The Transformers don't belong on Earth. I'm not being racist when I say that. You won't find me with a "Transformers go home!" banner near a local cinema, because the lines between reality and fantasy are still mercifully clear in my brain. What I mean is, they shouldn't be made to interact with weak-sauce carbon-based uni-form organisms like us.
Cybertron, meanwhile, is perfect - a living metal planet where rust-storms ravage ancient civilistations. It gives the animators and artists the chance to go wild. It's a chance they've grabbed by the lapels and kissed full on the lips, for long enough that everyone watching got uncomfortable. Needless but lovely touches abound, and the huge backdrops don't come at the expense of detail.
The campaign serves up a fantastic range of Transformers. The opening levels with Optimus Prime are actually the least interesting, quickly overshadowed by the fast stealth of Cliffjumper, the grappling-hook acrobatics of Jazz, and the riot-cannon ground-pound destruction of Megatron. Apart from a couple of powered-up feel-good missions with the Combaticons and Grimlock, the difficulty is well-pitched for a challenge. Even on easy mode, you're not allowed to be idiotically reckless. Hard? Your funeral.
Transformers have a great line in banter, and the dialogue is perfect - Saturday morning black and white cartoon morality. Starscream is even more of a tool than I remembered, capitalising on a Decepticon power vacuum by becoming a parody of a Roman Emperor. The villainy and heroism is heavily laid on - "unfortunate, but necessary," laments Optimus Prime, as he ends another dozen synthetic lives. "That'll put a stop to your warmongering," he adds, with a steelier tone. You want them to reply: "But we LIKE warmongering. It's COOL."
You could be forgiven for dismissing the multiplayer as a meticulously stencilled failsafe collection. Escalation is the Transformer's co-op Horde Mode, a by-the-book fifteen waves of survival. Competitive modes echo similar failsafes - Capture the Flag, point-capturing Conquest, team deathmatch all line up to dutifully do their bit to fill out the multiplayer universe. But that's not the point: the point is that you're playing those familiar modes as Transformers. It plays so differently that it's its own game. If the movie tie-ins are the sacrifice that society has to pay to Activision for the Cybertron games, so be it.
Altogether now: pch-kch-kch-tchrk
- Cybertron looks fantastic
- Good range of action
- Flying medics
- Excellent cartoon banter
- Pre-cutscene checkpoints