GDC 2010

Transformers: War for Cybertron Set Before Optimus Was Prime

| 11 Mar 2010 07:05
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Transformers: War for Cybertron will tell the story of the civil war between the Decepticons and the Autobots on their home planet.

I can't tell you how much I loved the animated Transformers series when I was a kid. Perhaps it was the fact that cars turning into robots and battling each other is inherently cool, or maybe it was the strength of characters like Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Starscream, Shockwave and Jetfire. My nostalgia was crushed by the Micheal Bay films, but now there is something that might just bring it back. Transformers: War For Cybertron seems lovingly designed by High Moon Studios and game director Matt Tieger is a diehard fan just like me. Based on what he showed me of latest Transformers game at this year's GDC, Tieger has made a third person shooter that delivers solid gameplay and a story jam-packed with moments and details that any Tranformers fan will love. Cybertron is due out this summer for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC platforms.

The story takes place at the end of the civil war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. The leader of the Autobots, Zeta Prime, has just been killed and the Autobots are in disarray. They eventually realize that the only way to survive is to abandon their home and leave Cybertron for good. The events at the end of the Autobot campaign lead directly to how the first Transformers animated series begins. By concentrating on a part of the universe that has never been shown before, Tieger and his team were able to completely ignore the Micheal Bay films.

In Cybertron, there are two separate campaigns that follow the Autobots and the Decepticons. The Decepticon story involves Megatron's plans for a super weapon and occurs before the Autobot campaign chronologically, but you can play them in any order. For each level, you can choose to play as one of three characters which fall into four different vehicle categories - car, truck, tank or jet. There are different abilities for each, and there might be a strategic value in playing as Jetfire or Shockwave.

Tieger was careful not to fall into the "license trap." "We started with core gameplay fundamentals. It's got to feel good under your thumb," Tieger said. "What makes a third person shooter a good third person shooter? Framerate, targeting, all that stuff is where we started and then we added Transformers into that. Instead of the other way around, which is 'I got my license, how do I crowbar some gameplay into that?'"

It's evident that a lot of thought went into making Transformers fun to play. From the demo we saw, you could fire your weapon, transform into a vehicle, speed across the map, and get right back into the fight as a robot or a vehicle all really easily. Transformers is built around three player co-op play, you can play with two AI bots or seamlessly drop into a level with two friends or two strangers with online co-op.

"The game stands up on its own as a really fun single player experience, but, when you add real people to it, it evolves into the next level of cool interaction and strategy," said Tieger. Part of that comes across with each character's unique abilities. Optimus, for example, has a Warcry ability which adds a temporary bonus to attack and defense to himself but also to nearby allies. That makes it very important to coordinate with your friends to clump up whenever Warcry is about to be used.

"You'll notice that Optimus' name isn't Optimus Prime, it's actually just Optimus. That's because when we finish the campaign, he is Optimus Prime, fully invested in his destiny as the leader of the Autobots and he's comfortable wearing the mantle of power," Tieger told me during the demo. "But he's not that guy when we start."

Tranformers: War for Cybertron is full of great origin stories like how Starscream became a Decepticon, and how Bumblebee and Optimus first met. High Moon Studios has worked closely with Hasbro on this game, and the events of Cybertron is considered canon by the toy maker. Hasbro has even announced that they are releasing toys based on the model created for the game, a fact which tickles the nerd fancy of Tieger.

The only thing that Cybertron was missing, according to CaptainCrunch, was an awesome 80s soundtrack.

"You've got the Touch!"

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