Back in 2010, High Moon Studios hit a high note with Transformers fans when they released War for Cybertron. It wasn’t perfect, but it was still a damn sight better than previous games starring the robots in disguise, and having a killer multiplayer section thrown in for good measure cemented it as a solid title that showed appreciation to its source material. After applying that formula to the lastes film tie-in game, the war continues between the Autobots and Decepticons, as High Moon polishes what they’ve created for more of the same action. And that ain’t such a bad thing at all, with this game.
Chronicling the final days of the war that left the Transformers planet a barren wreck and sucked dry of its life-giving energon preserves, Fall of Cybertron finds the Autobots in a desperate race to escape their homeworld, with the Decepticons hot on their heels because they didn’t sign any permission slips to leave.
The main campaign takes place from both sides of the war, through various characters as Autobot leader Optimus Prime prepares to face off with his opposite number, Megatron, in a battle to determine the fate of their civilization.
With that plot point set up, the action unfolds, and while it sometimes moves a little too fast, giving most characters very little time to really establish themselves, the veteran voice-acting gives it a welcome edge, as Peter Cullen reprises his signature role as Optimus Prime, amongst other voices that only fans of the classic cartoons would truly recognise, amongst a few gaming industry familiars as well.
Overall, it’s this acting that sets the tone perfectly, as players race to survive, in a world that is less a mechanical marvel, and more a rusty ragnarok waiting to implode on itself. Key moments from across the Transformers franchise are also hinted at and played out here, giving some fan service to the dedicated players out there.
As for the gameplay, very little has really changed on the surface. You’ll still assume the role of one of several different Transformers, fighting in third person as you run and gun your way through, transforming into your vehicle mode to take advantage of terrain or when some extra firepower is needed.
There’s vague trappings of a cover based shooter here, with several, conveniently placed large objects serving as dependable bulk-heads with which to catch your breath and recharge those shields, but at its core, Fall of Cybertron is very aggressive. You’ll be dodging attacks, strafing and constantly moving, because if you had to play whack a mole with a giant robot, quite frankly, you’d be pissing on the potential of the franchise, and fortunately, that is not the case here.
A new addition to the gameplay is the weapon upgrading at the Teletraan 1 stores, dotted between levels, as these kiosks allow you to improve on your light and heavy weapons. For example, spend some gears on improving the riot cannon fully, and you can soon find yourself with a weapon that turns the last shot in the barrel into a mini-nuke, decimating opponents. Weapons can even be rated across the community, a nice touch for fans as well.
And for a game that features building-sized robots doing battle, the action isn’t clunky at all, but rather smooth. Certain characters move quicker, but have less armour, with the opposite being true for the heavyweights in the game. Driving still feels a little odd based on the control scheme, but once overcome, you’ll soon find yourself pulling tight turns and ramming enemies with ease, while letting loose a barrage of fire.
And of course, you get to play as a certain T-Rex themed Dinobot, in the process. Fall of Cybertron gives a new spin on the origins of these Transformers icons, and you have to work your way to that late stage in the game, but once you’re there, you’re in for an overpowered treat, as you assume the role of Grimlock and lay waste to the Decepticons. It’s a different method of play here, but not drastically, as you slice and dice your way through, building up enough rage to transform into his Dinobot form.
And it’s the most welcome piece of fan service that I’ve ever played through.
It’s clear that High Moon has polished and tweaked the gameplay here, going for a more focused approach overall, and changing very little in the process, something that will most likely irk gamers who didn’t enjoy the first title from them.
The game is also filled with numerous epic moments, but sadly, there’s less of these available than there was in War for Cybertron, but when they do arrive, all the stops are pulled off, and the final battle itself is a magnificent spectacle of carnage that uses multiple characters from both sides. Overall, it’s a satisfying experience, but a short one overall, clocked in around 6-7 hours on my part.
There is some replayability on those levels though, where players can collect audio logs and weapon blueprints, but it’s not a crucial factor at the end of the day, in this linear title. Multiplayer is where the longevity of the title really comes through, as the component here has been reworked, to give players a more customised approach to online play.
Four classes are on offer here, Scientist, Infiltrator, Titan and Destroyer. Each has their own pros and cons, as well as special abilities, and with enough time put into the online mode, can be customised with new weapons, perks and visuals, to create something to suit your style. They play much as you would expect them to in the single-player campaign, such as a Titan transforming into a tank to blast away at players, or a scientist getting himself out of a scrap by turning into a jet and blasting off.
And it works here, as matches require changing tactics and relentless aggression, rewarding players who can adapt to the environments. The maps are massive and busy, and suit certain classes perfectly, and while they aren’t all exactly pretty examples of next-gen tech, they do an adequate job.
Aside from the usual Deathmatch mode, there’s also Capture The Flag and Headhunter mode, which has players engaging in a twisted game of Cybertronian tag, albeit wit with more bullets and the sparks of fallen foes.
Escalation is also back, as players engage 15 waves of enemies with a team, in a very thinly-veiled horde mode pulled straight from Gears of War 3. Beating the odds results in cash, which can then be spent on weapons and upgrades, as well as unlocking new sections of the map.
Visually, very little has changed as well, but the Transformers on offer are still wonderfully detailed and animated, with the levels themselves being linear and colourful examples of this, something refreshing in a sea of drab greys that paint the majority of games these days. The character designs invoke the classic look of the G1 Transformers, yet manage to keep things fresh with enough emphasis on creating a unique universe, bolstered by the excellent voice-acting and stirring soundtrack.
It may not have changed much overall, but the more cinematic approach to the visuals is still pleasing nonetheless.
Solid, focused and determined, there’s very little to hate here, and transforming into a tank to deal some heavy damage, commanding a city-sized ally or combining into a weapon of mass destruction, never gets old. More polished than reworked from the ground up, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is nevertheless fun to play, and a literal blast at times.
Design and Presentation: 7.5/10
The visuals haven’t changed drastically, and besides a few refreshed character models, the Autobots and Decepticons still look the same overall. That being said, the approach is more dynamic, and the emphasis on more vibrant colours and locales is a welcome breath of fresh air, alongside the experienced voice-actors and well orchestrated score.
Fall of Cybertron features a rather short main campaign, something that will irk those gamers out there who don’t have access to online play when they finish the storyline. But for those of you who want to engage in some multiplayer mayhem, the action is all there, addictive and rewarding, thanks to the more detailed customisable options that are available.
Fall of Cybertron, at it’s spark, is a game for the fans. It may not hit as many high notes as War for Cybertron did, but the dedication and attention to detail that is present shows how much High Moon cares for the franchise. It’s a solid title with a few bugs that still need to be ironed out, but it’s also the most sincere love letter ever developed for fans to play.
[Reviewed on X-Box 360, played on normal difficulty]