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Sep 10th
2012

Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron Review

Prime time.

Movie-to-game translations have become somewhat of a trending topic in recent times here at Awesome Games. The retrospective thoughts on two such licensed tie-ins, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and Batman: Arkham Asylum, posed a potential pill of insight: that perhaps video game developers and publishers are slowly surrendering to the fact that it’s far more productive and profitable in the long run to ripen a world that makes the gamer feel both nostalgic for his precious license, and proud of its preservation -as opposed to the previous practice of just putting together a slapdash title that tries to faithfully recreate the film it so eagerly seeks to cash in on.

While it would seem only prudent at this point to insert some pun on disguises and what exactly meets the eye, let’s not beat around the bush; let’s be blunt. The Transformers games, like most movie-based games in the long list of the category, have done nothing short of nose-dived in honouring the popular ‘80’s franchise that combined a glut of American trademarks into one: the virtuous fiction of good against evil, the future-obsessed spirit of the Reagan era, and the merchandising of a toy empire.

Regrettably, I’m not old enough to be able to recount fond memories of Generation 1, but the Transformers toyline’s brilliance always lay in its timelessness. Fifty years from now, our off-spring will still be chicken-scratching ‘Transformers’ onto their Christmas wish lists, as I did from the ages of roughly 6 to 12 (I hope). There’s just something totally mind-blowing as a boy about being able to turn a car into a military mock-up. It’s the quintessential male fetish that combines those prepubescent obsessions with creativity and destruction.

Grimlock surely has the best transformation ever. A robot T-Rex! What’s not to love?

But back to the games. They blew chunks – it’s that simple. From the Commodore to the current consoles, they just couldn’t capture that childish fascination with robots that fight each other for the fate of mankind. That is, until High Moon Studios finally got it right with Transformers: War for Cybertron, a game that threw the used car salesman Michael Bay’s pathetic two-hour commercials of the last few years in the trash, and instead drew inspiration from the G1 universe, depicting the legendary events of the pivotal battle for the Transformers’ homeworld.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is definitely an improvement on that game, and while it’s not wholly exceptional when compared to other aforementioned sleeper shocks like Arkham Asylum, it’s a damn good Transformers game that does enough to please those Generation 1 kids long grown up.

You’ve Got The Touch

Throughout a campaign that approximates at eight hours or so – its slow start will undesirably seem to lengthen that estimate – you take control of the Autobots and Decepticons, switching between hero and villain to see Cybertron’s decisive end from different perspectives. Much like Halo 2 years back, this is a feature that works better on paper than in practice. While it’s neat to play as most of the Transformers, from Bumblebee to Megatron, the single-player always suffers when you start juggling between controllable characters. That’s no different here, but incoherent gameplay is more of an issue than the less than adhesive plot progression.

While it’s neat to play as most of the Transformers, from Bumblebee to Megatron, the single-player always suffers when you start juggling between controllable characters.

Though at last it’s a relief to finally see Transformers duking it out, the ample amount of action present becomes busted up by stretches of adventure roaming – pull a lever, complete a context-sensitive action – and you’ll frequently itch to get back in the fight before being faced with another slow, dialogue-filled section.

The combat is fun, but flawed. As a third-person shooter, you instinctively try running over to pillars and obstacles, expecting to be able to latch onto their surfaces like ‘Gears of War’-glue. High Moon Studios were wise, however… this is no cover shooter. Fall of Cybertron encourages you to stay mobile and out of the open, naturally, considering that the Transformers are vehicles. The problem is that you feel too vulnerable. You’ll constantly be searching a site for ammo as enemies unload on your armoured hull, making you frustrated at the fact that a 50-tonne robot could be taking so much abuse, with regenerating health and damage indicated by the usual blotches of red, making less sense than ever. Because of this defenselessness, you end up using the environment to take cover anyways, aligning a column to eclipse your foe’s locked sights, which ultimately makes the combat feel a little clunky.

We know what you’re thinking. Surely there’s more than meets the eye here…right?

You’ve Got The Power

But you do feel like a Transformer. That’s where the game outshines its predecessors and earns its standing as a fan favourite. ‘Rolling out’ is as simple as clicking on the left thumbstick, and though it doesn’t serve as much purpose as you’d have hoped for – yes, you can fight in vehicle form, but it offers no real advantage compared to your humanoid state – it all the same looks awesome. After all, the whole appeal of the Transformer that brings out that young G.I. tyke out in all of us is seeing a robot effortlessly shift its thousand parts into something completely different. So it might just be little more than aesthetic, but it’s visually grand and never gets old.

Unfortunately, the single-player is solely single and, unlike War for Cybertron, can’t be played with a pal. A lack of co-operative mode is disappointing, but the game makes up for it with a solid multi-player package and Survival mode, which is – from the name it should be obvious – a Horde mode variant. I swear, the number of times I’ve written ‘Horde mode variant’ in all of my archived reviews has to be bordering on three-digits.

Forgive the sarcastic scoff to the standard bullet point over the innovative engineering of a new and unique game type. For sure, Survival is fun, like every other ‘waves of enemies coming to kill you’ breed out there, but you’ll still long to play the game’s enticing solo adventure with one of your buddies. One of the best features in the game by far is being able to build your own transformer, with copious customisation sure to keep you infatuated.

It’s nice to see Optimus Prime without that annoying Shia Labeouf all up in his grill.

If the game metaphorically shines in any one aspect, its in its literal shine. High Moon Studios, with the stern objective of faithfully honouring the license, has created a kinetic Cybertron that genuinely feels like it’s coming apart at the crust. Destruction is everywhere, set-pieces and blockbuster cinematics – that unlike Bay’s butchery are actually driven by an emotional crux – are beautiful in their ruin of a planet that honestly gives the sense of a relic, a home with a history. Cybertron is, after all, the major motif of the game, and that you can witness the lore of its demolition in person – er, automaton – is a powerful and sentimental sight.

And of course, you have Peter Cullen reprising his role as Optimus Prime, his usual welcomed melodrama providing the goosebump fix for the nostalgic. Apart from a few glitches and some framerate issues on the PS3, the production as a whole is a strong send-off for Cybertron.

In the end, Fall of Cybertron is not a diamond, but it’s a gem all the same. It’s a bit shorter than the first game, but it’s also a bit more exciting, every step you make building as a crescendo to the inevitable end of the Transformers’ origins.

Prefer moving pictures and sound? Then watch the video review here

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron was reviewed on Xbox 360.

After All Is Said And Done, You’re A Winner

Great!

Some pacing issues, a slow start to the story, a less than optimal utilisation of the ability to transform, and a few presentation issues with occasional glitching and chugging are a few strafing hits just sturdy enough to graze the shield. But a visually moving representation of a key component of the franchise’s mythology keeps these issues from making more than a few dents. Autobots… roll out, and relish the rewards of a great Transformers game long owed.

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