August 24, 2012
Never underestimate the power of nostalgia. It's the reason why we liked Transformers: War for Cybertron perhaps more than it deserved, although it was undoubtedly the best Transformers game since now defunct developer Melbourne House's effort back in 2004. Amid abhorrent Michael Bay movie tie-ins, War for Cybertron stood head and shoulders above every other Transformers game that had gone before it, and still it emerged underrated and unappreciated by many. High Moon Studios knows where it went wrong, and is back to rectify the first game's shortcomings for Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.
First order of business for High Moon has been injecting the game with greater gameplay variety, which sadly means campaign co-op has been ditched in favour of a more focused single-player experience with multiple playable Transformers taking centre stage for each of the game's thirteen chapters. Starting with Bumblebee in a short introductory tutorial level, you'll bounce between Autobots and Decepticons on your way through the epic story, which outstrips War for Cybertron's in almost every respect. Other than the length. It's a slightly shorter affair, unfortunately.
In terms of the sheer sense of scale, Fall of Cybertron is truly incredible, boasting gigantic, intricate structures with complex moving parts and all manner of incidental activity both in the immediate vicinity and far off in the distance. Meeting Metroplex for the first time is the perfect example of Fall of Cybertron's capacity to surprise too, and his activation marks a moment of genuine excitement. There are more than a few of these kinds of set-pieces that keep you irrevocably hooked throughout the game's epic story, and while it's a shame that you can't play the campaign through in co-op, the constantly fresh gameplay that the variety brings makes up for its absence somewhat.
Transforming in and out of your robot and vehicular forms is still as cool a gameplay hook as it was in War for Cybertron, but the addition of weapon upgrades, abilities to purchase and each Autobot and Decepticon's individual attributes help keep things consistently interesting. Whether you're engaging in some vertical navigation as Jazz or Swindle with their grappling hooks, or utilising Cliffjumper and Starscream's cloaking ability to stealth your way through a level, or best of all, stomping around as Combaticon combiner Bruticus, Fall of Cybertron always throws something new your way, which beats the hell out of War for Cybertron's relentless shooting gallery. Suffice it to say, the game never gets repetitive.
High Moon has excelled itself in providing more than ample fan service too, with the mighty Optimus Prime and Megatron both enjoying a couple of chapters apiece in their fight for Cybertron's last reserves of Energon as the planet dies around them. Playing as Grimlock is also a brilliantly empowering chunk of gameplay that sees you laying waste to everything in your path as you destroy every Insecticon and Decepticon enemy foolish enough to take you on.
Variety doesn't just extend to the gameplay either, as the art direction and design behind Cybertron itself has undergone a serious overhaul, with various levels of specularity applied to the acres of metallic constructions that make up the huge environments. There's far more colour than there was in the previous game too, and from a level design perspective there are more areas of interest and eye-popping spectacle to admire. You'll also stumble upon a slew of neat easter eggs during the campaign that never fail to raise a smile. Oh, and those irritating checkpoint issues have been sorted too. High Moon has thought of almost everything. Except reinstating campaign co-op, of course.
The disappointing lack of a co-operative campaign aside, there are some other small issues that crop up in Fall of Cybertron, like the occasional drop in the frame rate when things get slightly too chaotic, as hordes of enemies swarm the screen. This can be particularly jarring when you're on a rampage as Grimlock or flying through the air blasting enemies from above. There's the odd frustrating difficulty spike too, but the action never feels insurmountable. The non-cover based shooting favours a more aggressive approach, and your chosen loadout and TECH gadgets, which you can switch out at any Teletraan 1 store enable you to pick your favourite weapons for the task at hand and upgrade them.
Should you crave co-op gameplay, there's still the Escalation multiplayer mode to indulge in, with its Horde-style wave-based carnage, which has enjoyed a bit of a tweak with a larger play space, more varied enemies, weapon upgrade terminals and traps you can set, like sentry turrets. It all costs you Energon currency of course, but you can pool your team's cash to unlock better weapons, additional areas on the map and defences. As ever, it pays to have a communicative squad when playing Escalation, as the action gets pretty tough, pretty quickly, even on the easier difficulties.
Competitive multiplayer has also undergone a few improvements, so as well as having in-depth character customisation for each of the four classes, with interchangeable heads, arms shoulders, legs, torsos and a range of colours and metal finishes, there's now host migration (in Escalation mode too), and the action simply feels tighter than before. Each of the four classes – Infiltrator, Destroyer, Titan and Scientist – has their own role to fulfil, such as the Scientist's healing Energon spouting support role, and each has their own vehicle-type. You'll soon settle on your favourite, and like War for Cybertron, each class is levelled up individually and eventually, you'll unlock the multiplayer Prime Mode. Spawning is quick, so you're always in the thick of it, while transforming mixes things up, keeping the multiplayer action fresh and exciting. Here's hoping it gets more support than its predecessor.
As you'd expect, multiplayer ties-in to some of the game's achievements, from reaching maximum rank with every class to completing all 15 waves on each Escalation map. This is where you'll put most of the hours in on your journey to acquire the full 1000 Gamerscore, as the single-player achievements can almost be gained in their entirety in one playthrough. The real longevity as far as achievements are concerned is to be found in multiplayer and collecting every audio log, blueprint and weapon in the game. Then there's all of the upgrades you'll need to purchase too. Chances are you'll want to replay the story portion of the game anyway, so it's good that High Moon has included some achievements with this in mind.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a hugely ambitious sequel that delivers on almost all fronts. Where War for Cybertron was criticised for its lack of gameplay variety, its sequel never lets the action get into a rut at any point, shaking things up with different Autobots and Decepticons at every turn. Its scale is truly awe-inspiring too, from Metroplex towering above the battlefield and launching airstrikes at your behest, to Starscream or Vortex swooping through sprawling, multi-tiered levels. Or Bruticus going on an unhinged rampage, or Grimlock getting his rage on... The list goes on and on. Simply put, there's no disguising that Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is not just an incredible sequel, but also the best Transformers game ever made. Till all are one!
An epic orchestral soundtrack brings some real gravitas to Fall of Cybertron, while all of the iconic Transformers sound effects are present and correct. The voice work is exemplary too.
A vast improvement over War for Cybertron, High Moon has managed to fulfil its promise of epic scale, more colour and level design variety. There's the occasional bit of texture loading and the frame rate sometimes stutters, but overall, Fall of Cybertron looks incredible.
Fall of Cybertron's gameplay variety really shows, bouncing you from level to level and introducing something new to keep you engaged from start to finish. Transforming is still exciting and playing as some of the series' fan favourites will undoubtedly be a buzz for Transformers die-hards.
The campaign is shorter than War for Cybertron's story, but as a result it's more focused. Stripping out co-op has left something of a hole in the game, but Escalation and multiplayer should keep you playing after the credits have rolled. If you're at all like us, you'll also no doubt be compelled to replay the campaign too.
A solid list that's a lot like the previous game's, with an achievement for completing each chapter and performing some kind of objective during each. The rest of the list is dedicated to collectibles and weapon upgrades, while there are more than a few grinding multiplayer achievements to complete. A fairly by the numbers list that rewards the amount of time spent playing over skill.
Supreme fan service, an epic sense of scale and plenty of gameplay variety ensure that Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is not only an unreservedly brilliant sequel, but is inarguably the best Transformers game we've played. It's got the touch. It's got the power.