Transformers: War for Cybertron was to Transformers what Batman: Arkham Asylum was to Batman. Basically, it showed that it was possible to create a great video game based around the Transformers property. High Moon Studios clearly loves the Transformers franchise, as they were able to take that love and appreciation and distill the best aspects of it into a high-octane, third-person shooter game.
With War for Cybertron being such a success – especially for long-time Transformers fans like myself – it’s easy to see why there is a lot of hype behind the follow-up, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Fall of Cybertron picks up essentially where War for Cybertron left off – the Autobots are desperately searching for large sums of Energon to power their Ark to leave behind their decaying homeworld once and for all. But as things typically go, Megatron wants none of that, and plans to crush Optimus and the rest of the Autobots before they have a chance to make a break for it and find a new home planet.
You can tell High Moon Studios went into this one with a clear goal: bigger is better. The opening chapters of Fall of Cybertron are massive in scale with tons of explosions and firefights around every corner. It’s easy to make the comparison to another Activision shooter franchise (*cough* Call of Duty *cough*) due to the game’s opening, bombastic moments. High Moon really managed to come up with some great bits, including the introduction of Metroplex, the city-sized Transformer, and the role he plays in helping the Autobots protect their precious Ark.
But I’ll be honest, the opening few chapters of the game get a little tiresome. It’s nonstop spamming of the trigger. You will massacre so many nameless/faceless Decepticons that it becomes comical. Thankfully, the pacing slows down once you hit chapter four and the focus shifts away from Bumblebee and Optimus to Cliffjumper and Jazz instead. Here, you get a bit of stealth gameplay to spice things up, as well as the actual narrative of the game opening up. While I love me some explosions and epic – and I mean epic – set-pieces, I’m all for slowing things down a bit and getting into the real meat of the experience – the story.
Unfortunately, right as the story starts to pick up and gain some momentum, it hits a brick wall that lasts for a third of the game. Just like in War for Cybertron, Fall of Cybertron lets you play both sides of the Autobot/Decepticon war. However, the two campaigns aren’t distinctly split up, instead flowing into one another naturally over the course of the game’s 13-chapter structure. On one hand it makes the experience more cohesive, but it also leads to probably the largest complaint I have to lob against the game.
Right as the Autobots form a plan to obtain their precious Energon, the perspective shifts to the Decepticons and the story grinds to a halt. For roughly 3-4 chapters, nothing happens. The Autobot leaders, such as Optimus, Bumblebee, Jazz, Ironhide, etcetera, just fall off the face of the planet until the endgame. I enjoyed playing the last game from the perspective of the Decepticons, but here in Fall of Cybertron, it’s just not exciting from a gameplay and narrative standpoint. It’s also worth noting that High Moon maybe goes a little too far with their homages to the 1986 Transformers: The Movie, dedicating a few chapters of this game’s overall short campaign to rehash, almost verbatim, the Starscream/Megatron subplot from that original flick – coronation and all.
It’s really not until Grimlock comes into the picture that things pick back up, which happens in the game’s final two chapters. Grimlock's attacks are mostly melee-based, meaning you're going to have to get in close to engage the enemy. This is in stark contrast to how most of the other Transformers handle in the game, making the Grimlock sections a welcome breath of fresh air. Likewise, the subplot involving the entire Dinobot crew is entertaining; it's one that should make longtime Transformers nuts squeal with joy.
High Moon, with the help of Hasbro, has reworked the origins of the Dinobots to make them work within the context of Generation 1 canon. If you’ve been wondering why there are giant robot dinosaurs parading around on Cybertron far before the Autobots ever learn what a dinosaur is, this game answers that burning question. It’s a simple explanation, but one that works and also ties into the Transformers’ discovery of Earth.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, thankfully, leaves you with a good taste in your mouth. I can sit here and complain about the weak middle third of the title all I want, but there’s no denying the finale kicks all sorts of ass. You play the entire chapter constantly switching between Autobots and Decepticons as they wage war in the stars. It’s an exhilarating 45 minutes, to say the least. Although, you’re left with cliffhangers to every story beat in the game, all of which will undoubtedly be expanded upon in the next sequel. Gah!
Overall, Fall of Cybertron has its pros and cons, just like most games. But I definitely wouldn’t say it’s a better title than its predecessor. It might have a larger scope and the Dinobots accounted for, but the narrative structure remains a head-scratcher. If you’re a diehard Transformers fan, you’ll probably want to check this out and form your own opinion. If you’re a casual Transformers fan, though, you might want to give this one a rental first.
Full Disclosure: Our reviewer purchased a copy of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron with his own money on release day. He only played the single player campaign to completion. The game comes with a multiplayer mode. He did not play any of it for this write-up.