For transparency’s sake, I’ll admit I never actually played Transformers: Fall of Cybertron when it was originally released on Xbox 360. I think I always meant to, seeing as the first game was as good as it was, but other things got in the way and in the end the Fall of Cybertron just got forgotten about. Well thank god it’s been brought to Xbox One.
Transformers: War for Cybertron told the tale of Optimus Prime and the Autobots as they fought the evil Deceptions in a bid to free their homeworld. Fall of Cybertron is a direct continuation of that story, as Optimus and the Autobots attempt to leave Cybertron in a bid to start a new life elsewhere. Right off the bat, the story in this game is absolutely freaking amazing. Literally within the first 10 minutes of the game, I was hooked and couldn’t put my controller down. Add into the mix a tidy and competitive multiplayer, plus a “firefight” mode and Transformers: Fall of Cybertron might just be one of the best Transformers games I’ve played.
**FYI SPOILERS AHEAD**
Let’s jump straight into just how good this story is, because it seriously blew me away at points. The game starts with Optimus and the Autobots aboard the Ark, attempting to flee their dying homeworld of Cybertron. It’s not long before they are assailed by the Decepticons as Megatron attempts to stop the Autobots (doesn’t he always?). The climax of the beginning mission is when Bumblebee sacrifices himself for Optimus Prime as Megatron is about to deliver a killing blow…you read that right? THEY KILL BUMBLEBEE IN THE FIRST 10 MINUTES OF THE GAME! To me, Bumblebee was always a pivotal character to the Transformers universe and yet here he meets his maker inside the very first mission. I was truly taken aback (and a little tearful) with the aggressiveness of the storytelling, but I loved it all the same. Que a cut to black and then, “Six days earlier”, basically informing the player that they will be experiencing the events leading up to what we just witnessed in the opening mission. I have to say a LOT happens in just 6 days. The story is so jampacked in this game, and yet it doesn’t feel like any character is particularly skipped over; everyone has their part to play in this game.
One thing High Moon Studios absolutely nailed with Fall of Cybertron, is the scope of what they were trying to do. What I mean by this, is that this is without a doubt a Transformers story. Michael Bay has proved that not everyone gets the Transformers, and yet High Moon Studios deliver an absolutely stunning tale full of despair and desperation. My time spent with the Autobots genuinely felt like the world was ending and I was hopelessly outgunned, whereas when I played as the Decepticons I felt empirical and empowered knowing that I was winning the war for the planet. It’s a strange sensation, and the mark of a truly well-constructed game. Everything from the dynamic and innovative gameplay, which is similar to how it was in War for Cybertron except for a few tweaks, to the powerful and emotive soundtrack, and especially the amazing voice acting in the game, couple together to create a truly epic experience for me as the player.
Like I mentioned, much of the gameplay is similar to how it was when I played the 360 version of War for Cybertron, except there are more upgrades you can make to your character and weapons. The one thing that will never not be cool however, is the simple way you can transform between your vehicular or robot-self. It doesn’t matter how many times I did it, I always felt myself grinning slightly at the unmistakable noise of Optimus Prime rolling out. For a third-person shooter, this game holds up very well with my only slight gripe coming from the fact it was sometimes difficult to shoot from cover given your massive size. The ability to switch which arm your weapon was on helped in some instances, but not all. The game runs smoothly and I barely noticed any dropped/jarred frames, however I did notice that not every texture in the game translated so well from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One. But I suppose that’s to be expected. On the whole this game looks very good, and at times I was genuinely surprised at the size of some of the single player maps.
One thing that impressed me was the sheer amount of Transformers that were included. By this I don’t just mean the nameless grunts you run past while in the middle of a firefight, but the actual big name bots which fans will recall from the series. The world renown characters like Bumblebee and Starscream were obviously included, but I liked that characters such as Bruticus (and the rest of the Combaticons) and Metroplex were given a chance to shine. Which leads me onto the inclusion of one of my favourite factions of Transformer…ever: Dinobots! Yes, the Dinobots are given their very own origins subplot in this game, which eventually ties in with the main story as Grimlock and his crew attempt to close the space portal to prevent Megatron from pillaging other worlds. I was always a sucker for Dinobots when I was a kid, and they receive some brilliant fan service here as Gregg Berger (the original voice of Grimlock) returns to voice the leader of the Dinobots. In a very short space of time, Grimlock is unbelievably well established with his intolerance of Decepticons, his hot-headed attitude and even his contemptuous nature towards Optimus Prime. Grimlock is being used as my example, but all of the cast are meticulously well represented.
If there was one thing I had to take issue with – and I gave this a lot of thought – it would have to be the pacing of the entire thing. 95% of the time it is bang on the money and couldn’t be improved, yet I get the distinct impression that certain parts of the story were cut out, maybe to deal with time constraints, but this leaves slight jumps or gaps in the story. You can easily fill the gaps in, but at the same time it is a little jarring from going straight from discovering a lake full of Energon to immediately having the Autobots transporting said lakes’ contents across the city. While this is only a very minor issue in the grand scheme of things, I feel this does slightly hurt the pacing of the game, especially since the entire timeline for this story is just six days. That, and the fact that the fate of so many beloved characters are left unresolved.
I already mentioned what happens to Bumblebee at the beginning of the game, however throughout the course of my playthrough there were so many moments where I was lead to believe that a major character had been killed (off screen) but never received any confirmation. Most notably is the fate of Ironhide and the Dinobots. You last see Ironhide as he is trying to defend the Ark from an entire invasion force of Decepticons, Ironhide is talking to Optimus Prime over their internal radio’s before he stops mid-sentence and then screams are heard. What happens to Ironhide? Is he dead? Did he survive? You never find out. Same thing happens with the Dinobots. No sooner are they introduced and they play their part in destroying Shockwaves space portal, are their fates left in the balance as they are presumed dead from the resulting explosion. For someone who craves closure in games, it’s quite frustrating.
The real surprise in this game however, comes from its multiplayer. When I saw that Fall of Cybertron did indeed feature a multiplayer mode (despite scrapping the coop campaign featured in the first game), I feared that either the story would be lacking, since more effort would be given to the multiplayer, or the multiplayer would be lacklustre since more effort went into the story. It seems to be a trend in games recently. Happily, I can report I was wrong on both counts. Not only does Transformers: Fall of Cybertron feature a brilliant solo campaign, but the multiplayer is diverse, challenging and above all else: FUN. It doesn’t just feature the bog-standard “team-deathmatch” mode, but to my surprise there is a rather varied amount of modes you can choose from. Capture-the-flag, Conquest and Headhunter are all playable modes on this game and each are as fun to play as the last. Conquest has an especially unique dynamic to it, as the different types of Transformer mean that getting around the map at speed can be a doddle. There is also a phenomenal amount of customisation in this game.
There are four types of loadouts to choose from when starting a multiplayer game: Infiltrator, Destroyer, Titan and Scientist. Each has a unique setup which grants boosts and advantages, however you can customise each and every loadout to look exactly like the Transformer you want. There are literally thousands of options to choose from and I definitely think the manner in which you can customise your appearance helps create a connection for the player when they’re playing online. Currently my favourite loadout is Scientist, as his vehicle-form is Starscream’s jet.
So not only does Transformers boast an absolutely brilliant campaign and a pretty captivating multiplayer, it also has another little gem hidden up its sleeve. Escalation is at its core the “firefight” of the Transformers universe and it perfectly rounds off a truly solid game in my opinion. Basically, the aim of Escalation is to survive 15 rounds of increasingly difficult AI enemies, either alone or with friends (pro tip: do it with friends). There are multiple maps to play on, each boasting its own unique roster of characters to choose from and each with a variety of difficulty levels to choose from. Honestly, Escalation is just another fantastic addition to this brilliant Transformers game as it drives home that “Autobots V Decepticons” ongoing battle which the entire franchise is about. Tactics are a must between your group, as the only way to really excel in this game mode is to be savvy with your credits and try and lay as many ‘traps’ as you can for the oncoming enemies. It is fun – plain and simple – but it definitely brings up fond memories of times you and your friends used to huddle around an impossibly small screen to play Firefight on Halo 3:ODST.
All in all, I had an absolute blast playing Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. High Moon Studios gives you a Transformers game which is true to the source material (as much as it can be) and yet original in its own right. The scope and scale of the story, coupled with the dramatics of the soundtrack and the connection between characters makes this game one of the best Transformers stories told in years. Gameplay is fluid yet challenging enough to keep you coming back and laying the smackdown on the Insecticons as transformed Grimlock will be a moment I long remember. The multiplayer is a lot more extensive and thorough than I would’ve given it credit had I not played it, and the level of customisation makes Transformers’ multiplayer one I could easily sink many days into it.