September 2, 2012 by Paul Curtin
Like the series of films, the Transformers game franchise has seen its share of ups and downs over the past few years. After a string of terrible low budget movie tie-in games, High Moon Studios delivered one of the most enjoyable games of 2010 with their breakout hit War for Cybertron. Their transformation of the gaming franchise seemed to be on the right path until their follow-up Dark of the Moon proved even they couldn’t make a great movie tie-in game with limited time. After their last disappointment, High Moon is back once again with their superb Cybertron series, but is it a shell of the original game disguised by superficial new features and lacking what made the original so much fun?
Whereas 2010’s War for Cybertron told the story of how Optimus Prime and Megatron rose to power, in Fall of Cybertron we see the result of their power struggle that has since destroyed the planet of Cybertron and forced the Transformers to look for a new homeworld. Picking up where the first game left off, Fall of Cybertron‘s campaign has players assuming the roles of various Autobots as they try to launch an ark off the planet all while the Deceptions (naturally) try to stop them. Original voice actors like Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) are back along with newer industry talent like Troy Baker (Jazz) who give the story an authentic feel that fans can appreciate, but those unfamiliar with the franchise might find it somewhat cheesy and not as serious and dark as the original trailer alluded that the game could be.
One of the biggest complaints of the first game was how everything looked so similar on the robotic metal world of Cybertron. While still on the planet of Cybertron, the levels are now far more diverse and alive than the repetitive sceneries found in the first game and far bigger to make for some pretty epic setpieces that sometimes even involve building-sized bots. The story now jumps back and forth freely between following the Autobots and Decepticons, rather than spending the first half as one faction and the second half as the other, allowing for a more fluid tale to be told. But what’s best is how each level is now designed around a single character to make better use of its abilities. It was neat how in WfC you could pick different characters before going into a mission, but now levels have been specifically designed in order to take advantage of different Transformers’ abilities, such as a grappling hook, stealth, and seamless transition into flight.
Players can also find new upgrade stations scattered throughout maps, which allow guns to be swapped out, upgraded, and rated to keep players from being locked into a single playstyle. Gameplay even completely shifts focus on some levels where players take control of characters like Grimlock, a fire-spitting Tyrannosaurus rex Dinobot who uses a massive sword instead of a gun while in robot form and changes the mechanics from shooter to hack-and-slash. The melee mechanics could no question have been more enjoyable if there was more in terms of combos and animations, but the lack of depth is acceptable with the game still primarily being a shooter.
As a side note: One big complaint that some might have with High Moon is the removal of the campaign’s co-op. Personally, I didn’t spend any time playing WfC‘s campaign with friends and not seeing it included in FoC wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. Every game doesn’t need to feature co-op, and it’s good to see High Moon spending more time focusing on trying to make the singleplayer experience better and not just cramming in a co-op mode that they didn’t feel would work. Those still trying to play Fall of Cybertron with friends can look to the game’s excellent Escalation online co-op wave-based mode and competitive multiplayer modes where the series really shines.
With War for Cybertron‘s multiplayer being one of the biggest sleeper hits of this console generation that didn’t get the recognition it deserved, High Moon has made it clear that they’re looking to become another multiplayer heavy-hitter under the Activision umbrella. I spent months
playing dominating War for Cybertron‘s multiplayer back in 2010, so it’s easy to say that I too was pulling for the sequel to garner even just a fourth of the fanbase that other games like Call of Duty have. Unfortunately, while multiplayer at first would seem almost identical to those who didn’t spend too much time with War for Cybertron with the same four unique character classes, it quickly becomes apparent that the classes’ names aren’t the only thing that has been changed, and there’s less than meets the eye in terms of gameplay features.
While just as enjoyable as the original with the same unique weighted feel of controlling massive transforming robots with seamless transitions into vehicle forms, FoC has been slightly dumbed down for unknown reasons that High Moon would probably cite as balancing issues. High Moon’s follow-up to WfC, Dark of the Moon, was the studio’s first movie tie-in game and a massive disappointment that many hoped wouldn’t be a sign of things to come; and although not anywhere near as limiting as DotM, Fall of Cybertron‘s removal and reduction of features that have been replaced with superficial features is again disappointing. Features such as killstreak rewards, the secondary ability slot, the ability to barrel roll and plow through enemies while in vehicle form, the ability for one class to disguise itself as a player on the other team, and the ability to pick up the guns of fallen enemies to use when low on ammo or looking for something more powerful have all been removed. Even one of the most enjoyable objective-based modes, “Countdown to Extinction”, has been removed, leaving multiplayer short a mode.
To make up for the removal of so many features, a superficial new visual upgrade system has been added that allows players to customize their Transformers with different sets of body armor as they level up and unlock and purchase new pieces with in-game currency or real money micro-transactions (a feature that’s sadly becoming more common in new games). That’s not to say that the new customization options aren’t awesome, because it’s a great feature that the last game needed and every Transformers fan’s dream, but the new visual upgrades add nothing to the actual gameplay, which is now more hollow. It’s also worth noting that it’s been hinted that future DLC will involve the Dinobots being playable in multiplayer, so it will be interesting to see how that changes the gameplay dynamic.
Harping on all the features removed might seem like the multiplayer experience has been ruined, but High Moon hasn’t just taken away features and has also done a great job fixing major issues, such as the matchmaking host migration issue, which was the biggest problem with the first game. Players no longer all get booted in the middle of games when a host leaves, and the lag has been considerably reduced. Killstreak rewards haven’t been completely removed as some still can be picked up on the battlefield, and the ability to now sprint and switch shoulders while shooting are welcome improvements. However, the multiplayer also has some new glitches that I never came across in the first game, such as falling through the map and not being able to respawn, and lag is still present, albeit nowhere near as bad, due to the game’s lack of dedicated servers.
Fall of Cybertron is a slightly more serious take on the iconic Transformer series that tells a very entertaining story. Like the movies, the story is simply dumb fun that won’t have you on the edge of your seat until the epic climax and a perfect game for parents looking to buy their kids a game without realistic-looking violence. While almost everything about the singleplayer is bigger and better than the original, having so many features and even modes removed from the multiplayer experience, where the series is at its best, brings the Cybertron series one step back after taking one forward with the campaign, leaving it right around where it was before the sequel and not doing enough to help it become the next big thing amongst competitive multiplayer gamers. Still, even with features missing, no matter how old you are, you’ll have one hell of a good time playing the multiplayer modes that offer a truly unique and chaotic experience that’s unlike anything else. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron gets 4 out of 5 stars (Great).
- Reverts back to what made WfC so good and leaves behind DotM features
- Multiplayer once again shines as the game’s best and most unique feature
- Singleplayer is bigger and better than the original with great voice acting
- Numerous technical issues from the first game have been fixed
- Multiplayer has been slightly dumbed down with many features removed
- Singleplayer story and gameplay aren’t anything special until the very end
- Still some minor glitches in both single- and multiplayer