It's a shame that it gets these basics wrong, because sometimes, War For Cybertron is almost great. High Moon has nailed the transforming, no mean feat in itself, and jumping over a foe as a car before transforming and shooting them in the back is awesome - although you occasionally wish there was a Max Payne slow-mo option so you could appreciate the nuance of these feats a little more. The sections that are specially designed for vehicles (exploding highway chases for the cars, simple Starfox-style space-shooting for the jets) work well too, although they're few and far between, and most of the time the game's spaces feel too confined for vehicular modes.
The levels are long, with very little architectural repetition (other than the fact that everything's made of metal) and the two five-mission campaigns (one for each faction) have no content overlap, making it feel like an eight-hour game of two halves, rather than a four-hour game you have to play twice. The Decepticon campaign comes first, and it sees you kicking off the war that you'll later have to survive as an Autobot. It's an interesting idea, forcing you to instigate your own downfall, but the concept stays largely unexplored - sadly, War For Cybertron isn't big on dramatic irony.
It does have at least two good jokes though, and a few moments that will give fans geekgasms, so if you're the kind of person that goes from six to midnight when Soundwave produces a hollow Energon container from his chestplate, you'll be well served here. Lines from the 1986 movie are scattered sparingly throughout, and finally getting the chance to explore Cybertron is a thrill in itself.
From a fiction point of view, pretty much the only thing you can complain about is Ironhide not being a cowboy (especially odd as they'd already hired Peter Cullen for Optimus - surely they could have got one "leaking lubricant!" out of him?). It also seems a bit remiss to feature several Autobot and Decepti-creep combiners like Silverbolt, Air Raid and Brawl and not have them turning into huge gestalts - a Bruticus/Superion grudge match could have been epic.
The multiplayer comes with a handful of COD-style level perks and the ability to "design your own Transformer" (read: ability to choose the primary and secondary colours on a selection of pre-built bots), but it seems unlikely to challenge Bad Company 2 or Modern Warfare 2 for your fragging needs. The perks are too slight to be worth the effort, and as with the campaign, the character classes aren't quite different enough.
That said, using the Arcee frame is well worth the effort just to hear the screams of anguish as gamers are destroyed by what is, essentially, a weaponised Penelope Pitstop car. Particularly if you yell "HAY-ULP!" at the same time. The Escalation mode lets you play with a handful of exclusive characters but even shape-shifting robots can't hide the fact that it's Horde-in-disguise.
While it often hits the big-canvas sci-fi G-spot that Michael Bay has spent the last four years searching for, you're constantly aware of the gears of chore that rumble throughout this game. It's plodding and lacking in imagination, and it's mostly the great cut-scenes that will get you through. It's certainly not 'rip out your optics' bad - but Transformers: War For Cybertron hasn't got the touch either.
6 / 10