As a child that grew up in the late 80s/early 90s it should come as no surprise that I have a bit of a thing for the transformers franchise. I spent countless hours watching nearly all forms of the animated series and my parents would loathe to tell you just how much of their money I spent on the action figures. I can tell you now that whilst I didn’t mind the first of the recent movie adaptations I wasn’t as impressed with the instalments, only seeing them after they were released on DVD. You can then understand why I was somewhat tentative about the release of games within the Transformers franchise as whilst they’re not based directly on the movie they were almost certainly done in order to capitalize on their existence. Still there were many good reviews floating around and even my highly sceptical gamer friends were saying positive things about them so they couldn’t be half bad.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron takes place long before the movies and starts with you, playing as Bumblebee, aboard the Autobot’s ark departing Cybertron after the last war ravaged the planet causing it to shut down. Fall of Cybertron then takes place through a series of flashbacks to the week leading up until the events at the start, showing the final battles upon Cybertron. You’ll play as both Autbots and Decepticons, giving you a feel for both side’s motivations. Eventually you’ll come full circle back to where the game originally started you at for a final epic battle between the two leaders of the Transformer armies.
Fall of Cybertron is a visually intensive game that has scenes ranging from wide open battlefields that seem to stretch on forever to claustrophobic corridors that you’ll barely be able to navigate around. The graphics aren’t exactly cutting edge, most likely due to this game being primarily designed for consoles, but it does quite well within those limitations. This is usually achieved through things like motion blur and extensive use of dynamic lighting, something which is extremely costly to do on a console but easily worked in for a PC port. Fall of Cybertron’s visual style is also a testament to the idea that bright colours help keep a game visually interesting for extended periods of time as I didn’t once feel like I was trudging through a repetitive environment.
Right off the bat I got the feeling that Fall of Cybertron was very similar play style to another action/shooter game, namely Warhammer 40K: Space Marine. They feel quite similar in the way they play as they’re both action oriented shooters that are broken up by sections with distinctive game play. That line though is somewhat blurry in Fall of Cybertron as once you’ve been given the ability to transform you’re pretty much free to do it whenever you want to which makes the delineation of sections somewhat moot. It can also be the different between breezing through a certain section and struggling with it for a long time as some areas are much easier in vehicle form despite them having been designed for robot form.
That being said though the combat of both forms is really enjoyable. Initially it’s pretty much just full time run and gun as you can just blast your way through everything with caring too much about strategy. As the game goes on however that kind of strategy starts to falter and you’ll find yourself having to plan your moves carefully lest you get torn apart by the hordes of other transformers waiting in the wings. Since you’re never playing the same transformer for longer than a chapter you’ll also have an unique ability each time that you’ll have to make use of which helps to keep Fall of Cybertron from feeling too repetitive.
It bears mentioning however that there really is a huge difference in the difficulty levels in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Now as I’m something of a power gamer I chose to go for the hardest difficulty right off the bat and for quite a while I found the challenge to be right up my alley. However there came one section (the first time when Optimus Prime sees Starscream butchering his fellow Autobots) where there really was no strategy that could get me past there. From what I could gather this was because the ramp up in difficulty level was, in essence, giving the enemies more damage and a faster reload. When confronted with 2 shotgun troopers in a confined space this meant I couldn’t take more than a single hit before keeling over and I had to reduce to the difficulty setting to pass. With this in mind I don’t feel like there’s anything to be gained from playing the game on its hardest difficulty setting as there’s not much more enjoyment to be gleaned from upping it.
Fall of Cybertron also includes an upgrade system that allows you to improve yourself and the myriad of weapons you’ll come across whilst venturing through Cybertron. Most of them are pretty bog standard things: improved reload time, upgraded damage and better accurary but once you’ve unlocked all the upgrades the last one is usually something quite unique to the weapon in question. The Riot Cannon, for example, has a last upgrade that makes every last shot in the clip do 500% damage which can be incredibly devastating if used at the right time. I’ll have to admit though that I barely touched the consumables and the other upgrades as I didn’t really feel like I needed them and I certainly didn’t struggle to complete Fall of Cybertron without them.
There’s also a couple of stealth sections where you’ll have to sneak around and avoid detection in order to move on. If I’m honest I’d have to say that these sections were my least favourite aspect of Fall of Cybertron as whilst the cloak mechanic is done well the sections built off it are less so. For instance the stealth detecting transformers will switch into a heavy armoured mode upon detecting you meaning you’ve really only got a short window to do damage to them. It would take about 3 or 4 attack cycles for me to be able to bring one down and there are sections where there are upwards of 5 or more. Sure I can understand that I probably wasn’t meant to engage them at that point but when alerting 1 alerts all of them within the area you really don’t have a lot of choice at some points.
The stealth sections also seem to run somewhat counter to the rest of the game which was very much run and gun. So every time I had to try and stealth past something, usually spending minutes waiting for them all to move out of the way so I had a clean run through, felt like hours compared to the intense action in other parts. This could be remedied by giving the stealthers some form of one shot kill to use against those detector things as then you’d have a viable strategy to take them all out. Still since these stealth sections were in the minority I won’t fault Fall of Cybertron too much for this, although there are some things I feel I have to comment on.
Fall of Cybertron has a few very noticeable glitches, at least in the PC version that I played. The screenshot above is from one of my less than favourite stealth sections where I managed to get outside the level box and ended up driving around on top of the level before falling endlessly and restarting from a checkpoint. I got there by aggroing the stealth detector bots then hiding in one of the tunnels which was quite small. Their attacks can bounce you up a little bit and it seems that in doing so this turns clip off briefly which pushed me through the level. Try as I might to get back in there was no way to do it apart from reloading which was rather frustrating.
Enemies also appear to suffer from clipping issues as well as I had several of the Jumper bots get stuck on ledges or partially in walls after they’d try to attack me. For those times I didn’t have to reload (although the one stuck in the wall with his back almost fully covered by said wall was close) but it did signal to me that there were some systematic issues at play here that could do with fixing. I don’t believe they’d be a hard fix either but since they’re not game breaking I don’t expect that we’ll see a fix to them any time soon.
The story of Fall of Cybertron is also pretty true to the Transformer’s canon and as a long time fan of the franchise this makes me quite happy. There’s not a lot of substance to it of course, thanks to its origins as a kids show and being a primarily action focused game, but all the key characters are there ensuring that fans of the Transformers will likely get to meet and/or play their favourites. Whether they’ll continue to develop the Transformers game franchise from this point on though will be interesting as I’ve heard hints that they be going off canon for the next instalment and I’m not sure how well that would work out.
Transforms: Fall of Cybertron is probably the best Transformers game I’ve played and I think that’s due to it being untied to a movie and was allowed to explore the canon in its own way. The game play, for the most part, was really enjoyable and the minor glitches and so-so stealth sections were long forgotten by the end. The praise heaped on these Transformers titles is well deserved as they’re pretty well polished experiences that are well versed in the Transformer’s universe making it an awesome experience for the fans.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is available on PC, PS3 and Xbox360 for $49.99, $78 and $78 respectively. Game was played entirely on the PC with 7.2 hours of total playtime and 36% of the achievements unlocked.