Transformers Fall of Cybertron d1 Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Preview
Previously on Transformers: War for Cybertron…

Cybertron is lost to the Autobots. Decepticons are victorious, but not without cost. Champions on both sides lay fallen on heaps of scrap and twisted, scorched metal. Optimus Prime and his remaining Autobots flee across the stars in their ship, The Ark, in a desperate gambit to leave their world to Megatron and his allies. But Megatron is hot on their tail as the ruins of Cybertron burn…

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron picks up immediately after the first game concluded. Maybe an hour has passed. Megatron’s forces engage The Ark and work to disable the ship. They appear to be successful because soon after the engagement, the Autobots and Decepticons find themselves once again locked in brutal combat on Cybertron’s surface.

High Moon Studios has a high bar to clear this time around. Success may not always beget success and War for Cybertron was far from a sure thing before it launched. Honestly, can anyone out there name a top quality game based on Hasbro’s license that existed prior to War for Cybertron? Didn’t think so. High Moon managed to capture the feeling of giant robots locked in a titanic struggle with one another vying for control over a metal planet and its moons. As ridiculous as the story sounds, the studio also captured the souls of the various characters. In the past, people have made a mockery of the very nature of the franchise, but the Transformers are a multi-billion dollar earner for Hasbro and the company is not interested in simply churning out one formulaic game after another. They want this franchise nurtured and some semblance of continuity established (the Michael Bay films excluded).

Enter High Moon Studios, who turned out an impressive game a few years back. Now the sequel is here and the first thing that the studio wants fans and gamers out there to know is that they heard your complaints and sought to address them from Development Day One. The environments now pop with colors in such a way that you can actually see what appear to be different ecosystems on Cybertron (as weird as that sounds).  The amount of detail and nuance that’s gone into the Transformer designs is really something to behold. Playing through the first level as Bumblebee, the little details on the armor kept pulling my attention away from the action. Plating shifts, gears grind, and wheels turn even as your Transformer engages multiple enemies in an environment that is itself continually shifting. The developers explained it as the metal essentially breathing, and it’s an eye-popping effect.

Due to the limited amount of time to focus on the single player, I didn’t manage to play as Megatron. I did, however, get some time as Bumblebee on the first level as well as the Decepticon Vortex (one of the Combaticons who collectively form Bruticus) on a flying level and finally as Grimlock who wields a sword, shield, and a the ability to change into a T-Rex. His introduction at the end of the first trailer is iconic, a declaration that this is the Transformer who will own all other Transformers… until Metroplex closed out the second trailer.

In short, Fall of Cybertron is hell bent on one-upping itself throughout.

If the rest of the game features such exciting battles as Grimlock’s creepy fight with the {REDACTED}, which came off as a Transformers version of Aliens, the single player will be a step up from the first game. Again, a lot of macro and micro level improvements have been made. To look at the larger view for a moment, the game world appears to have more going on in the background than in the first title. Cybertron itself is a living being and as its systems continue to shut down following the ending of the first game, you see buildings shift in the background, robots of ridiculous size clash with one another, bridges twist and turn, and more. The amount of detail at the higher level is tremendous, and the good news is that it doesn’t dwarf the equally strong individual character and level work. The characters have their own rhythms and mannerisms, and this plays a part in how they (and by extension, you) react to the levels. The levels I saw made excellent use of the Y and Z axis in the sense that you are completely surrounded by ongoing events in which you are but a single cog in the machinery. Since you won’t have to worry so much about repetition, you’re able to focus on completing mission objectives or finding hidden objects or just slugging it out with enemy Transformers.

Your characters also can shift weapon arms with the touch of a button. This makes a huge difference in combat in that you can now, on the fly, hide behind a structure and swap left to right hand depending on where your opponent is. And since your enemy has his own design and color scheme, you won’t have to worry about him blending into the environment. This makes a surprising amount of difference in elevating your effectiveness in combat.

Multiplayer

Speaking of combat, you will need all your skills to stand tall in the multiplayer rounds. Once again, High Moon has taken an element that worked extremely well and managed to enhance the strong points while minimizing the weaker parts. Forthwith, here is what players can expect:

Escalation

Up to four players must survive wave upon wave of enemies. During combat, you accrue currency points which enable you to open up other arena areas as well as unlock newer and more powerful weaponry, shields, or health. Multiple waves of enemies make life increasingly difficult because the later waves start featuring bigger and meaner foes. None of us made it to the last level but if it’s anything like the final wave in the original game, it will be ridiculously challenging. As it should be.

This mode also focuses on players choosing one of four classes and working together as a cohesive unit. The healer drops health, the Tank functions as a protector who can draw fire with his shield, the Munitions player drops ammo, and the Engineer builds defensive and offensive turrets. High Moon stressed that the way this mode is balanced, players need to work together because, “lone wolfing it will get all of you killed.”

There are four maps right now with 16 character designs to choose from. In a nice touch, the four characters available for a map depends on whether or not those characters are at a specific point in the story. To assist players who find this mode too difficult, your team now has three tries before all of you have to start from the beginning.

Deathmatch

I’ve been gaming for more than 20 years and have yet to see anyone alter the formula for your basic Deathmatch. See players, shoot players, kill players. Ring up more kills than anyone else and a winner is you. You have options to select an Infiltrator (Spy), Destroyer (Soldier), Titan (Tank), or Scientist (Healer) along with swapping and customizing how your Transformer looks before jumping into the match.

Team Deathmatch

This mode is slightly different than regular Deathmatch but only because you’re playing on teams. This was the one time in the game where I actually found myself confused in determining which players were on what teams. It came down to red vs. blue but sometimes it wasn’t obvious as to who was who. A strange moment, but not one that repeated itself.

Conquest

This is the mode I spent the greatest amount of time on and for good reason – it’s awesome. You hold three key points and the longer you hold the strategic positions, the more points you earn. You and your compatriots work to kill the other team and seize their strongholds… all the while the other team is working to do the same thing to you. The only downside to this mode was when the overall clunkiness of the robots appeared to be amplified over the other campaigns. This may be because the second one of your control points is under attack, you want to be able to defend it right that second. It takes time, and therefore strategy, to succeed at this mode and my frustrations here were to be expected. With teamwork and tactics, you and your team will be victorious.

Closing Thoughts

Fall of Cybertron looks good and plays better. From my brief playtime, it appears to have corrected a number of flaws from the first game while enhancing War for Cybertron’s strongest elements. There are no guarantees as to the quality of the single player campaign (again broken into six chapters per side), but it is certainly a lot of fun to play. High Moon promises that a few new surprises are en route via DLC but they weren’t ready to announce anything *coughWheeljackcough* at that time. Fall of Cybertronis set to hit stores everywhere August 28.