FEATURE: "Transformers: Fall of Cybertron" Review

The climax of the Autobot-Decepticon war delivers on all fronts for longtime fans

Transformers fans got a real treat in 2010 when High Moon Studios released Transformers: War for Cybertron, a classic-styled action-adventure with a shiny HD coat of paint. The game itself was pretty solid--maybe the levels occasionally stretched on for a little too long, but the great voice acting and mix of on-foot and vehicle action worked. While the recently-released sequel Transformers: Fall of Cybertron improves in many areas over the original, it's still plagued with some of the same problems.


In War for Cybertron, the game was divided in two--half of the rather lengthy-but-linear game focused on the Decepticons, and the second half focused on the Autobots. You'd choose from one of three characters before a level, since the game was built with co-op in mind. But be honest--are you going to choose Optimus Prime to play a level, or some other schmuck that nobody cares about, like Ratchet?



Seriously, I love Transformers Prime in its entirety, and still hate Ratchet


So really, War for Cybertron ended up being a game about Optimus Prime and Megatron, with the occasional jet level featuring Starscream, Jetfire, or Air Raid. Fall of Cybertron fixes this by devoting one level to each character, with levels playing to the strengths of individual robots. Play as Optimus, and you'll get a brutal gun-'em-down level featuring a mix of combat and driving. Play as Jazz, and you'll get a pretty varied level that mixes stealth, grapple-hook based platforming, and the occasional shootout.



Play as Grimlock, and you get to kill everything in your path

For longtime fans of Transformers all the way back to Generation 1, Fall of Cybertron gives just as much fanservice as the previous game. Constant quotes from Transformers: The Movie are peppered throughout the game, and series fans will appreciate the chance to tear apart the opposition as Grimlock, disrupt a certain strident jackass' coronation, or form up as Bruticus and trample fleeing Autobots beneath your heels.


Surprisingly, War for Cybertron handled the actual transforming aspect of Transformers better than this game. In War for Cybertron, you'd sometimes have to drive (or fly) away from an exploding structure, or chase down an enemy, or simply get to your next objective quickly. In Fall of Cybertron, almost all your time will be spent in robot form shooting it out--aside from two flying segments late in the game and Grimlock's dinosaur transformation, you'll have very little use for characters' vehicle modes outside of when the game prompts you to use them.




Yeah, not Devastator--Bruticus. Although really, would you rather play as a combat helicopter or a bulldozer? While the Autobot side of the game is filled with famous faces like Jazz, Cliffjumper and Grimlock, you only briefly play as Decepticon mainstays like Starscream and Soundwave, instead making you play as second-stringers Vortex and Swindle for a very long segment.




Levels in War for Cybertron were very long--while it's nice to have a game that lasts, sometimes you just want to stop running down hallways and flipping switches and get on to the next part of the game. Many levels in Fall of Cybertron break up the action with platforming, or a stealth segment--for the most part, the levels have a much more natural progression to them. The final level handles this well, by switching between multiple characters in a big free-for-all battle.


Taking down enemies and smashing crates reveal Energon chips, which you can use to upgrade weapons and your personal stats. While not quite delving into Darksiders II levels of action-RPG-ness, you can buy permanent upgrades like automatic health and ammo refills at shops, faster shield recovery, or cheaper weapon and item upgrade costs.




After finishing the roughly 20-hour single-player, you can jump into multiplayer--provided you're okay with getting absolutely curbstomped by the small but incredibly die-hard Transformers multiplayer fanbase. Quite a few characters who show up in Campaign Mode but aren't playable, like Sideswipe and Shockwave, are available in the team-based versus multiplayer, or the Gears of War Horde-alike Escalation, pitting a small team of players against successive waves of enemies.




If you've already been playing Fall of Cybertron multiplayer for a while, then this review isn't for you--you already knew what you were getting into. But unlike other shooter multiplayer experiences, you'll need a very different skillset and mentality if you're going to last. To make matters worse, in the several multiplayer games I played, nobody had a mic, kind of throwing me into a "survival of the fittest" environment, even in the supposedly cooperative Escalation.




The real strength of Fall of Cybertron comes from its single-player mode. Thankfully, it's relatively glitch-free and keeps better pace than War for Cybertron, even though I did get caught on scenery and hit invisible barriers during some of the flying levels. Also, while the game gives a pretty broad selection of weapons and items, I ended up almost never using the support items, and found I could cut through every level with judicious use of the maxed-out, almost overpowered Neutron Assault Rifle.


Transformers fans will have plenty to love in Fall of Cybertron, but the curious may want to sit this one out for the time being. While it's not a bad game, it'll only really light your darkest hour of boredom if you're a huge Transformers fan. Otherwise, it's a by-the-numbers third-person shooter with occasional forays into a Dynasty Warriors-style crowd actioner.




Where you play as a fire-breathing robot T-rex. Hell yeah.



+ Brutal and satisfying Transformers combat with fan-favorite signature moves

+ Better-paced action prevents levels from becoming a slog

+ Constant quotes and references from Generation 1 and the 1986 movie

+ The last level is an absolute free-for-all featuring multiple Autobots and Decepticons, ending in a great Optimus vs. Megatron duel

- Feels like every other video game that's come out lately--same controls, same shooting, same puzzles and setpieces

- Strangely, there's very little need to actually transform in this Transformers game, making it feel like just another shooter

- Scenery glitches and invisible walls in some levels can be frustrating, especially with the game's timed objectives

- Incredibly hardcore multiplayer environment can be a real hurdle for more casual players

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