"How does it feel under your thumb?" cites game director, Matt Tieger, of High Moon Studios' core gameplay focus for the upcoming Transformers: War for Cybertron. And it's a good focus too, because what we're seeing out at their San Diego studio is looking very, very nice indeed. He goes on to explain to us that this is not
a Transformers game aimed at a younger audience, or as some kind of spin-off or tie-in to the recent movies - this is their baby; a game designed and developed by hardcore gamers, who happen to also love
Transformers. What's more is, after seeing their concept art, and the direction they wanted to take the game, Hasbro has officially sanctioned War for Cybertron as the official
back story to the Transformers universe, and again, based on what we're seeing at High Moon, it's easy to understand why Hasbro happily did this.
Throughout our demo Tieger talks openly about Gears of War, Halo and other shooters as being a big influence on the game's core mechanics. They've built it using Unreal, and it shows. This is not a bright and bubbly Transformers by any means - it's dark and mature, with loads of gunplay, big bosses and lots to explore and destroy. It looks visually inspired, and while we're not seeing Optimus Prime as a semi-trailer, he's still recognisable enough you can build an instant affinity for him.
According to Tieger, controls will also be as intuitive as you would expect (based on the type of game it is), showing that there's very little difference in the control department between transformed forms, barring the obvious (such as firing, accelerating etc), and that hardcore gamers familiar with any of the aforementioned will have no trouble jumping in, and coming to immediate grips with what's on offer.
Then we get some cool info and news. Transformers: War for Cybertron will support three-player drop-in, drop-out co-op for the entire game, and will also feature two separate campaigns - one each for Autobots and Decepticons. The Decepticon campaign will actually act as a prequel to the Autobot campaign, and will also go into detail about how Starscream became Megatron's right-hand man (or robot). Some familiar voices were being thrown about the demo, including Peter Cullin as Optimus Prime. Starscream sounded spot on, however, it's not confirmed if he's being voiced by any of the original Starscream voice actors (such as Chris Latta or Christopher Collins), but we're being told we'll know soon enough. At the very least with the magnanimous Cullin behind Prime, we know they're definitely on the right track.
You'll be able to transform at any point in the game, and even be able to jaunt through pretty much the entire game in whatever form you decide (though there will be contextual moments of scripting, battle or puzzle-solving that may require one specific form over another). Moreover, the transformations are functional - Bumblebee won't turn into a VW, but he will turn into a small scout vehicle with both wheels and a hover ability (to ensure strafing is never left out of the tactical control equation) - and of course, in keeping with character traditions, familiar faces will still transform into vehicle types you would expect (such as Starscream transforming into a jet).
Beyond familiar characters, Tieger is also quick to point out Cybertron itself as something of a character. It's barely been explored in any Transformers lore to the extent the game goes to, and it looks and feels just as you would expect. Metallic, shiny and very robotic - we're ensured the game will never look the same twice over. The Transformers redesign approach is also very much in keeping with traditions. All the Autobots are bulbous, bulky characters with heroic sizes and proportions, while the Decepticons are sleek, dark and sharp. They don't look like anyone you would ever trust. Apparently there might be a surprise or two when they reveal just who helped in the writing and fleshing out of the game's story, but for now, High Moon are remaining very tight-lipped.
The game's HUD is contextually in-line with the overall foundation, and there are cool effects such as warping of information if you're attacked by EMP-style devices. Another cool design feature saw any weapon your character picks up transforming to reflect that character, so a purple weapon in the hands of Bumblebee will actually change to his trademark yellow tone. It's not paramount to the experience, but a solid indication of just how seriously these guys are taking this project and treating the license.
You'll be able to carry two weapons at any one time with weapons that range from charge-beams to sniping, launching, automatics and more. Each character also has a kind of 'class' applied to them, and will also each have two unique abilities. So Optimus, for example, has a buff ability he can use to boost the morale and stats of Autobots around him. Not all of these abilities have been fully revealed yet, so you'll need to stay tuned, but they're all somewhat contextual to characters, so you could probably start making some well-educated guesses.
Coming from the Bourne series into this just doesn't seem like reality. Transformers: War for Cybertron is an unbelievably realised game replete with all the fan-service you would expect. In similar fashion to Rocksteady's revival of Batman in videogame form, High Moon's run at Transformers is definitely pushing the boundaries of both licensed gaming, and just how certain games, licenses and genres should be treated. It looks fantastic, sounds excellent (the soundtrack actually reminded me a lot of the movies, which is a good thing) and has all the right elements needed to create a compelling gameplay experience, along with a few unique features (such as three-player drop-in, drop-out co-op) that will definitely make it stand out.
This isn't the end of our coverage either, as AusGamers also chatted to the game's producer and art-team, which we'll be sharing with you tomorrow, along with new assets and eventually some talk about how the game feels in both single-player and multiplayer, so stay tuned.