There’s tons of talk around the past, present and future of the “Transformers” franchise on the silver screen (not least because the producer’s opinion changes direction faster than a UFO in mid-century USA). However, I want to go back to another medium that’s been surprisingly low-key in recent years: video games. In particular, I want to revisit what I (and many more besides) consider to be some of the best (if not the best) “Transformers” game ever made: the “War for Cybertron” games.
Ever since Hasbro released G1 many, many moons ago, the IP has attracted a lot of attention from gaming enthusiasts. The reality is that there’s quite a big crossover area in the Venn diagram of life between people who like “Transformers” and people who like video games. From the first games released on the Commodore 64 and the Speccy, to last-gen’s “Transformers: Devastation”, we’ve seen plenty come and go. For fans of Bonanza slot games and alternative methods of gaming and entertainment, there’s even a Stern’s pinball table (which, by the looks of it, is excellent).
Nothing has made fans of the series, both new and old, feel quite like the High Moon games. “War for Cybertron” and “Fall of Cybertron” have been widely acclaimed by critics and series fanatics alike, but we’ll focus on the first High Moon game today, as “War for Cybertron” had one extra ace up its sleeve (though some would argue that the concepts put forth in “War” were polished up in “Fall”).
Both games share a lot of ground: they are both based on Unreal Engine 3, for example. They are both set in a fantastic, futuristic-looking “past” timeline. They are both canon (as per Hasbro’s gospel), and they share gameplay elements (third-person shooters), too. You see, these games took care of the intellectual property instead of trying to be a quick cash-grab like some other games based on “Transformers”.
The lore is fantastic; you really feel the character arcs and you are presented with key moments, like when Optimus became a Prime, and when he met Bumblebee. The transformations are more than skin-deep and are a key element to the gameplay, particularly in the now-basically-defunct multiplayer. The single-player campaign for both games was a triumph. So, why did I choose “War for Cybertron” over “Fall of Cybertron”? This:
While obviously not a direct port of the console games (actually, they differ from those quite a bit), these are quite possibly some of the best handheld experiences a “Transformers” fan can have. I wish we could have got straight ports of the console and PC games, but we always knew that they’d run badly, if at all, on the limited power of a Nintendo DS. However, we who didn’t have a home console or a gaming PC were, for once, not neglected. And for all their faults and foibles, I gotta give credit to Activision on this.
In the end, whether you prefer “War for Cybertron” or “Fall of Cybertron” will depend on your personal view of the franchise. It can be said with a fair degree of certainty, though, that we have not seen another installment of this, our beloved franchise, deliver the goods with flying colors since 2013.
What does the future hold? Well, “War for Cybertron” is now actually being made into a series on Netflix. Whether that means we’ll get a remaster of these games is debatable. But it is also highly desireable. In the meantime, if you’ll excuse me, I got a Starscream to fly.