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Transformers: Fall of Cybertron PS3 Review

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Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Image © Activision
When did "The Transformers" become such a massive entertainment industry unto itself? When I was a kid playing with Hasbro toys in my backyard, I never once envisioned a future in which billion-dollar movies featuring these little plastic robots make more at the box office than most country's GDP or where these interstellar machines were the stars of video games on an annual basis. 2010 gave us the underrated and surprisingly enjoyable "Transformers: War For Cybertron," a game that reimagined how games based on the legendary machines could play. Sadly, the next year's Activision entry was more of a movie tie-in and not from the same development studio as "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" truly disappointed in every way. With High Moon Studios back in charge for a true sequel to their first "Cybertron" game in "Transformers: Fall of Cybertron," will their caliber of entertainment return as well? Or will this be another adventure that's not as fun as simply playing in the backyard?

Game Details

  • Publisher: Activision
  • Developer: High Moon Studios
  • ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
  • Genre: Action
  • Pros: Variety of Gameplay, Precise Weaponry, Incredible Action
  • Cons: Repetitive Environments, Short Running Time

Asking for deep storytelling in a "Transformers" game might seem a bit silly given the fact that this entire franchise has been built around a "louder, faster, more" foundation and a purposeful lack of things like character. You should know that you won't have to suffer through Sam Witwicky's parents in "Transformers: Fall of Cybertron." This is an interstellar adventure involving the title characters themselves, not the way some silly human interacts with them. It's 100% robot action with notable characters like Optimus Prime, Starscream, Grimlock, Cliffjumper, getting a bit of time in the spotlight to have their explosive action. The game jumps back and forth as you control various characters on both sides (Autobots & Decepticons) in a story about the explosive final battles on Cybertron.

Gameplay

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Image © Activision

Aim, shoot, move. "Fall of Cybertron" works from that very common and very simple action game template but filters it through the fiction of the Hasbro line of toys and cartoons. At its core, "Fall of Cybertron" follows a pretty simple action shooter model. You play a variety of characters that have their own special skill but they also share a common "light weapon & heavy weapon" model of action gameplay. You shoot enemies, you pick up ammo, you hit stores in-level to upgrade your equipment, and you face boss battles to end levels -- the gameplay of "Fall of Cybertron" is essentially one that has been used hundreds of times in the gaming world.

So why does it work so well here? There's something about shooter mechanics that can be hard to put into words. It's that feeling you get behind the wheel of a high-end car as opposed to a jalopy. Both can get you from point A to point B but you know when something just feels right in your hands and under the pedal. The same is true for shooters. The sensitivity of the targeting, the A.I. of your enemies, the cover system, the responsiveness of the trigger, even the arc of a grenade -- if these things aren't refined, a shooter like "Fall of Cybertron" isn't as much fun. In many ways, it's the most refined shooters in which you don't even notice these fine-tuned elements. They just hum along like a car in which you don't feel the bumps of the road.

"Transformers: Fall of Cyberton" hums. After a bit of a rocky start in which one gets accustomed to the controls, the game kicks into gear and doesn't look back. Whereas a lot of games like "Cybertron" get repetitive with similar weapons against similar enemies in similar environments, "Cybertron" stays fresh by constantly changing protagonists between chapters. With each different Transformer to control comes different skills and different challenges. I will admit that the level design gets a bit numbing after awhile as much of the landscape starts to look essentially the same. You may be playing different Transformers but the world is a bit similar across each of the chapters. Of course, I don't expect an urban landscape in a game like this one but there could have been more variety to the environment design.

There's also a bit of a letdown when it comes to the action of actual transformation. I essentially began to use my various vehicle forms almost as backup. When a firefight would get to heavy, I would transform both to more quickly retreat and often shoot a couple of rockets into the fracas. I wish being a vehicle was actually a more essential part of the game.

"Transformers: Fall of Cybertron" also includes a relatively deep multiplayer with modes and customization that will be familiar to most gamers. The level of player input here is remarkable as you can essentially create your own Transformer to take into battle. Yes, the dream of your eight-year-old self has come true. You can design your own Decepticon. For some of you, that will be worth the purchase price alone.

Graphics & Sound

There are some frame rate issues late in the game but, for the most part, "Transformers: Fall of Cybertron" looks spectacular. Some of the combat graphics are a bit lackluster (a few enemies virtually explode and yet others just crumble to the ground) but there's a consistency to the visuals in "Cybertron" that's remarkable. And the sound is even more notable with excellent voice work and a whole lot of flash-boom-bang to rattle your speakers.

Overall

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Image © Activision
Most licensed games based on already-existing properties are absolutely horrendous. It's a fact. They're typically nothing more than marketing grabs, attempts to exploit the love for a franchise and do nothing but make a few more bucks. High Moon Studios has done a rare, wonderful thing by treating "Transformers" fans with the utmost respect. They have delivered yet again.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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