August 30, 2012

Review – Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Review Transformers Fall of Cybertron
Picking up directly where 2010’s War for Cybertron concluded, Fall of Cybertron follows the desperate attempt of Optimus Prime to lead the remaining Autobots off their homeworld of Cybertron – which has been ravaged by civil war with the Decepticons and seen the planet’s core shutdown as a result.

Much like Rocksteady Studios’ recent Batman titles, High Moon seeks to fill the void of Transformers titles worthy of the franchise, which like Batman, has been largely non-existent save for 2004’s Transformers: Armada. If I could throw out one more comparison to the Arkham series, it would be the way in which High Moon embraces the depth of the source material while still delivering a story unique to the videogame in the flavouring.

The primary narrative of the Transformers is a familiar battle between two foes, Optimus Prime and Megatron, which has been explored and remixed repeatedly over the years – boiling down to the battle for power versus the fight to unite. And High Moon captures the essence of that story, pulling countless familiar pieces into play, but still finds space to play with the origins of characters and set pieces such as the Dinobots, the space bridge, the Nemesis, and many more shout-outs that likely mean more to me as a long time fan of the series.

Fall of Cyberton certainly is a fan-splendid title, wherein I can get giddy over the attention to detail along with small moments such as petting Laserbeak while playing as Soundwave. The characters of my childhood are waiting around every corner of this game, but these fan moments shouldn’t scare off anyone not as familiar with the subject matter – at the end of the day, Fall of Cybertron is about giant heavily armed robots engaged in battle, and who can say no to that on the few occasions the essence of such a conflict seems to be captured as well as it is here?

Review Transformers Fall of Cybertron
High Moon captures the destruction this battle causes in a way the cartoon I grew up with never could, in environments continually under fire and crumbling from the war, but also continually transforming and uncovering more of an incredibly complex planet – more than meets the eye and all that.

This time players will flip between the two factions while following the last ditch attempt of Optimus Prime to lead the Autobot survivors off Cybertron, with the story again providing opportunities to explore the war from both sides of the conflict.

Unlike the original release, which allowed players to essentially play through an entire half of the story as one faction before switching – or swapping whenever one pleased – this time around the narrative direction is more fixed. Players will chew through chapters and switch sides as the story necessitates, or moreover, as opportunities to play as key characters during pivotal moments occur. And while I expected this to prove somewhat jarring, the consistent character swapping does indeed find opportunities to capture the essence and abilities of characters for the trouble.

Review Transformers Fall of Cybertron
Whether playing as Megatron and leading an attack on the Autobots, sneaking around as StarScream, investigating Decepticon activity as Cliffjumper, and least I forget, smashing Insecticons as Grimlock, the bite-sized time spent with each character keeps the play from ever getting stale. And it wouldn’t be hard for this story of robots blasting robots to dip into tedium, an occasional issue with the original release that is staved off here with shorter doses.

The payoff is in a finale chapter that shifts the player between several perspectives of the battle, allowing one to choose their final allegiance, although this choice has no real bearing on the outcome.

Each character possesses a unique ability, whether it’s Starscream’s cloaking, Soundwave’s ability to eject tapes that transform into helpers, or Jazz’s grapple hook. This keeps the nature of play open to new opportunities, though often navigates between stealth missions and larger bottleneck battles against waves of enemies.

Review Transformers Fall of Cybertron
Curiously absent this time around are boss battles, and the entire campaign feels geared toward a more casual play style that really doesn’t necessitate learning the ins and outs of secondary weapons – though interacting with Teletran-1 terminals is essential for upgrading primary weapons as well as your transformers. Fall of Cybertron values fun over the grind, particularly in rewarding players with opportunities to play as overpowered characters such as fan favorite Grimlock, and Bruticus, both of whom represent nearly unstoppable killing machines that cut through opposition like a knife through hot butter. Playing as Grimlock encourages plenty of guilty pleasures in dinosaur mode, crushing enemies between his jaws and breathing fire on the scattering crowd of opposition.

What remains unchanged aside from the hypnotic rock opera of robot war are the transformations. It is still joyous to fly in blasting enemies as a plane before transforming into a robot to lay down more fire and then flying away again. Ground based transformations also provide an easier means of scattering enemies and cutting through larger groups. Perhaps most importantly, the act of transformation feels and sounds heavy and metallic while the controls make gliding through the skies at high speeds a breeze.

In earnest, I lost myself to the spectacle early on as the game found multiple ways to scratch my nostalgia itch, even capturing the odd humor of the series while presenting this more mature view of the war. I imagine Transformers fans will catch the shout-outs along the way, including several moments that borrow directly from the 1986 animated film.

Review Transformers Fall of Cybertron
When the campaign is over, a familiar escalation mode awaits to task players with mowing down waves of opposition. Fall of Cybertron also brings typical multiplayer offerings to the table, and it is worth several mentions that customization goes a lot further here than with other multiplayer experiences due to the transforming nature of opponents. I found myself immediately terrible at fighting human opponents and suddenly inspired to pay more attention to the added weapons and aids available for purchase that I’d ignored during the campaign.

The fan in me that wants to share the experience with other fans is saddened that the more direct narrative couldn’t leave space for co-operative play. On the flipside, while the game is certainly inviting to those who wouldn’t consider themselves fans, the cliffhanger conclusion may leave some wanting in a void that leaves plenty hanging on the prospect of a third game in the series.

In the end, stomping around as a heavy metallic dinosaur, however briefly, is the primary invitation to fans with a game that continues to deliver a title worthy of the franchise. Given the history of the franchise in gaming, it’s worth little to say that Fall of Cybertron again offers the best Transformers experience in gaming to date, but it’s certainly the truth.

High Moon Studios


PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC (Xbox 360 Reviewed)

Singleplayer, Multiplayer

Release Date
August 21, 2012

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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