Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
Having now played through the game twice to make sure I got all the audio logs, I feel I have a good enough basis to finally do a post on this game. Even so there’s no guarantee I won’t forget or gloss over something fairly important. I also won’t be able to keep this post entirely spoiler-free, but I will avoid the big ones.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a 3rd-person action game released for PC (played), Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. It’s developed by High Moon Studios, who had the help of Mercenary Technology for the PC version, and published by Activision. It is the sequel to Transformers: War For Cybertron, which is in my book the best game of 2010 for many reasons.
Let us start where you would when booting up the game: The main menu. I had a look at the options, since there can be issues there when dealing with PC ports. And indeed, the audio and video options are nothing to write home about. At least there’s something there, even if it isn’t much. As for the controls, I would like to say there are fully rebindable keys, but there aren’t. There are six pre-sets you can choose from. At that point I wonder why they couldn’t just let you rebind, but I’m guessing laziness. At least it’s easy to check the key layouts. What I did love in the options menu is this:
The ability to switch team colours between the ‘blue for friendly and red for enemy’ scheme that the first game used, and the more traditional ‘red Autobot vs purple Decepticon’ scheme that makes old geeks like me squee. It is such a minor thing, but I absolute love that they included it.
I’m sure some of you are wondering, and yes: The mouse and keyboard controls work perfectly well. I always prefer mouse and keyboard for shooters anyway, and even the driving and melee felt fun and satisfying without a gamepad. They even put some work into using as many keys as made sense and even map them to be within easy reach of the WASD setup. So good job, High Moon and Mercenary. With so many people slacking on PC ports, it’s good to see someone still puts in the effort.
Alright then, the plot. If you’ve played WFC, this is no surprise, but Cybertron’s core has shut down and the planet is effectively dead. Since energy is running low, the Autobots want to leave the planet until such time as it can repair itself, while Megatron has decided no one shall leave without his permission, so he does all he can (which is quite a lot) to stop them. Nice to see villains dedicated to their roles. There is of course more to it, but that’s for you to discover.
The characterisation of the various Transformers in this game is nothing short of fantastic. They’ve brought back as many of the voice-actors from the old cartoon as they possibly could, and combined with the strong (if occasionally over-the-top) writing the result is incredible. It makes it feel like a product that the developers and cast really cared about. Optimus is overwhelmingly noble, Megatron is gleefully and righteously evil, Starscream is a cowardly schemer and Grimlock is bloody pissed off.
The mission structure is different from the first game. They’ve done away with the co-op, which I do feel a little sad about, but in return the campaign is much tighter and better paced as they could tailor the levels to whomever you were playing as. And there aren’t separated campaigns for each faction any longer, instead you switch between Transformers as the story calls for it. While I’m sure this could feel confusing for some, I quite liked it as it meant more diversity in the gameplay. Not all missions are as long, nor do all the playable characters get the same play time.
While in essence the gameplay revolves around 3rd-person shooting, there is a lot of variety in the vehicle modes for the different characters which helps keep things fresh throughout the entire game. I also liked that instead of having a button to take cover, you have one to switch your firing arm, so the game leaves exploiting (or not exploiting) cover entirely to your discretion. And each Transformer has a special ability which alters the way you approach battles: Optimus can call on Metroplex for fire support, Cliffjumper can cloak and perform executions, Jazz has a grappling ray used to move objects, tear down obstacles and latch on to ledges, and Megatron can hover and use a devastating ground slam move.
Weapons are now set up so that you can carry one regular and one heavy weapon. They have different ammo pickups, so you have to balance your usage according to heavy pickups being rarer than regular ones. Vehicle weapons all seem to be refilled by regular pickups, no matter how powerful. This feels a little overpowered when you’re playing someone like Vortex or Megatron. For the most part the weapons feel satisfying to use, but a couple of them do seem to have a lot less impact than they should. Like the Neutron Assault Rifle; it looks awesome, but it feels more like a pea-shooter. Optimus’s signature Path Blaster also feels a bit underwhelming, while Megatron’s Riot Gun just feels better than anything else, which is a bit of a shame (if in accord with the setting). There’s little reason to use anything else once you figure that out. You’ll be limited on your first playthrough by what you can find, but once you have all the blueprints for subsequent playthroughs, the choice is a little too easy.
Unless I somehow forgot someone, there are 12 playable Transformers in the campaign. They don’t all get as big roles, but you get a fair feeling for them all. In alphabetical order, they are: Bruticus, Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Grimlock, Jazz, Jetfire, Megatron, Optimus Prime, Soundwave, Starscream, Swindle and Vortex. They all feel suitably different, with their own strengths and weaknesses. Like the Combaticons are generally more effective in vehicle mode, Optimus tends to do better as a robot, and Megatron is devastating either way.
And then we get to Grimlock, who really deserves his own paragraph or two. I have a hard time finding the words for just how satisfying it feels to play as him, but I will try anyway. Grimlock is a huge bastard, who has four main things to him: A huge sword that smashes and slices, an execution move that grants him health pickups (though it only works on regular enemies), a shield that can stop practically any projectile, and the ability to grab and throw anything he can get his hands on, be they pieces of the scenery or enemies. Ammunition is no longer an issue, only range is. And when he figures out how to transform, hoo boy.
Grimlock as a T-Rex is an unstoppable force. His jaws crush anything, and his executions can one-shot even the biggest foes they throw at you. His fire-breath melts and wrecks anything it touches, and he can even stampede if you use the run button which literally smashes everything he hits. The amount of devastation is almost unthinkable, and very delicious.
And then we have the Teletraan 1 terminal which act as stores, upgrade stations and armouries. There are a lot of nice passive upgrades to choose from, like having Teletraan refill your health and ammo when you interact with it, improved movement speed, and thicker armour in vehicle form. There’s also some nice flavour lines that Teletraan comes with depending on who interacts with it, and when in the storyline it is. Upgrades and unlocks work across both factions, which is a little weird, but I’m willing to forgive it. Apparently there is a canon explanation of how the Decepticons hacked the terminals.
Now the first game got some not undeserved stick for samey visuals, but considering they’re on a planet made out of metal I didn’t hold that against them. They do seem to have taken the criticism onboard though, and gone to extra lengths to make the environments more diverse and colourful. It looks so good now that the cutscenes are noticeably worse-looking, especially on PC, but I’ve heard the same can be said for consoles too. The cutscenes have a higher framerate though, and I assume they had their reasons for not just doing everything with the in-game engine. Possibly so the cutscenes could be viewed from the Extras menu.
The musical score for the game is pretty good, though weapon sounds are more of a mixed bag. I wouldn’t call any of them horrible, but in comparison with other weapons in the game they are definitely subpar. As mentioned before, the voice-acting is really good, and I quite enjoy the transformation sounds and other ambient audio.
You’ve probably sussed out by now that I give this game a solid recommendation. Both the shooting and the melee feels great (for the most part), the transformations are fluid and the vehicle forms are fun, the special abilities are great in how they fit with the personalities of the Transformers, there are lots of little easter eggs aimed at long-time fans, while they’ve still made the game approachable for non-fans. And Grimlock is awesome.
I did run into some smaller bugs with characters getting stuck on nothing and needing to jump to get free, and certain levers can be tricky to grab hold of. There is also a minor annoyance in how much the game tries to get you to buy DLC. It has no shame about advertising that there is DLC, even adding DLC weapons to the store, with a purchase link. That, combined with the occasional lacklustre weapon and minimal menu options, means I probably wouldn’t give the game top score if I were in the business of giving scores.
The multi-player is essentially the same as in War For Cybertron. Escalation mode is as fun with friends as ever, and just as unforgiving, even on lower difficulties. Team matches still have four archetypes, and the amount of customisation you can put into the appearance of your online Transformer is pretty impressive. A lot of the DLC packs simply unlock extra multi-player skins, like the Dinobot pack. The skins are entirely cosmetic though. While the Titan becomes a T-Rex rather than a tank, it still has the same abilities and weapons.
In conclusion, I feel confident that this game will end in my top three of the year. I had an absolute blast with it. I do wonder if they plan another sequel? Would Hasbro even allow that? Either way, I’ll probably keep going back to this one several times.
Posted on September 26, 2012, in Games, Sorta reviews and tagged 3rd-person, action, Activision, Fall of Cybertron, High Moon Studios, Mercenary Technology, PC, PS3, Transformers, videogames, Xbox 360. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.