Impressions on Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
Everyone’s favourite robots in disguise will be transforming and rolling out soon, as the release of Fall of Cybertron is just around the corner. To celebrate, a playable demo was released not too long ago, letting players sink their robot-loving teeth into a small part of the game early. How’s the title shaping up? Well, pick your favourite Autobot or Decepticon, we’ll transform, and find out! Please note that small spoilers may be present, so if you wish to start the game fresh then turn back now!
The Fall of Cybertron demo gives players access to three pieces of the title: two campaign missions (one each for Autobots and Decepticons, respectively) and a sample of the multiplayer. Your first stop should be the Autobot mission, The Exodus, as it acts as a tutorial level.
In The Exodus, players take control of the iconic Autobot Bumblebee aboard a starship known as The Ark. This craft is carrying the last of the Autobots from a now-uninhabitable Cybertron, towards a portal to an unknown destination. No one knows what’s through the gate, but it’s the only hope for survival. Before it can be reached however, Decepticon ships attack, and in an effort to save The Ark, Bumblebee is injured. Revived minutes later by the medic, Ratchet, players slowly get to take control.
After making the player follow a light to test “optics,” a small Decepticon strike force breaks into the bridge. Using his medic status to prevent him and Bumblebee getting shot, Ratchet quickly detonates a flashbang, and the player is given the opportunity to open fire on the intruders from the ground. After getting up to your feet, another wave of enemies attack and you take part in your first infantry battle.
Once the bridge is clear, Bumblebee is tasked with delivering a fuse to fix the ship’s defense cannons. Players must take him through the crumbling corridors of The Ark in another stretch of tutorials, detailing the title’s new and established mechanics, such as melee, healing, sprinting, dashing, and switching weapon hands. The latter three are features new to the title, and greatly expand the gameplay.
In War for Cybertron (Fall of Cybertron’s predecessor), these mechanics were absent, which made for very basic and somewhat bland third-person-shooter action. However, for FoC they augment play considerably, allowing players to dash to dodge attacks, sprint to cover ground quickly without having to transform, and switch which hand their weapon is in so they can shoot around corners easier. How big a difference these small add-ons make is surprising, and make FoC’s demo an awesome TPS experience. If the full title’s gameplay reflects that of the demo, then this is going to be a very fun game.
After getting the turrets back online, Bumblebee decides to go and assist Optimus in his battle against Megatron. Before he can though, his current location is attacked by a Decepticon ship, and he must jump down a duct to avoid being crushed. This fall jolts his alternator, fixing it and allowing him to transform again. As you may have guessed, this section of the level is designed to teach players the controls for vehicle form, such as basic driving controls, boosting, nitro, and jumping.
If you’re familiar with WfC, not much has changed in terms of driving; your vehicle starts in a hover form, where you can move backward, forward, and strafe like you would normally. When in boost mode, however, your vehicle transforms further into a fully-wheeled variant, and performs much like a normal car would when bearing down on the throttle. Switching between these two modes is crucial to vehicle combat, and the ability to go from robot to automobile/jet was one of the highlights of WfC – so it’s good to see it unchanged.
Players use their new-found driving skills to evade death along a stretch of trenches on the side of The Ark, avoiding bullets, explosions, and deadly gaps in an attempt to reach Optimus. After clearing one large final jump, players meet up with a few Autobot squads, and make a final push to rejoin their leader. At this point, players are free to dispatch enemies as they see fit, and can use any skill or ability at any time. Once through the final courtyard, Bumblebee finally finds Prime and prepares to help battle Megatron… except that the demo level ends here. The Exodus is mainly a large tutorial that locks the majority of your mechanics at different times, before teasing you with a small do-what-you-want section, but it nonetheless showcases the new and returning mechanics of FoC beautifully – and is a great lead up to Death from Above.
In Death from Above, players take control of the Decepticon Vortex as he attempts to take out an Autobot transport carrying energon – the life force of the Transformers. I won’t go into too much detail about the actual mission (so as not to spoil it too much) but the level gives players access to all mechanics at once, as well as a few new features: Teletraan 1 stores and Armory Reactors. Teletraan 1 stations allow players to change their weapons, upgrade them with attachments, as well as buy consumable items and permanent perks. Armory Reactors are more frequent, and will fabricate either a random weapon or consumable equipment for a lower cost than the store. Credits to purchase these items and upgrades are obtained by killing the level’s enemies. These stations give a nice degree of customization and character progression that WfC lacked. Many players will welcome it with open arms and want to see more at launch.
When the Campaign missions are done and dusted, chances are your next stop will be Multiplayer – which sports an amazing concept. In the demo’s multiplayer mode, gamers compete in team-based Deathmatch and King-of-the-Hill styled matches, with all of the core mechanics from the Campaign available in Multiplayer. This means players can transform at will between robot and vehicle, making for frantic and unpredictable matches. For example: you might be a car-based Transformer, fighting for control of a hill. Suddenly you’re outnumbered; fearing death you transform and drive away. You’re followed, however, as one of the enemies is jet-based, and now it’s turned from a firefight into a high-speed vehicle pursuit.
This is possible due to the class system that FoC has, which allows players to utilize one of four robot types: Infiltrator (car), Destroyer (truck), Titan (tank), and Scientist (jet). Each has their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities, but all share one common point: customization. While only a small degree is available in the demo, players are able to swap out body parts like heads, shoulders, bodies/vehicles, legs, and hands to make their own custom Transformer. On top of that, gamers can select between different pre-made colour schemes and voice actors, to really tailor their robot to their liking. The frantic moments of gameplay and rich customization make FoC’s Multiplayer truly unique and very engaging, and with the full launch set to include 10 maps, players are sure to find themselves coming back for more!
There is one issue that really presents itself here and there, which would be texture pop. Every so often, textures just don’t load straight away, leaving players with a few seconds of blurry, pixilated skins both on characters and the environment. Hopefully this can be addressed by launch, as FoC presents a much more vivid and colourful setting than its predecessor, and it would be a shame to have it ruined by something as simple as texture glitches.
Taking the formula established by War for Cybertron, and putting it on energon steroids, Fall of Cybertron’s demo shows a whole lot of promise. From augmented core mechanics to a greatly customizable and fun Multiplayer, it’s looking like we may actually see a Transformers game that’s truly more than meets the eye. Whether you’re a die-hard fan, or just looking for a new shooter, this is one title to watch out for!
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron launches on August 21st, 2012 in North America, and just days later on the 24th in Europe. The demo is available now Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
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