Michael Bay had an opportunity to bring every 80’s and 90's child’s dreams to life with the Transformer film franchise and (perhaps controversially) I think he failed in delivering with any of the Transformers movies. With this in mind then, it is with great relief that we have Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.
Developed by High Moon Studios and published by Activision, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a third person shooter and direct sequel to the 2010 hit game Transformers: War of Cybertron. Not a great deal has changed in terms of gameplay, the controls are the same and jumping into the multiplayer matchmaking feels like catching up with an old friend, however we shall revisit this in more detail later.
The plot in Transformers: FOC focuses on the aftermath of the 2010 game. Cybertron is now unstable and the Transformers need to find a new world to inhabit and continue their life. For the player we know this means the Autobots are looking to make their way to Earth, as the opening chapter shows Optimus and the Autobots trying to make their way to their new salvation before being attacked by Megatron and the Decepticons.
From the first chapter, where the player controls fan favourite, Bumblebee, the game immerses the player into the fast paced, sci-fi world with great design in both the environments and character animations. As you move through the Autobot ship to stop the Decepticons you come to the gut punch ending of the first chapter and this then starts the game’s main story.
Compared to its 2010 predecessor, one area High Moon has improved upon is that Transformers: FOC has more structure in the way the story develops. The player starts as an Autobot, and at about chapter six the player’s perspective then shifts over to the Decepticons. This is handled perfectly with a great flow in both gameplay and cutscenes and doesn’t draw the player out of the story or gaming experience. A great element of this shift in factions, from Autobots to Decepticons, is that rather than replaying the story from a different point of view, the story crosses over with plot points we have already encountered and progresses the plot forward.
Using a three act structure, the greatest addition that High Moon has introduced into Transformers: FOC is the inclusion of the Dinobots. It was with immense happiness that I got to control the main man, Grimlock, leader of the Dinobots, when moving away from controlling the Decepticons at chapter ten. The remainder of this third act then sees you gather the Dinobots together, imprisoned by the Decepticons with the aim to help the Autobots before bringing you full circle back to the Autobot escape attempt we saw in chapter one.
The execution of the story and bridge between different factions of Transformers is dealt with brilliantly and the only negative in the campaign is that I could have continued playing it for hours and would have loved it to be fleshed out a little more (especially if I could have had more Dinobots).
The campaign offers three difficulty settings, easy, normal and hard. On normal the campaign shouldn’t take more than 7 hours, which is slightly disappointing. On hard, the difficulty isn’t that much more of a step up and with minimal patience offers little challenge. However to keep you interested, nearly every chapter is littered with collectibles, be it either audio logs (that give extra depth to the story) or blueprints for weapons.
Outside of the campaign the game offers 2 multiplayer options. Escalation is a horde / enemy wave mode that lets you team up with friends online to get to the end of a huge sea of enemies. It sounds great but feels more like a piece of content that High Moon have just carried over from the previous game, what with only 4 maps for players to compete in. Perhaps this may be rectified with DLC.
The other online mode is typical multiplayer fare offering PVP modes including Team Deathmatch (first team to 40 kills wins), Conquest (your typical, control points on map to win game), Capture the flag and Headhunter (a mode that rewards you for collecting the shards let behind by your kills).
The Multiplayer modes are varied and fun and the controls from the campaign work really well in this gameplay as well. The tactics of when to change from Robot and vehicle are much more important in the multpiplayer arena than in the single campaign as you are often stronger in vehicle form but perhaps a little slower in some cases.
Within the multiplayer mode, there are 4 different classes (Destroyer, Infiltrator, Scientist and Titan) and each have their own advantage and loadouts, which you can unlock and modify as you progress and build XP. The trick I found to gaining XP was to play the Conquest mode, because like many multiplayer games, this ultimately gave me the largest amount of XP in the shortest time.
The graphics of the game are solid and while they don’t push the Xbox to the limit, they work well, and as mentioned previously, High Moon seem to have hit the nail on the head with what the controls and animations of a Transformer game should be. The one great scene that impressed me was the map room, which I spent a while looking around and was impressed by some of the detail that went into it.
The music helps build on the graphics and keep the player immersed and is helped by the quality voice cast that High Moon have got involved with the game, including Peter Cullen who voices Optimus and reprises his role from the movies and television show Transformers Prime.
In closing, Transformers: FOC was the game my 10 year old self would have wanted to make and my now 28 year old self loves to play. There is no huge difference from its 2 year old predecessor, but there is a famous saying of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. The inclusion of Dinobots made me a very happy man, as well as seeing all your fan favourites such as the Destructicons, Starscream, Jazz, Bumblebee, Soundwave and my new favourite Metroplex.
This is a great shooter, perhaps the best we have had this year, so far, and it is definitely a game that is looking to be on my top 5 list of games for 2012. We have been lucky to have some great titles come out this year and we still have some exciting titles on the release schedule too, but don’t make an error and miss this gem. I really hope we get a third game in this series.