Written by John Rios
Admittely, I'm a Transformers geek of Unicronian proportions. I have a collection of Transformers from the 80’s to the present day - both sealed and opened, an Autobots tattoo, and even had figures of Optimus Prime and Arcee in tux and dress atop my wedding cake when I tied the knot. So as you can imagine, being tasked to review this game without bias is a huge undertaking, but here we go..
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron deals with the events that lead up to the Transformers' departure from their home planet of Cybertron to look for a new planet that is rich with energy. If you've seen any of the original Generation 1 cartoon, then you can surmise they are talking about Earth. Throughout the campaign players take control of both Autobots and Decepticons, to illustrate each faction's struggle in this battle. I was pleasantly surprised by the scope and detail put into the title, which commanded 10 to 12 hours of play. There are plenty of easter eggs for the inquisitive to discover, between blueprints of weapon schematics to audio logs which enhance the story. One glaring omission to the campaign is the lack of cooperative play. War for Cybertron (editor's note: OBG's very first review!) featured a cooperative mode and I feel it is sorely missed in the sequel. One can understand that this was done for story purposes, but I would rather have seen the game come out a little later if it meant working in co-op opportunities. However, the story flows much smoother than War for Cybertron, and taking away the player choice of character per level streamlines the experience, for better or worse.
Til all are pwned.
A lot of fan service is dealt out throughout the campaign, hearkening back to the Generation 1 era. High Moon Studios and Hasbro have made strides to keep these games canon within the expansive history of Transformers. Each characters gets their due since you have no choice but to use them throughout the game's 13 chapters, which alternate seamlessly between Autobot and Decepticon. The characters have certain signature abilities that are catered to their level's environment, and are a joy to use. A few examples of these are Optimus Prime's call of the city-sized Metroplex for an assist against gigantic cannons, while the smaller Cliffjumper can use stealth to infiltrate a Decepticon stronghold. But neither Metroplex nor Cliffjumper are selling this game. Judging by 80% of the marketing, the major selling point is the Dinobots, namely Grimlock. Rest assured the entire Dinobot squad appear in the game but Grimlock is the major focus, good for a nice chunk of unadulturated destruction, with Slug (previously known as Slag), Swoop, and the rest of the gang playing the role of support. Fall of Cybertron even explains why the Dinobots have their dinosaur form on a robotic planet, and why they function the way they do; preemptively answering a question many Transformer fans may have had. If you ever wondered what an overpowered, robotic T-Rex can do, High Moon hits the mark here.
Grimlock isn't the only big addition to the roster though. The massive gestalt named Bruticus, comprised of 5 smaller Transformers, also makes his playable appearance. I was surprised at how he was incorporated into the game with out breaking the sense of being the unstoppable force that he is. These elements keep the game feeling fresh from other run of the mill third-person shooters, and helps the gameplay distinguish itself from its bigger brother. Side note: I attended this year's Comic Con is San Diego, primarily to grab the exclusive Fall of Cybertron Bruticus figure. True story.
Despite the general character design remaining similar to War for Cybertron, a lot of enhancements were made in the engine to give the Transformers an organic weight and feel befitting of giant robotic constructs. And of course, a spruce up of the details to give the barrel of Optimus Prime's gun a more luster. Level design has increased drastically; gone are the boring corridors and claustrophobic paths of War for Cybertron. Planet Cybertron is still just a giant robotic sphere, so don't expect to find lush flora, but at least there is variety in the environments thanks to stark differences in areas visited. The frame rate has been infinitely improved from WFC, but there is a bit of slowdown during periods of heavy action on screen. And, much like many other of today's games, texture pop-in was prevalent during cut scenes. It's amazing to see how many games continue to be affected by this simple nagging issue.
Me Grimlock not particularly eloquent, so kick the Energon out of you instead
Voice acting is top notch as you would expect, spearheaded by Peter Cullen's role reprisal of Optimus Prime. Even the original voice of Grimlock plays his part, for the first time in 25 years. Bet he thought the new generation would consider his take on Grimlock all but dead. One audio miscue that I felt needed to be addressed is sound of fired weapons. They lack the proper "oomph" that a giant robot's weapon should own. When I fire a rocket blaster, I want to feel like I'm firing a rocket blaster, not the 1/16 scale toy equivalent! High Moon even nabbed a new spin on an old classic which rolls during the credits, and really made me gush with fanboy love. Yep, that song.
Besides the campaign, players can also enjoy two other game modes. First there's Escalation, this game's take on the now staple Horde/Firefight mode. There are only 4 maps to choose from, two for each faction. Each map also has only four, predetermined characters to choose from. Only one person can play as each character, so don't expect to power through waves of Deceptiscum as four Optimus Primes. It's not at all bad though, since this requires each character to use their specific abilities, putting emphasis on the often overlooked values of team work.
In multiplayer, a lot has changed. Like War for Cybertron, there are still 4 classes and they still determine which vehicle form you transform into. But, and this is a big change, vehicle abilities have been stripped, much to the dismay of some and joy of others. No more of that crazy barrel rolling in Jet form, cheeseballs! All other gameplay changes in the campaign carry over to multiplayer. You can switch gun arms to get a better shot at your opponent, you can transform at will and drive into or away from a skirmish, and you can dash or charge in robot or vehicle modes, respectively. The characters are agile and versatile, and incredibly fun to control against other human opponents, as you can imagine.
The best addition to Fall of Cybertron's multiplayer is the increased depth in character customization. In War for Cybertron, you chose a default body type and adjusted the colors. Boring! Now you can change each individual part of your avatar: head, shoulders, arms, legs and chest. While these are all purely cosmetic changes, the choice of chest affects the look of your vehicle form. You're even given the option to change the wheels for the Infiltrator and Destroyer classes, change the cannon for the Titan class, and the wings for the Scientist class. A nice touch for sure. Not all parts for each class are unlocked right away, they must be earned and purchased to give players a sense of progression. You earn credits for leveling up and you have the choice of purchasing single pieces or the whole set, which allows you to use each piece individually. You can select specific colors for your mutliplayer mecha, but the option to mix and match primary and secondary hues is out the window. You're now forced to choose from preset color combinations, like white/red and green/yellow. Each faction gets their own set of color combinations, which sucks for your if you're an Autobot fan whose favorite color is purple.
Fun, guaranteed. Color coordination, not so much
Loadouts can be altered as well. You can choose two weapons out of four total for each class, and one of two available abilities. It sounds limited, but a touch more depth as each weapon and ability has three upgrades to choose from. These range from shortening reload time to increasing rate of fire. One weapon even has an upgrade that fires incendiary rounds, which light enemies on fire. Again, these upgrades are earned, as most are locked away until a specific level requirement is reached. Through the first week and a half of play I haven’t had an issue finding games, which is always nice when you're not playing one of the Holy Trinity of shooters, or a current year sports game. Though I fear that the onslaught of fall releases may dramatically change this. Hopefully High Moon Studios can add some refreshing DLC to keep things interesting and compete with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Halo 4.
Fans of Transformers will find a lot to love about this game, and people that are just passingly familiar with the franchise will be impressed as well. The game manages to forge High Moon's vision that much better, helping them craft their own Transformers universe that builds on that of the past. The ending was a bit underwhelming, but it leaves room open for a sequel down the line, should Activision sign on the dotted line. There is plenty of variety in the gameplay, and while the multiplayer lacks the charm and originality of the campaign, it is functional, fun, and active. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is easily a must-buy for any fan of the Transformers universe, but casual shooting fans will also find a worthwhile gaming experience to tide them over for the next few months.
The Score: 8 outta 10 Blasters!