Caress of Steel – Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron Reviewed
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Developer High Moon Studios returns to the steely, war-devastated world of Cybertron with Transformers: Fall of Cybertron! Set after the events of the 2010 release of Transformers: War for Cybertron, FoC is a non-stop thrill ride that will leave a lasting impression on fans both young and old. But is Fall of Cybertron’s darker story, improved gameplay, and varied environments enough to sate the palettes of Generation 1 Transformers fans as well as hard-core gamers?
As a result of what transpired in Transformers: War for Cybertron, Cybertron’s core has been shut down, and the Autobots have evacuated to their shuttles to make an attempt to break through Megatron’s orbital blockade and find a new home. Only one last ship, the Ark, remains. However, as the last reserves of energon are loaded on to the ship, Megatron’s forces descend upon the Autobots and attempt to destroy the ship before it launches. Now, Optimus Prime and the last remaining band of Autobots must defend the Ark from the Decepticons if they’re to survive!
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a third-person shooter, developed by High Moon Studios and published by Activision. Unlike the original game where you could choose to follow either the Decepticon campaign or Autobot campaign in any particular order you desired, FoC instead follows a linear story, with a different character (either Autobot or Decepticon) taking the lead in each act.
Taking some of the best elements of the 80s’ comic series (known to fans as G1 or Generation 1), High Moon has managed to create a deep story with many favorite characters and bring something fresh to the table while keeping true to the original source material. Much like the 80’s comic series, Fall of Cybertron, as well as its predecessor, carries a darker story than the cartoon, and with it, some personality changes in key characters. For instance, Starscream is a murderous SOB instead of the simpering idiot he was in the television show. Likewise with the Dinobots, who were made out to be rather dim-witted in the television series, were quite intelligent in print.
However, the TV show carries some weight of influence in the game as well. The most notable facet is in the voice acting, as Peter Cullen returns to reprise his role as Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron features a number of big names in voice acting. Nolan North (Uncharted) voices Cliffjumper, Bruticus, and Brawl, while Steve Blum portrays a rather menacing Shockwave, as well as Swindle and Sharpshot. Troy Baker performs the voice of Jazz, Jetfire and Kickback. He brings a personality to Jazz’s character very reminiscent of Ben Crothers’ performance in the original TV series. Gregg Berger also returns from a 25-year hiatus to reprise his role as the Dinobot Grimlock. With so much experience behind the game, it’s very hard to hear any faults in the voice acting at all. Every actor brings the disposition of their respective computer-generated personas to life.
More subtle influences from the show can be found in some of the plot of the game, such as the mention of a rust disease during Cliffjumper’s portion of the story, which was originated in an episode titled, “Cosmic Rust,” in the G1 series. It was discovered in an ancient Autobot temple, similar to where it’s found in the game.
The story itself manages to keep from becoming prosaic by allowing you to engage with a number of characters without becoming convoluted. By having the gamer experience the story from both sides of the opposing forces, the writers manage to bring a more detailed story to the table more so than most shooters, while steadily moving the action along so the game never feels like you’re really hitting a lull. The game really imparts a number of emotions throughout the campaign: dread as comrades fall against the never-ending onslaught of the Decepticons, and sheer awe as you watch Metroplex awaken from his slumber and completely decimate everything in his path.
Campaign gameplay is, for the most part, your standard third-person shooter with the camera over the shoulder. The camera’s vantage point is switchable, and when toggled, the weapon will switch arms as well. This provides the gamer with the ability to get behind cover and shoot around the corner instead in lieu of a more traditional cover system like you would find in Gears of War or Uncharted. The gameplay does change slightly depending on which Transformer and act you’re playing based on the specializations of that character. For example, with Cliffjumper, the act requires use of his ability to temporarily cloak himself to sneak past enemies and use his tactical display (which is inexplicably only available while he’s hiding in ventilation shafts) to get a layout of enemy movements, while Jazz uses an energy grappling hook to swing around through his act and use it to pull down objects and obstacles.
Weapons can be picked up throughout the various levels, and each has the ability to be upgraded at Teletraan 1 kiosks throughout the game using energon shards as currency. Each weapon has a number of upgrades, with a special upgrade that can only be unlocked after all others for that particular weapon have been purchased. These kiosks can also be used to purchase TECH (Transformers Electronic Combat Hardware) and Perks. Two types of TECH items are available: Assault TECH and Utility TECH. The Assault TECH items – such as attack drones and thermal mines – assist you in tactically in combat, while Utility TECH items such as deployable barriers and power cores assist you defensively or buff your character. Whereas TECH items are consumable items, Perks are permanent additions you can purchase to refill your health and ammo every time you visit a Teletraan kiosk, or permanently buff your character with faster foot speed, reduce your regeneration time, and more.
Graphically, the game is simply stunning. High Moon did an excellent job of creating some beautiful landscapes out of a world that’s primarily made of steel (or some other unknown alloy) with vast, open areas and took the opportunity to really show the massive scale of destruction that the Cybertronian War has inflicted on the Transformers’ home world. And while you’ll not see any real flora or fauna, the developers did a great job of ensuring each area you experience doesn’t look like the previous level and become monotonous. The tone of the game is conveyed quite well in the visual experience from the war-torn planet, to its inhabitants. Oftentimes, the game takes an almost macabre turn as you come across fatally wounded warriors on the battlefield, their electronics spilling out from gashes in their exoskeletons. Occasionally, when interacted with, these dead mechanical beings simply fall to pieces; a reminder you are not immortal, even if you’re inorganic.
The character models, while mostly untouched from the previous game (only Optimus received a noticeable design change), are extraordinary. While High Moon took many visual cues from the G1 series’ designs, they’ve managed to create some fantastic creations original to this franchise that are familiar yet very fresh. Even Metroplex and the Dinobots, which are introduced in this game, look very similar to their G1 counterparts, but have been updated in a way that really fits with the rest of the game. High Moon’s ability to maintain this balance is one of the things you’ll absolutely love about the series, especially if you’re a 28-year-long fan like yours truly.
Complementing the beautiful graphics is the phenomenal sound, which manages to kick you in the teeth from start to finish. The soundtrack is absolutely amazing, with an eclectic mix of orchestral, choir, and electronica that really fits in with the theme of the game. Not to mention the remixed version of Stan Bush’s “You’ve Got the Touch” you hear when the credits roll really tugs at the heartstrings of nostalgia. The sound effects, too, deliver a powerful punch regardless if you’re playing in the campaign or multiplayer.
The multiplayer in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is pretty basic when it comes to the number of game types available. However, the action and pace in the game more than make up for it. Game types available are Team Deathmatch, Conquest, Capture the Flag, and Head Hunter. Conquest is essentially a king-of-the-hill mode where you must capture control nodes and hold the positions to gain points. The first team to the designated number of points wins. Head Hunter is a mode similar to the Halo Reach game type of the same name: Kill the opposition and capture their sparks; the first to 30 points wins.
Also available is the Escalation mode, which was included in the first game. Like other horde-mode types, you and a team of up to three other players must fend off wave after increasingly difficult wave of enemies as they swarm your position.
While the game types available might be pretty basic, the character customization and loadout selections are not. Found in the Multiplayer menu, the Create a Character selection gives you the ability to customize and upgrade your four character types. Infiltrator is a smaller, faster robot with the ability to cloak. The Destroyer is your well-rounded class with the ability to create a force field. The Titan is a heavy-armor class equipped with a Whirlwind ability that can deal devastating damage to a number of opponents at close range. And finally, the Scientist, which has the power to transform into a flying vehicle and can heal their allies. The robots can all be customized using chassis parts unlocked as you gain experience in multiplayer matches. Everything, quite literally from head to foot, can be changed out to give your character a look and feel all its own. Furthermore, loadouts can be customized by further unlocking weapons and abilities to use.
Overall, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a game with a fantastic story of lovable characters, gorgeous graphics, awesome sound, and great gameplay aspects to it. For the diehard G1 Transformers fan, it has all of the elements and nostalgia of the 80’s franchise, while keeping the look and feel fresh. High Moon Studios gets my vote for making a great game worthy of the Transformers name; now if only we can talk them into exploring cinema, because that franchise could use a reboot, too.
Fall of Cybertron gets a perfect 5.0 out of 5.0.
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