Posted on September 13, 2012 AT 12:35am
The two-year-long wait has ended. High Moon Studios has brought us Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, which picks up where 2010′s War for Cybertron left off. The war has depleted most of the energon resources of Cybertron and the planet is dying. The Autobots must find a new planet to call home, though the Decepticons aren’t planning to make their escape an easy one.
Before I get too deep into things, I feel I should mention that I haven’t had the opportunity to play the previous title. As Transformers fans go, I’m a little bit behind, so I’m looking at Fall of Cybertron with a fresh set of optics. This also means that you won’t be seeing much in the way of comparison to the previous game. Take that as you will!
That said, I think that this is a game that both fans of Transformers and action-packed games alike can enjoy. Be that as it may, there’s no denying that this—just like the previous installment—is a love letter to long time Transformers fans. It’s rife with references to the prior game, the original cartoon, the comics and… Well, pretty much every media platform the Cybertronians have resided upon [except for the Bay explosion-fests].
The single player campaign flips you between playing as Autobot and Decepticon over the span of thirteen chapters, sometimes having you switch characters—and even sides—within a single chapter. Usually it’s a smooth transition, but it can feel a little jarring if you were really in the groove playing as a particular character. The differentiating skillsets and transformations turn each character transition into a fairly unique experience. The Teletraan 1 system also keeps things fresh as you collect energon shards to purchase weapon upgrades, unlock blueprints and increase your powers via character-enhancing perks. There’s even a set of most wonderful store discount perks which will save you a small fortune in energon. The only unfortunate thing about the Teletraan 1 system is that once you find your favorite weapon, it makes the sizable weapon selection unimportant. However, due to having an ever growing selection of combat implements… what you thought was your favorite sidearm in one chapter may likely be replaced by something more favorite-er in the next.
I won’t talk too much about the plot, since there really isn’t a lot of it, so saying a little can spoil a lot. Here we go: War is over, planet is dying. Autobots want to leave, Decepticons won’t let them. There’s a race to leave the planet first. It’s like American/Russian Space Race, but with sentient robots. There’s explosions, battles, losses, wins, more explosions, fallen comrades, betrayals, betrayal of the betrayers, humor, and dancing floor switches. I think that about sums it up.
Visually, the world has gotten a lot more pretty since the war. If by ‘pretty’, of course, we mean that the destruction is extraordinarily well detailed. The war’s effects upon Cybertron are easily witnessed within the battle-scarred landscapes and facilities as you play through each chapter; it’s easy to believe you’re working to escape from a dying planet. Each level is made with specific ‘Bots or ‘Cons in mind, as that each have special abilities beyond simply changing form. Optimus can call down air strikes, Cliffjumper has a not-quite-Solid-Snake-esque stealth mode, and Jazz can fire a grappling beam like no one’s business. There’s other characters and yet more abilities, but let’s not spoil all the surprises! Let’s just say that each of them has a… particular skill set, ones that they have acquired over a very long career of warring with fellow Cybertronians.
The gameplay is pretty tight overall, except it felt like some form of a cover mechanic would have been a useful addition. Many times you find yourself sniping from behind half-walls that you can’t actually hide behind. On the positive end, it was an absolute joy to have a ‘sprint’ that didn’t ape the ever-so-popular ‘Roadie Run’ camera style. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty tired of the whole ‘forced adrenaline’ nonsense that many games employ via camera movement/distance. Fall of Cybertron instead vied to do it by having honest-to-goodness exciting gameplay. There are times that things get hectic due to massive numbers of enemies, but the camera never feels like a burden in that aspect. In fact, I never once had a ‘why is the camera going there?!’ moment in the entire game.
The technical issue that I stumbled upon was a trio of console-freezing crashes which turned my controller into a massager and my television screen into still art. All three lockups occurred when hitting a checkpoint, directly after skipping a brief cinematic. High Moon has been taking bugs large and small into account with title updates, so this issue will likely be fixed in short order. Outside of that, the game appears to be glitch free. Loading times are mercifully short, even the buffering load times which ever-so-rarely occur mid-level.
There are only two things that outright bothered me about the game. They may sound a touch nitpicky, but when you release a triple-A title, even the littlest things are important. Firstly: I almost always play games with subtitles on, so I don’t miss dialogue. I noticed frequent—and sometimes significant—differences between the spoken dialogue and what was shown on the screen. It may seem like a minor issue to some, but those are hard of hearing and rely upon the subtitles shouldn’t be having a such different experience. Speaking of hearing… The other issue lies in the voice acting. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’ve done an excellent job, especially since they brought back a large number of the original voice actors. However, there was something about Optimus Prime’s [voiced by Peter Cullen] delivery at times that just rubbed me the wrong way. The best example I can think of [and I'll attempt to remain spoiler-free]: Another Autobot takes a major hit, and is downed. Optimus yells: “[Autobot name], NO.” It didn’t sound as if he was crying out dramatically to a fallen comrade. Instead, it came off more like a fatherly scolding: ”NO. Bad Autobot, BAD!” It was at that point that I realized that Optimus sounded kind of flat in general. I know he’s not Cybertron’s most emotional fella, but I recall him sounding a bit warmer back in the original cartoon. I’d hate to think that Mr. Cullen may starting to phone it in, but he has been doing voices for quite some time. Perhaps it’s time to pass on the mantle.
Aside from that, the game sounds great, both in the sense of music and sound effects. There are few sounds quite as satisfying as the transformation from robot to vehicle. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably end up transforming back and forth a few times just to hear it. The music fits perfectly from scene to scene, adding just the right amount of drama when needed. The trouble, though, is that it fits so naturally that one would be hard pressed to recall individual tracks.
On to the multiplayer! Multiplayer has five different modes: Team Deathmatch, Conquest, Capture the Flag, Headhunter [much like the similarly named mode within Halo: Reach], and the ‘Horde Mode-like’ Escalation mode. The concepts are a touch on the generic side as multiplayer goes, but it’s the character customization mode—which has an insane number of options—that really makes online play shine.
There are four robot classes: Infiltrator [Scout], Destroyer [Demolition], Titan [Brute], Scientist [Healer], and each have their own special set of weapons, skills, transformations and upgrades. No matter your play or fashion style, you’ll be able to assemble your perfect Cybertronian. I think my favorite feature in the customization is that even once you have everything unlock, you can’t stack everything. You have to set things up the way it works best for you, meaning it’s more about skills than about what level you are. For a player like myself, who tends to get frustrated at high level players being nigh invincible, knowing that a decently skilled level 5 player can trounce a level 25 one without having to run away for countless ammo and/or health pickups gave me a warm, cozy feeling in cockles of my spark.
Escalation isn’t actually part of the Multiplayer proper. It’s actually a stand alone mode which you access from the main menu, which means you don’t get to use your kick-ass custom robot. Instead, you get to select one of the main ‘Bots or ‘Cons and add in up to three other players. Just like Gears of War’s Horde mode, you ward off floods of increasingly difficult enemies as you earn energon shards to unlock weapons, upgrades, and additional map areas. The first time I played online, I jumped into a game that was in wave 12 of 15. It was punishingly hard, and only got moreso. Be ready for absolute chaos unless you can get your team to come together as a cohesive unit. I tried to play a round all by myself and I was quickly reduced to a pile of flaming scrap metal. You might have better luck, but I think it may very well depend on your personal level of masochism.
SUMMARY: Once all is said and done, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is fun to play be you a Transformers fan or not. I think they’ve done a great job putting together a game that coherently fits into the canon, as well as acting as a gateway [or, shall we say... space bridge?] to new fans of the series.
- THE GOOD: Cybertron is beautiful, even if it is smoldering. Everything sounds great, from small transformations all the way up to crumbling gigantic mechanical structures. Selection of weapons guarantees that you’ll find a few favorite implements of destruction. Character customization mode gives you plenty to come back for in multiplayer even after you’ve mastered each of the classes. Multiplayer allows all players a fair chance, since skills matter more than the level of your character/gear.
- THE BAD: No cover mechanic. Optimus Prime’s emotion chip seems to be broken. Not enough attention given to the captions/subtitles. Potential system hangs when skipping short cinematics.
- THE UGLY: The leftovers after spraying a swarm of Insecticons with corrosive slime. Ew.
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