Transformers: War for Cybertron
PS3 (Review Copy) Xbox 360
It's full disclosure time. I'm a Transformers fanboy, and — much to my girlfriend's dismay — my interest and knowledge of the Autobot-Decepticon struggle dwarfs anything I may have learned in school. But I'm no fool, and I know the franchise hasn't fared well in game form. Well, apparently, so do the folks at High Moon Studios, developers of Transformers: War for Cybertron. What we have here might get it right.
Predating the events of the TV show, WFC is split into two parts: the Decepticon storyline depicts Megatron attaining the power to rule the planet, while the Autobot campaign shows how Optimus Prime comes to lead the Autobots. Each story follows the respective leader and two escorts as they battle into the heart of Cybertron. You learn the motivations for each side's actions and some background of each character. There are some nice touches, such as Warpath's outright exuberance, the surprisingly smart-ass Megatron, the Autobot, and each Transformer's characterization.
As a third person shooter, you'll combat your enemies in both robotic and vehicle form. With four different classes to choose from, you'll transform into a variety of cars, tanks and jets, depending on your character class. The weapons are standard fare, though the game isn't particularly good at explaining what each weapon or power-up does. Also available is a fully realized multiplayer option. You can customize your transformer, and level that character up as you play, opening up new skills and abilities. Also included is the addictive "escalation mode," where you and three others will hold out against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. Think Gears of War's Horde Mode or Halo's Firefight.
Transformers: War for Cybertron's single most glaring issue is its name; some mystique of the series and the toys was that they were robots who transformed into human vehicles. Having the game setting on Cybertron takes giant robots and reduces them to a man-sized scale. But I think that may just be the fanboy in me, since what's presented here is a love letter to Transformer fans everywhere.
Red Dead Redemption
Xbox 360 (Review Copy) PS3
When you think Rockstar games, you immediately think Grand Theft Auto, and rightly so. The GTA series is practically single-handedly responsible for the popularity of the sandbox genre. While the open-ended carnage draws in the masses, to the refined gamer, the tongue-in-cheek depiction of Americana found within was not only humorous, but pointedly sharp. So with Red Dead Redemption, you may dismiss it as GTA on horses; but if you do, you're missing the point.
In the waning days of the Old West, former outlaw John Marston is tasked with bringing in his old compadres, dead or alive. Along the way, you'll come across a wide variety of characters, each fully fleshed-out with distinct personalities. As per standard Rockstar policy, the game allows you to craft Marston any way you'd like with the honor-dishonor morality system. You can quickly tell though, that canonically, Marston's played as a good guy, making this a tale of a former outlaw's redemption in a Wild West you don't normally read about.
During his travails, Marston tackles a wide variety of missions, from simple search-and-destroy missions to cattle ranching and even bronco-busting.
While horsebacking from one settlement to another, you'll see painstaking attention to detail. You can partake in random mini-events to raise or lower your rep; Rockstar has taken GTA's atrocious targeting system and fixed it, adding the "dead eye" option allowing you to slow time to pick targets with pinpoint accuracy. Unfortunately, Rockstar did not fix the character control, and Marston — like his GTA forebears — still controls like a tank, not the agile cowboy he should be.
With beautiful visuals, a living, breathing world, and subtly clever narrative about the Wild West, Red Dead Redemption goes all in. RDP is far superior to GTA in practically every way; only EA's Mass Effect 2 rivals it for Game of the Year.Bryant Franks' eyes often buzz and dilate for no good reason. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org