The last time High Moon Studios ‘hit one out of the park’ in terms of a top-notch Transformers game was when Transformers: War for Cybertron invaded consoles in 2010. At the time many, including myself, considered it to be the best Transformers game available on consoles. Last year was a somewhat forgetful year for the franchise as Transformers: Dark of the Moon failed to build on War for Cybertron’s success. In many ways the franchise took a step backwards. So along comes Fall of Cybertron looking to build on the success of High Moon’s 2010 Transformer game now that the franchise has returned to the Autobots/Decepticons home planet. Well, after having played Fall of Cybertron to exhaustion over the past week, I think we may just have crowned a new champion when it comes to Transformer games on home consoles.
Much like previous Transformer games, Fall of Cybertron is a third person shooter that takes place prior to the 1980’s Transformers: Generation 1 animated series. Just before the Transformers landed on Earth they lived on the machine planet of Cybertron. The majority of the game takes place on the Transformers’ home world that has been ravaged by war and is on the brink of imploding. Fall of Cybertron is a direct sequel to War for Cybertron and continues the story of the Autobots ongoing struggle to take down the Decepticons in the midst of a nasty civil war. There is certainly much more to it than that as the story takes several surprising twists and turns along the way. Not to mention some in-fighting between Starscream and Megatron as they battle for power. Of course the much talked about Dinobots make their appearance towards the end of the campaign too. The storyline is easily one of the better Transformer storylines since I have started playing Transformer games, but let’s face it, not all gamers are playing this game for the narrative alone.
Fall of Cybertron’s single player campaign consists of 13 chapters and plays out in a somewhat linear fashion. I say somewhat as there are sequences that give you the freedom to accomplish certain objectives as you see fit, but at the end of the day the game still forces you to proceed from point A to point B. The campaign also allows you to play with various Transformers from both the Autobots and Decepticons side of the house. There are some fantastic surprises along the way but I can’t give up too much information without spoiling the overall experience for many. What I will say is that Transformer fans will be pleased to not only see, but also be able to play, with many legendary characters from the animated series including the two top dogs themselves – Megatron and Optimus Prime.
The single player campaign plays out very much like a modern day Call of Duty game, but with robots. This does not come as a complete surprise though as Activision has a recipe for success and it appears this template was followed in Fall of Cybertron. In addition to the blasting down tons of mechanical enemies, you spend a great deal of time driving and even flying. Additionally, you will take advantage of several of the Transformers unique abilities which includes using grappling hooks to catapult across various platforms, taking down enemies using stealth-like cloaking abilities, and even sniping. Not to mention there is a sequence where you take control of the massive Metroplex Transformer as he absolutely demolishes everything in sight and dwarfs even some of the larger Transformers.
From each mission to the next you never know what you are going to get in Fall of Cybertron. I have to give kudos to the developers as I never found myself getting bored with the game. Sure, some of the sequences can drag on at times as you fend off wave after wave of enemies, but overall I was impressed with the amount of variety of the game which is something that cannot be said for War for Cybertron.
Much to my surprise, transforming into vehicles is not as critical as an aspect of the game as it has been in the past. Sure being able to transform into a vehicle can get you out of some dicey situations and help you get from point A to point B a little quicker but I never found myself constantly switching from robot to vehicle and back again. When you do transform however the transition is quick so you are never really vulnerable during the process. Transforming remains a smooth and seamless experience and it is a process that High Moon has nailed down to perfection. I was even pleasantly surprised to see when Jazz makes his transformation how a subtle musical beat plays as he is transforming. It is these little details that make this Transformer game rise above the others.
My only issue with the single player campaign was that some of the Transformers felt a little sluggish. Without giving too much away, I just expected some of the Transformers to move a little quicker and be able to engage in combat with a little more fluidly. This is not the case for all the Transformers but just for some of the larger ones.
The controls are straightforward and it took me no time to get accustomed to them. Some of the basic controls such as using the sticks to move and firing with the right trigger are present and familiar. Clicking the left thumbstick will trigger a transformation while clicking the right thumbstick will produce a melee attack. Controlling the vehicles is silky smooth and I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to control my Transformer. Jumping in and out of the menus and switching weapons is also accomplished with ease. All in all, the controls should be easy to pick up for anyone, even the younger Transformer fans.
Much like previous Transformer games there are collectibles, ammo, and health (energon) scattered across Cybertron. There are blueprints you can collect too and audio logs that give you a bit more insight into the game’s storyline. There is also a currency system that allows you to purchase upgrades for your primary and heavy weapons. You can also purchase perks as well. Teletraan stores are located throughout the 13 chapters and it is here you can purchase weapons and upgrades and nail down your loadout.
The single player experience took me around 12-13 hours. I tended to rush some of the levels, but there were some levels where I certainly took more time. I found myself exploring a great deal, as I wanted to accumulate more currency so I could upgrade some of my favorite blasting cannons. I played the game on normal difficulty and never found myself getting stuck in one particular area. Granted I had some trouble with some of the Titan Transformers and those shotgun wielding ones too, but overall the game is not too difficult making it an experience that even younger gamers can enjoy.
The multiplayer component of the game is arguably worth the price of admission alone. It is not only highly enjoyable but surprisingly deep as well. The amount of customization available is nothing short of impressive. It is a comprehensive customization scheme where you can customize your transformer any way you please. You can adjust their head, body, legs, shoulders, arms, decals, etc. You can also play around with the Transformers colour schemes and tinker with weapons and loadouts. This allows you to essentially play with your own custom Transformer. Personally I prefer playing with one of the existing Transformers for a variety of nostalgic reasons. This being said, having the option to make your own Transformers should certainly appeal to the masses.
Fall of Cybertron’s online play offers up 4-classes. The Infiltrator Transformer is the smaller car class, the Destroyer is the larger truck class, Titans are the massive tank Transformers, and the Scientists have the ability to fly. All have their own strengths and weaknesses.
There are your traditional online modes, such conquest and team deathmatch, and after playing these modes I had some time to play some Escalation mode which is a 4-player ‘horde-like’ co-op mode. Here I took on waves of enemy transformers. There are a total of 15-waves in all. Much like Gears of War’s horde mode the difficulty amps up as you progress along. I found that after the third wave, the difficulty really cranked up. Giant insect-like Transformers, enemy Titans, and a slick assortment of enemy Transformers hone-in on you wave after wave. It is enjoyable but in the end it plays out much like other Horde-like games. With 10 maps in total out of the box, Fall of Cybertron’s multiplayer game is far from an afterthought or a cheap add-on. You can tell that much time and energy was spent developing the game’s online aspect as the online play is smooth and all the games I played were highly enjoyable.
As far as the visuals are concerned, Fall of Cybertron is sharp and surpassed my expectations. The war torn mechanical world of Cybertron simply looks stunning. Everything pops on the screen and not one detail was overlooked. The environments are well crafted as Fall of Cybertron does a great job of capturing that Transformers feeling. The Transformers themselves are obviously the highlight of the game when it comes to the graphics. The overall detail of the Autobots and Decepticons is very sharp and certainly comparable to their animated counterparts as they are easily recognizable for fans of the franchise. At a quick glance you can tell the developers took time to perfect their look. The AI enemies, including the Incecticons, are also very detailed, exceeding my expectations. The actual transformation from vehicle to robot is very slick and looks great in high definition. The in-game cut scene sequences are also visually appealing and manage to fully capture your attention.
The only negatives in terms of the visuals are that on occasion I would witness some clipping which seems to occur more frequently during the flying sequences. Also, I did notice some occasional slow-down when the chaos would become a little too hectic on the screen. These instances seem to occur during those frantic vehicle battles and do not happen that often. Otherwise, Fall of Cybertron is a game that delivers in the visuals department.
The audio in Fall of Cybertron is also very good and is easily the best I have heard from any Transformers game in recent memory. The sounds are fantastic in 7.1 Surround Sound. For starters, all the Transformers sound authentic and just like their animated counterparts. Peter Cullen is back again and steals the show as Optimus Prime, which comes as no surprise. He sounds fantastic, and as I just mentioned, very authentic. Megatron sounds equally as great. The rest of the cast is first-rate too, accurately conveying the personalities of their given characters. The game’s sound effects are also top notch. The sounds of cannons blasting, the mechanical world transforming, and other in-game Transformer sound effects that we have all heard at one time or another deliver. Last but not least the music is simply epic and just like that of the big screen movies.
To say that Transformers: Fall of Cybertron has taken a significant leap over the previous Transformer games is understatement. After last years disappointing Dark of the Moon, fans can unanimously rejoice. High Moon Studios has successfully rebounded with a Transformers game that delivers on so many levels. The varied and entertaining single player campaign coupled with the deep multiplayer experience makes Fall of Cybertron a must own for any Transformer fan or even someone who just wants to have some mindless Transformer fun.