Two years ago, Transformers: War for Cybertron delivered a worthwhile videogame adaptation to the oft-mishandled Transformers property. In spite of the fast-paced shooting action and a great multiplayer mode, the title’s issues – sub-par AI and a lack of visual diversity – prevented it from being a worthy pickup for the average gamer. Time, however, has allowed developer High Moon Studios to learn from these lessons and come back with an even better Transformers experience in Fall of Cybertron, one that will please hardcore fans as well as the uninitiated who may not know what a Metroplex even is.
Set after the events of War for Cybertron, the Autobots and Decepticons are at the literal end of their conflict over the dying planet. With no hope left to save their world, the Autobots attempt to flee aboard a ship named The Arc for a new home (see: Earth). Unfortunately, Megatron refuses to let that happen, igniting the battles that cause both factions to end up on our little blue sphere. The single-player campaign offers a solid, respectful retelling of the final days of Cybertron in addition to a few subplots like the creation of the Dinobots and Insecticons.
Though campaign mode is now single-player only due to the dismissal of online co-op, the change makes for a more lively experience in terms of both narrative and game mechanics. With the majority of Fall of Cybertron’s thirteen chapters centered on a specific Autobot or Decepticon, the levels now offer more diversity that tailor to each character’s style. These deviations include sneaking around in stealth, traversing a map via zip-line, wreaking all kinds of havoc as a robo-Tyrannosaurus, and much more. There’s also a sizeable arsenal for players to choose from, upgrade, and discover through the game’s terminals and hidden blueprints. When all this diversity combines into the adrenaline-filled insanity that is the final level, you start to realize that variety is Fall of Cybertron’s ace in the hole.
This revelation continues into the game’s multiplayer, where the old system from War for Cybertron’s has received a significant boost. In addition to obtaining extra weapons, upgrades, and consumables by leveling, each player also gains cash from every contest that can be used to create unique Transformers. A new game mode Head Hunter boils down to Halo Reach’s Headhunter mode with changing time-lapse collection nodes. Escalation – the game’s survival mode – pits players against fifteen waves of enemies. All of these changes make Fall of Cybertron’s multiplayer as addictive and fast-paced as its predecessor, if not more so.
For an entity that sports retro roots, the run-and-gun nature of Fall of Cybertron’s combat also gives a very old-timey feel in a surprisingly positive way. The differing abilities of the Autobots and Decepticons in conjunction with the numerous (and often ridiculous) weaponry create a very Unreal Tournament vibe – something that has been sorely missed in the modern age of third-person cover-shooters. This isn’t the case in the early going of the campaign; the first two levels feel on-rails and lackluster in combat, but once things pick up Optimus and crew rain waves of robot nostalgia.
Vehicle mode – accented by the beautiful, seamless transitions – also comes with its own dual arsenal as well as increased mobility and armor. Transformations can allow for tactical escapes and extra weapon swapping if the bipedal guns run out in a crucial moment. Also, take note that the game’s dodge and rush ability share a button and act as a key survival method against the diverse range of enemies.
One of the biggest gripes that a lot of critics had with War for Cybertron was the campaign’s lack of visual diversity in level design. In Fall of Cybertron, the toxic sewers and bright, open battlegrounds offer a nice counterbalance to the dark, neon-filled Decepticon laboratories and bases. The visual upgrade does catch up with the game; occasionally, momentum-killing load times kept me from moving through maps too quickly.
There are no such blemishes in the audio department, as it’s helmed by an all-star cast of voice actors. Current leading men such as Nolan North, Troy Baker, and Steve Blum join Transformers stalwarts Peter Cullen and Greg Berger for what is arguably one of the best ensembles of the year. The audio surrounding the group is no less impressive, as everything from exploding robots and jet boosters to the opening of doors sets a fitting Transformers atmosphere. Most impressive is the perfect audio clip that plays every time a transformation is performed.
Despite the issues found in its campaign, Fall of Cybertron’s improvements are still enough to outweigh its disadvantages and make it the best Transformers game to date. Higher variety in both single and multiplayer modes along with a more focused story voiced by a standout cast will give even non-fans reason enough to check out this title. Don’t let an attached brand name fool you; this third-person shooter is more than meets the eye.
Review based on PS3 release.