Not having played War for Cybertron, I was hesitant to try out Fall of Cybertron. After all, there’s always this sense of unfamiliarity when one just jumps into a series in the middle. I was also never the biggest Transformers fan, so that only further disinterested me from the series. To make matters worse, licensed IP games don’t exactly have the greatest track record. With all that said, it means all the more when I say this was one of the most entertaining games I’ve played recently.
It’s a sad state when licensed games are almost automatically bad. Movies always do such a great job of adapting novels [Editor’s Note: Sounds like somebody never saw Battlefield Earth, thank God.], but games have always lagged behind in this regard. A combination of tight development schedule, strict license owners, and plain laziness creates a stream of sub-par licensed games. Thankfully, Fall of Cybertron does a few things to avoid these usual pitfalls. Similar to another critically acclaimed licensed game series, Batman, Fall of Cybertron doesn’t follow the movies and is a standalone story. This allows High Moon Studios to have more flexibility in time management as well as in storytelling. The result is a much more polished product that has a story tailor made to produce the best gaming experience.
Speaking of story, Fall of Cybertron follows right after War for Cybertron. The Autobots and Decepticons are still heavily entrenched in civil war and with Cybertron slowly becoming uninhabitable, Autobots seek to escape the desolate wasteland while the Decepticons continue to obliterate everything in front of them. The best part is that their warfare is your playground. As the custom story tells of epic war between all of the Transformers, the player gets to play as tons of various characters. From staples such as Optimus and Megatron to a host of lesser known Transformers, there’s a huge pool of characters to play as.
This is much more fantastic than you might think. It’s not just some cosmetic difference; each character has a unique special ability that drastically changes the entire game. Gigantic blade swinger Grimlock creates a fun hack-and-slash level. Playing as Starscream introduces a flying shooter element. Playing as the hook-swinging Jazz also gives the game a bit of Bionic Commando pizazz. I could go on and on, but you get the point. Basically, the different trait that each Transformer uses makes every level fresh and exciting. It forces a change of strategy and different game techniques. Blazing through with guns and explosives won’t get you very far. Although the campaign isn’t very punishing, you’ll end up being scrap metal pretty soon if you don’t think smartly about using cover and utilizing all the tools at your disposal.
Of course, there’s some downside for having such a diverse cast. For one, it’s difficult to keep up the diversity and novelty of the various cast without some sacrifices. In this case, the campaign was fairly short. It’s not necessarily a direct con toward the game. After all, it’s commendable to have a very well-rounded complete package instead of some dragged on monotonous affair. The other main downside is an overly complex control scheme. Sure, it becomes manageable the more you play it. However, there’s just too much to do, and even more when you transform. Speaking of which, why is the boost for robot form L2, but it’s L1 in vehicle form? It’s weird design choices like these that confuse me, even late into the game. In addition, the vehicles all feel very floaty and are hard to be precise with, especially when compared to robot form.
It’s hard to criticize High Moon too much, though. Between the beautiful, vast stages and high intensity soundtrack, you get the sense that this is the reboot that Michael Bay’s Transformers never could achieve. It’s modern and quirky, but also funny and colorful. The game reflects our current culture and media, but never forgets the essence of what Transformers stands for.
Alongside the main campaign is a “Horde Mode” and a traditional multiplayer aspect. I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, but it’s hard to get into a multiplayer mode that isn’t a huge series like Halo or COD. After all, there’s always this fear that the servers will be shut down or the players will dwindle down after the launch window. It’s not a knock on the game, but more of a disappointing fact of life, made more disappointing by the genuine effort by High Moon to create a compelling multiplayer.
Ultimately, Fall of Cybertron manages to be a very diverse and fun to play third-person shooter. There’s plenty of variety to please just about everybody. Sure, there’s a few graphical hiccups here and there. The game also hosts annoyingly long loads halfway through levels and sometimes in a middle of battles. Even worse, the game glitched on me, causing my character to fall through the level and forcing a restart. But I have to give High Moon a pass on those issues. The game simply does so many things great that the minor technical issues seem miniscule in comparison. It’s exactly what we need in a licensed IP game: incredibly solid gameplay paired with a faithful rendition to the source material.
Parting Shot: Transformers: Good Game In Disguise