Transformers: War for Cybertron was surprisingly good. It bucked the trend that movie tie-in games were invariably crap. That’s because it wasn’t a tie-in at all. Developers High Moon Studios based their 2010 big bot adventure on the home world of Cybertron where the Autobots and Decepticons were in the midst of a civil war. The two leaders are polar opposites, the optimist prime versus the negatron you could say, but their actions together brought about big trouble to Cybertron.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron follows on from the events of previous title, where the Autobots are desperate to find a way off the dying planet. Optimus has commissioned the creation of a giant lifeboat upon which he and the remaining Autobots would evacuate. The Decepticons not only want to disrupt the Autobots but have some other plans in the making. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron tells the stories around this desperate tug-of-war contest. See how it unfolds after the jump.
Even though the campaign is more dire than the last, it seems to be lacking in…heart. If we were to use a suitable analogy, War for Cybertron had the charm of the first Transformers movie while Fall of Cybertron is more like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which favoured the balls-to-the-wall action spectacle over any kind of character development. It’s not to say that the novelty has completely worn off. There are a few touching moments and some witty repartee in Fall of Cybertron, but I felt much more of a connection with the characters in the previous title.
Speaking of characters, you get to step into the boots of many a bot over the 13 chapters of the game. You’ll play as different bots from both sides of the war including Autobot scouts, fierce Combaticons, a certain member of the rowdy Dinobots, and the two headstrong leaders. You’ll play to their strengths of those characters, making use of their unique abilities to achieve various mission goals. Cliff Jumper for example uses his cloaking ability to avoid unnecessary conflicts, while Jazz has a grappling hook to explore multi-storey environments. Grimlock prefers a sword and shield and you wouldn’t want to make this hulk of a brute angry. And then there’s the time the Combaticons literally got together. Oh boy, you’ll love these moments.
Just as in the first game, Fall of Cybertron features a dizzying variety of weaponry including assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, and much more heavy weaponry. A few favourites like the Scrapmaker and thermo rocket launcher make a welcome return. You’re only allowed to carry two weapons and can only choose different ones at designated locations where a Teletraan computer is present. Thankfully you’ll find these points regularly so it’ll never feel like you’re stuck with the two same guns for extended periods of time. There are certain hidden blueprints too, which if found will unlock more guns and items to purchase. You can also buy upgrades to guns and other abilities such as speed boost, diffraction shields, and attack drones. Some items have one-time uses but can be replenished from the store, while other upgrades will stay active for the entire campaign. On the normal difficulty setting the game doesn’t prove too much a challenge but three quarters into the game, you have access to Megatron’s Riot Cannon, and from that point it can become a bit of a cake walk.
Even though there isn’t a great selection of enemies in the game, some of them aren’t patsies. They are aggressive and over-powered and you’re surprisingly fragile so you’ll need to look to cover for protection while your shield regenerates. There is no snap-to-cover button in this game, so you’re forced to strafe behind whatever structure you can to avoid a bullet to the face. There are some evasive dodge and roll manoeuvres that you can do but overall movement in robot form feels a tad slow and clunky. Some of the land-based vehicle forms are twitchy and produce exaggerated movements at high speeds. This can be irritating during some timed levels when escape is reliant on some precise driving. Travel by air, on the other hand is much more fun.
Seeing Transformers change between robot and vehicles forms is still great to see and hear. The voice acting is unsurprisingly superb. Peter Cullen, who you’ll recognize from the movies and animated TV series, reprises his role as the Autobot leader. Megatron is voiced this time by Fred Tatasciore. Serial voice-over artist Nolan North sneaks into this game to play Cliffjumper and a few additional characters.
One of the criticisms leveled at the first game was that the environments in the metallic world looked a little samey. It’s Cybertron not the lost world of the El Dorado, but the levels in Fall of Cybertron are far more varied and best match the given the situations that arise in the game. The score too follows the ebb and flow of the game, being incidental when it needs to me and becoming positively orchestral at epic moments.
After the story is completed, there is little reason to return to it unless you want to pick up missing weapon upgrades and items. The co-op campaign mode that was present in the first game is missing in this one, and the only team-based activities are to be found online. In the separate escalation mode players must survive several waves, each with enemies ever increasing in strength and number. There are four online modes — team death match, capture the flag, conquest (control nodes for points), and head hunter, where you destroy enemies and deliver their dropped sparks to a collection node for points. Similar to the first game, players can choose a character from four different classes. You can play as the hit-and-run infiltrator, a support scientist who comes to the aid of others, a destroyer whose attacks tend to do more damage in head-to-head conflicts, or a lumbering titan packing superior firepower. The XP system rewards players for kills and weapon upgrades are available as the player goes up the levels. The stages vary from compact claustrophobic labyrinths to wide open areas. At the time of writing, finding matches was extremely easy; the online lobbies were bursting with players seeking good bot-on-bot action [Ed: Yea, baby!].
Overall, Fall of Cybertron is far more impressive than its predecessor. In additions to its great visuals and better environments, the game provides variety in the characters that you play, the weapons that you fire, and the missions that you undertake. If you’re a newcomer to Transformers universe, Fall of Cybertron’s metallic world and shape-shifting inhabitants may be enough to spark some interest. To the fans, developer High Moon Studios provides another irresistible opportunity to step into the chassis of our favourite bots. Fall of Cybertron is game for fans made by fans.
Final score: 8 Cybertronian prawns out of 10.
Developer: High Moon Studios
Platforms: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Windows
Age Rating: 12