I’m stunned by just how much fun “Fall of Cybertron” is. This isn’t a game that will redefine the genre or anything else hyperbolic in nature. What it is, however, is a tremendous amount of fun. Strategy is required during certain instances but the majority of the time you’ll find weapons aplenty, use weapons aplenty to blast everything in sight, then move on to the next area where this pattern will repeat. Sometimes flight is involved, sometimes it’s driving. Sometimes it’s driving while a walking city bombards the whole field of battle around you. It’s a testament to the development team at High Moon Studios that this game never grows boring or tiresome.
“Transformers: Fall of Cybertron” hits the ground running and never stops. The thrills and larger-than-life action sequences are non-stop, and gamers looking for a genuinely fun time need look no further. It’s almost impossible to not smile as epic clashes between Autobots and Decepticons rage uncontrollably in front of you. The game never ceases throwing new and bigger robots at the screen, almost as if High Moon developers were daring themselves with the taunt, “top this.” If you grew up with this franchise and fell in love with it as I and millions of others did, then this game will scratch that geek itch in a big way time and again. If nothing else, the one thing “Fall of Cybertron” does better than most other world ending games is convey an appropriate sense of scale.
The first title in the ongoing series was “War for Cybertron” and it let players experience the final days of the war between the forces lead by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and Megatron (Frank Welker). While there was action aplenty and some well-designed sequences (not to mention a grand sense of fun), players only truly knew the planet was alive when Optimus went to the core. That was it – one scene. Now the planet itself seems to be involved as each section of the world shuts down. As gamers progress through the 13 levels, they will witness buildings moving, cannons firing, squadrons strafing, and hundreds of other disparate elements all woven together for the purpose of making it feel as though you’re hip deep in a global war that happens to involve walking cities.
One Shall Stand…
Since only hours have passed since the conclusion of “War for Cybertron,” certain elements left in the air are still in play. The Decepticons’ ship, Nemesis, catches the Autobots’ ship, the Ark, right at the start which leads to players’ introduction to the gameplay mechanics. As that chapter wraps up, we flash back six hours to fill in some story gaps. For what it’s worth, the story isn’t Chaucer. The Autobots want to leave Cybertron, the Decepticons want to stop them. That’s it. The good news is that this tale allows for a lot of digressions and those are what take up the bulk of the six to seven hour play time.
Players get to control fan-favorites such as Cliffjumper and Jazz, Optimus, Megatron, Bumblebee, Bruticus, Starscream, and eventually Grimlock. The game manages a canny feat by dropping Grimlock at the end, and I don’t know if this was intentional or not but the end result is hilarious. There are no campaign ending bosses per se like there were in the original, which respectively featured Omega Supreme and Trypticon as the closing fights for the Decepticon and Autobot campaigns. By setting Grimlock at the end, and by massively overpowering him to the point where it’s comical watching Decepticons flee or literally quake in fear, it feels as if the player has become the final boss. It’s a great way to shake up the formula, and it lets the player honestly focus on the game without hording supplies for a long fight at the end of a certain level.
Also, Grimlock + Sword & Shield = Pure Win.
There are a few surprises in store. A big one was how destructible the environments are. Imagine my surprise when I hid behind a giant crate, only to watch with growing concern as an enemy tank steadily chipped away at it. I broke cover and ran across a bridge only to have the bulk of it blown up while I was in the middle of it. Combine the semi-destructible nature of the environment with explosive containers on multiple walls and guns all over the place, and you wind up with a nice playground of destruction. Also, if you are a fan of the movie then keep your ears open. There are more references to the 1986 film than you might think.
Speaking of audio, I want to commend High Moon for their sound effects because they’re top notch. You don’t just see elements of Cybertron move in the distance, you feel the rumble via even basic television speakers. Guns don’t just shoot, they project fury. Metal scrapes across metal when Transformers melee one another. In short it’s terrific, a sentiment that goes double for the voice acting. Peter Cullen and Frank Welker have been doing these characters for 30 years now, and with their age comes an increased potency in their acting. The characters have been at war for decades, and the confidence the characters feel in the righteousness of their opposing causes comes through loud and clear thanks to Cullen and Welker. They’re joined by the usual stable of voice actors, all of whom are rock solid. The Insecticon Kickback in particular reminded me as to why I always thought he was one of the creepiest things in the show. The only complaint I have was in the voice of Shockwave, as his voice was so much more effective in the show than it is here. It’s perfectly serviceable, but the character possesses a cold malevolence which I felt was not adequately conveyed.
But at least he looks stunning, as do all of the other Transformers. High Moon took to heart the criticism of “sameness” in the original game’s levels. It was so easy to lose targets, or even your own team members, in the ongoing sea of rust-colored metal. But now… whoa. Now players will run through environments that appear to have their own ecosystems and support ambient life. The sewer tunnels underneath Iocon are appropriately filthy, as are the shores of the sludge-filled lakes that serve as dumping grounds for Energon waste. Vehicles and robots are all epic in size, scale, and detail. The small touches are what make the game live and breathe more so than its predecessor. Watch the armor on the various Transformers and enjoy how even the tiny pieces move and shift even while the Transformers stand perfectly still.
Paying attention to details is useful throughout the game, but it becomes critical in the various multiplayer modes. The multiplayer aspect of “War for Cybertron” was a critical component in its success and longevity. The bottom line is that it was fun, and the sequel continues that sense of fun while also tweaking the system enough to enhance the best parts. Multiplayer is broken up into four components: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Conquest, and Escalation.
It’s 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. Players can set the parameters by which wins are determined, and then have at it for as long as they want the match to last.
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. This doesn’t happen a lot, but it possible due to the natural limitations of reduced graphical power in favor of enhancing connectivity speeds.
This is the mode I spent the greatest amount of time on and for good reason – it’s terrific. 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. We’ve all played this mode since the early days of Unreal Tournament, but that doesn’t stop it from being a cracking good time when the maps are well designed. 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 minute one of your control points is under attack, you want to be able to defend it ASAP. It takes time, and therefore strategy, to succeed at this mode and my frustrations fell within the margin of anguish. Teamwork and tactics are required in this mode, though not as critical as in…
Up to four players must survive wave upon wave of enemies while working as a team to survive for up to 15 rounds. 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 has stressed that the way this mode is balanced, players will 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.
“Fall of Cybertron” is a great kickoff to the fall season. Whether you’re a Transformers fan or not, the game is a lot of fun. It truly ramps up the action to epic levels, then somehow keeps topping itself with dazzling new sequences. The levels are varied and well designed, the objectives are straightforward, you don’t have to manage your stats for the sake of boss monsters, and the multiplayer modes are genuinely fun and easily accessible. It also ends well while at the same time teasing the third game as possibly being set on Earth. It’d be great if the next Transformers game offered the open world nature of “Sleeping Dogs” while retaining the combat, characters, and stories. That’s just a suggestion on my part, High Moon, nothing more. You did a great job with this title and for that you are to be commended.