Before I get stuck-in to this review, I believe an introductory disclaimer is in order. I do not, nor have I ever wet my pants over Transformers. While I’ve seen all three terrible big screen adaptations and played a handful of the games, being a child of the 90′s I missed the main television series (apparently Beast Wars doesn’t count). Regardless, I took a stab at High Moon’s War for Cybertron which, despite the slight mar of repetition, was a solid experience that attempted to encapsulate what it was really like to be a robot in disguise. Two years later we have its sequel, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron kicking off where things left off and designed to show Michael Bay how the franchise should be handled. First pro tip: Leave Shia on the bench.
Cybertron is falling. The Autobots and Decepticons continue to battle it out as both camps race to enter a portal set to transport them towards an unknown land. Amongst the fighting is the increasing desire for Energon: the lifeblood of friend and foe, and the primary fuel for both escape party’s escape. The plot penned by High Moon and approved by Hasbro might initially sound rather simplistic, but it’s a surprisingly dark tale that has been heavily considered and smartly crafted with gameplay in mind. After all, two warring factions presents the opportunity for two playable perspectives, and much like its predecessor, Fall of Cybertron takes this opportunity with open arms.
Doing away with stand-alone campaigns for team Autobots and team Decepticon, Fall melds the two sides into a single narrative strain. The approach makes for a much more cohesive experience overall, even if you still play the majority of the game’s first act with Optimus and all his friends, then close it out with the dark side of the Transformers universe. It’s a little disappointing to realise that the original belief of a constantly shifting gameplay experience never really becomes a reality, although thankfully the game’s pacing and storytelling efforts never suffer as a result.
Set to one up its little brother, Fall of Cybertron will allow you to roll out as a number classic Transformers characters. Starring the likes of Bumblebee, Starscream, Optimus and Megatron, most of the thirteen chapters will give you a brand new toy to play with, and by golly what fun they can be. The joy of Fall stems largely from the freedom your battles possess. Thanks to the new Teletran system that allows you to locate, buy and choose your two primary weapons, you are also free to upgrade your arsenal to suit your personal carnage-filled desires. Opt for a long range sniper and shoot-outs will rely on clever placement and spot-on accuracy. Alternatively employ the cannon/rocket one-two-punch and you’ll be getting right in on the action and watching as twisted metal flies around you.
That’s still neglecting the ability to transform at any time via the click of a button. There’s something incredibly gratifying about jumping off a ledge in the middle of the sky when things get too heated, only to transform into a jet mid-freefall and shoot off towards a new destination. Elation like this rarely grows tired and High Moon never milks the mechanic into submission.
Also unlike War, Fall takes over all character selection in favour of thirteen pre-determined robots, each designed to shuffle the plot towards its ultimate conclusion. Basic control remains fairly universal for each character, but all Transformers come with their own unique skill, ready to aid them in the heat of battle and rust up some foes. Jazz, for instance has a grapple capable of zipping you across stages, Megatron can boost himself into the air then direct his descent into a powerful ground smash and Optimus can order around Metropolex to open up the biggest can of whoop ass known to man. Oh, and who can disregard the hulking Grimlock and his destructive T-Rex ways.
Yes, it can all get a little outlandish, but these abilities only help add to the overall enjoyment and add a healthy dollop of variation that prevents all your pew pew action from becoming stale. The alteration also allows High Moon to tailor each new chapter and its associated environment to each new skill, particularly in terms of navigation and platforming. Powering through the campaign it’s obvious that these improvements have not simply been thrown into the game development mix, but thoughtfully planned and designed to formulate a more rounded experience.
Compliments aside, the game isn’t perfect. Gameplay variation might have been a success, but the same can’t be said for Fall’s environments. Too often it falls into a repetitive wash of greys, blacks and other monotone colours that is understandable considering the nature of the robot infested environment. It’s not that what’s presented isn’t pretty, but navigation can becomes a little samey. It’s like riding a giant rocket in one continuous corridor. The act might be fun, but you kind of hope it eventually leads to a new room. The odd glitch will also occasionally rear its ugly head, conveniently sending you through the floor or failing to trigger an essential checkpoint that allows a continuation in your path.
Once the single moderately sized single player campaign is done and dusted, you will once again be able to dive into the return of Escalation or more traditional multiplayer warfare. Escalation is a return to fine form in the horde-mode inspired activities that demands strategy and a unified game plan while your traditional multiplayer holds your standard death match, conquest, capture the flag, and head hunter fare. Where it all differs is the inherent nature of Transformers and your ability to swap from vehicle to bot anytime you please. Naturally, it’s an element that along with some graphical pizazz brings with it a range of new strategies, as you make impulse decisions on whether to focus in speed and manoeuvrability or brute strength. I haven’t even mentioned the inclusion of Falls character creation tool that, aside from providing an extra layer of incentive for the online modes, finally answers the question “if I were I transformer, what would I be?”
Additional modes might not make up for the lack of a cooperative campaign for some, but it’s refreshing to see a developer know their limits and focus on proving a solidified product rather than jam everything in and leave it all undercooked.
When I interviewed the team at High Moon Studios earlier in the year, they told me that they wanted to create the ‘definitive’ Transformers game of all time. To develop the benchmark that all those who followed would have to surpass. There is little doubt in my mind that the studio has nailed that task. Fall of Cybertron is fast, loud and full of things that go boom. Most of all however, it’s an absolute blast to play. If you’re a Transformers fan, you’ve probably already bought the game long ago. If you’re not, rest assured this is undeniably one of the best action games you could pick up this year.
- Reviewed On
- Xbox 360