Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

High Moon Studio’s Dark of the Moon tie-in was far from being the best Transformers game ever, but neither was it the worst. Proving that all experience is good experience, when playing Fall of Cybertron it’s easy to get the impression that they have managed to learn a few things from it. Namely, putting a different Transformer in your control for each mission. This helps to keep interest levels up throughout, and it does it with style.

Just about every complaint aimed at 2010’s well received War of Cybertron has been fixed. The enemy AI in particular has been vastly improved while the visuals have had plenty of polish applied. The cut-scenes look spectacular, with each character model packed full of detail and the transformation animations equally as impressive.

You can tell that High Moon have a passion for the franchise – they’ve even given Jazz his breakdance-style transformation animation, while references to the ‘80s cartoon series are rife. Fans will be in their element.

The first level breaks you in gently, acting as tutorial with Bumblebee at your control. As soon as the second level you’re thrust into the metal boots of Optimus Prime who can summon airstrikes and command Metroplex – a colossal robot that towers over the Cybtertron landscapes. The following stealth level helps to provide a change of pace and then later you get to play through the story from the Decepticons’ perspective. Of the 12 levels on offer we only found one to be on the mediocre side – chapter eight is heavily focused on vehicular combat, and as a result feels less involving than the rest.

The story eventually builds up to a finale where several Transformers are playable, with each getting their chance to shine. That’s not before a mission involving Grimlock and his other dinobot pals. Grimlock is armed with a sword and shield and so his mission feels more like a hack and slasher than a shoot ’em up.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a mere kids’ game. Some sections are surprisingly tough such as those where you have to survive onslaughts until help arrives. If you don’t make good use of cover and the weapons around you, then you won’t last long at all. Megatron’s levels are the most challenging of all as by this point the Autobots are throwing everything they’ve got against him. Thankfully checkpoints are sensibly placed.

Each mission has secret areas and weapon blueprints to find too. The blueprints unlock new items at the Teletraan store which is where you can pick and choose weapons and also perks such as automated drones. To help build a sense of community every weapon and upgrade can be rated for other players to see. Although it’s a nice idea it’s not particularly useful – we didn’t see a single item in the shop rated less than 4/5 stars.

Chances are that you won’t find all weapons and autologs – which help to flesh out the backstory – on your first play, thus giving reason to return. Clocking in at a respectable seven or so hours the campaign mode isn’t on the short side to begin with anyway. The achievements also give incentive to return as each mission has an achievement linked to it, ranging from taking out five enemies with one airstrike to destroying all images and statues of Starscream during Megatron’s level.

The five online modes all share a theme – a sense of teamwork. There are no free for all modes to speak of but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Four character classes are available and as you level up, new items and improvements become available. The scientist starts with a heal beam and ends up with an attack drone, for instance. It’s a good idea to experiment with the four classes as they’re useful in their own ways. When playing Capture the Flag, the flag is instantly dropped if you transform so it’s a good idea to play as titan who can take a lot of damage while legging it back to your base.

Headhunter is a new edition to the online roster that’s similar to Call of Duty’s Kill Confirmed. The idea is to collect the sparks that the opposition drops and then return them to constantly changing areas on the map. This mode has a wealth of underlying tactics to exploit – you can wait at the drop-off zones to try and kill those heading back with their precious cargo, or because the amount of sparks a person is carrying is shown on the screen you could, if you wanted, set out to kill those carrying plentiful amounts only.

XP is generously handed out no matter what mode you’re playing (you even get extra XP for being the first to die in match) while the mere three second respawn period keeps battles flowing swiftly.

Then there’s the Escalation mode. This again is a co-operative affair with a focus here being on surviving 15 waves of enemies. You can play as various character from the Transformers universe, as opposed to playing only as custom-made characters for the other multi-player modes. Only four different characters are available – if you join a game late to the party, then your choice is going to be somewhat limited. This has been done for a reason though – if everybody was able to play as, let’s say, a character with the ability to heal others, then this mode would have been made far too easy. Energon gathered from defeated foes can be used to open up other areas on the map and also stock up on mines and other items. It’s a pretty good alternative to Gears of War’s Horde Mode.

Even though it was on the rusty side, Activision were apparently surprised at how well 2007’s Transformers movie tie-in sold. Now is the time to show the publisher how much greater genuinely decent games can sell, so that one day we may not have to have rubbish like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Men in Black: Alien Crisis and Battleship forced upon us.

High Moon Studio certainly has the touch.

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