Friday, August 31, 2012

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Review

Hey all! Joe here... I've completed my run through High Moon Studio's 'Transformers: Fall of Cybertron" and bot 'o bot, that was a fun ride! There was laughing, crying, and a whole lot parts left behind.

Check out what I think after the jump! And beware, there may be a few SPOILERS... cause I just like to gab.

Unfortunately, Gamestop did not have a midnight release for this. I was all set to call in to work on Tuesday the 21st, claiming a case of Cosmic Rust had taken it's toll on my processors and wouldn't be able to function correctly enough for work. So, Tuesday, after work, I rolled out to Gamestop to pick up my reserved copy... I'd paid this game off 2 months prior and was waiting to get my hands on it.

After playing a little at my friend's place, mostly repeating the 'Exodus' demo level that we've had since late August, I was finally able to get back to my Autobase and play under my own profile, for realsies.

I waited on the multi-player until I got through story mode... which will be the majority of what I'm going to look at today.

In goes the disc, main menu, select Capmaign, change mode to Hard, Start.

The opening of the game is the launch of the Ark; the Autobots last ship and best chance to escape Megatron's tyranny and start life anew elsewhere. The ship is on a course for a Space-Bridge portal when Megatron and the Nemesis catch up and begin their assault.

Chapter 1 is your obligatory training level. As Bumblebee, it becomes your job to restore power to part of the Ark and then find Optimus. At this point, you go through the motions of learning the basic game controls for looking around followed by a quick lesson in gun-play. All are pretty standard to the third-person shooter with one excellent new addition; you can now change your handedness. Want to shoot with your right? With your left? Take better advantage of cover? With a button push, your weapon switches hands. I found this invaluable when using cover, again, an excellent addition to the game play. The training level ends with a cinematic of Bumblebee finally locating Optimus... who's been battling Megatron.

Chapter 2... Chapter 2 starts out 6 days before the launch of the Ark and the events of the game's opening level. It puts you squarely in Optimus' wheels. Optimus is making sure that the Ark gets all the Energon it can for it's launch. Of course, Megatron doesn't want this to happen and sends Warp Cannons crashing down to start taking shots at the Ark. Optimus has to reach the Ark launch center and get help to the other Autobots. This Chapter is really your first taste of vehicle combat. 

If you've played War for Cybertron, there is really no change here... well, besides Optimus' look. He looks more like a LEGO or a fist with wheels that a truck.

Through this level Optimus meets up with Ratchet, Cliffjumper, Jazz, and Sideswipe. There is a little Easter Egg in the form of Grimlock's quarters... it's all visual, but it's kinda neat. Grimlock keeps umm... trophies of his kills in a locker. And you can sit in his chair and 'watch' cartoons.

After meeting up with Warpath, it's time for more battling. After a few firefights, Optimus winds up reaching Perceptor and finds out that they may not have enough Energon to both defend the Ark and launch it. The culmination of Chapter 2 is when Optimus realizes the structures are helping him, this isn't just a city block, it's one of the largest Autobots around, Metroplex!

With Metroplex's help, Optimus is able to put the hurt on the Decepticons. Optimus gains the ability to call in artillery strikes from Metroplex. Watching a torrent of firepower unleashed from Metroplex in the background and the ensuing hail of death is just awesome.

Optimus eventually makes it to the last Warp Cannon, only to be ambushed and captured and taken before Megatron. Again, with Metroplex' help, Optimus is freed and Megatron is defeated. Your interaction as the player in this scene is down right hilarious. Metroplex vs. Megatron... guess who wins?

Chapters 4 and 5 let us control a few other Autobots that we have had yet to see. 

Chapter 4 puts in the role of Cliffjumper, an infiltrator that can Cloak. Your object is to get through the level and find Grimlock and his team. Grimlock had left his post and quite a few Autobots were damaged or perished because of it... but why did he leave? Cliff Jumpers cloaking ability is standard fare. Go invis, sneak up on people and 'execute' them. Cliffjumper's 'executions' run the gamut of jumping on Con's backs and taking their head off or knocking them out, or sneaking up behind them, taking them to the floor and doing some cranial surgery. It's fun, but the repetitive take downs lose their luster kinda quickly.

Once Cliffjumper makes it out of the garbage facility system he's in, it's Jazz's turn to impress. Jazz drops into the lower levels of the facility in search of Autobot life signs. Jazz's gimmick is a laser grapple allowing him to grasp items at a distance and pull himself up. Unfortunately, I didn't see any use for it in combat... well not until later... I'll get to that. Jazz swings around and makes his way through the facility, eventually coming to a generator that needs to be destroyed. With Cliffjumper's help, Jazz makes it out of the facility to get picked up by Sideswipe; carrying the knowledge of a pool of raw Energon that can be used to fill the Ark.

Our next cut-scene shows the Autobots huge convoy vehicle filled with Energon crawling across the landscape... from the perspective of the Decepticons; namely Starscream and his Combaticons. Starscream's plan... Starscream and Onslaught's plan... is to take out a bridge and stop the convoy of Energon. Onslaught sends out Vortex, played by you, and Blast-Off to run aerial interference while Brawl gets set to destroy the bridge.

In Chapter 6, as Vortex, you can fly around in either Helicopter mode or hit your afterburners to take on a jet mode for some extra speed. I found that Vortex's missiles (actually listed on the screen as 'Thermonuclear bombs") were wickedly powerful and made short work of just about anything I came across. Except the large walking tanks pictured above... they took about 10 shots.

Vortex manages to help Brawl destroy the bridge and bring the Autobot convoy to a halt.

After the bridge is destroyed, Onslaught sends Swidle to disable the rolling behemoth Carrier toting the Autobots last hope of powering up the Ark. Swindle is the Decepticon version of Jazz game-wise. After driving around under the Carrier, Swindle makes his way inside and uses his own laser grapple to swing around and disable the now flying Carrier's guns and engines.

Once Swindle finishes his work, Onslaught shows up with the rest of the Combaticons... "We need to take control of this ship!" What do the Combaticons do to take control? What's their plan? Shear. Brute. Force.

Enter... Bruticus.

As Bruticus, you get to stomp your way across the top of the carrier. The Autobots sent to stop you are mere annoyances...

... segue... as a regular bot, you have 100 points of life. With an upgrade bought in the game, you have 200 points of life. Bruticus has 1100!


Bruticus can melee opponents, use Blast-Off's engine as a flamethrower, or use a shockwave attack that decimates just about everything.

one of my favorite XBox achievements is on this level; Fusilateral Quintrocombiner. To earn this achievement, you have to melee attack an Autobot and send him flying through a set of antenna, Basically, kicking a field goal.

With Bruticus' aid, the Decepticons take hold of the convoy, but too much damage to the Carrier causes it to crash and Starscream puts the Combaticons in chains for disobeying his orders.

Chapter 9 continues placing you in the role of a Decepticon... this time, as Soundwave. Your goal, to rebuild Megatron. Using Rumble and Laserbeak, you succeed in rebuilding your fallen leader. This isn't as cool as it sounds. While it is a great idea, the execution was rather short. After Megatron's rebuild, you step into his shoes. Wandering through the Decepticon base, take your time to blast apart any images... ANY images... to net yourself another Achievement.

Eventually, Megatron makes his way to Starscream's coronation... and yes, it is indeed bad comedy. Starscream sends all manner of Decepticons to destroy Megatron; his plan ending as most of Stascream's plans do, in  failure. Megatron resumes control of the Decepticons and makes his way through Chapter 10 destroying Autobots and obtaining Tryticon's power core for his own needs.

Chapter 11 brings us to Starscream... and one of my more anticipated roles. As Starscream, Megatron wants your head, but you're not too keen on giving it up. Starscream is the Decepticon version of Cliffjumper. He can cloak and 'execute' other bots. As compared to Cliffjumper, Starscream's 'executions' are much more fun to watch. He plants explosives on them and then maniacally laughs as he detonates them. My favorite is when he kicks a Con in the Devastators from behind and then plants explosives on them as they reel in pain on the ground.

A nice Easter Egg in this level is flying to the top of one of the towers and finding Starscream's crown. Interacting with it to 'reclaim your former glory' tops Starscream off with the crown for the remainder of the level. 

While nadding Cons and sniping with Starscream is fun, it pales in comparison to the second half of the level. Starscream thinks he'll earn himself a new lackey by offering freedom, riiiight. As Starscream makes his way into Shockwave's facility, we finally find Grimlock. As Starscream sneaks around the operating theater, we hear Shockwave talk about what he's done to Grimlock and his team. It seems that on some far off planet, Shockwave found powerful creatures that he thinks would provide the basis for some Alt-forms that would prove to be most powerful. After Shockwave takes his leave, Starscream tries to coerce Grimlock into following me in trade for his freedom.

Grimlock winds up freeing himself using Starscream and heads into the facility to find his team. Throughout the game, with the exception of Bruticus, melee is few and far between. With Grimlock, it's almost nothing but. I say almost because Grimlock's ranged attack amounts to him grabbing things and throwing them. Things being debris, explosive fuel cells, or other cons; it is quite satisfying.

By the end of Chapter 11, Grimlock has located Swoop and defeated the first of Shockwave's pet Insecticons, Hardshell... who I'm guessing is a cross between G1's Bombshell for looks and the TF:Prime character of the same name.

... I highly recommend that during the battle with Hardshell, focus on him and him alone. Trying to fight him and the waves of Cons will only lead to getting shot up and failing. Be sure to keep your shield up too, it will protect you from quite a bit.

Chapter 12 is ALL Grimlock. Stomping and tromping though the facility's underbelly like a giant Ig-Yak, you make your way to Kickback, Shockwave's second pet Insecticon. The first real battle is a mini-boss... an Insecticon Bruiser. The beauty of this fight, Grimlock figures out how to transform! And it is glorious! From rampaging bot to rampaging dino! Grimlock stomps, smashes, and bites his way through hordes of lesser Insecticons. One of the nice things I discovered, Insecticons don't like being on fire, and Grimlock's dino mode ranged weapon is his flammable halitosis. Light em up and watch em scatter!

Eventually, Grimlock locates is team and rescues them. Then it's off to Shockwave's Space Bridge tower to wreak even more Dino-havoc. Swoop carries you part of the way blasting off missiles at Cons wanting to block the way. Swoop drops Grimlock off and Grimlock continues to rampage his way through.

One of the harder Achievements to get in Campaign is here. Multiple Decepticon Leapers block your way. The only way to hurt a Leaper is to hit their jet packs. From behind. For Grimlock, this means dodging them as they land and getting behind them. The Achievement however, requires you to take one out... in the air... with an explosive fuel cell.

Thankfully there are plenty of fuel cells and they respawn fairly quickly. But it's all in the timing. Wait for the Leaper to jump, and throw. I know, you're hitting it from the front, but the fuel cells explode in 80's movie fashion, BIG, so the area of effect hits them in the back. Time this right, and net yourself the "Slap the Grimlock" Achievement.

Once Grimlock destroys the tower's power supply, it's time to haul tail out of there. The cinematic of the tower going up is pretty spectacular.

The final Chapter, Chapter 13 picks up in parallel to Chapter 1, but from the Decepticon point of view. Chapter 13 is a bit more unique in the fact that you don't get set into one faction or the other; you switch back and forth between Autobot and Decepticon; starting with Soundwave. Soundwave hops on one of the boarding cables and rides it through space to the Ark. Soundwave's job is to stop the cannons from firing on the Nemesis. With Rumble and Laserbeak's help, Soundwave silences the cannon fire.

Once Soundwave's job is complete, the game switches to the Autobots and you take control of Jetfire. Flying through space, you have to find the weak points in the tow cables and blast them while avoiding enemy fire from Con fliers and Warp Cannon blasts from the Nemesis itself.

With Jetfire's job complete, he radios Optimus to tell him he doesn't have to worry about more Decepticons boarding the Ark. To bad Bruticus can fly through space. Bruticus almost smashes through Jetfire as he makes his way down to the Ark, your aim is to smash the engine. make your way past the puny Autobots to the engine housing and do what Bruticus does best, SMASH!

Once Bruticus has breached the engine housing, we switch once again. As Jazz, it's your job to... gulp... take Bruticus down. Using your laser grapple, you can jump up on Bruticus' shoulder and shoot him in the head. unfortunately, Bruticus is no zombie and this tactic only serves to annoy him. Keep doging Bruticus' shockwave and artillery strike until Jetfire shows up to lend a hand. Jetfire will drop EMP mines that will freeze Bruticus in place. Once frozen, use you laser grapple to yank Bruticus' knee and send him toppling over. Jetfire will need you to target Bruticus for an air-strike; a few of these and Bruticus is sent reeling from the Ark.

Our next cut scene takes us back to the end of Chapter 1; Bumblebee takes a Nucleon Shock Cannon to the chest for Optimus. As Optimus stands over Bumblebee, Megatron explains what a wasted shot it was. Optimus says that he finally understands Megatron. He finally understands that there will be no peace as long as both of them are still functional. Optimus sends Megatron flying with a massive blow... the final battle has begun.

A nice little feature allows you to choose who you will play as. Will you be the noble Optimus or the tyrannical Megatron? Whichever side you choose does not change the outcome or the ending of the game. Both characters have the same fighting techniques, but the computer opponent has more than just shield bashing and sword swings up its armguards. Megatron will turn into his Alt-mode and pelt you with cannon fire or use his hover ability to shoot at you from above. Optimus will change into his Alt-mode and ram into you. As you beat the Energon out of each other, little cut-scenes that allow you to do some interactive button-mashing will happen allowing to control some of the beat downs. Eventually, Optimus and Megatron fight to a stalemate. The Ark is getting sucked into the Space Bridge portal and no amount of physical punishment meted out on either Optimus or Megatron will change their immediate fates.

Be sure to sit through the credits to watch some High Moon outtakes and wackiness as you enjoy the updated version of 'The Touch' by Stan Bush.

I love Transformers... it's one of my favorite toy lines and Sci-Fi mythologies. High Moon studios has definitely delivered everything that I look for in a Transformers game. Both War and Fall have had solid stories and endings that keep me wanting more. There are some story holes that have left me wondering; what happened to Grimlock and the Dinobots? What happened to Starscream? There are a couple others, but as far as major player characters go, those were the first two.

For the Campaign mode, High Moon removed the Co-Op component. While it doesn't hinder the game itself, it would have been nice to run alongside a friend mowing down bots. It's my understanding that this was done to push more processing power to the AI, which I don't think made much of a difference.

Co-Op mode for Fall is basically Escalation mode. Escalation mode for Fall is pretty much the same as War's Escalation mode. The big difference, The game ends if you survive 15 rounds. Where War's Escalation mode just kept going, Fall just ends. With only 4 current arenas, this isn't too much of a challenge. I've already gotten the Achievements to survive in each of the arenas through round 15. The only other one I still need to get is spending the 100k in Energon... of which I'm halfway to.

For multi-player, I wish the controls were more customizable. The 360 controller has the thumbstick click attached to melee or transforming. There are a few other preset button set-ups, but all are equally inconvenient. To either transform or use a melee attack in the middle of a firefight can cost you. Shoot, shoot, shoot, melee, death. D'oh! If it weren't for that ill-timed melee swing, I could have gotten off the last shot to kill a guy. I also think that since my XBox is downstairs from the wireless router I may have some lag issues as well... I seem to empty entire clips into an opponent and come up with nothing... or I'm trying to kill a lag ghost. But, I'll gripe about that some other time.

If you love Transformers, certainly pick this game up. Most Transfans I know that have picked it up have loved it. It's a great story with some fun action and I can't wait for High Moon to produce a sequel.

Till all are one!

Pictures Swindled from various sources. Opinions and spoilers by Scion of Primus.