Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Review
Developer: High Moon Studios
Release Date: August 28, 2012
When Transformers: War for Cybertron(WfC) released in 2010, it was the first Transformers game in eons that wasn’t based off of the much-loved Michael Bay movies. In fact, it called back to the 1980s cartoon series and movie in terms of robot design and Transformers references. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron picked up right where WfC left off, with the war for Cybertron lost and the Autobots needing to leave their planet via the Ark. Of course, the Decepticons aren’t going to let them go that easily, so the epic battle continues. (And of course, since this is all set before the Transformers land on Earth, we all know that the epic battle never ends.) This time around, however, the game introduces more Transformers to play as, new game mechanics, and–my favorite of the new features–Dinobots. Those who are fans of the old school Transformers franchise will have a good, old fashioned time with this action-based game, as long as you take it for what it is–pure, young-at-heart fun and not groundbreaking.
In many ways, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron (FoC) is a polished version of WfC, as if the developers really took to heart all of the criticisms from the first game and fixed them for the sequel. For example, the levels are far longer than they were in WfC, and they have a bit more variety. Most of the levels/chapters in WfC felt identical in either layout, goal, and expectations for when the hordes of enemies would flood in. FoC levels are still a bit predictable, but at least each has its own personality, mostly due to the unique skills each Transformer has. For example, when playing as Cliffjumper, he has a cloaking ability, so his levels are stealth-based. Jazz has a grappling hook, so he does a lot of swinging and climbing. As a result, his levels are more vertical than they are horizontal.
Speaking of skills, EVERY Transformer has the ability to dash now, even the large heroes and villains like Optimus Prime and Megatron. Finally, when players are confronted with those fun enemies that can only be shot in the back and like to charge a lot, it’s possible to dash out of their way. The dashing abilities also work mid-air, so it’s possible to escape while jumping now too or easily make those long jumps over gaps.
The game’s driving and flying controls were also greatly tightened, so it’s far easier to race through levels when needed without spinning out or nicking walls. When it comes to flying, it’s now easier to maneuver through tight spaces or turn on a dime to shoot at an enemy aircraft. I normally hate flying in video games, but this was one instance where I really wished there were more flying levels. I never once felt as if I was overshooting where I wanted to be, that I was constantly over-correcting, or that I couldn’t handle a mid-air dogfight.
On the downside of game mechanics, however, there seemed to be an awfully lot of meaningless “busywork” for the Transformers to do. For example, it’s rather ridiculous that to pull a lever requires the player to pull down on the left analog stick for the entire duration of whatever the lever is supposed to trigger. If a door opening has to be dramatic and drawn out, okay, that’s fine, but why can’t it be a simple cut scene that the player instigates with a button press? Is there really a need to simulate the actual pulling down of the lever with the analog stick? Same goes for sequences where Transformers with grappling hook abilities use their grappling hooks to pull down something. A simple button press to pull the object down will do.
The collectibles system and types of collectibles have also greatly improved over its predecessor. In WfC, the game’s ideas of collectibles were shooting down any insignias of the opposing faction that the player happened to see around the levels. Now players collect weapon blueprints and audio files, which are really scattered and hidden and force a bit of exploration on the part of the player if you are a completionist. The audio files are little audio diaries that members of the Autobots and Decepticons have recorded that offer a little bit of insight into the story and to their own personal feelings. For example, an audio file found early on was recorded by Grimlock, where he explains why he left his post. Without that audio file, the player will never really know why Grimlock left outside of Jazz and Cliffjumper’s assumptions as they look for him. A special set of audio files also details Shockwave’s experiments on Grimlock’s team and how they became the Dinobots.
The blueprints, however, can be used to purchase new weapons for characters. Unlike the first game, FoC has a store! Players can purchase weapons, swap out weapons, purchase upgrades for said weapons, purchase health packs and weapon accessories, and purchase perks. The perks include the ability to move more quickly, better shielding for vehicles, and more overall health, just to name a few. Players can unlock a fair number of weapons just by playing the game and finding them at random points in levels, but the blueprints unlock others that cannot be found throughout the game. Of course, these weapons are some of the more fun of the bunch, such as the Energon Harvester, the delightfully vampiric weapon of choice.
I’ve compared the game quite a bit to WfC, but don’t think that you’ll be lost story-wise if you play FoC without picking up WfC first. There are a few references to the first game, such as its final boss, but nothing hinges on knowledge from War for Cybertron. Most of the references to the 1980s series and movie are subtle, so even players who have only watched the latest movies and newest Transformers cartoon series will not feel clueless or in the dark. Well, that’s true until they reach the closing credits music, which rolled to “You’ve Got the Touch.” I have to admit, when I heard the first three words of that song screech through my headset, I laughed out loud.
While Fall of Cybertron greatly improved upon War for Cybertron, don’t think for a second that the gameplay has really changed that much outside of the new features discussed here. It’s still a third-person shooter that offers nothing new or groundbreaking. Players enter a room, enemies flood in, and the player shoots them. It’s more basic than a Gears of War game, and the story is as deep as a kiddie wading pool. Also, even with the new features added to gameplay, each level suffers from being cast as a specific type of level. Level IV is the stealth level. Level VI has flying. Level XI has flying and stealth. Level XII is the Dinobot level. It’s almost as if the developers had a checklist of their chosen Transformers that they wanted as playable characters. Cliffjumper level, check. Starscream level, check. Dinobots, check!
However, no one, including the developers, has expected Fall of Cybertron to be anything but nostalgic fun, and the game excels at just that. It’s a great little break from the more serious, heavy-laden story games that have released this year and will continue to release this Fall. As long as players look into Fall of Cybertron as simply a fun return romp to childhood, they will not be disappointed.