Genre: 3rd Person Shooter
System: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Sequels can be either a blessing or a curse. It can be the rehash of a previous incarnation purely for use as a cash cow; more of the same, less ambition, and none of the magic that made the first a success. However, with enough care, it can be a fully realized entity, improving on the original in ways that create a new and more imaginative world. Fortunately, Fall of Cybertron lies within the latter of the two.
Presentation: The story in Fall of Cybertron is a simple one. The planet is dying and the Autobots have all but abandoned their home. The last transport, the all too familiar “Ark” is the last of these transports. Essentially, the whole story revolves around this premise of getting the “Ark” ready to fly and the Decepticons’ attempts at preventing the Autobots from doing so. Although the story is minimal, it is fabricated in a way that makes sense. In fact, they managed to somehow incorporate a robot T-Rex in a sensible manner, not an easy feat. Additionally, each and every action feels important and provides an excellent vehicle to switch between the two factions.
Furthermore, Fall of Cybertron contains some amazing set pieces. From the get go you will be treated to constant explosions, towering figures in the background, and a full sense of urgency. All of these episodes culminate into a fantastic finale, and in a time of sub-par endings, a finale that gamers have been too often deprived of.
Gameplay: The gameplay is quite excellent in Fall of Cybertron. The controls feel tighter, the weapons have a good variety, some with a surprising amount of originality, and the action is frantic without being overly chaotic. Although not as responsive as say Gears of War 3, it can stand on its own and find its place among the best.
What makes Fall of Cybertron stand out, aside from gigantic transforming robots of course, is its sheer variety. Every stage feels and plays different. Because each stage is so intertwined with a particular character, you will never get bored. In the unlikely case that a certain character does begin to feel tedious, the game quickly changes gear and has you fighting sword and shield or grappling around like Batman. Some characters, in spite of this, are a little better than others. Grimlock for example is well polished and has a fresh quality. Bruticus, on the other hand, has a more mini-game vibe and seems less fleshed out; fortunately his stage is kept short so his novelty does not wear out. Moreover, even when certain characters contain the same inherent ability, i.e. cloaking, the stages are designed differently to play to each character’s strength.
Escalation is very similar to War of Cybertron, a few changes have been made, however. Escalation has been shortened to 15 waves as opposed to…. well unending. In addition, you may only pick 1 of four characters on each stage and your team has a few chances to redo a wave. Though I do understand the limiting of characters to help balance out a party, it is unfortunate that you can only pick your favorite character when playing a certain map.
Competitive multiplayer, similarly, has also received a number of changes. Power-ups now litter the stage and provide a different strategy, specifically in deathmatch. During my escapades, teams would often guard certain power-ups to gain the advantage. Even though it changed the flow of battle and how the battle was played out, it didn’t detriment or enhance my experience. A new mode was also introduced, a mode called head hunter. Here you collect sparks from your dead adversaries and deposit them to gain points, though it probably won’t become the most popular of modes, it has enough spark (hah, see what I did there) to merit the addition.
Lastly, character creation has seen an intensive overhaul. You are able to change each body part of your transformer, including vehicle mode and voice. Unfortunately, color choices are limited to preset pallets and the voice alternatives sound exceedingly similar.
Sound: The sound design is wonderful. The clash of metal on metal, the transformations, and soundtrack all deserve some praise. The voice-work, on the other hand requires special recognition. It may be campy at some ins and outs, but it fits well in a world of robotic dinosaurs. Troy Baker does an impeccable impersonation of G1 Jazz and of course Peter Cullen does not disappoint as Optimus.
Graphics: The backgrounds are often beautiful, the set-pieces are awe-inspiring, and the transformers themselves are wonderfully rendered, the number of moving parts one each transformer alone is a feat within itself; however, all is not perfect in this cybernetic world. Textures would pop in every which way, including on the characters you are playing. The worst is when a cut-scene would finish without all of the textures being fully rendered. Other times, the game would stop, flashing a big “loading” and hinder the flow of the game. It is unfortunate that these issues were seen so frequently because everything else was top notch.
Bang for Your Buck: I finished the campaign in roughly 9 hours. After that I replayed it, trying to find all of the voice recordings and blue-prints and just enjoying the game. It does not have a tremendous amount of replay value, but the hidden easter-eggs and collectables validate another playthrough or so. Multiplayer is where most of one’s time will be spent and it is crafted well enough to hold your attention for a good long while. Overall there is a hefty amount of bang for your buck, especially if you are a Transformers fan. I can’t tell you the number of times the game made a little nod to the G1 series and movie.
Even without the transformer’s license, this is a great 3rd person shooter. It has one of the genre’s best single player campaigns and will feel new up until the spectacular end. Multiplayer is nothing special, but its escalation mode still stands as one of the best Horde mode variations to date. If you can deal with some campy dialogue and inconsistent graphics then you will have a hell of a time.