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Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Review

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Fall of Cybertron has some truly excellent moments, but you'll need to look past some serious downsides to enjoy the overall package.

Metroplex shows up for a little bit to let you launch some airstrikes.

You'd think that Transformers would be one of those home run/slam dunk sort of properties that would be able to turn out fantastic video games. But a brief visit to a list of every Transformers game results in a whole lot of sadness. The reasons why are perhaps a bit outside the scope of this review, but it sets the stage for what's to follow. We're dealing with a pretty low bar here. 2010's War for Cybertron, thus, quickly became one of the best Transformers games ever made, despite having a load of issues. Now, Activision and High Moon have created a follow-up with Fall of Cybertron, a game that improves upon the developer's past work. But it's still a pretty lackluster shooter that doesn't perk up until the end, and it's only truly suited for people who are fiending for a Transformers game.

Like its predecessor, Fall of Cybertron is a third-person shooter--or at least it is when you're in robot form. You plod around metallic environments, like a big robot should, taking aim at scads of nameless robot fodder with the left trigger and gunning them to bits with the right. Though you'll play as a number of different Autobots and Decepticons over the course of the game's campaign, the robot forms don't feel terribly different. Rather than going with custom weaponry for each character, you can pick up weapons from the battlefield. So the weapons feel like the sort of firearms you'd be likely to find in this sort of game, giving you sci-fi equivalents of burst-fire rifles, fully automatic assault rifles, shotguns, and rocket launchers. The heavy weapons, though much more limited on ammo, give you different effects, including one gun that forces an enemy to fight for your team, another that causes corrosive damage, and so on. The robot forms do, however, get a character-specific ability. So when you're playing as Jazz, you'll have a grappling hook. Cliffjumper can cloak himself. Optimus Prime can mark targets and call in Metroplex in some sequences for an airstrike. Some of the abilities double-up, though. Starscream, for example, can also cloak himself.

To make all those abilities work properly, the game locks specific Transformers to specific levels. So the Jazz level is specifically designed with a lot of grapple activity in mind. The Vortex level is primarily meant to be experienced in vehicle form, since he's a helicopter/jet in that form. The vehicle forms are where the different characters get a little more unique. The aforementioned Vortex has a Gatling gun and powerful bombs when he's a vehicle. Megatron, a hover tank, simply has his one big cannon, but it feels like it's more powerful than just about anything else in the entire game. You can transform back and forth just about anywhere, but the game usually makes it pretty clear when you're expected to turn into your vehicle form. Driving through the game's corridors ends up being sort of a hassle, because the floaty hovering and strafing that every ground-based ride is saddled with isn't much fun to control.

You'll stomp a number of Insecticons during the campaign.

That's probably the larger problem here. The act of moving around these environments and carrying out your tasks really isn't much fun. There's no cover system in Fall of Cybertron. That's not to say that every third-person shooter absolutely must have a cover system, but instead of coming up with some clever alternative, the answer is to simply manually stand behind objects, which obstructs your view to the point where the developers had to put in and then emphasize a "switch your shooting hand" button that swaps the camera view. This is one of the problems that dedicated cover systems are sort of designed to fix. It certainly doesn't help that, throughout much of the game, you'll see robots from both factions hiding behind cover. Are your robots simply too proud to hide?

Maybe it'd be a little easier to stand if the robots weren't so frail. When you think of Megatron you think of an unstoppable force that shreds through lesser Transformers like they were Gobots. Instead all it takes is two nameless, identity-less shotgun-toting robots to get a little too close and let loose and you're forced to reload your last checkpoint. The game only stops to get its power fantasy on when you're controlling Bruticus and, in a chapter that's been shown off quite a bit prior to the game's release, Grimlock. The Grimlock chapter comes late in the game and puts you in control of a Transformer that can't transform at will. And instead of shooting the same small handful of weapons at all your enemies, Grimlock carries a sword. The melee doesn't feel great and when you do build up a rage meter of sorts and get into your dinosaur form, maneuvering and lining up your attacks feels cumbersome rather than cool. It's the sort of style change that should be a cool payoff... but it isn't.

Instead, the actual payoff comes in the final chapter. It's an incredibly dynamic piece of action that has you quickly bolting from one character to the next as the Decepticons attempt to stop the Autobots from escaping their dying homeworld. One moment you're Soundwave, leading a boarding party and ejecting tapes all over the unsuspecting Autobots. Then it quickly shifts focus to another character, and another, and another, each of which is playing a different role in this larger conflict. It creates a series of manic moments that feel incredibly cool and take advantage of the ensemble cast in some really great ways. It'd be hard to deal with a full game like this, since the pace would be impossible to keep up, but when you put it up against the slow, repetitive pace of the rest of the campaign, it puts the rest of the game to shame.

Fall of Cybertron also has competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes. The competitive action gives you team deathmatch, CTF, capture-and-hold, and a headhunter mode. It's also class-based, with different classes getting access to different weapons and abilities. Scientist-class robots have a heal beam, for example. Experience is earned on a per-class basis. A lot of the same control and mechanic problems from the campaign exist here, as well, but the competitive multiplayer also has the game's coolest feature. You can create your own Transformers.

The origin of the Dinobots has been rewritten in an interesting way that fits with the storyline.

Not from scratch, of course. The game has a pile of different arm, shoulder, head, chest, and other options to choose from, letting you customize your form. If you want to just create a specific Transformer, you can purchase a whole armor set. I, for example, just wanted to look like Shockwave. The chest piece determines what your basic vehicle shape is, but the other parts make a mark, as well, letting you put specific wheels on your car forms or choose just the sort of wings you want for a jet form. It's a neat idea that looks pretty great.

Escalation is Transformers: Fall of Cybertron's wave-based survival mode. You'll face 15 waves of enemies and earn currency along the way that can be used to buy more ammo, pick up new weapons, and open up additional areas in the levels. Here, you'll play as specific four-bot crews, each with specific abilities like the heal beam, an object that regenerates ammo for players that stand within a specific radius, and so on. It's absolutely functional.

Visually, the art and overall style shines through a lackluster frame rate. When the action heats up, everything chops up. Some of the in-engine cutscenes look pretty bad as a result, which robs some of the game's grander moments of their impact. But the game strikes the right balance between robots and vehicles that look appropriate in this Cybertronian environment and the G1 look and feel that most fans seem to want. Jazz and Cliffjumper look fantastic. Optimus Prime's robot form is pretty sharp. Shockwave, despite not having a voice that fits with the voice I expect to be coming out of his blinking... eye-thing, looks great. Even the vehicle forms look sharp, as long as you're prepared to handle the notion that Megatron is a hover tank instead of a big flying pistol. Cybertron is also depicted quite well, with plenty of scenery changes that, for a planet made entirely of metal, manage to give the campaign a good deal of visual variety. Again, it's just a shame that you have to see all this through a lens that can't keep up with the action. The PS3 version is saddled with an audio issue, causing some dialogue to get cut off or play slightly later than it should, making some of the in-mission conversations sound stilted and unnatural.

The highs in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron are very high. The final chapter and the way it presents its world are awesome things to see if you care about the Transformers franchise. It rewrites origins in ways that feel elegant, especially when compared to things like the movie trilogy. And it has the right idea with character-specific abilities that help to make the individual Transformers feel different. But it doesn't go far enough in that direction to stand out, and it ultimately feels like it's being held back by its by-the-numbers shooting. There are some great ideas here, but you'll have to wade through a pretty thick set of drawbacks to enjoy them. With that in mind, it'll really help if you're the sort of person who really cares about the Transformers franchise.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
81 Comments
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Edited by bald_n_nekkid

aw man, was hoping this would be 4+ stars

Edited by DaBuddaDa

Jeff calls it "War for Cybertron" twice in this review. Oops!

Someone fixed it.

Game sounds kinda bummer. I thought this would be much better than War.

Edited by Kaigan

@Jeff said:

War for Cybertron has some truly excellent moments, but you'll need to look past some serious downsides to enjoy the overall package.

Like the fact that it's a Transformers game.

Posted by LameImpala

Whole lot of Transformers ads on the site right now. Hope Jeff doesn't get fired!

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Posted by Phatmac

Noticing several errors in this review and the fact that you call it War for Cybertron twice. Come on

I liked WC so I think I'll like this. I don't have a huge attachment to the older cartoons, but I still believe that transformers are pretty cool. This looks pretty rad, despite the three stars I'll probably enjoy it.

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Posted by ObsideonDarman

Shame. I liked the demo better than the entirety of the last game. Looks like I won't be picking this one up, I'll probably give it a rental.

Posted by Morningstar

Transformers games are mediocre again. Damn, I had decently high hopes for this one.

Posted by Reluctant_Hero

Sounds like a great rental. Looking forward to playing through it.

Posted by RetroVirus

They really should give these games extra time to put that final level of polish on it.

Posted by rmanthorp

Looking forward to this but I expected it to hit with a few rough spots from watching the demos. Sucks, but I'll still enjoy it while I do :D

Moderator
Posted by jozzy

Aaw surprising, it looked pretty interesting in the QL EX.

It seems to have the same problem as Space Marine has for me, there is no cover system and you are too frail to feel really bad-ass. In Space Marine you at least have the execution that gives you health back, but I still feel I have to play a little too carefully where I just want to tear stuff up.

Posted by BaconGames

Not surprising given the last game. I feel like the games are just kinda there most of the time except for a few moments which for this game sounds like the end.

Posted by Shaanyboi

Meh. I'll pick it up this afternoon.

Posted by The_Nubster

@DaBuddaDa said:

Jeff calls it "War for Cybertron" twice in this review. Oops!

Someone fixed it.

I can't blame him, 'War for' and 'Fall of' are terribly generic names.

Posted by pornstorestiffi

Don't care how many stars this got. Already have the game pre-downloaded on Steam. I grew up with G1, and i already knew this wasn't going to be a revolutionary games just like War for Cybertron wasn't. But i had a lot of fun playing through that game, even with the flaws it had.

Edited by DoctorWelch

This is always the weird thing about reviews of games that have distinctively separate single player and multiplayer components. With a game like Uncharted it's obvious that much of the review is going to come from the story side of it, while in a game like this it's hard to know what direction to focus more attention on when you're reviewing/criticizing the game.

I feel like this review is probably apt for the quality of the overall experience, but I do think the multiplayer is fairly interesting and definitely the reason to get this game.

Posted by Olqavtoras

War for Cybertron got 3 stars too, and I thought that was awesome. Can't wait too pick this up!

Posted by Brake

This was on my maybe list after the Quick Look, now it isn't.

Posted by Baltimore

Anyone have a chance to play it on PC?

Posted by Zacagawea

I look forward to renting this like I did the first one

Posted by ThePhantomStranger

Sounds pretty good for what they had to work with time wise, not that that should factor into buying advice. Still hopefully they get to make a third one with better resources now that they don't have a movie coming out.

Then again a lot of the issues here sound like design choices and not about a lack of resource. Then again what do I know?

Posted by kalmis

Need to try this out one day.

Edited by KingdomCome

@ObsideonDarman said:

Shame. I liked the demo better than the entirety of the last game. Looks like I won't be picking this one up, I'll probably give it a rental.

You base your opinion of a game by a single review? You stated yourself that you enjoyed the demo, and the demo was significantly larger than most...

Posted by SmokePants

Keep in mind that Jeff gave War for Cybertron 3 stars, I believe.

Personally, I'm not here for the reviews. I don't feel like any of the Giant Bomb staff represents my tastes and values. With Jeff, I find that he often either over-scores by one star or under-scores by a star. By my estimation, of course.

The game is certainly not without problems, but I've enjoyed what I've played so far.

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Posted by bybeach

I snickered a little when Jeff mentioned someone actually caring about the Transformer's universe, and then I put a sock in in it..I think Jeff himself cares about the Transformer's universe, better watch my step!

And you know what, I actually wanted this game to be good, because I'm always impressed by insignificant things coming out of the woodwork and suddenly establishing actual meaning and value. I too wonder how the PC version is..if there be one.

Edited by Cirdain

This still seems like something I'd really like, judging from the review, so I'm gonna get it. I've played through worse and liked worse. Mind you, I still maintain that The Saboteur was good.

Posted by Delta_Ass

War for Cybertron didn't have a load of issues...

Posted by Jolt92

Hmm, I was kind of interested in this, I might get it at some point even though I don't get Transformers at all.

Posted by l4wd0g

Thanks Jeff. I'm really glad I waited for your review before buying Fall of Cybertron. I'll just save my money for the hot holiday season.

Posted by Cirdain

@GnaTSoL: @SmokePants: Right I'm going to do something crazy, I'm going say my opinion.

I do sometimes disagree Jeff but the reviews he gives still let's me judge for myself on whether I pick up the game, although he feels it's a 3 star he lays out the good and bad and I don't mind the bad he's talking as much as he does. Ergo (I've always wanted to write that), that's my definition of a review.

However, the ridiculous is sometimes hilarious like Jim Sterling or Yahtzee .

Edited by Solh0und

Glad I rented it. I'm a G1 fan and all but all of the gameplay wouldn't get my $60 worth so far. I kinda miss the CO-OP campaign personally. :( 
 
With that said: This game is far from being terrible.

Posted by probablytuna

I enjoyed my time with War for Cybertron, but that was probably because of my "co-op" experience I had with a friend more so than the game itself. Don't think I will be picking this one up though.

Posted by JackSukeru

3 stars, called it!

I tried the demo on Ps3 earlier today and I was kinda into it, though everyone yelling directions at me constantly got annoying. It was the tutorial level and Bumblebee couldn't speak, but still, kinda felt ridiculous.

Also that switch your shooting hand thing is weird, I think it has something to do with the animation that goes into it, it's not quite as responsive as I would have liked. It's also assigned to a weird button, but you could thankfully change it. I do like the dash ability though (it even does air), might make up for not being able to take cover, somewhat.

Since I'm far, far from a diehard fan of Transformers I should probably hold out for a Steam sale, but we'll see.

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Posted by SmokePants

@Hatp said:

@GnaTSoL said:

@SmokePants:

Yea. These guys are horrible reviewers, especially Brad. I'm here for the funny videos.

nope

Learn to quote. I never said that. I don't think they are horrible. I like listening to them discuss games on the Bombcast. I just find their conclusions not to be very useful to me personally. They dismiss things that are important to me and harp on things that aren't.

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Posted by Chris2KLee

Hmm, seems like it's a little too close to the first game for my tastes. Good review, and the Metroplex screenshot makes a sweet wallpaper.

Posted by Hatp

@SmokePants said:

@Hatp said:

@GnaTSoL said:

@SmokePants:

Yea. These guys are horrible reviewers, especially Brad. I'm here for the funny videos.

nope

Learn to quote. I never said that. I don't think they are horrible. I like listening to them discuss games on the Bombcast. I just find their conclusions not to be very useful to me personally. They dismiss things that are important to me and harp on things that aren't.

i just pressed quote, no need to delete your comments, coward

Edited by Sweetz

The only sticking point for me regarding the score is that Space Marine got 4 stars and that game is as by-the-numbers as a by-the-numbers shooter can be. It similarly lacks a cover system, has stereotypical weapons, and I would say there's nothing notable that makes it a stand out game.

From what Jeff says in his review, Fall of Cybertron already sounds like it has a lot more going for it than Space Marine - except performance issues.

The Giant Bomb guys make no attempt to hide that their reviews are skewed to their personal tastes (because an impartial review is a fallacy). That's what great about the podcasts and video content, it lets you get to know their personalities and then appropriately temper their reviews according to how your own tastes align with theirs. That said, I think they should at least try to keep the scoring consistently relative within itself. If everyone on staff agrees that game A is better than game B, but game B has a higher review score - it calls into question the value of the scoring in general (which is, of course, a subject of never ending debate in the industry). However, I have no clue whether everyone would say Fall of Cybertron is a better game than Space Marine - that's just the way it seems to me.

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Posted by Sammo21

Funny to read this review after hearing Jeff talk shit about the first and second games plenty of times lol.

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Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

Where is the video review?

Posted by honkyjesus

On the low end of the scores I have seen.

If you haven't played the War For Cybertron game should you just dip into that first? You may have mentioned it in the review, but I can't read.

Posted by Greenlight13

I really enjoyed the previous game, though it was obviously in that B-category, with some technical issues and a general lack of slick gameplay, but those kinds of games are kind of essential to link you from one AAA title to the next, and let's face it, we don't all buy every AAA title anyway. I love Transformers so that probably helped my positive opinion of the last. I know Jeff liked it, so it worries me he doesn't think this one is better. I'll still get it... but maybe I'll wait for the price drop.

On a side-note I don't get the whole Megatron should be a pistol etc argument. These games are set before they go to earth, they transform for transport, not for a disguise, so why on earth would Megatron become a pistol instead of a tank? And to that end, they're on a giant metal planet full of advanced technology, why is it so hard to imagine them being able to strafe? Earth vehicles don't, and that's what they patterned themselves after when they arrived, so it all works in my opinion. The only thing that irks me is Grimlock as a T-Rex pre-Earth, but they claim there's an explanation.

Posted by Ares42

This reads just like his War for Cybertron review. Critiquing the game for it's lackluster campaign (which was valid for War and probably is here too), and completely dismissing the multiplayer for no reason even though it's quite unique and interesting. But then again Jeff has never been a fan of this style of shooter (just look at his disregard of TF2). Although it's too late by now they should've really gotten someone else that wasn't just interested in the Transformers part of the game to review it.

Posted by Snakepond

I don't know Jeff. I played War for Cybertron and I would agree wit you it was lackluster. I played the demo for Fall of Cybertron and was really impressed with the feel, color scheme all the issues I had with the first seemed to be fixed.

Posted by Brendan

@Hatp said:

@SmokePants said:

@Hatp said:

@GnaTSoL said:

@SmokePants:

Yea. These guys are horrible reviewers, especially Brad. I'm here for the funny videos.

nope

Learn to quote. I never said that. I don't think they are horrible. I like listening to them discuss games on the Bombcast. I just find their conclusions not to be very useful to me personally. They dismiss things that are important to me and harp on things that aren't.

i just pressed quote, no need to delete your comments, coward

"What are you talking about guys, I never said that! Look, you can see what I didn't rewrite, right there!"

Posted by august

@Jolt92 said:

Hmm, I was kind of interested in this, I might get it at some point even though I don't get Transformers at all.

They're robots... in disguise!

Posted by GenocidalKitten

@Hatp said:

@SmokePants said:

@Hatp said:

@GnaTSoL said:

@SmokePants:

Yea. These guys are horrible reviewers, especially Brad. I'm here for the funny videos.

nope

Learn to quote. I never said that. I don't think they are horrible. I like listening to them discuss games on the Bombcast. I just find their conclusions not to be very useful to me personally. They dismiss things that are important to me and harp on things that aren't.

i just pressed quote, no need to delete your comments, coward

The quoting system needs to be retooled so that people like hatp can't take advantage of it.

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Posted by AlwaysBeClothing

Dinobots in disguise!....as transformers who were on Cybertron somehow.

Posted by Spaceyoghurt

Will probably be a 4/5 for me, as I always seem to like these kinds of games a bit more than Jeff.

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Posted by DasUberOgre

Sounds like a purchase to me. I liked the first one a lot and if this is like that then I am a-okay.

Posted by BonOrbitz

@Olqavtoras said:

War for Cybertron got 3 stars too, and I thought that was awesome. Can't wait too pick this up!

Same here. When I first saw the three stars on the home page I thought "I wonder if Jeff reviewed it" before I read his write-up. However, I'm a diehard Tranfan so I'm willing to forgive most Transformers games (not counting the movie based titles). I loved the first game and if Jeff said that this game is an improvement over that then Amazon can't ship my copy soon enough.

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