High Moon Studios' Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, the sequel to the criminally underplayed War for Cybertron, was a game that I had forgotten was even coming. The first was good but not great and the multiplayer community was loyal but small so it didn't last long with me. I knew there was a sequel coming but wasn't very aware of any details. So when I saw it advertised I had to have it and I'm glad to say that I'm not disappointed. The game takes all of War's positive aspects and improves them, with a more focused story, better production values, a more cinematic feel and better multiplayer than its predecessor. The only thing that is worse in this one is the sad exclusion of a co-op mode for the campaign that the first game had.
The campaign is divided into thirteen chapters and you take the role of an assigned Transformer for each one, this gives a sense of focus to the story that the first game lacked. By being given no choice in the selection of your Transformer you are forced into their character and the story becomes more character based and therefore more enjoyable and deep. This really gives the sense that the story matters, the game is cinematic in terms of its story, there are plenty of fights and room to room linear progression but these are punctuated by dramatic, large-scale set pieces which give the game a very Hollywood feel and compliment the epic story. I mean Hollywood in a good way by the way, it doesn't seem like your typical licensed game, it's not like the tie-ins with the Michael Bay films, this is a damn good game, as was its predecessor.
Though this new found focus is a welcome improvement and does improve the story and the impact of its numerous set pieces it does come at a cost. The single player campaign is incredibly linear, you are given the opportunity to transform whenever you want to but most of the time it doesn't really matter because you are funnelled along a predetermined path, there's not much room for tactical transformation because there aren't numerous approaches to fights. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a crippling blow, linear games don't have to be bad and this one is very good but it would be even better if the fights were as open and diverse as the fights from a game like Crysis 2.
Gameplay wise the combat is tight, the consoles are responsive and smooth and gunning someone down or smashing them up close feel great. The vehicles can sometimes be hard to handle, mainly because at such speeds the controls aren't as responsive as they are on foot but this is only a minor complaint because precision isn't always necessary when driving around.
The campaign is fairly lengthy, taking ten to twelve hours for a satisfying run through and it's well paced, there aren't really any dull moments even with the linearity that the campaign has. Outside of the campaign there is Escalation, the fantastically enjoyable Transformers version of Horde mode where you fight off waves of increasingly strong foes with a group of friends. It can't be played for hours on end but it is great fun in smaller doses. Apart from that there's also the multiplayer mode, which features fairly standard modes like Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag but keeps them fresh with the sheer enjoyment of playing as your own customisable Transformer. The customisation is varied and definitely appeals to Transformers nerds, it makes levelling up much more rewarding because it offers far more than just a shiny new gun.
The combat in the multiplayer is great, the levels are all well designed and fairly sized and, unlike in the single player, they encourage experimentation with tactics and a well thought out balance between your vehicle and on foot forms is the key to survival, well that and team work.
The only thing missing really is the co-op from the first one, blasting through the campaign with a friend would be great fun. In High Moon's defence you can easily understand its exclusion, it really would mess up their new found focus on character and story because it would take attention away from your character and his story. Still though, co-op is fun and it is missed.
In terms of graphics the game is a treat, it's not as mind blowing as something like Uncharted 3 but the environments are vast and detailed and the Transformers are all distinctive and detailed. The animation is also a real treat, the characters move quickly and fluidly and combat is a blast because of how smoothly the fighting flows. The sound compliments this graphical quality perfectly, the soundtrack is epic and matches the tone of the game and the voice acting and script is superb. It all adds up to a very high production value and a really cinematic experience. That being said, it isn't all perfect. Sometimes when you change area, or even when you are just in a fight, the game will freeze to load. This looks bad because it breaks up the otherwise smooth flow of the action, it also severely interrupts the gameplay by forcing you to stop what you are doing and wait for the game to be ready for you to continue, it isn't game breaking because it doesn't happen too often but it really is annoying when it does happen.
With Fall of Cybertron High Moon have proven yet again that licensed games can succeed. The story is interesting, the campaign is fun and the competitive as well as co-operative multiplayer modes ensure that it will have longevity, more than enough to tide you over until the winter rush of big blockbuster games. The multiplayer will never gain a community to rival the Call of Dutys or Battlefields of the gaming world but it will allow a loyal and dedicated fan base to thrive. I just hope it's a bigger one than the last game had.
This game does have its flaws and it is far from perfect but it is still a great game and is really enjoyable, Transformers fan or not there is something for you to enjoy here. This game deserves to be successful and I look forward to seeing what else High Moon Studios can achieve with this license.
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