leadership, but he does what he must to defend what is left of Iacon.

In the opening voice over text transforms from Cybertronian to English as its being spoken:

    "Iacon the capital city of the Autobots is crumbling under the onslaught of Megatron's Decepticons. Rumors have spread of the defeat of Omega Supreme and Autobot leader Zeta Prime. If the Autobots have any hope to band together and repel the enemy. A new hero must emerge."

    Bumblebee drives under a barrage of fire.

    As expected, he's ultra-agile. Bobbing and weaving between every shot.

    There is mayhem all around but the yellow hover car presses on till he encounters two other robots. Bumblebee transforms.

    The red robot speaks: "You're a skilled fighter. But you shouldn't be out here alone.”
    "Autobots are no longer safe in Iacon."

    Bumblebee Responds. "The Decepticons control the airwaves. The only secure way to communicate is by messenger. I volunteer. My name is Bumblebee."

    Motioning to the other robot, Red responds, “Ratchet. This Autobot needs repairs."

    "I'll get you fixed up.” Ratchet Responds. But Bumblebee feels there's no time.

    "I need to find the Autobot called Optimus. I have important information for him." The red robot responds: "I am Optimus" Bumblebee delivers his message: "Sir, It pains me to tell you this. Our leader Zeta Prime is dead."

    Optimus speaks a single word. "Megatron."

    “What's happened to the High Council?” Ratchet asks.

    Bumblebee informs him they have gone into hiding and are cut off from communications.

    Bumblebee turns to Prime and says: "Optimus. With Iacon gone, our forces are directionless, ineffective."

    "The council will emerge when it’s safer.” Optimus says. “In the meantime, Ratchet and Bumblebee, You’re with me."

Thus the story begins of how they meet up and Optimus Prime learns of the fate that awaits him.

What we first see is the broad landscape of Iacon at the height of Transformers civilization. The zenith of their civilization has been broken by war and is being destroyed. This is just one of the many environments that players can explore, but that is probably the best expression of the Transformers world, race and architecture. Some of the influences for Cybertron were borrowed from Roman and Greek classic architectural references.

The three Autobots return, Optimus, Ratchet and Bumblebee are discussing the current situation. They know they are weakest against Megatron with their leader Zeta Prime down.

    Bumblebee exclaims: "Megatron can take this city over my twisted mangled shell."

    The three make their way to an underground communications depot. There's a hologram on the display.

    “To any Autobots on this frequency. This is Jetfire. Come in." says the holograph that calls itself Jetfire in slight English accent.

    "Jetfire. This is Optimus. Glad you are still at war. What's your status?"

    "We are taking heavy damage up here. Put me through to Zeta Prime. He has to activate the plan to begin."

    "Zeta Prime is dead." Optimus Replies

    Prime informs Jetfire he has assumed temporary command and instructs him to let his troops know to keep their guns online.

Something the design team focused on was making every little bit of the environment feel like Cybertron. From the look and feel of the environments themselves to the way they interact with the weapons and other aspects of play.

Transformations are specific and detailed. Details missed or deliberately obscured in previous efforts are highlighted with glowing yellow and blue elements offset against black metal and charred steel. Even the Energon cubes have the 80s cartoon vector-graphic look. It’s been modernized but still captures the old school feel. However, unlike the original series, this is total chaos. There's movement and explosions everywhere. Ships are flying through the air. Stuff is on fire and exploding all around. There's a tremendous amount of action going on all the time. Fortunately your co-op partners are highlighted with tags to distinguish them from the chaos.

The games HUD appears in the upper corners. Power levels and health states are indicated by fading Energon cubes on the right, available weapons and remaining grenades on the left.

A really nice touch is that War For Cybertron allows the characters to literally get into the game. Picked up weapons up auto-morph into the robot holding them. Changing color and form to integrate with the robot owner. What's really impressive is the turret play.

As we've seen in the trailers, there are unmanned cannons that the Transformers can interact with. This is a literal transformation where there robot couples with the weapon and transforms into it. Upon combination the player's view switches from third person to first person. In co-op mode your whole team can wreck some serious havoc with that added fire power.

A great relief is there is no restriction on transforming. A robot can switch to alt mode. Shoot a few rounds, switch back to robot and combine with the canon in just the flick of few buttons. This allows players to develop all kinds of tricks and combinations in game play as only a Transformer could do.

Alternate modes were part of the challenge of making a great Transformers game. The traditional model of the Transformers is based principally on cars, the kind you’d find on earth. The problem was keeping the model of a tired car dynamic and combat ready in the Cybertronian game setting. High Moon suggested to Hasbro that the problem might be solved by converting the alternate modes to hover craft with the ability to switch back to wheeled propulsion. Hasbro agreed that if it would make for a better game, it was the way to go.

The Decepticon missions displayed showed a dynamic that could vary with your chosen character, in this case your chosen Seeker. Each of the three Seekers available has their own specialty. Skywarp is a scout, Thundercracker is a scientist, Starscream… well, despite all the whining Star scream always kicks ass. You can play the same level from different angles with each character with different abilities and weapons.

Each of these airborne engines of destruction has a “hover” and a “boost” mode. What’s cool is that the controls work the same in both robot and alternate mode so you can switch back and forth with minimal confusion. There are even specific strafe controls in hover mode allowing for unique attacks. It’s like having an indefinite double(infinite)jump in the sky.

In describing the flight controls, High Moons invoked the name of Crimson Skies, on of modern gaming’s most amazing airborne shooters. You’ll need that amazing and intuitive control. Cybertron is a labyrinth of towers, skyscrapers and other obstacles. It will take all your focus to navigate as a Seeker This is when your vehicle based special ability will come in handy. Every Transformer has one in addition to their robot modes. In the case of the Jet, he can barrel roll to fly between objects or dodge missile fire.

Likewise, ground vehicles have their own tricks like ramming and dashing. Tanks can do a quick 180 turn to avoid getting shot in the rear.

By now you should understand the dynamic array of possibilities the player will have at his disposal.

Be it weapons, mobility, defense or healing, an array of infinitely re-combinable possibilities exists for every player to achieve victory in the world of War for Cybertron.

Whether conquering the meddling Autobots, repelling the treacherous Decepticons, or containing the as yet unrevealed organic sub dwellers of Cybertron, strategic use of your myriad assets will be key. Especially when you find yourself up against foes the scale of the swarming missiles of Omega Supreme or Trypticon. Megatron, a tank, Breakdown, a car, and Soundwave, a truck (the tape deck didn’t work here) will have to square off against foes of this scale as a team, and Megatron is about the size of the ball of Omega’s foot.

Activision’s hope is that this game is going to appeal to a wide range of people. They want War for Cybertron to go deep enough that hard core Transformers fans will feel like they can relate to this game as if it was made just for them, but they also want to create a game that is good enough that it stands on its own for hardcore gamers and newcomers alike. War for Cybertron is poised to be a welcoming new face for the entire Transformer franchise.

Listen to the this episode of the Radio Free Cybertron podcast where we played some clips and talked more about War For Cybertron!

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