Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t like Transformers. Whether it’s the original G1 series, the recent films, games or toys – people lap it up. Developer High Moon Studios knows this better than most people, because they’re a team of fans themselves. And the proof is in the Transformers pudding with their latest – and greatest – effort, Fall of Cybertron.

If you haven’t played the original Transformers: War for Cybertron, then you may find yourself a little lost with the story and characters of FoC. Right from the beginning the game takes off from where the previous ends: Cybertron has sustained too much damage from the raging feud between the Autobots and the Decepticons, thus the planet’s ability to produce Energon (the Transformers’ source of fuel and life) is waning. With their home planet’s core shutting down, the Autobots seek refuge away from Cybertron, but the Decepticons are hell-bent on annihilation.

Despite War for Cybertron already being a great-looking game with fluid controls and well-portrayed characters, the fine folks at High Moon Studios have managed to outdo themselves by somehow making FoC bigger and better than the original. Controls are tighter, the weapons have more distinction, the dialogue is fantastic and the story is thoroughly engaging from start to finish. Unlike most shooters, FoC rarely (if ever) has moments where the action feels repetitive or stagnant. The game is constantly pushing you forward as if to make the plot’s sense of urgency more prolific to the player, regardless of its bombastic (and highly-detailed) set-pieces. That said, the game does have some (non)quick-time events that seem to come out of nowhere and feel slightly disjointed.

As any die-hard Transformers fan will argue, the series is rife with memorable, well-established characters and it’s no different here. Each character plays an important role in the story, and the script is so well-written that the characters’ interactions are believable. Moments where characters are either working together or against each other are always exciting because of their respective camaraderie or abhorrence.  It’s funny that a game about talking machines shows more charm, personality and heart than most games featuring humans.

On a technical level, the game looks breathtaking. The locales do well to depict an alien-industrial environment, the art direction brings vibrancy to an almost unorganic world filled with metal, character models are detailed to the point that their idle animations show the twitching intricacies of their machinery and the list goes on. The game does have a tendency to chug when battles get intense, however. The more explosions and effects, the lesser frames per second meet the eye.

With the game featuring a brilliant campaign (stick around for probably the best fan service an ending credits reel could ever offer), it just feels that a bonus that a strong multiplayer component is included. Featuring a new create-your-own-Transformer menu complete with level-up system, players can take their custom robos to the online arena in four different modes: Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Conquest (basically just Territories) and Head Hunter (players drop sparks upon death, and your job is to collect a certain number of sparks to win the match).

Alternatively, players can have a hand at Escalation, which is a blend of both the campaign and multiplayer. Escalation is not unlike the trendy Horde Modes of this generation – all the standard features are here, like teammate revival, class-based teamwork and weapons purchasing.  However, we do meet some characters from the universe that weren’t introduced in the main story, such as Perceptor and Wheeljack, which adds a bit of an extension to the campaign.

Like a vast majority of licensed games, Transformers has been a series that’s seen more bad than good releases in its time. In recent years, though, developers have had access to well-established franchises to carefully craft some brilliant – and more importantly, true to the source material – experiences, and High Moon Studios can stand proudly among those few who have succeeded. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is proof that the studio has both the touch and the power to do right by this beloved franchise.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron was developed by High Moon Studios and published by Activision. An Xbox 360 copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.

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