Me Grimlock no bozo, me king!
You can make pretty much anything into a video game. Somehow the premise of being a truck driver has been made into a (surprisingly good) video game with Euro Truck Simulator 2. But some premises should translate into the video game format more naturally. Transformers is one of those franchises, as what could make a better video game than these three simples words:
GIANT. ROBOTS. FIGHTING.
Despite this groundbreaking premise, I personally could count the number of Transformers video games that I’ve played and enjoyed on one hand, and on the current generation of consoles it wasn’t until 2010’s War for Cybertron that a Transformers game recieved generally universal positive acclaim from critics and gamers.
Fortunately, Fall of Cybertron has taken the successful formula of War for Cybertron and built upon it. But while this is a follow-up to the previously mentioned title, you don’t need to have played WFC to get what’s going on. To put it simply for those of you not fully versed in Transformers lore and back story, the plot is basically this:
Cybertron (the planet) is going to Hell in a Handbasket due to all of the Energon (the fuel source for the planet and it’s inhabitants) being used up, and the Autobots (the good guys) led by Optimus Prime (the goodest guy) are trying to evacuate (so they can try to find more Energon to save the planet and be generally all round nice guys), but the Decepticons (the bad guys) led by Megatron (the baddest guy) are trying to stop them and destroy them (so they can keep the remaining Energon to themselves and rule the world because that’s what bad guys do.)
While the plot of Fall of Cybertron isn’t exactly complicated stuff, the people who will get most of the game are the long-term Transformers fans themselves. If your only experience with the Transformers are Michael Bay’s 447 minutes of explosions and not-so-thinly veiled racism then you’re not going to get half of what’s going on or who the hell you’re controlling. But chances are, if you hated Bay’s films then you’re going to LOVE this.
Before I mention the gameplay or anything like that, the first thing that struck me with Fall of Cybertron is how colourful it is. One of my main criticisms of WFC was that it all seemed a bit grey, and the Transformers looked washed-out pastel versions of themselves. FOC, however, hearkens back to the cartoons by making the game, and the Transformers themselves, much more colourful and thus moving back towards the animated series of the 80s than Bay’s ultra-shiny venture, while making the Transformers look more detailed and up-to-date than their 80s counterparts.
The other thing that struck me throughout the single-player campaign was the variety of controllable characters War For Cybertron has. It’s clear that High Moon Studios have gone for some serious fan service this time, and as well as the obvious characters in Optimus Prime and Megatron, you’ll also find yourself controlling Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Jazz, Vortex, Swindle, Bruticus, Soundwave, Starscream, Jetfire and, most significantly, Grimlock.
As evidenced by the characters list, the Single Player campaign is the meat and bones of the game which it is fairly evenly split between both the Autobots and the Decepticons. But while at it’s core this is a Third Person Shooter title, High Moon Studios have done a brilliant job of incorporating different playstyles depending on the Transformer you’re controlling. When you’re Optimus Prime then you’ll be playing as a straight up fighting machine, when you’re Cliffjumper you rely on stealth, cloaking and takedowns, when you’re Jazz you can use your grappling hook to swing onto surfaces and pull down walls, when you’re Vortex you will spend the majority of the chapter in your jet fighter form, and so and so forth.
The fact that nearly every chapter features a different Transformer and play style stops the game from becoming repetitive, and while you don’t HAVE to adhere to those playstyles, it certainly makes things more interesting. But, if you wish to blast your way through the entire game, then it’s more than equipped with an array of weaponry and vehicle modes to allow you to blast your way to till your heart’s content. There are a variety of weapons that you can buy from the teltraan stores which crop up during the game including - but not limited to - the Nucleon Charge Rifle, Path Blaster, Gear Shredder, Electro Bolter, X18 Scrapmaker and the Scatter Blaster. These all range from simple pistols to shotguns up to sniper rifles and corrosive slime shooters, as well as a melee attack that comes in useful in a pinch, so there’s plenty of variation in the weaponry to suit any sort of play style (unless you’re a pacificist, in which case… good luck?) My only niggle with the melee combat is that it is a bit of an afterthought, and I’d like to see the scope for more frequent epic melee battles that you would see in the cartoons and (to a lesser extent) the films.
Presentation-wise, FoC is excellent. I’ve already mentioned the improvement of graphics over WFC, and the interface and controls only add to the feel of quality. There are quite a few controls to memorise since your characters always have two forms - robot and vehicular - but after the first chapter or two, everything becomes second nature and you’ll be switching between the forms and using them in appropriate situations pretty fluidly. This is another improvement from the last game where I felt that the use of the vehicle form was sometimes a bit forced and most of the time I didn’t need to change form unless the game demanded it, but in this game there are enemies where it will be to your benefit to change into vehicle form rather than robot form.
Fans will also be pleased to hear that Peter Cullen returns as Optimus Prime and original animated series voice actor Gregg Berger comes in as Grimlock for this game, although sadly Frank Welker isn’t voicing Megatron. But Fred Tatasciore does a more than satisfactory job. In fact, if you didn’t know better then you’d probably not realise that the voice actors weren’t all the originals, such is the quality of the voice work.
For me, however, my main criticism of the game has to be with what is probably the game’s biggest selling point for the ardent Transformer fan, which is the inclusion of Grimlock. Or rather, how Grimlock is utilised. I’ll try not to give any of the story away, but he’s doesn’t appear until later in the game, but you only get to control him for a chapter and a half and for a good proportion of those chapters you can’t access his dinosaur mode, and when you can it has to be activated by filling a rage meter. While I can see the reasoning for this, it is a bit galling as most Transformers fans - who the game is clearly aimed at - will be looking forward to playing Grimlock, while it’s obviously done to fit within the game and level mechanics, but it seems like a bit of a let down when you can’t fully make use of Grimlock’s dino form.
My other criticism of the game is probably more of a personal niggle than an actual game flaw, but while the game is still understandably set on Cybertron, I don’t feel like I’m controlling a GIANT ROBOT. The characters still feel rather small against the game’s massive backdrops, and even when playing larger characters like Bruticus and Grimlock, you still don’t get that sense of scale that you should do. But like I say, that is more a personal gripe than a game flaw, and the end of the game is set up nicely for another one that should - hopefully - be set on Earth, which is when we’ll REALLY start to see the Transformers do their thing.
I didn’t spend an awful lot of time with the multiplayer and escalation modes, but they don’t appear to have changed a great deal from the last game. There are still four classes - Infiltrators, Destroyers, Titans and Scientists - and four modes - Team Deathmatch, Conquest, Headhunter and Capture the Flag. They’re your standard multiplayer fare, but the option of transforming into a vehicle does give it that extra appeal. The escalation mode involves you teaming with three other players to take on wave after wave of enemies (up to level 15) that you have to survive which, honestly, I found to get a bit dull after the fifth or sixth wave of similar enemies.
Overall though, this is definitely the best Transformers game of the current generation of consoles and while it should appeal to the casual gamer, if there’s a Transformer fan out there who has grown up with Optimus, Megatron and company looking for the ultimate homage to the animated series, then this game has most definitely got The Touch. Positives
+ Looks the part
+ Voice acting is spot on
+ Controls are easy to get to grips with
+ Variety of play styles combine well
+ Multiplayer modes are quite fun
+ Heaps of fan service
- Grimlock isn’t as satisfying as he should be
- Robots feel ‘small’
- Melee is a bit of an afterthough
- Escalation mode gets dull fastVerdict:
Arguably the best Transformers game made so far.