Playing with Transformers toys was a big part of my childhood. I don’t know what generation mine were, but turning Megatron into a space shuttle and Optimus Prime into a semi was great. It got me interested in figuring out how things work. They were fun to play with from an engineering perspective, and they were fun to play with in conjunction with G.I. Joes, Centurions and Ghostbusters. My house was home to some great mash-ups between my brother’s and my differing tastes. As I grew up, Transformers became less prevalent and I forgot about them. Then Michael Bay started making movies, and they came back into popular culture prominence. Thank goodness he did because, while the movies aren’t great, some of the games that have come to fruition as a result are.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron combines the best elements from two of High Moon Studios’ previous Transformers games, Dark of the Moon and War for Cybertron. From Dark of the Moon, it inherits a combined campaign and in-between transformations. It’s now possible to fire weapons while in vehicle mode but move slowly, or hold the left trigger to complete the transformation into vehicle mode and move at full speed. It also continues the story from War for Cybertron instead of following the plot of one of the films. The advantage here is that you’re playing content custom-created for a game, instead of movie content that’s been retrofitted to make sense in that context.
Fall of Cybertron succeeds on many fronts. First, the gameplay variety is fantastic. The plot weaves between Autobots and Decepticons in one unified adventure, instead of forcing you to learn the ropes twice. There is one campaign, on tutorial and one difficulty ramp, and Fall is a much tighter experience that War because of it. Every Transformer has a unique play style, and swapping out each chapter keeps everything feeling fresh throughout. You’ll go from sneaking through areas and performing silent takedowns as Cliffjumper to flying for the high ground as Vortex, and the level design manages to make both feel useful and organic.
The combat feels good, and the weapon variety gives each encounter the potential to play out very differently between players. All of the standards are present and accounted for, so if you prefer to get in close and personal with a shotgun instead of fighting from mid-range with an SMG, then the Teletran-1 store has you covered. There are also a good variety of heavy weapons available, from rocket launchers to toxic slime throwers to homing mines. Each Transformer can carry one of each at a time, and being forced to make choices and prioritize between weapon types makes combat feel hectic, even though you’re in control of a hulking, sentient tank.
One major concession that doesn’t make sense from a story perspective, but is absolutely wonderful from a gameplay perspective, is that weapon upgrades and unlocks are present for all Transformers regardless of faction. If you upgrade the assault rifle as Jazz, Vortex can use that upgrade in his campaign level, and when Vortex buys the blueprints for a new heavy weapon, Optimus Prime can use that when control comes back to the Autobot side. Perks also transfer to the current player character regardless of faction, and I have to recommend the health and ammo top-off perks right off the bat. It’s great to see a Teletran-1 and know that your salvation is only a few footsteps away, because it’s full of energon and ammo at no charge.
Both competitive and cooperative multiplayer return in Fall of Cybertron. In Escalation (similar to Horde mode from Gears of War 3 and the multiplayer component of Mass Effect 3), players are able to use characters from the campaign to fend of harder and harder waves of enemies. In competitive multiplayer, generic Transformers can be customized by the player, with hundreds of parts that are earned through skillful play, bought from the multilayer marketplace or both. Each mode is full of polish and fun to play. On top of featuring a fun campaign with great level design and gameplay variety, the multiplayer gives Fall of Cybertron the legs it needs to keep players from trading it away after the credits roll.
Pros: Interesting campaign, great level design, varied gameplay elements
Cons: None really, Fall of Cybertron is great solo and in multiplayer