I wrote this for my IGN blog (http://www.ign.com/blogs/camultimate
) but I thought I'd post it here too. Hope you enjoy.
It is the year 2012. The treacherous Decepticons have nearly conquered the Autobot's home planet of Cybertron. But, from their last remaining stronghold of Iacon, the valiant Autobots prepare to seek the salvation of their race among the stars.
Thus begins High Moon Studios' Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, the sequel to their 2010 series starter Transformers: War for Cybertron, which has been widely touted as the best Transformers game to date. Happily, Fall of Cybertron improves on the foundation that War laid down in virtually every way, packing relentless action, variety of gameplay, and heaps of nostalgia into every moment of play.
Make no mistake: Fall of Cybertron is now THE BEST Transformers game. Ever. Bar none. Its Gears of War style 3rd person shooter gameplay continues to feel like the most natural choice for a Transformers game, but High Moon refused to sit on their laurels and churn out another paycheck game. Instead, Matt Tieger and company took it upon themselves to deliver a game that takes what worked in War and adds enough new angles to feel fresh. The environments are much more diverse than in War, with each having it's own unique visual style, from Iacon, to the Sea of Rust, to Kaon, to the exterior hull of the Ark.
Some will mourn the loss of War's co-op campaign option, and in these days of online gaming that choice could be seen as a step backward. However, what Fall gains is a tighter narrative, more variety of gameplay, and a deeper look into the personalities of some of our favorite Transformers. The final chapter, which I'll get to later, is as ambitious and unique as any level in any game I've ever played, and they pull it off flawlessly. Quite the tease, eh?
The game also brings back Escalation mode, or Horde mode from Gears of War, where you and up to 3 friends try to survive against 15 waves of enemies, using the credits you earn to unlock new weapons and areas of the map to battle in. Also back is the online multiplayer, inlcuding Team Deathmatch, Conquest, Capture the Flag, and Headhunter, where you must capture the sparks of players you kill and cap them at a spot that rotates around the map to score points.
Nostalgia is everywhere, from lines lifted right from the 1987 movie to revelations that fit perfectly with the G1 continuity. The GameStop pre-order bonus gives you a G1 Optimus Prime skin to use in Escalation and multiplayer, and a G1 Megatron in gun mode to use in the campaign, complete with classic Transformers laser sound. Word has it those items will be available in a future DLC. The day 1 DLC also included 5 more skins, including Wheeljack, Ultra Magnus, Perceptor, Zeta Prime, and Blast Off.
If you don't want to be spoiled, stop reading here and go play the game! The campaign is amazing, the online multiplayer and character customization is deep and fun, and the visuals and sounds are quite impressive. The loss of co-op campaign is far outweighed by the variety of gameplay delivered by tailoring each level to a specific character's style. Easily the best Transformers game ever, and one of the best games I've played in this console generation, right up there with Batman: Arkham Asylum. A Transformers masterpiece. 9/10
FROM HERE ON IS A MORE IN-DEPTH LOOK AT EACH LEVEL OF THE CAMPAIGN. SPOILER WARNING IS IN EFFECT.
As you progress through Fall's 13 campaign chapters, you get to play as many classic G1 characters, including Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Jazz, Grimlock, Jetfire, Megatron, Soundwave, Starscream, Vortex, Swindle, and Bruticus. Given the wildly different combat styles these characters would traditionally use, a bland, “robot with gun” shooting style, level after level, would get boring quick. So instead, each character has a level uniquely crafted to their personalities and combat styles.
Bumblebee's level, which serves as a tutorial and is the same level from the demo, is perhaps the most bland, as you fight through the corridors of the Ark as it is being attack by the Decepticons aboard their cruiser, the Nemesis. They again go with the silent, damaged voice box Bumblebee, which I never liked, but as the level is really just a prologue to the story, its forgivable.
Jumping back 6 Earth days earlier, you take control of Optimus Prime as he attempts to get the last remaining Autobots evacuated on the Ark as the Decepticons attack. When he eventually awakens a dormant Metroplex, you are able to call down devastating airstrikes on the Decepticon forces, while Metroplex lumbers along in the background. Optimus gets captured and presented to Megatron, but Metroplex intervenes and pummels Megatron to scrap. Starscream assumes command, and the Decepticons are allowed to retreat, as Metroplex must stay to guard the Ark. The sense of scale is impressive.
Discovering that Grimlock has abandoned his post, Optimus sends Cliffjumper and Jazz to find out why. Cliffjumper also discovers the Dinobot Sludge in stasis lock after an apparent escape attempt. Cliffjumper has the infiltrator's ability to cloak, and his level, an ancient Cybertronian tomb, is filled with small tunnels that he can traverse in alt mode to avoid detection. Cliff is characterized perfectly, as he prefers a big gun to all the sneaking, and you are more that welcome to use the cloak and tunnels to get into position to blast the 'Cons, or use his scripted execution moves. At one point, Jazz questions him, asking “You know you have a cloak, right?" Their buddy cop movie banter is excellent.
Switching to Jazz, you get to utilize his grappling hook, first seen in the original series episode “More Than Meets the Eye Part 2." Jazz can pull barriers down to create holes or bridges, and can grapple up to any ledge in range. Insecticon drones of varying types are the principal enemies, which make a nice change from wave after wave of generic Decepticons. Typical of Jazz and his penchant for the most dangerous missions, his level ends with him fighting off a horde of Insecticon drones while Cliffjumper works on a computer terminal, before having to transform and race out of the area before explosives go off. Their mission is a success, having found that Shockwave has discovered a secret reservoir of energon and a mysterious tower, along with a map room that shows an enigmatic, yet familiar watery planet. The Autobots move in to secure the energon to fuel the Ark.
Rejoining the Decepticons, Starscream orders the Combaticons to destoy a bridge that the Autobot energon transport will use, so Starscream's aerial armada can ambush it and steal the energon back. You control Vortex, the first chance for aerial combat. Again, the banter is excellent, this time between Vortex, Blast Off, and Brawl. The difficulty starts to increase at this point, and you must keep moving to avoid getting slagged. You fight the Titan class of enemy, which has lots of health and deploys repair drones that you must destroy before he can heal up. Along the way, you discover that the transport has massive anti-air defenses, but Starscream recklessly believes he can overcome them.
Jumping to Swindle, you are required to destroy the transport's wheels to immobilize it, while fighting off Autobot machine gun equipped vehicles, sticky grenade launching hover jets, and more Titans. Fortunately, there are enough weapons and ammo around to get the job done. After taking out the wheels, Swindle must grapple like Jazz along the outside of the transport to destroy the defenses. Before he can, Starscream admits defeat and retreats, but the Combaticons have worked to hard and risked too much to turn back. They defy Starscream, and merge into Bruticus. Controlling the big gestalt is immensely fun, as he can knock Autobots flying, roast them with his flamethrower, and shield bash them with Vortex's spinning rotor blades. You rarely have to worry about health unless you mess up, and can just focus on the pure joy of wanton destruction. The transport is stopped, but half the energon is destroyed in the process.
Back at Decepticon HQ, you jump into Soundwave for a mini level. You can interact with Laserbeak and Rumble, but the primary purpose is to rebuild Megatron after his beat down by Metroplex. With this done, you control Megatron. You walk through HQ and emerge at, surprise surprise, Starscream's coronation. More nostalgia ensues, as Starscream yells “Who disrupts my coronation?!?" to which Megatron responds (all together now) “Coronation, Starscream? This is bad comedy." Megatron blasts him, then destroys the rogue Decepticons. Looking for a new source of power, he discovers the Autobots have the remains of Trypticon, who was destroyed in War for Cybertron. Megatron attacks the facility and, together with Soundwave, partially reactivates and then permanently reformats Trypticon into the Nemesis, telling Trypticon “This is not a rescue mission. You failed to defeat the Autobots. You failed me." Very cool twist there.
Moving on, we find that Starscream is not dead, and is intent on discovering what Shockwave was up to with that tower. Its a brief aerial level that is mostly there to show that Starscream lives and to move the story along to the level you've been waiting for: Grimlock
Grimlock and the Dinobots had deserted their post because they discovered Shockwave's activites with the energon reservoir and the tower, but were captured and experimented upon. Shockwave had studied the primitive world seen in the map room, and had reformatted Grimlock and company into forms resembling the life forms there, while also rerouting nearly all the energy previously used for Grimlock's cognitive processes into his combat systems, increasing them 10 times but leaving his speech dulled and his transformation locked in robot mode. Shockwave intends to use the knowledge he gained to create a cannon that would give him firepower to equal Megatron.
Grimlock proves more than Shockwave bargained for, and escapes. His melee focused combat is completely different from anything seen yet in Fall or in War, and plays like a Dynasty Warriors style button masher, with Grimlock performing a sword combo. As he rescues the other Dinobots, Swoop, Slug (Slag)and Snarl, and defeats the 3 principal Insecticons, Sharpshot (Shrapnel), Hardshell (Bombshell), and Kickback, Grimlock discovers that his rage can trigger his transformation. This meter fills up as you kill enemies, and when he transformers, his flamethrower and melee attacks are nigh unstoppable. It is incredibly fun and a great change of pace from all the shooting.
Grimlock eventually tracks down Shockwave to a replica of the tower he has built and activated, which has opened a wormhole near Cybertron that leads to prehistoric Earth. Despite orders from Optimus Prime to return to Iacon, Grimlock attacks, as of course he must. Shockwave nearly traps him, but Grimlock overpowers the restraints by transforming, and bites Shockwave's arm off before destroying the tower. This destabilizes the wormhole, and leaves the fate of the Dinobots and Shockwave a mystery.
Returning to the Ark, the Autobots decide they must reach the wormhole first, but do not have the energon reserves to launch the Ark. Metroplex sacrifices his energon and spark to power the Ark, and they blast off. The Decepticons pursue in the Nemesis, and attack as they near the wormhole. This level is quite possibly the most ambitiously designed level I've ever seen. You start as Soundwave, riding the grappling cables the Nemesis fires at the Ark, and engage in some corridor combat. Then you shift to Jetfire outside in space, who must destroy the cables to free the Ark. After destroying 3 cables, Jetfire narrowly avoids Bruticus as he leaps across and lands on the Ark. You take control of Bruticus, who care a path to the engines and destroy them.
Upon doing this, you shift to Jazz, who is tasked with stopping Bruticus with aerial support from Jetfire. Jazz can damage Bruticus and then use his grappling gun to trip Bruticus up, then Jetfire can hit him with an airstrike. After neutralizing Bruticus, you jump back to where the Bumblebee tutorial chapter left off, and can choose to fight as Optimus or Megatron. The fight is brutal and epic, with explosions going off around you and the wormhole lurking ahead. After winning the fight, the cutscene shows whichever leader you chose about to kill the other, but a massive explosion knocks the loser off into space and both the Ark and Nemesis tumble into the wormhole just before it closes. All in one level.
Suffice it to say, it was incredible. Mind blowing. Jaw dropping. Some other euphemism for amazing. I have never seen anything like it, and that it was done in a Transformers game is even better. I literally had to sit back for about half an hour and absorb it. Flawlessly done, High Moon Studios.