Two years ago, gamers were greeted with the first true Transformers game. It wasn’t tied into a movie or one of the relaunched tv series. Transformers: War for Cybertron brought players into a third person shooter that is treated as actual G1 Transformers cartoon continuity. Transformers: War for Cybertron captured what nostalgic fans of the series loved about the original 1980’s toy line and show by giving a backstory to the tale that people had already become familiar with. Now, after being interrupted by a Michael Bay movie tie-in, the team over at High Moon Studios is able to continue their piece of the Transformers saga with Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.
As mentioned, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a third person shooter. Maybe it is the Activision pedigree or the experience that High Moon Studios has had with the franchise but the shooting is much tighter than it felt in the previous Transformers: War for Cybertron, which was already fairly good. There are subtle assists when taking aim but the control scheme, damage system and hit boxes around enemies all feel reasonable.
The only disappointing factor of robot combat is still the melee system. Mapped normally to the right thumbstick, there isn’t much control or fun when it comes to hand to hand combat. Players just need to hope they are facing the right relative directly before tapping the stick for a single quick hit. Especially since this is tied to the same button necessary for camera control, things can lose focus and get out of control quickly if a player gets into a melee situation in a tight corner. It may have benefited the game if the melee was a separate weapon to choose like they are already able to with their light and heavy guns.
Vehicle controls on the other hand are a little slippery at times. Vehicles that hover tend to slide and vehicles with tires often get caught up on terrain. For the most part, players are going to stay in robot form unless they need to switch to vehicle form to quickly toss out some heavier damage or to traverse long combat free stretches of levels quickly. But still, it is fun to have the option of turning into a tank and quickly reigning down destruction on enemies.
The most important aspect to look at in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron though is how the Dinobots play. Since the addition of the badass team to the Transformer ranks, they are the big question mark. Unfortunately, the player is only given the chance to play as Grimlock for a few of the game’s thirteen chapters. Grimlock is primarily a melee character, using his huge sword and shield to make his way through the level which while fun at first, can grow somewhat repetitive just mowing down piles of enemies. Only once he has gathered enough power in his rage meter can he transform into his dinobot form.
Once there, combat doesn’t drastically change much although players do get access to a flamethrower. Overall, the Grimlock stages are not the most exciting in terms of actual gameplay as they are the great character moments given to the dinobot group from the story. What will be most interesting is seeing how the Dinobots fit into multiplayer with the upcoming DLC announced for next week which adds them to the online gameplay.
Multiplayer remains fairly similar to most online shooters with basic Team Deathmatch, Domination and Capture the Flag modes though there is a mode new to the Transformers series called Head Hunter. Think of Head Hunter as Dog Tag mode from Call of Duty (if you are familiar with its multiplayer) where once a player kills an opponent, they only receive credit for the kill if they run over to where the corpse was and grab the enemy’s spark. There is an added level of challenge as players then have to speed away and deposit the spark in one of two drop zones. The mode is a welcome addition to multiplayer to add a little more variety to the online community. Sadly, there is still no free-for-all multiplayer deathmath available.
Also new to the series is the Escalation mode. Escalation mode itself is a lot of what you’d expect. Put a team of players into an arena with limited resources and have them survive waves of enemies. The hardest part about this, like any other similar horde mode, is when players are not communicating with each other, they can get taken down very quickly. This mode is most fun within a group of friends who go in with a strong gameplan and players all knowing their roles in the team and all using mics to communicate so strategy can be changed as needed. The most frustrating thing can be when one player, especially the medic, isn’t performing their role and ignores the needs of the team.
Story and Presentation
The narrative of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is not only stronger than the original in War of Cybertron but it is just a fantastic stand alone Transformers story by itself. Whether you played the first game or not, the thirteen chapters of the game explain that the planet of Cybertron is basically lost and the Autobots and Decepticons are doing whatever they can to try and find a way off of it. Along the way, both sides are fairly represented with about equal play time and some awesome character building moments along the way.
For longtime fans of the G1 mythos, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron does a fantastic job of bridging the gap between Transformers: War for Cybertron and the beginning of the animated series. The lines between the Autobots and Decepticons are permanently drawn in the sand and the conflict between Optimus Prime and Megatron is carved in stone through the events of this game.
One of the reasons the story is stronger and more cohesive than the first is every level is specifically tailored to a single character in control of the player at a time. In the previous title, players had the opportunity to pick between three different Transformers which resulted in a looser storytelling experience as the big moments weren’t always taken by the character the player had chosen to go through the level with. This version of the story follows a tightly knit thread from the beginning to end and, though true continuity nerds may have a small issue with some decisions as they relate to the cartoon, allows Transformers: Fall of Cybertron an accessible title for Transformers novices and full of nostalgia for long time fans of the franchise.
Graphics and Sound
One of the other great improvements to Transformers: Fall of Cybertron was the new visuals. The levels themselves had lots more variety to them so it felt like a more epic adventure was occurring instead of staying in just one place the entire time. The new characters like the Dinobots, Insecticons and Combaticons also all have great design work to them in both their robot and alternate forms. There are some minor hiccups though during gameplay with small instances of the frame rate dropping but these are few and far between.
Before anything else, hearing the voice of the original Optimus Prime makes the game sound perfect for an old school fan. Having it paired with a model resembling the original character design and not being given lips (yes, I am still holding that against Michael Bay) pulls any old school fan back into their Transformers universe. The music is almost a non-factor as you don’t really notice it during the game. It seems fine enough but never really gives any big moments to help further the storytelling.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is not a perfect third person shooting experience. Vehicle control can be a little slippery at time and the melee combat is weak. Even the newest addition to the series with the Dinobots isn’t a game changer. But it is incredibly fun. The thirteen chapter story does a fantastic job of immersing players, both new and long time fans of the franchise, in a very well wrapped package filled with tons of nostalgic Easter Eggs. At the very least, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is worth a playthrough for anyone who grew up with them in the 80s.
XBox 360 (also available on PlayStation 3 and PC)
Developers: High Moon Studios