There’s some magical quality about the Transformers brand, a wonderful beauty in the idea that giant, walking Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots—who absolutely hate each other, we note—can transform into the coolest of cars, the heaviest of machinery, the biggest of guns… or even larger, walking Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em robots.
But if you, like us, have spent the last few years watching Michael Bay transform the franchise into a toilet, you’re probably a bit skeptical about anything Transformers-related that hits the shelves or screens nowadays. Worry not. You need only to play Transformers: Fall of Cybertron to rekindle your love affair with all things morphing, punching, and shooting.
Nothing says “Autobot BFF” like a Transformer the size of a freakin’ building. Not the guy to hack off in this game.
Unfortunately, while Transformers: Fall of Cybertron might be an excellent Transformers game, it’s not an excellent game in general. It’s a fairly nondescript shoot-‘em-up that fits the genre’s trappings to a giant, Transformers-size T, and that’s just the single-player campaign. Multiplayer has all the liveliness of a quarter-filled Energon cube—even given the ever-present bit about being able to seamlessly transform from robot to vehicle at a moment’s notice.
Developer High Moon Studios takes the unique approach of framing most of the game’s single player levels from the perspective of a single Transformer. And, no, you’re not just stuck to fighting as the good guys—thankfully. One can only take so much Optimus Prime preaching.
The game switches from the friendly Autobots to the mean Decepticons about halfway through, up until the very last level, which is a kind-of schizophrenic-like romp between each faction. The game’s big finale forces you to make a definitive choice that you can probably see coming from a mile away. No spoilers, but you don’t have to be Perceptor to figure out how this one wraps up—minus the ending, the ever-bouncing story is one of the game’s more compelling elements for Transformers fans.
You get a ton of options to customize the look of your multiplayer Transformers character, but we wish you could pick from an assortment of vehicles to transform into.
While we love the game’s lovely look and feel (minus the pre-rendered cutscenes, whose quality varies greatly), the raw mechanics—basically, one Transformer with one special power that you always use throughout the level—forces a single gimmick on players that starts to grow tiresome in each of the game’s 13 hour-long levels.
In some cases, your character feels absurdly overpowered, like when you gain access to nearly unlimited artillery barrages in chapters two and three. Fun, but not satisfying. When you’re intentionally transformed into a robot god, however, it’s a blast: Controlling Bruticus is a delightful reward for the borderline-tedium of steamrolling your way through Cybertron.
Combat in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron feels very Gears of War. In fact, the entire plot of the first third of the game—discovering a lake full of Energon at some processing plant, only to have to fight off waves of Insecticons while doing so—screams Imulsion and Lambents.
The game’s deathmatch maps feel a little cramped, especially since everyone’s driving or flying around half the time.
In all seriousness, much of the game feels like you’re hopping from combat zone to combat zone and just waiting out hordes of enemy robots – while waiting for your Halo-like shield to recharge. You don’t get to actually take cover in this title (or even duck). You instead just maneuver your Transformer behind cover and hit a key to swap your gun between hands and shift the over-the-shoulder view from side-to-side – the game’s major strategy becomes, “how easily can I cheap-shot that robot by angling my gun just barely over the cover of a box.”
When the game tries to get fancy – like the big “stealth” section during Cliffjumper’s chapter – it doesn’t feel very polished. Deux Ex: Human Revolution, this bit is not. I frequently found it easier to use the Autobot’s stealth capabilities as a quick means for an absurdly obvious one-shot kill, like cloaking right in front of a Decepticon, moving slightly to its rear, and bashing its robotic noggin’ in via one-button kill.
The very premise of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron might center on artificial intelligence, but this game’s enemies don’t appear to be all that aware of their surroundings (especially when you take out one of their peers all of a few feet away; don’t giant robots make noise when they hit the ground?)
When in doubt, running over enemies as a transformed bot works just as well in Cybertron as it does in Grand Theft Auto.
For whatever reason, giant, walking robots don’t have any place to store much ammo or weaponry in the game—even Gears of War’s meager humans could support four items of destruction and plenty of ammo. You only get to hold two weapons at a given time as a typical Transformer, which you swap out at one of the many Teletran 1 kiosks littering each level. It’s here where you go about the usual buying new weapons, buying perks, and upgrading stuff part of most shooters: The currency, Energon, comes from your dispatched enemies or crates and other items you destroy within missions.
No, it doesn’t get much sillier than watching a giant, walking tank punch stacks of crates for cash—except maybe when you have to purchase access to a gun that you’re… already… holding.
While its core “transforming” mechanic is certainly fun, the game might have been better as less of a forced romp through a small, specific set of terrain, and more of a choose-your-own-path, objective-driven shooter. Or, dare we say it, a Lego-style game: You get 15 of your favorite Transformers to pick from to complete a chapter, with the levels designed to accommodate those who like stealth, those who like maneuverability, or those who like blowing holes in walls and robots alike. It would make Transformers: Fall of Cybertron worth more than a single play-through.
In the Transformers world, it’s never too close for missiles—but you can still transform and switch to guns if you really want to.
The game’s multiplayer mode does little to hook you into its long-term, character-leveling experience. Deathmatch levels feel cramped, game modes are archetypal and stale, and even its “unique” Escalation mode is just a small and simplified version of Gears of War’s Horde Mode—we’d rather play Super Monday Night Combat. Yes, you can customize your own transformer, but critically missing is the option to select from a ton of vehicles or forms you’d want it to turn into. We don’t care about paint jobs and armor. We want MPCBot to transform into a giant T-Rex.
While Transformers: Fall of Cybertron isn’t going to win any awards for its gameplay, its standardized action elements are lifted by all the fun and unique Transformers tie-ins: from the great story, to the epic music and character cameos, to Peter Cullen himself voicing everyone’s favorite semi truck. Don’t play this game because you want a realistic action shooter devoid of all those stereotypical “finding 85 hidden things per level” bits. Play this game because you love Transformers and you want to experience a new story-with-shooting that’s presented enjoyably, not excellently.
Strong graphics/soundtrack, well-designed characters and cameos, compelling story.
Stale shooting, a bit easy, one-character one-level gets tiresome, multiplayer unoriginal.