Sunday, February 14, 2010

Toyfair 2010 Report: War For Cybertron


At Toyfair 2010 we got all kinds of new info and sneak peaks at the new game Transformers: War for Cybertron, due for release this summer. Here is a summery of what we learned.

There are plans to release more figures in conjunction with the game under the generations (new “Universe” catchall series), but the only three they were willing to discuss were Optimus, Bumblebee, and Megatron.

Story was introduced to be set far into the past of the civil war. As described, by WFC producer Jason _ ? _, we enter into the story in a place where relationships/trust/allegiances are not already formed. We get to see these relational dynamics forged between characters like Starscream and Megatron, Optimus and Bumblebee… The Autobot campaign includes the story of how Optimus came to be a Prime.

We were given the very first sneak peak ever at in-game live play of three levels (2 Autobot Campaign, 1 Decepticon). I will discribe these levels and what we learned from them below:
For each level you can pick which character you are controlling, but you will be playing that level with other characters who run/drive/fly/battle along side you (in all of the levels we saw, it seemed like there were two other characters involved in each level).


1st) Main Character: Optimus – Side Characters: Ratchet & Bumblebee. Feels more like a playable scene in a story rather than game level (pretty sweet), presumably early on in the Autobot campaign, where Optimus explains the recent death of Zeta Prime to Jetfire (who is very distraught at the news) on holo vid and assumes temporary command, in this time of need. Ratchet seemed surprised and concerned at Optimus’ bold move, but does not argue. Jetfire explains that he needs cover fire via the ground based anti-aircraft cannons. Optimus, Ratchet, and Bumblebee leave Autobot HQ to get the guns online meanwhile fighting off incoming flanks of Decepticons. Ratchet sounds a lot like movie Ironhide (with a touch of movie Ratchet’s accent). Bumblebee sounds a lot more like a Hotshot type character.

A note on in-game esthetics:
In the first level, Autobot HQ at Iacon, we got to see the best view of general esthetics of the game because it started out with dialouge and less distracting (yet totally awesome action). We could see that this game would be generally quite dark which is where the glowing energon strips/cracks in the characters helps to visually keep track of them on the screen. In an elevator with Optimus, Ratchet, and Bumblebee, we were able to see that High Moon has taken a queue from the movie-verse where these robotic characters' armor is somehow in constant motion. Much like the twisting/shifting gears inside Primes head in the first movie (at Sam's window), Optimus in the game had back armor/wheels that were constantly shifting/adjusting while interacting with Ratchet and Bumblebee. This was a pretty cool effect over all, but at times of low action/conversation, I found it slightly distracting. I found myself watching the shifting armor and thinking "cool" while being less engaged in the dialogue. However, this reaction on my behalf may well have warn off in another 30 seconds of viewing. The presenters were sure to note that this was all a very unfinished preview, so it makes me wonder if they will tone this armor movement down at times with low action.


2nd) Main Character: Jetfire - Side Characters: Airealboots Silverbolt & Air Raid! This was an Autobot level taking place far above the surface of the planet Cybertron. Arial shooter - exploding satellite type structures. More maneuvering than aerial combat scene; think Empire Strikes Back meets exploding Cybretronian astroid/satellite fields. Even this level allowed for transformation to destroy, dodge, and run across obstacles.
3rd) Main character: Megatron vs Omega Supreme Boss fight - Side Characters: Soundwave and Stunticon Breakdown!
All I can say about this level is WOW!!! This makes Omega Supreme (very classic voice) seem unbelievably ominous! Way cooler, and somehow, far more G1 in my opinion than he is depicted in the trailer. Omega was standing in a glowing crater of destruction with an ominous/erie yellow light from below illuminating him. He looked WAY bigger than he did in the preview.

A note on voicing:
Soundwave’s voice was dead-on G1. Sounded exactly like Frank Welker to me... I’m starting to think that Megatron might be Frank Welker as well, only voicing him very differently than G1. I pressed the Activision/High Moon/Hasbro crew about this, but they neither denied or confirmed any voicing theories. When I asked the producer about this, his response was "We haven't announced any voiced actors other than Peter Cullen, of course there is no embargo on you all reporting on what you saw and heard today..." That being said, I can confirm for you all with about 98.9% accuracy (the accuracy of a well tuned G1 enthusiast's ear) that Soundwave at least will be voiced by Frank Welker. Megatron did a fair amount of talking in our brief look at this level and there were times that he sounded quite a bit more like G1 Megatron than he did in the preview. As for Megatron, I can't really say for sure... time will tell.




War for Cybertron gameplay will be Very story driven - Very scripted (as described by the producer). From the preview we got to see, I consider this a real positive. In the ROTF game the story elements seemed to be primarily in the cut scenes, with a bunch of missions to accomplish in-between; this game seems to weave story elements deeply into the fabric of the in game play.

We now know the that character pictured seen below (who we've seen before in much poorer quality) is actually the Combaticon Brawl! With confirmation of at least two Arealbots in the game, and at least one Stunticon (Breakdown), perhaps we might also see some more of our favorite Combaticons and other combiner team members... Will they combine? Only time will tell.
This sneak peak gave us a huge leap forward in understanding game mechanics; I was able to clarify/gain further detail on some key/innovative gameplay elements after the presentation in conversation on the showroom with a number of members of the War for Cybertron team.

*** There will be a seamless online, cooperative gameplay aspect, where your friends can simply join in and take control over the other two characters in that scene/level. The new game play feature was described as follows: “Your friends can simply jump in and out at any time, even in the middle of a level, and take control of characters. So if they’re playing along with you, and the pizza arrives, they can simply jump out, finished dinner and jump back in without interrupting the game.” However, no local multiplayer (only online). It seems that this multiplayer aspect may not have to be defined when starting a game, they were intentionally vague about how exactly this would work in the presentation, but in conversation later, they suggested that one could be playing the standard campaign mode and have a friend jump in at any time. I can just hear the phone calls & text messages already...
You: "Hey [insert you own bro/friend], I'm going to play some War for Cybertron. You want to join me?"
Friend: "Ah, you know, I'd love to, but I've got [insert sport] practice for the next 20 clicks..."
You: "That's cool, I'll be kicking some skid-plate with Optimus, join in when you're out of practice."
Friend: "Sounds good! See you on-line to take care of those slaggin' Decepticons."

From Events & Interviews
I was told later that one could select any of the characters that your friends could jump in and control, so this pretty much confirms that not only Jetfire, but Air Raid, and Silverbolt will be playable as well.

List of currently known playable characters:
Optimus, Bumblebee, Ratchet, Jetfire, Silverbolt, Air Raid, Megatron, Soundwave, Breakdown, and Starscream.
Other characters that we know will be making an appearance, but we are unsure of their playablility are: Ironhide (in all likely hood, playable), Warpath, Brawl, Trypticon, and Omega Supreme.

All in all, this game looks absolutely stunning! With such extreme attention to detail, a clear love for the characters/mythos of Transformers, very innovative gameplay (multiplayer) options while utilizing a well tuned character control engines for at sit down and play familiarity, this game is sure to hit it big with Transformers fans, seasoned gamers, and new to videogame players alike. I absolutely can't wait to get my hands on this game for a testdrive...

What do you think of this new style and expression for Transformers? Let your voice be heard in the forum!