1984 - what a year for entertainment! Ghostbusters, The Terminator, Beverley Hills Cop and of course the highlight for every wide eyed youngster the release of Transformers and that trademark tag line. The line that gives most men of a certain age (you know who you are) a big cheesy grin - Robots in Disguise! Hasbro, High moon studios and Activision know their market and have aimed Transformers: Fall of Cybertron directly at the heart of every twenty or thirty something lad who still swoons over their favourite Autobot or Decepticon and could pick them out of a line up at twenty paces. Capitalising on that little place that resides in everyone where you could go back to a simpler time when the only thing which really concerned you was when your next trip to the toy shop was. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron works this angle furiously and ultimately will be praised or shunned as a result.
The entire game is built on a concept of nostalgia and plucking every heart string or satisfying every destructive desire where these magnificent metal men are concerned. All the big guns from the G1TV series are present and correct, supported by a whole host of characters to help flesh out the story. The planet of Cybertron is dying; as a result the Autobots have decided to flee their metallic home to seek refuge away from their soon to be barren planet and the civil war raging with the Decepticons.
Playing as your favourite Transformer is the biggest attraction of the Transformers games and Transformers: Fall of Cybertron has pulled off the greatest execution of this to date. The gameplay mixed with level design and story in the campaign are a treat for anyone remotely interested in the Transformers universe. The game has veered away from the set up of the original Transformers: War for Cybertron somewhat giving you a more tailored experience. The previous game brought you through two seperate campaigns, one for the Autobots and Decepticons. You would then have a choice to play each level with one of three protagonists be that a heavy, medium or light weight Cybertronian. As a result every level would feel the same and the design couldn’t really divert away from a one size fits all approach to cater for your choice. This was the biggest drawback of Transformers: War for Cybertron, an other wise brilliant but flawed gem.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron fixes all these design limitations by removing your choice but it gives you a much better gaming experience as every level can now breath and be tailored specifically for the character assigned to that particular part of the campaign. Aerial Decepticons have much bigger spaces to spread their wings and Sneaky Autobots have the shadows to slink about in. This single change has made Transformers: Fall of Cybertron feel much tighter from a gameplay perspective and allowed the developers a greater degree of freedom within the story and a lot more creative flair with set pieces within each level.
At the end of the day it could be considered a by the numbers third person shooter with a transforming gimmick and yes that assumption would be correct to an extent on the surface. You play as Optimus Prime, Jazz, Megatron and Grimlock to mention a few names, using a variety of light and heavy weapons that can be upgraded through earning Energon shards. You can also activate perks and pick up one use T.E.C.H. implements to take on your Autobot and Decepticon foes. The usual affair of light, heavy, flying and sniping foes will come across your path and explode in a shower of sparks and twisted metal. This brings us to the first gripe with Transformers: Fall of Cybertron for all the improvements seen so far the variety of enemies does seem a little lacking. The AI has been improved giving you a better and less frustrating challenge compared to the first game but the lack of variety in your enemies throughout the game until very late on was very disappointing. However, this did not affect the enjoyment of the experience one bit. This is a game where the comfy third person shooter shoe fits and accompanied with the improvements from the original fits very snugly indeed.
The campaign moves at a rather fast pace throwing in many plot points, weaving a credible and fun story with a sprinkle of ‘ah’ moments to appease the avid fans, filling in those questions you may or may not have had when viewing the TV series as a kid. The levels are interspersed with somewhat high intensity set pieces and cut scenes to help shake up the campaign and keep your blood pumping. One good thing as mentioned earlier with the increased variety in level design is the difference in gameplay of the characters is greatly increased. For instance the switch from Optimus to Cliffjumper to Grimlock sees three very different playing styles and will have you learning new strategies at every opportunity. The transforming aspect of the game has also been improved as most of the changes in level design have forced you to use you transforming ability much more. Especially in the flight based levels where the scope of the play space has been improved dramatically to something akin to Halo size playing fields. Even in the more traditional combat scenarios the vehicles have been pumped up and given more armour by default and will give you a greater reason to use them especially when you find yourself in a pinch (with one consideration that on easier difficulties this may not be needed for more skilled players).
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron’s multiplayer component has come on since the first game with upgrade style power ups for your very own Transformer in a multiplayer arena or the escalation mode (Similar to Gears of War Horde mode). The problem with the multiplayer is that it hasn’t come along enough and is still very similar to what was present in Transformers: War for Cybertron two years ago. The main frustration with this isn’t that multiplayer is present but more that campaign co-op has been removed and this is the place where they really could have made much more head way. By scrapping or diverting attention away from lacklustre multiplayer they could have included a campaign co-op experience which capitalised on the great new level design and gameplay arenas.
Graphically Transformers: Fall of Cybertron has inherited all the new graphical trinkets and shiny baubles that have come with the latest version of Epic’s Unreal Engine 3. The character design and environments are great and the animators need a medal for what they have done with the character’s transforming animations and even down to transforming switches and doors. I couldn’t help but find myself watching with great intent when something as simple as a wall or bridge would transform as the change from your run of the mill animations in other games was quite refreshing. If you have a surround system I would recommend cranking it up to 11 and letting loose, as my ears have never had such a good time. All the signature Transformers sounds are there (insert your own transforming sounds now!) Along with the flawless sound design every battle or tense moment was perfectly pitched and a lot more immersive as a result.
So if you are a Transformers fan you cannot go with wrong Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. This is a game designed specifically to make you part with you hard earned cash and thankfully it will deliver a thrill ride which is worthy of the license with thick layers of love, lore and story which will both satisfy and surprise you. All the while being wrapped up in a tight third person combat game with a few rough edges. If you are not a fan however you will find a tight third person combat game with a few rough edges never the less. Its a win win especially when this game has so much character and you will find more than meets the eye.
Do it with style, or don’t do it at all!