Review – Transformers: Fall of Cybertron (PS3/PC/360)

Cybertron is dying, what remains of the Autobots seeks escape to search for greener pastures, so to speak. The Decepticons blame them for Cybertron’s current state but yet seek to restore Cybertron… this is how matters stand in Fall of Cybertron. While not a direct sequel to War for Cybertron, this game is treated as a sort of spiritual successor, hoping to take the heart of War for Cybertron and push the story forward – which means expectations are high as War for Cybertron was fantastic. For you Transformers fans out there, this story is supposed to tell what led to them first coming to Earth and is a telling of the final days of the Cybertron war and the building of the Ark.

More Than Meets The Eye

Not just shades of gray…
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is more than just the grey and silver you’d expect from a world of machines… there are many vivid hues and colours that can be found, most notably on the Transformers themselves. While the graphics are not top of the line, the art style more than makes up for that. That distinctive Transformers art style just works and defies whatever graphical inadequacies or limitations that may exist. While there are some framerate issues and some graphical inconsistencies, they just don’t seem to matter all that much.

“That man could read a menu and I’d be enthralled”
Of course, now we’re onto the audio portion of this review. And the heading could only be referring to Peter Cullen – it’s a quote from someone who is involved with Ai-Kon. But aside from Optimus sounding just like we always want him to, all of the voicework is well-cast and suitable. If there’s one place that I have nothing bad I can say, it’s the voicework. Everyone sounds just like you’d hope and want them to. It’s fantastic.

Of course, audio quality is more than just voicework… but what can I say? Fall of Cybertron’s soundtrack is just as good, and the sound effects are just what you always expect out of a Transformers title. There’s little negative to say, except that some of the weapons just don’t quite sound right. They don’t sound bad or grating… but they just don’t quite feel right to listen to.

RIP Humour – FoC Never Knew Thee
While the story of Fall of Cybertron isn’t inherently bad. It has some decent writing, and the plot itself has a nice dark tone to it… the humour made it almost unbearable at parts. Bad puns, trite one-liners, you name it. It’s like they took all the worst puns from ~30 years of Transformers shows, spinoffs, movies, and games and combined them all into one relatively short story. If you have the constitution to ignore the puns, the story is actually relatively good.The unfortunate part is that it is very hard to see past the sheer quantity of bad humour to get to the good stuff.

Roll Out

Tires, Treads, or Toes

Regardless of which you use, the controls feel very appropriate. Movement in vehicle forms feels just like you’d want with the cars having a light touch and semi-realistic turning, the more tank-like vehicles feeling a bit more steady and stable, and the robot forms all having that sense of weight that you want when you’re playing as a giant robot. Let’s be honest, would you really want Optimus to handle like, say, Bayonetta? I don’t really think you would – and I know I don’t. I’m very glad they decided to maintain that slight bit of unresponsiveness that comes from the sheer weight of what you’re controlling. The planes can be a bit annoying to handle, but that might just be that I’m not good at 3-axis steering. Never really can get used to it, caused me tons of problems in the starhawk campaign earlier this year. But the dogfighting is much more ‘noob-friendly’ here than aerial combat usually is, which was nice. They also made some minor improvements to the accuracy of aiming, making me happy since I’m pretty mediocre at shooters and I love responsive controls! Probably the only really awkward part of the control scheme is the lack of a cover system. While I can understand giant robots not taking cover… you are the only one who is unable to take cover. Every ally and enemy does it, except the really huge ones like Metroplex – which makes sense, it’s hard to find cover when you’re larger than any of the buildings around you.

Lifting the Burden of Choice

This is probably my biggest problem with Fall of Cybertron as opposed to it’s predecessor War for Cybertron… choice. And I don’t mean choice as far as control of the story or the world goes. It’s a linear story driven action shooter – that’s what I expected. I mean choice in combat aspects. The only choice you have is which specific weapons you are using at this moment, and which upgrades you choose to buy… but since you can buy the majority of the upgrades for your character, as well as all the upgrades for any 3-4 weapons you want to, over a single playthrough, it leaves you feeling as though you don’t have many options. In addition to that, each character only has one special ability. In the single player, these are completely predetermined. This is a huge disappointment as it just makes the single player somewhat stale. Even worse is that you have two weapon slots, and they’re restricted to 1 heavy and 1 normal weapon. This just limits the number of possible styles people can choose from.

Unsatisfying Challenge

I’m not going to say this game is too hard. It’s really not, it is actually overall pretty easy. It just has a few really awkward design elements that make the difficulty somewhat unpredictable. This is one of the first games I’ve ever not completed on hard. I started on hard, but the difficulty wasn’t satisfying so I lowered it. The game was far more fun on the lower difficulty, and I’m normally the type of masochistic player who will prefer to beat my head against a wall staying on a higher difficulty rather than lowering from hard to normal – the challenge is exhilarating. Or it normally is. Fall of Cybertron on hard was just full of strange difficulty spikes. There were times when I couldn’t believe I was on hard and other times when I was dead without even realizing I was in danger.

Robots Have Friends Too

Capture, Kill, or Protect

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a third person shooter starring giant robots that can turn into vehicles – but from it’s multiplayer game modes you wouldn’t really know it. We prettymuch just get the standard staples of shooters. There are one or two variants on the staples, but for the most part everything is just par for the course. With such a unique game element, having some multiplayer modes that really played on that would have been a great idea. But that being said, for a game that is predominately a story game, having even the standard multiplayer is a good plus.

The Choice is Yours… Not!

In Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, the theme seems to be a lack of choice. In the multiplayer, you don’t really get much of it. You can choose which class you want from among 4 distinct classes, and yes – they are very distinct. Their arsenal and abilities are drastically different… but you really don’t have any choice when you first start in the multiplayer beyond what class you want to play… you have no choice of weapons or special abilities. And, what’s worse, there is no option when you first start playing to be a sniper. In fact, if you want to be a sniper, you prettymuch have to unlock everything – as the sniper rifle is the last weapon choice you get. Admittedly, leveling is fairly quick, but it’s still frustrating just how few options there are. You start with two weapons per class, and you gradually unlock 2 more per class. You get only one special ability to start, and you can unlock a couple of pretty bland ways to customize it… and then you unlock a second special ability. There are only the two per class. This is absurd. Four weapons and two special abilities?

Now, it’s not all bad on the choice front. There are a ton of skins and graphical options available to you. And some of them are pretty cool – who doesn’t want to play as a dinobot afterall? Unlocking these is fun, as you have to accumulate points by playing that can be spent on the skins you want. That gives an element of choice and an element of encouragement to actually play more… but unfortunately customization is more important in combat options than in appearance. Appearance is what you play with after you’ve gotten addicted to the combat and to the gameplay – and I just never was able to get hooked despite how much I was looking forward to it.

Overall

Fall of Cybertron had big shoes to fill with how much fun War for Cybertron was, which might have made me a little more harsh on it than I would otherwise have been. That being said, the flaws with this game are all fairly significant ones that I can’t see myself overlooking in any game, even a completely new IP. It also feels really strange to see a sequel take this many steps backwards in terms of design from the original. All told, I did enjoy my time with Fall of Cybertron, but did it live up to my hopes? Not at all. Not even close, unfortunately.

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