Once again, the Transformers have it the PC with High Moon Studios picking up the reigns. When this did this with War For Cybertron, they created an amazing game, and the second time anyone on any platform got a descent Transformer game ever. (In case you are wondering, the first was the Trasnformers for PS2… the one made to go with the Armada cartoon.)
Now we have a proper sequel, and it’s time to see if High Moon Studios can do it again. Read on and roll out!
Story: Cybertron is dying. It’s ability to produce energon, the food and fuel for all living on it is gone, and the reserves have been critically drained by the war waging between Autobot and Decepticon. To this end, the Autobots have been evacuating civilians and their non-essential troops to the far flung stars, and have finally created the Ark, a ship who’s purpose is to get the last of their members off the planet until a time when Cybertron can heal, produce energon, and support the robotic life it once did.
Not that that is the plan of the Decepticons. Under Megatron’s leadership, they have sworn themselves to making the Autobots pay for killing the planet, and refuse to let a single one of them leave and drain the pool of energon even further. This game will tell the story of the final days on this doomed planet.
Being a direct sequel to Transformers: War for Cybertron, the original game will explain a lot of the details as to how the Transformers had reached this point, but to explain it now would be to give spoilers to another game I think more people should play, so if you want those details, you are going to have to look elsewhere. However, the story supplied here will tell of the epic struggle, both from those who are trying to leave, and those who refuse to let them.
Unlike the last game, the story here is told in 1 single campaign that switches sides and characters as needed, resulting in a much more involved story-telling affair, even if the actual scope of what is happening is relatively small. While there are events that effect the flow of what is going on, do not expect any real twists or turns that change much of the big picture. This game starts with the Autobots defending the Ark from the Decepticons and ends there. As much as it’s cinematic, it is so like a summer block-buster… it’s just not that deep and really doesn’t bother to explain much of the background to you… but old-school fans of the Dinobots may well take some added pleasure in one of the very few reveals this game has.
Graphics: Let me say it flat out… Fall of Cybertron is drop-dead gorgeous. Assuming you have the power in your rig to run the game at full, there is almost NOTHING to complain about for graphics. The characters are all rendered with care, shiny, glowing, moving parted, or any combination where appropriate at all times. Their animations are just as good, giving the feel the name “Transformers” should across the board… be it watching the gun you just picked up fold up into another gun or into a regular arm while your other becomes the weapon or the various animations involved with transforming between modes. Everything is done with the idea of transformation at it’s heart and with the fans of the franchise in mind. It shows.
The world itself also looks simply fantastic, with plenty of variance between levels. You never get the “been here, done this” feeling from samey corridors. Add this to some descent liquid effects and some of the best fire effects I’ve seen in a long time, and this game will wow you.
Assuming you have less power, it seems the worst you will face is less clear bitmaps on everything, so expect it to look more like it’s console counterpart… still great, but there is a ceiling it simply wont pass. And to address it, I’ve heard complaints this game is locked to give a maximum of 60fps. That frame-rate is still smooth as silk, so fear not! It might annoy some PC-elitists who scream “port! DO NOT WANT!” with such an artificial limit, but when you are in the thick of it blasting up transformers on the battlefield, you simply won’t notice.
Sound: Just like the graphics, sound here is handled with loving care to give the fans of the franchise what they want to hear, and to live up to the high standards of the previous game, “War for Cybertron.” The guns fire with the appropriate clicks and whirs along with the sound of the actual firing, while energy weapons feel appropriately powerful from sound alone… but the real treat is, of course, the voice acting. While a few voices will surprise old-school fans (Shockwave in particular), everyone seems perfectly fitting to their character. Soundwave, as always, is a treat just due to his offbeat way of saying anything he actually will say, Megatron sounds every bit as powerful as he is, and of course Optimus Prime is Prime. There is no other voice that could replace the voice of Peter Cullen for the role… and he proves it yet again with his work in this game.
Gameplay: Fall of Cybertron is at it’s core a 3rd person shooter, though not as standard as one would expect. You run, shoot, and hide as expected, but there is no cover system in this game at all. I already expect some jaws to drop at this, but it was done by design. Your “cover” in this game is handled by a new mechanic to switch which hand your gun is on, effectively letting you stick out a little bit from cover to kick robotic ass while protected.
The reason for this is mobility is the key to victory. If you hide behind cover, you can get by for corridor fights since the enemy is likely only going to come from one side, but this is not the majority of the game. Many times throughout, you will be forced into arena-like rooms where enemies will get around all sides, requiring you to keep on the move if you do not want to die. You will learn how to use cover basically to catch your breath before diving head-long into the fight again, most often requiring you to either use your vehicle mode or special ability of the transformer you are currently playing. Try to play in these rooms like Gears of War where every room is played going between covers and firing out, occasionally jumping out to melee something, and you will get your ass kicked by the guy who just flew around you and put a sniper shot through your shields and his buddy who followed.
Nor can driving whilly-nilly get your far either. You may be a giant robot by our standards in this game, but you’re fighting others of similar stature who have weapons designed for killing Cybertronians. In short, you will feel like your transformer outside of vehicle form is relatively weak and can’t take a lot of damage, so you will have to be smart about where you retreat to. Many will probably complain about this, but it makes sense to me, so I will let that pass. After all, you may be a giant powerful robot, but so are your enemies… in balance, it all works out.
The ONLY issue I had with gameplay in this game is a specific room in the last chapter which had enemies spawn practically on top of me. In most games, I find this annoying, but exceptionally so when the game doesn’t give you a lot of room to take abuse. Thankfully this happened in exactly one room in the entire game, so it really does little to tarnish the game.
Instead, it leaves the tarnishment area to the multiplayer… both due to issues in the game and the players themselves. I was able to get into vs games easily enough, but it’s very easy to get into a very unbalanced game, especially as hacking is alive and well in the Transformer world. Within the first 5 minutes of logging in, I watched in wonder as an opponent player walked around in thin air way above the action, raining down death with supreme accuracy. There is a hover ability, but that isn’t how it works. It was simply a hacker who broke the game and just stayed out of reasonable range.
My second game was just unbalanced by skill. I got a single kill the entire game, and I was still 4th on my team. Either the other team actually spoke to each other and kept organized, or my team simply sucked and without cover, any prayer I have of doing ok was gone. Still, despite these experiences, the game seems to be working and have a fanbase playing online, so assuming you can get some friends together, it could be a lot of fun.
Escalation, on the other hand, is just broken. While it is an adequate and even fun hoard mode, getting it to start is a royal pain in the ass… if the host leaves before the game starts, (and lets face it, hosts who don’t get their way tend to be asses in every game) this does not cause a new host to be picked, but causes the counter to continue past 0 and just keep counting into the negatives, never starting the game. Play this one with friends only!
Bugs: While I loved this game, I did find a few bugs that need to be brought up… some minor, some major, but all noticeable.
Shockwave: No one seems to understand what this is, but when you are at parts in the game where you do not have a weapon loaded, sometimes where the weapon would show up, the name “Shockwave” does. It’s little more then a mistake made in the UI as far as I can tell, but… it’s…. weird…
Prime Crashes the game: I manages to bring the game crashing to my Windows Desktop once while playing chapter 3 of the game. At this point, you are playing Optimus Prime and in a specific room, your gun goes away. This is not unusual, but it’s possible to reach the door you are supposed to pry open before the animation finishes. If you do so, the game does not know how to handle both at once. As a result, I saw what I thought was an artifact of red parts floating over his arm before the game kicked me out. I realized soon after, it was his gun folding into his arm, and giving him a chance to do that first prevented the issue from happening again.
Negative Counter: As described in the gameplay, it is entirely possible to try to play online and have your game never start. Instead, the timer to begin the match goes past 0 and continues to tick into the negatives, never actually starting. This is probably the biggest issue as it hinders the other half of the game from starting.
Overall: If you are a fan of Transformers and have already devoured War for Cybertron, you need this game. Plain and simple the campaign alone is worth the price of admission. If you haven’t played War for Cybertron, you probably should get and play that first, but why you waited so long is beyond me.
If you are not a fan of Transformers, the game still offers a lot, but I’m tempted to say to wait to pick it up. The original had completely broken multiplayer, but they made it up by a significant price drop ($60 for console, $30 for PC). This time around multiplayer works much better, but it’s still not up to snuff compared to other games available on the platform by any means, so the $60 price tag is a bit steep for non-fans. When it drops to $40 or something similar, gets better hacker protection, or just plain fixes up the multiplayer start-up bug, this title may be worth your money.