Developer: High Moon Studios
ESRB Rating: Teen
Release Date: August 21, 2012
Fall of Cybertron is
the direct sequel to War for Cybertron, and much
of the gameplay-- as well as the storyline, obviously-- continues off of
that game. So if you haven't read my review of War for Cybertron, I highly
recommend you go do that first since I compare a lot of the differences
in Fall of Cybertron to its predecessor. (It should also be noted that
although this review is for the PS3 version of the game, it's pretty much
identical to the Xbox 360 version in every respect, so this review can
be applied to the game on that systme as well.)
As you'd expect, Fall of Cybertron takes most of the core gameplay elements that made War for Cybertron such a game-- third-person shooter combat, a menagerie of different Transformers characters to play as, special abilities, a story-focused single-player mode and a level-based multiplayer mode. Although I won't give away a lot of the spoilery sections of the story, suffice it to say that Fall of Cybertron picks up-- more or less-- where its predecessor left off. The Autobots have to get enough Energon to get their last ship-- the Ark-- off Cybertron, and into the space bridge wormhole that leads to parts unknown before Megatron and the Decepticons can stop them. What's interesting about this story is that, since this whole series is technically a prequel, we KNOW how it ends-- both the Ark and Megatron's ship the Nemesis get sucked through the wormhole, leaving a dead planet behind. How they get there is at times predictable, and at times quite surprising-- there are some nice twists and turns in the storyline that I didn't see coming. I also like how they start out the game just a little bit before the finale level, using the attack on the Ark in space as a nice tutorial state for your character of choice in the first level, Bumblebee (who, despite looking the same as he did in WFC, no longer has his voicebox working-- no real explanation is given in-game for this sudden change in between the two games, which is a niggling detail I really felt they should have at least touched upon). The first level really psyches you up for the story, with all hell breaking loose around you on the Ark. The story then dips back in time a few days to where the Autobots are getting ready for the Ark launch, and then continues through the various chapters until the "present day", resuming the battle on the Ark for the final level.
So, let's first focus on what's different for Fall of Cybertron when compared to WFC. For one, the single-player campaign is really single-player-- sorry, but no playing with up to two of your buddies over the internet. High Moon Studios gave the reason for this reason being scrapped as creating an experience more tailored to the individual robot you're playing as (as most of the Transformers have different special abilities-- more on that later). On one point, that makes sense-- the story wouldn't have nearly the same drive and impact if you were going through it as a group of three Transformers (though you do help out AI-controlled opponents now and again). Instead of separate Decepticon and Autobot campaigns, they're all combined into one long story campaign. Generally the Autobot levels are first, with the Decepticon levels being middle-to-late in the game experience, with the focus switching back to the Autobots a little at the very end of the campaign. The campaign is roughly the same length as the WFC game, maybe slightly longer. Oddly, there's a lack of real boss fights in FoC campaign, the end of most levels instead being you being attacked by a larger-than-normal force of enemies at once. There's one "kinda" boss level at the end where Optimus and Megatron face off against each other on the Ark, but it's mostly a scene with quick-time events and not your typical shooter sequence, which is honestly a little disappointing (a tad moreso since the story ending doesn't change at all no matter who you decide to play as in the final battle). There are also considerably fewer places where you're "supposed" to be in one more or the other, enabling you to transform it up almost as often as you'd like. The dialogue is top-notch, with Peter Cullen reprising his classic role as Optimus and Gregg Berger voicing Grimlock again. Most of the other voice actors and dialogue range from brilliant (Jazz, Cliffjumper) to mediocre (Starscream, Swindle).
Without giving away the actual plot, here's the different chapters of the story you play as, in order:
Chapter 1: Bumblebee
Chapter 2 & 3: Optimus Prime
Chapter 4: Cliffjumper
Chapter 5: Jazz
Chapter 6: Vortex
Chapter 7: Swindle
Chapter 8: Swindle & Bruticus
Chapter 9 & 10: Megatron
Chapter 11: Starscream & Grimlock
Chapter 12: Grimlock
Chapter 13: Finale; several characters
Most of the characters have different "feels" and abilities, such as Cliffjumper's ability to turn invisible giving him more stealth-based missions while Grimlock can only use melee, and instead of his transformation activated voluntarily, a "rage" meter builds up for ol' Grimmy until you it fills and he can transform into dino mode for some extra destruction. That said, some of the characters handle remarkably similar-- such as Jazz and Swindle, both of whom have the grappling hook ability-- or Prime and Megatron, whose levels are more like the traditional mass-shooting levels of most of War for Cybertron. I wish Prime and Megatron had only one level dedicated to them each, however, as their levels tend to be some of the longest in the game and honestly I find the other TF characters more interesting at this point (and there's quite a few TF characters seen in the campaign that you can't play as). Bruticus' time, for all its publicity, is also extraordinarily short, being less than 10 minutes total playtime (though those 10 minutes are great, feeling like a nigh-indestructible giant). Generally the variety works quite well though, with some short, surprise playable "cameos" by a few other characters in the levels above that I won't spoil above. What I WILL say is that the final level is one of my all-time favorite moments in gaming, rapidly switching the character you're playing as every few minutes until it ends, allowing you to see the big battle in space from both sides and from a variety of vantage points. It should be noted that the chapters vary wildly in length, however-- some can take you nearly an hour to complete, while the shortest only take you 5-10 minutes to finish.
As for weapons, they're done quite differently in this game-- with the exception of Grimlock, as you kill enemies you collect Energon Shards, which can be used to purchase weaponry and various upgrades through the Teletraan I shopping levels interspersed throughout the levels. Purchasing a weapon or an upgrade will purchase it for everybody (except, again, Grimlock)-- as you slowly level up your weapons and other capabilties, you can take on tougher and tougher enemiesk, and it encourages you to go back to play the campaign again on a higher difficulty once you've gotten your weapons up higher (which you cannot completely level-up through just one playthrough). The weapons are more varied in this game too, from the more traditional rifles, sniper scopes, and grenade launchers to more crazy stuff like mini black-hole generators, ricocheting sawblade guns, and high-damage shots that whirl around in a sling-like pattern (the latter is unlocked after you beat the game the first time, and it's my personal weapon of choice). Every weapon still needs ammo, but they're scattered a bit more liberally around the environment this time around (and you can buy more ammo via the Teletraan I stations). Each Transformer also has their vehicle mode weapon, but those have ammo too (again, Grimlock being the exception here)-- no more unlimited ammo in vehicle mode anymore.
Alright, gameplay. Most of the controls and handling are the same for most of the characters (including that annoying L3 button transformation trigger-- though fortunately just like WFC, you can change it to the square button if you so desire). Unlike in WFC, in FoC every Transformer has just one special ability (detailed above), but they have a short recharge time (if they have one at all-- some abilities, like Jazz & Swindle's grapple, you can use as much as you want). EVERY Transformer can now dash in robot mode, however-- no special ability required for that anymore. The hover modes from WFC carry over to FoC, which still handle just the same as they always have (i.e., well). You can carry one "light" and one "heavy" weapon at one time-- the "light weapons" glow blue, while the "heavy" glow yellow. You can come across them either during your level, or if you interface with a Teletraan I station, you can change your weapons there. You can also find (or purchase) one-time hand-thrown weapons, such as grenades and temporary shields, though you can only carry one of those at a time. You still use Energon cubes to regenerate your health, but unlike in WFC, you health doesn't regenerate in any manner unless you pick up an Energon cube. Instead, your shield slowly takes damage first, and then when it's depleted, your health is next to go. Go without taking damage for a bit and your shield recharges completely-- so it's always best to limit the amount of damage you take at one time so it doesn't have carry over to your health and thus have longer-term effects. I prefer this method of taking damage, as it simply makes more sense-- taking damage via your personal (invisible unless it's hit) energy shield before your chassis starts to give.
The above are the general
rules of play, but there are exceptions. Grimlock is the big one-- I've
already mentioned how he transforms, but there's more than that. Due to
his being subjected to Shockwave's experiments, he has no long range weapons
at all-- or "special abilities" in the same way as the other main characters.
The T-Rex mode basically IS his special ability, a sort of "super rage
mode" for him. When not stomping and flaming in T-Rex mode (which is most
of the time), Grimlock unleashes combo attacks with his swords on his hapless
prey, and can block incoming projectiles for a unlimited amount of time
by putting up an energy shield in front of him-- though he can't attack
and hold up his shield at the same time, it should be noted. Grimlock can't
interface with the Teletraan I stations at all, so you can't buy any upgrades
when you're playing as him. He also moves considerably slower than most
other 'bots, given how big he is. To replenish his energy, you can perform
a special "finishing" move in either mode that's extracts an Energon cube
from an enemy, so it's pretty easy to replenish Grimlock's health-- which
is good, given the number of enemies they throw at you in his levels. For
long-range attacks, he's forced to pick up and hurl either power cores
or other Decepticons, which can be a bit hilarious.
There's a couple other exceptions to these "general" combat rules, but you don't play as them nearly as long. Bruticus obviously can't transform in his combined mode (and no, you can't command the Combaticons to combine-- the story does that for you at predetermined periods). He has a TON of health, is a very slow plodder, and can do a great deal of damage-- particularly when it comes to his special ability, which is a massive ground-pound and takes a bit of time to recharge. He recharges the usual way, via Energon Cubes, and like Grimlock, he can't interface with Teletaan I stations or change out his weapons-- his normal weapons are a flamethrower and a basic punch/swing, though he can bring up the helicopter blades on his Vortex-arm to serve as a modestly successful shield.
There's also a few "surprise" characters you get to play as during the course of the campaign, but I won't spoil them here. Suffice it to say that the game lets you know quite clearly the special controls for these particular segments, and there are noticeably more "quicktime" events than in WFC-- especially during the final fight between Optimus and Megatron, which is as close to a "boss fight" as this game gets.
The graphics are roughly on par with the previous game-- very good, but not quite the best the console has to offer. Just like in WFC, very low-res textures at first pop up when a place is loading, replaced a few seconds later by the "proper" high-res textures. It's by no means a huge issue, but it is a little distracting. The sound is also quite epic at points-- particularly at the final battle-- and goes along with the game moments very well.
Okay, so let's now change tracks and move over to the Multiplayer aspect of the game. Unlike single player, I was a bit disappointed in FoC's multiplayer. It's not bad but any means, but I was expecting it to be considerably better than the multiplayer in WFC. However, in many ways it's worse. For one, Killstreak bonuses have been completely removed for some reason I can't fathom-- instead of special abilities, you just get extra XP if you get a particular killstreak. Also, the number of "normal" Multiplayer modes has been cut down-- now there's just Team Deathmatch and Conquest from WFC, as well as two new modes-- "Headhunter", which has you killing enemies, capturing their sparks after they die, and then returning them to nodes that change their position on the map every minute or so. You show up on EVERYONE'S radar when you're carrying sparks, however. If someone kills you while you're carrying sparks, they can snag your sparks and nullify your kills, so it's not the same play style as Team Deathmatch at all. (Alternatively, if you're near an ally when they're killed, you can pick up their sparks and essentially "steal" their points, which makes for a bit of friendly competition among teammates.) The last "regular" Multiplayer mode is "Capture the Flag", which is pretty self-explanatory-- you need to capture the enemy team's flag and return it to your team's base 3 times to win the game. However, when you have the flag and are in the process of booking it back to your base, not only does your position appear on everyone's screen, but you also can't change to vehicle form-- if you do, you automatically drop the flag. Out of all the multiplayer modes, this one definitely requires the most teamwork. (It should be noted, however, that there is now a host migration feature, which was BADLY needed in WFC-- though it still "resets" some stuff like character position and such in the level when the host transfer is done, and it's far from instantaneous.)
The same four classes are in "normal" Multiplayer, but they've been renamed, with the exception of the flying "Scientist" class. Leaders (trucks) are now called Destroyers; Scouts (cars) are now called Infiltrators; and Soldiers (tanks) are now called Titans. They level up in a similar manner (and at a similar pace) as they did in the previous game in the series, so no surprises there. Just like in WFC, there are several "mini-challenges" for you to complete (such as killing X enemies with a certain weapon) that, when completed, give you some extra XP. And, just like in WFC, after you level up each class to Level 25, you can engage "Prime Mode" where your characters and the abilities/weapons they can access are reset, but you get a special "matrix" icon next to your name in multiplayer and new, more difficult mini-challenges to take on.
Much has been made of the new ability to customize your characters' appearances in MP in Fall of Cybertron, and indeed it's quite a lot of fun. You can pick from a pretty broad assortment of parts for just about everything-- upper arms, lower arms, heads, chests, wheels, etc. (The part you pick as your chest mostly determines your vehicle mode, though a few parts like wheels will carry over to both modes). However, at the beginning nearly all of the parts are locked, and you have to spend Energon shards you earn by playing MP to unlock those extra parts. To me, that kinda defeats the purpose, having so many options locked to you at the beginning until you play a bit with a very limited choice of character parts. I also wish you could've customized your heads a bit more, or at least allowed any class to pick any character's head, regardless of class-- it's not like that matters for the transformation, anyways. The main disappointment I found with this feature is that the particular colors you can pick for your chassis is rather limited for each side-- which to me seems pointless, since it's made blatantly obvious while you're playing who's friend and who's foe. Unlike in WFC, you also use the same chassis whether you're an Autobot or Decepticon, so you have to pick our certain color schemes for each.
There are three DLC map packs-- retailing for $10 U.S. each-- that were released since the game first came out, and each primarily give you more parts for your characters in "normal" Multiplayer mode, though some minor formerly pre-order bonuses are unlocked as well and can be used in the single-player campaign:
Havok DLC Pack:
-contains chassis & parts for Zeta Prime (Destroyer), Ultra Magnus (Destroyer), Wheeljack (Infiltrator), Perceptor (Titan), and Blast Off (Scientist)
Dinobot Destructor DLC Pack:
-contains chassis & parts for Slug (Infiltrator), Grimlock (Titan), Swoop (Scientist), and Snarl (Destroyer)
-The Dinobots are integrated into the existing classes, they are NOT new classes
-Some parts-- like wheels-- are blocked from being used if you use their chassis, and their alt modes always look the same (except for color)
Massive Fury DLC Pack:
-contains chassis & parts for Hardshell (Titan), Sharpshot (Scientist), Kickback (Scientist), G1 Retro Optimus Prime (Destroyer) and Hound (Destroyer)
-also unlocks Retro Blaster & Shock Sling guns for single-player, as well as G1 Optimus Prime & G2 Bruticus skins for Campaign Mode
-The Insecticon models are integrated into the game in the same was as the Dinobot models
As with the WFC DLC packs,
how much I'd recommend depends entirely on how much you enjoy playing as
different characters in multiplayer (or having a larger selection of parts
to make your custom 'bot). If you love multiplayer shooters and plan on
playing and customizing the game to death, they're worth it; if you don't,
then they're easy passes.
Escalation Mode-- where you fight increasing numbers of enemies in each wave, and use the Energon shards you collected from each downed enemy to purchase weapons, personal or team upgrades, and unlock new areas. It very much requires teamwork, but unlike in WFC, they don't go on forever. There's still only four Escalation levels, and they all only go up to Level 15 (though each level ups the ante more than in WFC, so by the last few levels it's pretty darned hard). You can select an "Easy", "Medium", or "Hard" difficulty setting if you want a bigger challenge, but limited how long you can play kinda ruins the fun of "see how long you can last" once you get the hang of the maps. Unlike in "normal" Multiplayer, you play as one of four pre-determined Transformers characters-- in each map, each one has one special ability; one can heal other , another can spawn turrets, another can put up a shield in front of him, and another can If a TF is downed, you only have so long to revive them before they expire and you have to complete the wave before they'll respawn. Unlike in WFC, if all of you die, it's not necessarily game over-- it'll reset to the beginning of the wave if you all die, and you get three chances-- only after that is the game over. This mode is probably the biggest "downgrade" from WFC.
Fall of Cybertron is a phenomenal game-- the single player campaign in particular has some really epic moments, and the story, though not the BEST out there, is a bit more detailed than WFC's. It's the best Transformers game I've ever played, but the multiplayer (particularly Escalation) hasn't been improved nearly to my liking-- in fact, if you ignore the character customization feature, I'd argue it's slightly worse this time around overall. But it's still a blast, and an easily recommended pickup.
Level Design: 9/10
Overall Rating:96/100 ...Wow.
(Screencaps taken from Gamespot.com)
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