Platforms: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360.
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Developer: High Moon
Thanks to Activision for providing a copy of this game for review.
High Moon studios have made quite a name for themselves as the saviors of the Transformers videogame license, having created the widely loved Transformers: War for Cybertron back in 2010. Needless to say they received a lot of fan-love for finally constructing a game that we Transformer fans could be proud of, and since then they’ve been hard at working crafting a sequel. And no, we’re not even going to acknowledge that they created the official Transformers: Dark of the Moon game. Don’t even…just don’t.
And from start to finish one thing is crystal clear: High Moon Studios approach their Transformers license with the same reverence and passion that Rocksteady applied to their Batman games. This is clearly a labor of love, crafted by a group of guys and gals that have a genuine passion for the Transformers and their history, allowing them to build a game filled with fan-service moments. The whole thing picks up almost directly after the events of the first game: Cybertron is failing, its systems simply giving up, and the Autobots and the Decipticons are hunting for a way to leave, for a place to go to save themselves. Things are bleak, things are desperate. Like before you won’t just be playing through Fall of Cybertron as just one character, instead you’ll be taking on the roles of various ‘bots from both the Autobots and the Decipticons, though this time in one cohesive campaign rather than two separate ones. So the tale is a simple one: this is the story of the fall of Cybertron, of the final days of the desperate war between the two forces led by Optimus Prime and Megatron.
For obvious reasons it can be hard to connect on any sort of personal level to hulking metal machines, but then Fall of Cybertron isn’t trying to tell a deep, character driven tale, rather it’s going for the summer blockbuster vibe, fully embracing a highly cinematic style of storytelling that makes for an incredibly intense 6-8 hour campaign. There’s some outstanding moments to be found within the campaign, such as the spine-tingling discovery of Metroplex, a gigantic Transformer that any fan of the franchise should be aware of, the introduction of Grimlock or the final dramatic moments of the story that ends in a cliffhanger. The sense of scope is also impressive: you really do get the sensation that this is a war of massive proportions, engulfing an entire planet that’s teetering on the edge of destruction. None of this would be half as impressive if it wasn’t for the games impeccable audio design. Not only is each and ever Transformer fantastically voiced, but the games sound effects are of incredibly high-quality, drawing you into the game and easily on part with the likes of the Battlefield series. Wearing a set of 7.1 surround sound headphones ever battle scene and cinematic moment almost literally blew me away with the quality of its audio, something which extends to the music which relies on heavy guitar work that suits the tone and style of the Transformers and their design perfectly. I could likely gush about the audio all night long, but the simple truth is that without it the campaign just wouldn’t feel as epic, as massive, as awesome as it does. Sure, the story isn’t that deep or complex, and there’s some occasional moments of clumsy writing and some hit and miss humor, but like any good summer blockbuster you can forgive these flaws because you’re just enjoying the ride.
The graphics certainly aren’t letting down the overall presentation, either. Cybertron being an entirely metal planet inhabited by metal beings does somewhat limit the art team to a degree, but they’ve managed to introduce a little more variety into the environments than the previous outing while also creating that sense of scale that I so happily mentioned earlier. Star of the show is undoubtedly the Transformers themselves. High Moon have put a lot of effort into the design of these guys so that when you first see something like Grimlock transform you’ll be suitably impressed. They all boast a high level of detail as well. However, since the game is running on the Unreal engine there is that infamous texture pop-in to contend with and there’s also the occasional frame rate issue when the action gets a little to intense. Nothing serious, though. Like the audio the graphical presentation helps make those awesome cinematic moments as good as they are, backed up by some solid camera usage as well. Still, there’s no denying that by the end of the game I was a little tired of seeing grey metal. And more metal. And some more metal. And some rust colored metal! At least the Transformers have some color to them, and of course watching them transform, with that classic sound, is just plain fantastic.
Underneath the blockbuster presentation, though, Transformers is still largely a pretty standard third-person shooter, albeit it a standard third-person shooter that features robots who can transform into tanks and hover-cars at any time. But really that’s the only thing that sets Fall of Cybertron apart from almost any other third-person shooter out there. The core shooting mechanics haven’t really changed or seen any truly notable improvements since High Moon first foray into the Transformers universe. For those unaware Fall of Cybertron doesn’t use a cover system: this is third-person blasting of the old school style. If you want to take cover you just need to go and stand behind a wall. Really, though, strafing is the name of the game here. However, one thing that transformers does boast that other third person shooters should consider taking on-board is a button that allows your character to swap their weapon from one arm to the other, making it easier to fire around cover. The selection of weapons at hand, all of which can be upgraded using credits collected on the battlefield, all feel suitably meaty in combat, but blasting bots just isn’t as satisfying as blasting flesh-and-blood foes, as sadistic and strange as that might sound. At least a couple of different enemies types keep you on your toes, such as the huge Leapers that can only be damaged from behind and the all-sticking sniper bots, but really it would have been nice to see a few more enemy types to make you switch up your tactics. The point is that without the ability to transform Fall of Cybertron’s gunplay is pretty standard stuff. Dont take that to mean it’s bad, though: it’s manic, shooty fun that should keep you happily entertained. You’ve just seen and played it before.
One of the bigger criticisms leveled at the first game was that the gameplay was fairly repetitive – you were mostly just blasting things using the games core shooting mechanics and doing little else. This time around High Moon Studios sought to add a little more variety to the gameplay, throwing in a few new things such as a stealth level that has you utilising cloaking and basic stealth skills to evade enemies as well as your vehicle form to slip through ventilation tunnels. Other new gameplay elements include a level where you grapple around the environment battling snipers. Transformers vehicular forms are also utilised a little more often this time around as well with some of the best levels of the game providing large open areas where both robot and vehicle mode can be used to great effect, something which the first game didn’t always do. In particular a couple of levels where you’re in control of certain characters with flight capabilities are standout moments, though a longer campaign with a few more such open levels would have been most welcome. There’s nothing quite like roaring through the sky as a jet before transforming in mid-air, landing in an epic slide and demolishing a couple of enemies with a well-timed melee strike. Also, special mention must go to the Bruticus, Megatron and Grimlock levels for making the player feel like a true badass. it’s just a shame that playing as other ‘Formers doesn’t do the same job of making you feel like an awesome robot of death. Anyway, this variety of gameplay and the fact that new elements are introduced to you at just the right time ensure that the game never feels boring or stale to play.
A major let-down that must be mentioned, though, comes from the fact that the co-op campaign of War for Cybertron hasn’t made it into this sequel. I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again: games are always more fun when played with friends, so the fact that High Moon decided to ditch the co-op campaign for this outing is one that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
Of course multiplayer makes its welcome return here with an expanded suite offering up a brand new Create-A-Character system that let’s you….uh, well, create a character. Duh. You can now quite literally build your own Transformer from the ground up, choosing between various parts to do so. You can choose the head, chest, shoulders, arms and legs of your robot, with the chestpiece determining what vehicle form you can take. Being able to build your own personal Transformer is pretty awesome and a very welcome addition to the series. On the other hand actually outfitting your character is still fairly limited with just a couple of weapons and upgrades to pick from for each of the game’s four classes, although to be fair this comparatively limited armory does help maintain the games painstakingly balanced gameplay. Speaking of which the character classes have received some minor tweaks to make them feel a little more focused toward their role, with each classes strengths and weaknesses balancing out nicely. Having said that the Scientist, who can transform into a jet and is likely to become a favorite class thanks healing abilities and the games only thing that comes close to being an assault rifle, suffers from the simple fact that some of the maps are a bit too enclosed, making using his jet-form a bit of a challenge in comparison to every other classes ground-based vehicle forms. It’s also a bit of a shame that High Moon decided to remove special abilities for Transformers vehicle forms, meaning no more barrel-rolling as the Scientist to dodge missiles and such. It’s strange that they just chose to remove such a feature, but happily robot form special abilities are still intact to keep things interesting. In terms of content the game is packing a total of ten maps for you to play on, though the design of these maps still isn’t that great. The design is solid enough and they play well, but don’t really stand out that much. There’s also just four modes to choose from to play on these maps, with the usual Team Deathmatch, Conquest and Capture the Flag on offer alongside a Headhunter mode, which has you picking up Sparks from slain enemies with the goal being for your team accumulate 30 of them to win. It’s a shame there’s not a few more modes to play on, but then with Transformers multiplayer crowd being smaller than the likes of Call of Duty or Battlefield it’s probably best to have just a few modes so that the players don’t get too thinly spread out.
Much like the singleplayer campaign the action is at its best on the more open maps where every class has its chance to shine. It’s hectic multiplayer fun with Scientists screeching through the skies, Titans spinning up their guns to lay down a barrage of fire and the sneaky cloaking Scouts just annoying everyone with their shotguns. The action is fast and intense with the ability to swap between robot and vehicular forms providing some amazing battles. Truthfully the multiplayer action isn’t a whole lot different from War for Cybtertron’s, but the tweaks and changes have ensured that it’s improved and more fun than ever. Suffice to say that if you’re a multiplayer addict, there’s plenty of chaotic fun on offer here for you.
Alongside the competitive multiplayer Escalation, High Moons take on the standard Horde formula that’s every shooter seems to have to have these days, returns to provide some co-operative action. The formula is still the same as before: you and three people go up against 15-waves of increasingly tough enemies that intend to smash your face in with the only goal being to survive. Transformers does do a few things different from the standard Horde formula, emphasising strong teamwork with players being able to pool their individual resources together to buy new weapons and even unlock doors to access new sections of the map. Is your teammate low on health? Buy them a health pack! They need ammo? Buy ’em that too! Just like War for Cybtertron, it’s a system that works well. To survive all 15-waves you’ll have to work together and communicate well to ensure that you can afford to open doors at the right time or stay healed up. Sadly, though, there’s just four Escalation maps on offer, so you’ll likely get bored with playing on them pretty quickly. Still, Escalation provides plenty of fun.
High Moon’s secondary entry in their Transformers series does a damn good job with its cinematic, dramatic and explosion filled singleplayer campaign while providing some awesome multiplayer fun. Still, some work on the game’s core shooting gameplay is needed to bring the franchise up to that next level. But as it stands now, as a complete package, this is more than worth your time if you’re looking for a new shooter, providing plenty of singleplayer thrills and lots of multiplayer action. And for Transformers fans, this is a game created by a team with an obvious passion for the license that you need to play.
+ The choice at the end! So simple, but so good!
+ Cinematic mayhem.
+ Kicking ass as Grimlock!
– Campaign could have been longer.
– Shooting is good, but not great.
– No co-op campaign.
The Transformers look great and the cinematic action is awesome. Still, having an entirely metal planet does mean that things start to look samey pretty quickly.
A treat to the ears from start to finish, this boasts terrific, if a little over-the-top, voice acting, fantastic sound design and a great backing track.
Fall of Cybertron nails the summer block-buster feeling pretty much perfectly with epic cinematic moments and some spine-tingling moments.
The gunplay is satisfying but pretty standard stuff. But more variety in gameplay this time around keep things fun and the multiplayer is a blast.
A short campaign, but the multiplayer should keep you going for a while, and Escalation should provide a couple hours of fun as well.
The Verdict: 8.5
High Moon continues its march toward world Transformers domination with this latest entry that provides buckets of fun, mechanical mayhem. A worthy sequel indeed.