2010's War For Cybertron was an eye-opener for many. It was this generation's first Transformers game that was actually good. After a slew of Michael Bay-inspired crapfests, it was nice to see a game sticking true to the premise of giant robots beating the living daylights out of each other without any whining from Shia LaBeouf or distractions from Megan Fox (or the stick insect who replaced her in the last movie). But we digress…
What makes Fall of Cybertron such a joy to play is its insistence to sticking with what made War For Cybertron a fun jaunt through the Transformers' home planet. The controls remain untouched; you click on the left analogue stick to transform into a jet or car and you click on the right analogue stick to melee your opponents. Unlike most, if not all other third-person shooters, there is
no specific button to hide behind cover. After all, being a bad-ass robot ensures you don't need to.
Sticky bomb on the back. That should do the trick
Our preview took us through two diverse missions. First up, we played as the iconic Bumblebee, trying to help his fellow Autobots stave off an attack from the Decepticons as they're trying to leave Cybertron. While the core controls remained the same, transforming from robot to vehicle mode never gets boring; the animations are smooth and feel very fluid. The driving could be a bit tighter, but there's little else that's wrong with it. Shooting down similarly-sized (or sometimes bigger) enemies felt satisfying and movement felt a tad less clunkier than the last game. In addition, the sense of scale of the battle was realised well. In spite of being a death-dealing robot, you still feel like you're a small part of a colossal war effort. There were a few great set-pieces as well as a lot of NPC chatter. At times, we felt we were playing a Call of Duty campaign, but with robots, which is never a bad thing.
The second mission had us playing as Vortex, a Decepticon that can transform into a helicopter. This level has you chasing down a shipment of energon (the major source of energy for all Transformers). Flying felt slow unless the boost button was held down, but the sense of verticality and scale as we flew over ancient Cybertronian routes was immense. Be it evading traps or gunning down resistance, the controls felt snappy and responsive. This obviously holds true when we transformed into robot-mode as well. It was less set-piece heavy than the Autobot mission and showed off some of the AI, which is surprisingly competent even on normal difficulty.
My, what big sword do you have!
While both Autobot and Decepticon missions ended in cliffhangers, both had their share of jokes. From a jibe at Bumblebee's lack of voice to series staple Starscream's buffoonery at trying to lord over other Decepticons, there was a lot for longtime fans to chuckle over. In addition, the characters themselves had more in common with the series' first generation of cartoons than with
Michael Bay's creations, which is always a good thing.
Aside from that, there's multiplayer as well, which allows you to create your own Transformer. Some options were unavailable in the demo, but you can customise a few of the regular classes to your liking. As was the case in the last game, you have four classes to choose from: Scientist, which lets you heal your allies; Infiltrator, which lets you be invisible for a spell; Destroyer, a slow-moving, heavy class that lets you deal insurmountable damage and Titan, which is the robot equivalent of a soldier class with all-round proficiency.
Kills and assists help you gain experience, which lets you customise your character further and use new weapons and abilities. Though the trial version had only the basic team deathmatch and conquest modes, the full game promises a lot more, including Escalation – the series' take on the popular cooperative horde mode. Regardless of the game mode, the net code holds up well even in the biggest of firefights on a paltry 512 Kbps connection.
Though the multiplayer mode seems quite meaty on paper, our only concern is that it might be little more than your humdrum, nameless shooter. There doesn't appear to be anything that stands out, except the transforming mechanic inherent to the series. Furthermore, compared to the last entry, Fall of Cybertron will be missing killstreak rewards in multiplayer with the developer citing balancing issues. In its place would be some of the aforementioned rewards placed as pick-ups on the map.
Don't ask where all that ammo comes from
Overall, the game's art style holds up quite well. You're treated to an assortment of colours as you blitz through the battlefield instead of the usual, muted tones of grey and brown. As the screen shots will attest, this is one of the more colourful shooters around. Graphically, it isn't exactly a showstopper, but has enough going for it to prevent it from growing stale. Compared to the previous installment, the lighting is much better and other technical aspects like shaders and textures are vastly improved. As it is powered by the Unreal Engine 3, we were pleased to discover that both the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game were free from texture pop-in and screen tearing, which plagued War for Cybertron. The gameplay is a bit quicker, too. Perhaps, it's the byproduct of a steadier framerate?
Fall of Cybertron releases at the end of this month. If the game's single-player campaign ends up being as fun as the demo was, we're in for an absolute treat. It's tough to take a call on the multiplayer segment since a lot of options were locked out, but we're wagering that this is one game with giant robots you would not want to miss.