Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron Review
Before we start this review, let’s get one inevitable misconception out of the way immediately: the world of Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron derives from a near-completely different storyline to the explosion-heavy, plot-light film trilogy brought to us by Michael Bay in recent years. Gone are Shia LaBeouf’s infamously infuriating Sam, Megan Fox’s, shall we say, alluring love interest and all of the other fan-deterring additions Bay provided, replaced by a game development studio who understand the appeal of those original toy robots and the various animated spin-offs that they spawned. High Moon understand and respect the license they’re dealing with fully, as proved by War Of Cybertron two years back. Does that mean, though, that with the benefit of hindsight and reviews, they’ve given us a sequel that’s on a level with Rocksteady’s hugely influential Arkham games?
It’s time to answer that key question and many others, so let’s waste no more time and get into the verdict on what’s been tipped by some as one of the biggest games of 2012. Heed this initial warning- there may be more to Fall than initially meets the eye…
Does Fall Of Cybertron reach the same heights as Arkham Asylum and Arkham City?
Throughout their marketing campaign for this much-anticipated follow-up to one of the first notable Transformers games in a long time, High Moon and Activision were eager to pitch Fall as being on the same level of quality as Rocksteady’s Bat franchise. When players see some of the more linear but emotionally effective setpieces start to take shape over the course of the storyline, they will definitely be able to draw some comparisons between the two series and indeed notice the clear inspiration the Dark Knight’s latest adventures have had here. That said, High Moon do a great job of distinguishing themselves from the best licensed games of recent times by injecting unique cover-shooter gameplay into the mix and using the science-fiction edge to their advantage in terms of the game’s narrative.
It’s hard to shake the feeling, though, that the studio was perhaps a little less willing to take the same kind of creative risks as Rocksteady and WB Games did in 2009 and last year. Much as there are plenty of thrilling highlight moments sure to please long-term fans and action-loving gamers alike, the groundbreaking plot twist along the lines of Asylum’s crash gag and City’s shocking ending never comes, despite the fact that so many of us might have expected it to given the claims made about the ambition of its storyline. By no means is this a deal-breaker, as Fall Of Cybertron provides what is by far one of the best single-player campaigns we’ve seen in a good while, certainly this year, but when we’re ranking licensed games in the most strict of manners, then the Caped Crusader remains on top.
How’s the storyline- is it just a pampered prequel to the main lore, or do High Moon branch off on a tangent?
Although it never attains quite the same shock factor as either Arkham game, Fall Of Cybertron’s narrative is hugely compelling, starting with a glimpse at how things might end before rolling back a few days to widen our understanding of the events that lead up to the opening level. You’ll spend time in the company of both the Autobot and Decepticon factions, with this interwoven storyline working much better than the full dual campaigns found in High Moon’s first effort. From Optimus Prime to Grimlock to even the dark lord Megatron himself, everyone gets their fair share of screen and play time- it’s essentially the Avengers Assemble of licensed video games!
I was a bit worried personally that the need for the titular demise of the Transformers’ home planet to connect into the race’s ultimate escape to the Milky Way would leave the campaign feeling a little predictable just as Halo: Reach was when it attempted something similar. Thankfully, the writers appear to have anticipated this, working in a significant number of sub-plots on Cybertron that have their own relevance and consequences in terms of how the fate of the planet turns out. The storyline’s ending is admittedly still a bit weak, allowing the player to make one of two choices which ultimately hold no bearing on the final cutscenes, but overall the plot works a lot better than I might have expected, proving engaging despite players’ foreknowledge of how it all turns out.
Is the ‘jack of all trades’ gameplay approach something which works to the game’s benefit or its detriment?
A lot of critics reviewing Fall have picked up on the fact that it utilises a fair few different aspects of gameplay, ranging from innovative vehicle-based levels to more well-trodden cover shooter sections. The latter element takes obvious inspiration from the Gears Of War franchise, though High Moon still struggle with the fact that for Transformers taking cover can essentially mean crouching behind walls and rocks, making for an occasionally awkward battle experience.
On the plus side, the variety of different angles from which the developers have approached their game engine seems to really work in its favour, ensuring that any minor niggles are barely touched upon thanks to the fast pace and the diversity of play styles. Whether you’ll wish you’d spent more time in the company of a single Transformer will be a matter of personal preference mainly for the hardcore fans, but for me regularly switching things up didn’t do any harm!
Is Fall Of Cybertron a better overall product than its predecessor?
The short answer? Yes. I would have given War For Cybertron a 3/5 in 2010- its gameplay felt like a Gears rehash through and through, lacking variety- so judging by the score below you should be able to see that in my opinion this is most certainly the better entry. Compared to recent Transformers movie tie-ins, it’s a step up and above, especially given the dire quality of last year’s Dark Of The Moon.
Is it the best Transformers game of all time? Heck yes- that my answer to that is so rapid, though, shows that isn’t necessarily a challenging feat to achieve. All the same, High Moon should be proud of themselves for providing us with a licensed title that almost does for Transformers what Rocksteady have done for Batman. If developers want another company to take notes from in future on licenses, they need look no further.
Are players likely to engage with the narrative if they don’t ‘get’ Transformers?
Those of you who may be anxious that I’ve come into this review as a veteran Auto-lover who spends all of his time rewatching the entire Transformers TV show need not fear- I’m not a big Transformers fan, and I was only introduced properly to the universe by Michael Bay’s disappointing movie saga. As such, I can claim only a little knowledge on the subject, yet just as Arkham Asylum drew me into the wider world of Batman outside the Nolan flicks, so too can Fall Of Cybertron do the same for those of you in my position. Whatever your inclination, it remains a fantastic third-person shooter experience that deserves your time regardless of whether you can name all of the classic action figures.
Of course, I’m sure those of you who can do just that will get a big kick out of some of the scenarios and references in the script, yet I certainly didn’t feel short-changed come the campaign’s conclusion.
Will I ultimately feel that my £40/$60 have been put to good use on Fall Of Cybertron?
In essence, Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron makes gameplay and narrative breakthroughs which no other entry in its franchise has ever even attempted in the past. Yes, there are one or two flaws in the engine and yes, the ending feels a little constrained by literally having to make ends meet, but those minor niggles shouldn’t hamper your enjoyment of what is definitely one of the better games we’ve seen this year. If anything, I’m just irritated that it seems as if people are ignoring this so far, as it’s really a lot better than a lot of the filler content we’ve had this Summer.
Do yourself a favour and at least give Fall a rental- there are multiplayer modes, but that I’m only just covering them now shows that they’re forgettable and insubstantial. Replay value is certainly there for the fans, it’s just that others of you may wonder what to do with the game after the first bombastic playthrough. Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron was always going to have a tough time pleasing everyone- however, give it your time and leave behind your preconceptions, because High Moon Studios have done the rare thing and achieved that very goal.