Transformers were easily my favorite action figures while growing up. I was obsessed with anything to do with them. If you went back and told me that Transformers would be a bigger deal after the year 2000 than they were in the 80’s, I’d have a hard time understanding you. “How could Transformers possibly get any bigger?” For better and for worse Michael Bay has reignited Transformers in the minds of grown-up and child geeks the world over. While I was on board for the first movie as an amazing theatrical event and subsequently blown away by witnessing Transformers doing battle on Earth in a live action movie, I haven’t exactly been a big supporter of its comeback. When High Moon Studios and Activision released Transformers: War For Cybertron in 2010, I didn’t even notice. I had my reasons.
Hey, they are making new Transformers games based on the movie
On paper, the very idea of a Transformers video game is simply awesome. However, when the new Transformers games started coming out around and after the release of the first movie, I immediately wrote them off. These games had two strikes working against them out of the gate.
1. They are movie tie-in games to a major franchise that doesn’t exactly need a boost from video games sales to be a success.
2. They are movie tie-in games published by Activision, and I, and many others, view those games to be about as creatively rich and worth our time as games that get kicked out of the App Store.
All of a sudden I noticed yearly Transformers games on store shelves and I couldn’t tell any of them apart. Once War For Cybertron actually came out and I gave it an unwitting glance, I noticed another worrisome quality.
3. The game is a third person shooter using the Unreal Engine which is about as generic as you can get during this generation of video games.
What I really wanted in a Transformers video game, and honestly, for any license I care about, is for the video game to be designed around what would actually work well for that franchise so that it has its “Arkham Asylum moment.” I honestly thought that Transformers would get its due once the movies went away and it was given to a game developer who cared about the franchise so much that it was given a bit of creative license with it. From the outside in (i.e. screenshots) I saw no reason to try out WFC. I probably just picked up the box and looked at Optimus Prime and said, “I’ll see you when this movie craze is over.”
Sorry, High Moon Studios, I couldn’t see you in there
It took a bigger Transformers fan than me to at least get me to listen to a conversation about Transformers: War For Cybertron. Last year our own resident gaming buddy, Josh Lee, the man who is always looking for another co-op game to play with his friends, would not shut up about War For Cybertron, touting it as one of the best co-op experiences he’s had in a long time. While those conversations didn’t push me to actually play the game, I approached Transformers games with a new sense of hope.
Josh added that the developer, High Moon Studios, was working on another Transformers game and I decided to play wait-and-see with the reviews. Unfortunately, Transformers: Dark of the Moon was not well received and further confused me by being a movie tie-in. It didn’t help that at the time, I was also at the point where the subtitles of the movies had no bearing and I failed to notice that War For Cybertron wasn’t a movie tie-in game. I wrote off WFC as a one hit wonder and moved on to other games.
But here we are in 2012, on the cusp of the release of the next game in the franchise, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Of course, FOC comes with the promise of a return to form for High Moon Studios. I didn’t feel like getting burned again, so I had set my expectations to low and resigned to waiting out the reviews come release day. Then, last week I was surprised to see a demo for FOC pop-up on the Xbox Live Marketplace. There was no harm in trying the game so it seemed perfect to have Josh run us through the demo in a Game Curious video.
Wake the kids
While the demo itself made even stronger arguments for my investment in the WFC franchise, the piece that told me that I had to go back and get War For Cybertron was the intro video to the demo (first 90 seconds or so). Looking back on my doubts about War For Cybertron, I had a close friend vouching for its gameplay and I had been corrected on the game being a movie tie-in, so all that I needed was some sort of belief in the creativity/passion of the game’s designers. Now, you can only take so much from a full-motion video, but the FOC intro immediately evoked a passion and understanding of what I loved about Transformers as a kid. My inner-child was yelling and giggling so hard from excitement that he threw up a little bit and passed out from a lack of oxygen.
Once I recovered and thought through what I had witnessed with the understanding that game developers aren’t always involved in the CGI video, I didn’t care how silly it sounded. The trailer proved to me that there is some heart and soul behind the Cybertron series and if I was going to experience it, I wanted to start from the beginning. Regardless of how FOC turns out, I absolutely have to go back and play Transformers: War For Cybertron. It feels good to be excited about playing with robots again.
You’re Gonna Get It Anyway – Everyone knew we were going to cave and make the purchase in the end, so here’s a look back at our transparent reasoning for putting up a fight in the first place.
Giant Bomb (images)