I’ve never understood people who don’t like the Transformers franchise. For those of us who are kids at heart, it’s a bunch of giant robots from another planet that change into vehicles and blow each other up. People with more “maturity”, could enjoy the story of heroism and sacrifice battling greed and villainy for control of their planet. The first game to fully balance the story with the action sequences was High Moon Studios’ first Transformers game, Transformers: War for Cybertron. While there were shortcomings, the overall game was a ton of fun and a big hit. Hit the jump to see how the sequel holds up.
The first thing that I have to laud is the story. High Moon does a phenomenal job of telling the story in a way that can draw in and inform new fans while entertaining old fans by either expanding on the canon or giving nods back towards established moments and events. As the game opens up, Cybertron is already dead. The Autobots have nearly completed their spaceship, the Ark, and are days away from leaving. Obviously, Megatron isn’t going to let that happen. The tutorial/first level takes place late in the game on the Ark, where you take control of Bumblebee and try to repel a Decepticon boarding party. After a pretty intense cliffhanger, the game goes back a few days and tells the story of how the Autobots and Decepticons got to that point. From here on out, you switch between Autobot and Decepticon missions. Instead of getting a cutscene before and after each mission, some missions take place right as a result of the previous mission. For example, the Starscream level has you trying to figure out Shockwave’s secret assignment before you stumble upon a captured Grimlock, at which point you take control of the Autobot warrior and break out. This has the game flowing much more smoothly than the first game, where you played through the entire Decepticon campaign before playing as the Autobots and undoing everything you spent the first half of the game doing.
The gameplay also received some overhauls. One of the main gripes people had with the first game was the extreme ammo shortage. Many times I found myself having to use a gun in a situation it wasn’t meant for or running around with no ammo whatsoever. This time, ammo is plentiful and so are the types of weapons. While you will gravitate to certain favorites, you can’t help but give every gun a try just to see what they can do. You can shop for, equip, and upgrade your weapons at Teletraan-1 terminals (the Cybertron version of the internet) found throughout levels. Here you can also purchase characters upgrades like increased foot speed, weapon damage, and shield capacity, which you should do as often as possible.
While in War for Cybertron, you started each mission with a selection of three different characters, High Moon built each mission in Fall of Cybertron around the play-style of individual characters and their abilities. The Optimus and Megatron missions play out like your standard sci-fi shooter, while playing the Jazz missions makes you a stealthy sniper zipping from perch to perch with your grappling hook, and so on. This constant switching of characters and mission types ensures that the action never gets stale or repetitive.
The character abilities in the first game, while interesting, weren’t something I used often. They just didn’t add anything to the gameplay. This time around you either use your abilities, or die. A lot. Which I did, a lot, until I realized maybe I should be using this airstrike instead of trying to run out and shoot the 15 Decepticons beyond the wall I was using for cover. Speaking of which, cover is another mechanic that was improved upon (however slightly). You can switch gun arms with the push of a button, which helps you shoot around corners. This is a huge help compared to the first game where you just had to stand there and get shot like an idiot, but not a big enough step towards the solid cover-based gameplay of third-person shooters like the Gears of War series.
Multiplayer has been tinkered with in both positive and negative ways. High Moon decided to ax co-op for Fall of Cybertron. I’m completely against this decision but I can see why they made it. With as much detail as they put into building the areas around the abilities of individual characters, to add co-op would dilute the experience they were trying to build. Instead, if you want to play with your friends, you’re going to have to stick with either Escalation mode or your standard competitive multiplayer modes. You can choose between four classes and customize pretty much everything about each class.
The highlight of the game for me was the Grimlock levels. We here at Twinfinite have been known to have an unhealthy fetish when it comes to dinosaurs and when the Dinobots came on the screen I lost my mind a bit, Here’s the notes I quickly jotted down in between Decepticon ass-whoopins:
-OMG DINOSAWR ROBOTS
-OMG HE USES A SWORD INSTEAD OF GUNS
-OMG HE BREATHES FIRE
-OMG HE CAN EAT DECEPTICONS FOR HEALTH
-OMG WHEN HE SPRINTS JETPACKS COME OUT OF HIS BUTT
-THIS IS THE BEST DINOSAWR GAME EVAARRR (*Edit: This honor was given to the upcoming PC game Primal Carnage)
Needless to say, my feelings haven’t changed since then. I would try to elaborate but every time I think about it, I devolve into a screaming six year old with poor voice volume control.
Overall, I highly recommend this game to any- and everyone. From the voiceover work of Mr. Optimus himself, Peter Cullen, to the inclusion of perhaps the greatest Transformers song ever thought of, you can tell High Moon Studios made this game as a labor of love. Beyond a few little missteps here and there, such as the iffy cover system, a few visual glitches that pull you out of the experience, and one particularly cheap stealth section, it’s a very well made gam. Hands down the best Transformers game made so far.
[+Great story expanding on the fiction] [+Amazing voiceover cast] [+Finally enough ammo] [+Pretty visuals] [+Peter Cullen voicing Optimus Prime] [+DINOSAWRS] [+Frequent nods to Transformers’ past] [+Use of Stan Bush’s “The Touch”] [-No co-op] [-Lack of any true cover system]