REVIEW: Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
Platform: X360 / PS3 / PC (reviewed on X360)
Developer: High Moon Studios
TL;DR: No seriously Michael Bay. Back the f&$! off.
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Ah yes. Transformers. Forever tainted by the hand of that one guy named Michael Bay, a lot of people would rather forget that the movies exist rather than admit they went to see it for big, pointless explosions and childhood memories. It’s not a sin to say that yeah…he screwed it over pretty well.
However, in the case of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, High Moon Studios has proven that they can bring the fun, the hurt, the explosions, and real Transformers better than any Hollywood guy with a green screen and flashy equipment.
Following in High Moon’s previous title, Fall of Cybertron details the final stages of the Transfomers’ plans to land on Earth in search of Energon. If you don’t know what any of this means, stop. Just stop and walk away. Fall of Cybertron is a love letter to all things Transformers, and if you weren’t a fan in the first place, then it’s quite probably you won’t be one at the end of all things.
In the opening sequences of Fall of Cybertron, we’re handed control of Bumblebee, our mute little spy extraordinaire who had his voicebox short-circuited by the nefarious Decepticon kingpin Megatron. Oh, that metallic oil-guzzling smack-talking son-of-a-bleepity-bleep. In this beginning stage, you’re taught the ins and outs of the control schematics. It handles a lot like any third-person shooter would, but with a few odd controls to accommodate the fact that you can transform into a vehicle in any terrain so long as there’s room to do it.
Just as suddenly as you’re tossed into the fray, Bumblebee is suddenly…well, he’s taken care of. That’s the most non-spoiler way I can go about describing his situation. Then you’re really starting the adventure.
The entire solo campaign story is told as a flashback, leading up to the events that you witness at the end of the very first chapter. The Autobots and Decepticons are obviously looking for more Energon, as Cybertron has been utterly drained of it. Tracking some of it down to a seemingly decrepit location in the Sea of Rust, the Decepticons try, every step of the way, to either completely destroy, or thwart, the Autobots and their efforts.
I’ll freely admit this, as I stumbled around getting used to not being able to enter cover, exit cover, and having to switch left- or right-handed guns to shoot, I didn’t expect much out of this game when I first got into it. However, by the end of it, I was thoroughly impressed, and learning that High Moon is in charge of the Deadpool game, makes me even more eager for it.
But back in the land of tough-talking Dude Guy Man Brah robots, Fall of Cybertron does so many things right. Its predecessor, War for Cybertron, featured many a blah blah scenery. They looked far too similar to each other, or so many would claim. Not with this game. Oh no, you go from the high skies, to space, to a battle on Metroplex’s shiny chrome armor, and then into an underground Insecticon burrow. There’s even an old tomb encrusted in rust. Yes, an old tomb. If anything, it almost felt like a couple of the concept artists sat down with a couple guys from Epic Games, swapped a beer or two and started talking shop.
It’s fantastic, to say the least.
To match the changes of scenery, High Moon has devised many ways to incorporate different styles of play into Fall of Cybertron. Whereas most shooters would require you to run in, literally with your guns blazing, this game requires you to actually think and assess your situation. Throughout the campaign, you’ll switch sides, as in move from Autobot to Decepticon and then back. Along with the alignment-swapping, you’ll also be taught, very brutally in some cases, that each Transformer plays slightly differently than the others. I just about got fried every three feet in Cliffjumper’s scenario, as he specializes in stealth takedowns. The game isn’t exactly built to handle a situation like that very well, but it’s there, and you’d better adapt fast.
Even on the easiest difficulty levels, the game will be punishing at times. For the most part, it isn’t that hard, but when the difficulty spikes hit, you’ll be wishing you didn’t stay up late to play, because it will require your utmost attention to find victory. However, the hardness aside, the game itself is incredibly entertaining to listen to and watch. I mean, you get smarmy dialogue sequences where everyday conversation is substituted with a car part. Stick a muffler in it? You better shut your grill.
When it comes to the actual shooting though, it’s not your standard set-up. Clearly, giant chunky robots aren’t meant to crouch behind a tiny little cargo crate and expect to magically be covered up like a cardboard box (not on purpose, swear it). Instead, High Moon opted to go old school with the cover system, meaning you simply stood behind an object. If they can’t see you, they can’t shoot you. The same applies to you — if you can’t see your enemy, you can’t damn well shoot them. That’s where switching your gun arm comes in handy.
Apparently in the world of Transformers, you can’t duel-wield your guns like a boss. You can only equip it on one arm at a time like Megaman, and in order to shoot around obstacles, you have to switch which side your gun is on. It sounds complicated at first, but it eventually becomes second nature as you weave your way through pipes and corridors. Melee attacks become a factor as well, as some shotgunners will come right up close and personal, and the only way to get them to back off is a quick smack across the generator.
However, despite all the love heaped upon Fall of Cybertron, the game is still as hole-ridden as a barrel of fish after a Western shootout. Difficulty spikes aside, sometimes it’s near impossible to figure out where your enemies are. In a game that centers around robots, it’s almost laughable that you don’t sport a radar showing where enemy units are pouring in from. Perhaps I’ve gotten a little soft from all the constant mini-mapping and all that, but seriously. You’re a giant sentient talking robot that can carry heat-seeking missiles in your armpits, and yet you don’t have a radar to tell you where the nearest threat is coming from?
The dodge mechanic is also a bit of a chore to get used to. Instead of rolling away in a short burst, your robot ends up floating for at least three or four meters before you can reverse direction and go somewhere else. If you tapped that dodge button and tilted the control stick the wrong way, oops, you might be scrap metal before you can change trajectory. Sound odd? Yeah, it really is.
There’s a multitude of other problems that become cumbersome in passing. The checkpoint system isn’t the greatest on the planet, and given the strange angles the camera will take dependent on your gun arm, there will be moments when you become frustratingly boxed in a corner with absolutely no way out. Turning into your vehicle will help you out in most cases, but there are also frequent levels that won’t allow you to change back and forth. We won’t mention just how long it takes to get used to switching your weapon arm to look around crates.
All things considered, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is an excellent title from High Moon Studios. Both shooter and Transformers enthusiasts can definitely agree that this game is well worth your time. The odd combination of control mechanics and no active cover system take some definite time to get used to, but it won’t be a chore for those who want to be dedicated at figuring it out. However, if you want something that feels familiar and falls easily within the learning curve, consider not bashing your head against a sixteen-wheeler, because this game will require you to stick to your guns. That was totally intentional.
I could kiss you on the grill for that!
- Sleek textures, aesthetics, and snappy dialogue make it a fun romp through Cybertron and beyond.
- There’s so much explosions it will make Michael Bay look like a frickin’ amateur.
- There’s plenty of variety to be found — most of the chapters will eventually introduce you to a new bot, be it an Autobot or a Decepticon.
- Classic story of bad versus good, but the swap in alignment mid-way through the story gives you a look at all sides.
I hope you didn’t just make a comment on my cab size…
- Odd mechanics for shooting and an old school cover system makes the learning curve steeper than most people would like it to be.
- A fidgety camera and inability to tell where your enemies are coming from will make some firefights a lot harder than they should be.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is currently available at all major retailers.
While we’re dealing with a mostly child-friendly franchise in Transformers, we’re pretty sure Hasbro didn’t envision the copious amounts of exploded robot parts and gunfire. There are also some very mature themes of betrayal, and a line between good and evil, so maybe it’s best to keep this to a 12+ audience, as both PEGI and ESRB agrees.