Theres an inherent simple pleasure in Transformers games. The ability to switch up the fight from a heated footbattle to a breakneck aerial dogfight at the click of a button, in addition the fact that everything around you is so massive in scale, brings out the happy kid in me who always wanted to play a game in such a world. That became possible about two years ago with the release of Transformers: War for Cybertron, which became a bit of a sleeper hit. Fast foward to present day and its sequel, Fall of Cybertron, is released to higher fanfare and an expecting audience. But does it do enough to stand tall right in the path of a game season full of major AAA titles that threaten its chances at success?
The campaign of the story picks up in media res with the Autobots seeking to flee aboard the Ark, their last ship and last hope to escape the overwhelming forces of the Decepticons. Over the course of the campaign you will take control of numerous Transformers, from the enormous Bruticus to the stealthy Cliffjumper. Each has their own special ability to make them feel unique, but overall the characters all control the same. That is, except for each of their vehicle forms, which range from tanks to jets to even a T-Rex. The story may be throwaway for many gamers, but for true Transformers fans this new section of accepted canon to the long history of the franchise may well stand as the best piece of Transformers fiction in years (yes, including the Michael Bay films).
Right away one can notice the game has had quite a visual overhaul and looks great, making great use of the Unreal 3 engine. The mechanical world is both ravaged by war and grinding away with pure power, often playing the centerpiece of the game. More than once will the game world transform dramatically before your eyes, and the animations during such sections are impressive to say the least. Most of the transformations happen in the blink of an eye, but the way in which they are animated is surprisingly convincing. I did have a few clipping issues and broke the game on more than one occasion. In once case I found out that in jet form I could literally fly through any wall I wanted in a portion of the level, allowing me to fly high above my current section and see the path of the game literally built out before me. Also, during one multiplayer match, I rammed another character in vehicle mode and was forced below the floor of the level, dying seconds later and giving my opponent the kill. These are more funny memories than a complaint, but it concernes me that many players may be finding other, more gamebreaking bugs in the near future.
The audio work in the game is nothing short of fantastic. Every gun has a unique ping or thump to it, the music fits well throughout (even if it's not particularly memorable, except for ONE very specific song), and that classic "transform" sound has never been beter. Most importantly, the voice cast for the game has done a fantastic job with their characters, tetering that edge between nostalgic and campy that is so difficult but so appreciated. Peter Cullen returns as Optimus Prime, and while many of his lines may come across as a bit deadpan, theres no other man for the job. If you plan on picking up the game, just wait until Prime says "Justice", you'll know what I mean when you hear it. Starscream, Jetfire and Megatron stick out amongst the cast as well, each with a very strong presence thanks to their outstanding voiceovers. Put on a proper pair of headphones when playing this game and turn up the bass, you'll thank me for it later.
You'll be spending most of the game in bipedal form, so you'll be happy to know that the shooting mechanics are just as good if not better in Fall than they were in War. The variety of weapons to choose from DOES add to the overall gameplay, but the enemy types are a bit limited and the weapons are also a bit unbalanced (Megatron's cannon is freakishly good). Vehicle sections could have been more prevalent as well, but whats there is pretty fun - again, no huge leaps or bounds over the predecessor, but well polished and very functional. There are also a small handful of levels where you'll play as a truly massive Transformer wrecking your way through enemies, and while these parts were fun they were by far the clunkiest and the most difficult to control. Its a 3rd person shooter with a transformation gimmic, which might put some off from wanting to play the game, but the gameplay that is there is very very solid, if familiar.
The multiplayer may not feel all that new to anyone, but I can't deny that it is by far the best part of the game. Full scale Transformers battles are what this series is all about, and sometimes the fights online can become a real white-knuckle ordeal. You have four classes to choose from, each with their own weapons, perks and transformations, so battles can be quite varied. Sometimes, you'll round a corner to see three enormous Titans waiting to be assassinated. Other times a group of jets can come screaming down the center of the level, raining down destruction from the sky. Each match can move at a very different pace, and its a bit addicting to level up each of the classes to see just how good they can get. If theres one thing this series has done exceptionally well on with both of its installments, its the multiplayer.
This game, really, is aimed straight at Transformers fans. Theres no other goal in the game but to please them, and pleased they will be. Its a solid shooter with fantastic visuals, but the gameplay is best described as "been there, done that", especially in the shadow of its predecessor. It may not stand tall as one of the champion games of 2012, but this is a title High Moon Studios can be proud of. I'm only a mild fan of the Transformers mythos and had a great time being able to play my way through the (albeit pretty brief) campaign and then take the fight online. If you weren't considering getting this game already before it came out, chances are what it does won't be able to sway you over - At its core, it is pretty basic. That doesn't mean it isn't fun though.
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