LOVED IT: Story is well-crafted and well-told, excellent visuals and underrated sound, conflict feels massive
HATED IT: Framerate issues, no cooperative campaign
GRAB IT IF: You watched the Transformers movies
Now this is what a Transformers movie should be like. And it’s not even a movie.
No, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a video game.
Activision’s action game is a direct sequel to 2010’s solid War for Cybertron, and a solid, engaging third-person effort. But it’s also far more than that. It tells a compelling story, good enough to keep you invested when the gameplay lags behind. And for diehard Transformer fans, it presents a tale you’ve been waiting for, one that’s focused entirely on robots with nary a dose of Shia Labeouf.
Hollywood could learn a thing from Fall of Cybertron developer High Moon Studios. Those three Transformer movies overfocused on humans, when we all walked into the theater for the robots. Shia and Megan Fox could try all they want, but the cardboard-character Transformers were supposed to be the stars.
Cybertron, thankfully, is nothing but big, shape-shifting robots. And High Moon makes sure that everything about this game feels big. The tale starts at the end, with a gripping tragedy that grabs your attention. What follows includes appearances from Autobots and Decepticons both well-known and niche.
You’ll encounter — and play as — a bevy of robots, but High Moon manages the personalities well. Starscream disrespects Megatron just as he should, Optimus Prime is stately, and Autobot Warpath doesn’t run from a fight.
Many get their moment in the spotlight, and the constantly shifting perspectives can initially be disconcerting. But the payoff comes after a few hours and levels, when you realize that you’re playing this game as much for its story as for its action. Cybertron is dying, and the coming cataclysmic event sets the stage for everything you now know about the Transformers.
High Moon makes sure its story is told in spectacular fashion. Voice acting is well-done, fantastic music sets a solid mood, and solid effects back everything, both in gameplay and cinematics.
And oh, those cinematics! At times, you might as well put the controller down and watch as Starscream and Megatron feud, or as a giant Autobot takes out a cannon.
At other times, you’ll want to put the controller down, because the gameplay doesn’t quite match up to the story. High Moon certainly does a great job of making this feel like a true planetary conflict; levels are large and expansive, and you can often see for what seems like miles.
Oddly enough, the levels are rarely that big. They may feel big, but most of the actual battles themselves are far smaller. Skirmishes routinely lack a sense of tension, and enemies are far more sparse than they should be.
It’s all because of High Moon’s decision to vary the action. You switch between driving, flying, stealth and running and gunning, and it’s satisfying to have that much variety. But Fall of Cybertron lacks a proper pace, and the constant switching prevents you from ever getting into a flow with any brand of gameplay.
Gunplay sections often feel wrong. There’s no cover button in Fall of Cybertron, presumably because High Moon wants you to run and gun and transform and fight. But in many sections, you’re left with the kind of cover that begs you to snap behind it. Sigh. If only you actually could do that.
The game’s Hollywood blockbuster feel at least somewhat masks this deficiency. Things happen so fast and furious that you almost don’t realize the emptiness of gameplay until you wind up in one of the breaks between the action. In these hub-like areas, you’ll run around, stop at a store to upgrade your weaponry. You’ll also talk to other Transformers and perform a few tasks to further “mix up” gameplay.
The areas are a nice thought, until you press the X button for the hundredth time. You’ll use the X button for far too many things in Fall of Cybertron, but too often, it’s devoid of challenge; just press X to open doors, talk to people, even fight some enemies with the right prompt. The lack of variation hurts the game, especially in its waning moments.
But most of Fall of Cybertron is a joy to play. It’s a shame that you can’t play through the campaign cooperatively, but High Moon does include a fulfilling, Horde-like Escalation mode, and a solid, if uninventive, suite of competitive multiplayer options. The finest portions of the multiplayer suite let you build your own Transformer, gradually unlocking new weapons and forms and accessories. Diehards can easily build their own Perceptor, while others can slap together a creation of their own.
The end result is the finest Transformers game you will ever play. If you’re a fan of the robots, this is a must-play.
Or maybe I mean must-watch.
Reviewed on Xbox 360
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