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It's simply beyond their capabilities.
PC gamers were severely disappointed with the version of Transformers: War for Cybertron released on their platform of choice, a glitchy, bug-ridden mess with graphics capped at 30 frames per second, a by-product of console-centric design.
When Activision and High Moon Studios revealed the upcoming sequel, Fall of Cybertron, PC gamers were even more disappointed. Having written the initial article on the new game, I found myself bombarded by requests from players to get to the bottom of this disheartening situation. During a recent conference call with High Moon's game director Matt Tieger, I finally got my chance.
"There are a couple of reasons why that is," Tieger explained when I asked why no PC version of the sequel were planned. "Focus is one. I know that it's not a huge leap to do a PC SKU, but it is different. It's outside of our area of expertise, to be honest."
It's an honest answer, something the developer took away from the experience of creating the PC version of War for Cybertron, which Tieger said was a stretch for the studio.
"I think there are a few things that are inherent in what PC consumers are looking for that frankly we didn't deliver good on."
Things like customizing your user interface, remapping your controls, and "some of the voice over stuff," Tieger continued. "A lot of that stuff is easy or comes inherently on the console."
Not so easy on the PC, as it turned out. "We were spread so thin that I feel like we barely served that audience. Then there were some issues with continued support that were frankly beyond our control, but at the same time did not create a great experience for PC gamers that got it."
Rather than attempt to create a third version of Fall of Cybertron that the developer couldn't properly support, High Moon decided to skip the PC altogether. It was a hard decision, but one that makes perfect sense.
"It seems like so glamorous from the outside, but games are this constant struggle of tough choices; it just is when you're making a game. Despite the fact that it's an artistic creation, the technical constraints of how many resources you have and what you can do — you really want to try and do the things you can do well."
Better no game at all than a broken disappointment, right?
All I really know about the next Transformers game from the developers of War for Cybertron is that combiners might make an appearance, the plot sounds eerily similar to the previous game, and it's got Grimlock. That last bit alone is enough for me to forgive the seemingly repeating plot and the fact that Cybertronian Grimlock is somehow a dinosaur. If it really bugged me that much I would have complained about Trypticon in the last one, but that prehistoric bird has flown.
So, anyone else sold already?
That's the thought that kept running through my head as I played through the first few hours of Transformers: Dark of the Moon's single player campaign. That's not to say it's a terrible game (we'll get to that), it's just indicative of the biggest hurdle you'll have to overcome when playing this game—especially if you, like myself, are uninitiated into the world of modern Transformers games.
Storywise, the game is a prequel or prologue of sorts, showing the events leading up to the film—and the events leading up to the film aren't terribly exciting, at least not at first. Three years have passed since the end of Revenge of the Fallen, and the human race believes that the Decepticons have left the Earth. The ensuing narrative takes place over seven chapters: the first three are Autobot missions, the next three follow the Decepticons, and the finale is an Autobot mission.
Developed by High Moon Studios, the team behind last year's successful War for Cybertron, Dark of the Moon shows the studio working this time within the boundaries of a movie tie-in, and this particular tie-in's most touted new feature is the addition of a "Stealth Force" form for the Transformers. Stealth Force is a hybrid form: halfway between the Autobots' and Decepticons' stylish vehicle disguises and their rock 'em, sock 'em robot forms.
The main draw of Stealth Force mode is that it expands the gameplay to include vehicular combat. It allows you freedom of movement in any direction, a boost in armor, access to more powerful weapons—and unfortunately, a third control scheme to memorize and manage.
As I hinted before, the most cumbersome aspect of the game is its control scheme. You have a Robot form, which consists of standard third-person shooter controls, and you can transform between that and Stealth Force at will by clicking the left stick. However, to get to the standard vehicle form—which you'll want to, as it's the fastest form by far and there is quite a bit of distance between some objectives—you have to hold the left trigger. The trigger also functions as your accelerator, so you'll only use vehicle form when you're going places, but the change from Stealth Force—where you move about at will in any direction using the left stick—to vehicle form where you have to steer with the right stick, can be rather jarring the first few times.
It's things like this—the failure to map similar functions to the same controls across all Transformer forms—that make trying to achieve your goal of protecting or destroying the planet much more difficult. I can't tell you how many times I used my cooldown ability when trying to zoom in on foes in Robot form because it's set to L1 (which is how you lock on to targets in Stealth Force) and I forgot that I had to use L2 instead because I was in Robot form.
It's not that the Stealth Force forms aren't cool—they are. Perhaps even too cool. I often found myself not changing into my Robot forms because of the extra armor, firepower and mobility in the Stealth Force mode. I hardly died in Stealth Force mode. This was kind of a letdown for me—I just happen to be of the persuasion that in being able to choose at will from a sexy looking vehicle form and an awe-inspiring giant robot form that the giant robot form would be much better at kicking ass and taking names.
Despite these difficulties, I did experience a rousing feeling of pride on two occassions. The first was during the opening mission when Optimus Prime finally showed up to fight alongside me; this was when I was being thoroughly kicked in the rear by Decepticon grunts. The second was about an hour after that, when I finally had a good grasp of the controls. Sadly, both of these high points subsided quickly—the former when I saw that, while my inspiring Autobot leader sure looked like he was fighting, there wasn't a whole lot of enemies blowing up because of him. The latter faded even more quickly when I saw how long it had been. This did wonders for my self-esteem, as you can probably imagine. On the bright side, I began to enjoy the havoc I could wreak now that I knew what I was doing.
In short, what I was able to play of Dark of The Moon was serviceable. Its controls make the learning curve a bit steeper than it ought to be, but that also means there's alot more that you can actually do. Fans of the franchise will probably enjoy it for what it is. Stealth Force, while a bit flawed in execution, does in fact make the game more fun—and without it I'm not sure the game would be enjoyable at all. Perhaps it gets better in the second half, where you play as the Decepticons. Goodness knows I'd be much better suited to rampant destruction in this game.
The second pack of downloadable content for Transformers: War for Cybertron drops today, with five new multiplayer maps and the addition of two new playable Cybertronian warriors: Zeta Prime and Dead End.
While we had plenty of warning for the first downloadable content pack for Transformers: War for Cybertron, Activision springs the second pack on us by surprise.
This second pack of downloadable content lowers the new character count from four to two but gives us five brand new maps, including two new escalation maps: Pulse for the Autobots and Static for the Decepticons. Pulse sees players taking on increasingly powerful waves of enemies while traveling through the innards of Decepticon giant Trypticon, while Static gives the cunning villains a chance to lure Autobots to their doom in a multi-level series of rooms riddled with environmental traps.
The other three maps are good for standard multiplayer battles and include the picturesque Horizon, the vehicle-friendly Sector, and a ruined high rise map called Metropolis.
The pack also gives players access to former Autobot leader Zeta Prime and the Stunticon Dead End in multiplayer.
Transformers: War for Cybertron DLC pack two will be available today on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network for 800 Microsoft points or $9.99.
For one of the most useless and short-lived Autobot leaders of all time, Ultra Magnus sure has a following, as evidenced by this custom toy showing what he'd have looked like had he turned up in War For Cybertron.
(Well, turned up in the console version, as he does appear in the DS edition)
There are two figures; one for the purists, showing Magnus in the same all-white colour scheme as his original toy (which in basic form was a simple repaint of Optimus Prime), the other with some custom armour bringing him closer to his more common red-white-and-blue appearance from the cartoons (and his clumsy toy armour).
The toys are again based on an Optimus Prime figure, this time his War for Cybertron variant, and are currently for sale on eBay.
The colours look great, but my only complaint would be that there's no car trailer. I know, there's no need for a car trailer on Cybertron, but damnit, he could have had a...hover-car trailer instead.
Custom War For Cybertron Figures [Game Informer]
Activision confirms the downloadable content details leaked earlier this month for Transformers: War for Cybertron, with five "new" characters and four new multiplayer maps coming in the first character and map pack, due out next week.
I put the word new in quotes, because of the five "new" characters, three were retailer-exclusive preorder bonuses. Jazz, Shockwave, and Demolishor have been available to players through preorder codes since War for Cybertron's launch. Joining the preorder trio are Scattershot, the leader of the Technobots, and Onslaught, who heads up the Decepticons' Combaticon team.
New maps are always good, especially when two of them are for the game's progressive Escalation mode, where you and a team of friends take on waves of stronger and stronger enemies, spending points earned with kills to unlock new weapons and new areas of the map. The maps District and Forsaken give the Autobots and Decepticons new places to play Escalation, while Havok and Fortress freshen up the standard multiplayer.
The Transformers: War for Cybertron Map and Character Pack 1 will be released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on July 27, with a cost of 800 MIcrosoft points, or $9.99.
Transformers: War for Cybertron for the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 is a steal today on Amazon.com at $42.98, the Deal of the Day punctuating a series of timed Lightning Deals running all day long.
The first of the Lightning Deals has already been revealed as Singularity for the Xbox 360, a game I was particularly fond of, unconventional multiplayer modes aside. At $39.99, it's definitely worth giving the game a try, as long as copies are still available once this story goes live.
The rest of today's deals are, as usual, presented as a series of clues.
9:00AM Pacific: "Go West, young man." Red Dead Redemption, hopefully.
11:00AM: "Journey to a land of legendary combat." Tournament of Legends?
12:00PM: "Street Fighter IV button mashing" Some sort of fighting stick controller?
15:00PM: "The first modern day spy role-playing game." That would be Alpha Protocol.
16:00PM: "Hone your stealth skills." Splinter Cell: Conviction?
18:00PM: "Life 23 years from now." Metro 2033.
21:00PM: "Explore the deadly, shadowed world of an Assassin." Barbie's Horse Adventures, or Assassin's Creed II.
Hope that helps you folks save a little dough!
Amazon Gold Box [Amazon.com - thanks visceralrealist!]
Folks who spent up to $100 for War for Cybertron preorder codes on eBay are going to kick themselves, as a listing on the Xbox website for the game's first map pack indicates that all three preorder characters are included.
This is why we don't buy preorder codes on eBay Released just last week and garnering surprisingly positive reviews, Transformers: War for Cybertron features a robust multiplayer component. To entice players to reserve copies at Best Buy, Amazon.com, and GameStop, Activision supplied retailer-exclusive preorder codes that unlocked Shockwave, Demolishor, and Jazz character models for online play.
Earlier this week we ran a story on the outrageous prices players were paying for these character codes on eBay.
Now Kotaku reader ChrisRiss points us to a listing that recently appeared on the UK version Xbox.com for the prepaid code version of "Map and Character Pack #1" for the game. The listing indicates the pack contains two new maps for standard multiplayer, two Escalation mode maps, and five new characters for online multiplayer, including the three preorder bonuses.
Become the ultimate weapon and wage war in four new maps – engage in multiplayer combat in HAVOC and FORTRESS or fend off waves of Autobots in DISTRICT, and Decepticons in FORSAKEN, two new Escalation mode maps. Also gain access to 5 characters and their chassis for use in Escalation mode and Multiplayer character creation; SCATTERSHOT, ONSLAUGHT, DEMOLISHOR, SHOCKWAVE and JAZZ are ready for battle. Fight to the end in the war that started it all! There are no refunds for this item.
Mind that last sentence there, eBayers: "There are no refunds for this item."
Mind you this isn't the official listing for the DLC pack you will be buying whenever Activision decides to release it, but it seems unlikely that the text included in the listing is merely placeholder. Activision could still remove the three preorder characters before the pack is released, though that doesn't seem likely.
Plus, there's no price listing, though I'm guessing it'll go for a lot less than the $100 people were paying for Demolishor at the world's largest online auction house.
We've reached out to Activision for comment on this story, and will update should we receive a response.
Transformers: War for Cybertron doled out three exclusive codes with preorders through three different retailers - unlocking Jazz, Shockwave or Demolisher for play. Some people must have confused "exclusive" with "rare," as eBay bids on these codes have touched $100.
Demolisher (pictured), unlocked with the Amazon preorder, got a bid as high as $105 in an auction ending Monday, according to GamesRadar. (Not coincidentally, a code put up for sale since GR's post has an asking price of $125. And zero bids.) Currently he's getting bids between $29.99 and $70.
That's still a hell of a lot of money for something that could, in six months' time, end up as a freebie or a 400 point download. But if you really have to Buy It Now!!! knock yourself out ...