HIGH MOON STUDIOS HAS MANAGED TO DO SOMETHING VERY RARE WITH TRANSFORMERS: FALL OF CYBERTRON — they’ve done a much-loved franchise from another medium justice. They did it first with Transformers: War for Cybertron, and have managed to up the ante with its sequel. In this latest iteration, the Autobots are trying to escape Cybertron in an Ark, and the Decepticons, of course, are trying to stop them.
1. THEY LOOK THE PART
The Autobots and Decepticons are a nice blend of the designs from the ’80s animated TV show coupled with the more recent overly-ornate pincushion designs from the Michael Bay films. Every character feels organic, with whirring bits, oscillating parts, and a nice feeling of fidgeting when the bots are idling. Of particular beauty is when you mount a new gun on your hand, how it transforms into place. Additionally, the custom transformations for each bot makes every transition from bot to vehicle breathtaking.
2. CYBERTRON IS MASSIVE
While the game starts you in relatively tight confines, ushering you down corridors, it soon opens up and you’ll find yourself racing across large courtyards, and leaping chasms. The planet cybertron is a fully-formed world, and you really feel like a tiny bot fighting for survival.
3. AUDIOLOG COLLECTING
Scattered throughout are collectible audiologs that reward exploration. While the logs themselves don’t do a lot to elaborate on the already obvious story, you can activate them and they’ll play while you move, so you don’t have to stand by it the whole time.
4. ONE DAMN THING AFTER ANOTHER
The sense of propulsion is quite wonderful. You’re thrown into the action immediately. High Moon does a good job of keeping you guessing. For instance, at one point you’re moving down this corridor and suddenly you’re confronted by an overwhelming force and you have to go backwards. I won’t spoil it, but what happens next is elegant and surprising.
5. NO NEED FOR A CARWASH
The game is polished. The love the developers have for the franchise manifests in a billion little things. The way Optimus Prime holds his hands up when there is a bright light. The nuts, tubes and detritus dotting the landscape. More and more I am convinced that when a developer is given a bit of freedom to develop a mythology (in this case, what happened to the Transformers before they arrived on Earth) the more invested they will be in the final product, and the finer the eventual game will be.
6. QUIET OR LOUD
Usually in stealth levels, there is a very linear path you’re expected to walk, and if detected, results in a game over screen. Fortunately, Transformers allows you to approach these stealth levels guns-blazing. Your opposition might be on alert, and in greater numbers, making your life a lot harder, but it’s arguable that the freedom is well worth it, and I for one appreciate options.
7. HEART OF A TIN MAN
Much like the first game, this iteration lets you inhabit various autobots and decepticons, telling the story from everyone’s point of view in an ensemble cast. What’s great is the sense you get of the different personalities – letting you walk a mile in every bot’s chassis, roll on their wheels, fly with their servothrusters. Optimus Prime has a gravitas, the more reckless Cliffjumper is wry and hilarious. To an outside eye, the Transformers all look the same, but when you get to play as them all, you discover they are anything but.
8. THE PARKING BRAKE IS ON
While it’s rare, there are some moments when you are unable to transform. Not because you are a prisoner and in shackles, but because the game doesn’t want you to – reminding you: Can’t change form here. But here’s the thing – I’m a goddamn Transformer! I want to be able to do it anywhere! Even if it’s just to do it.
9. POOR SHOPPING EXPERIENCE
Throughout Cybertron, there are these vending machinescalled Teletraans where you can upgrade weapons, and buy perks. The user-interface for it is very confusing, and it’s difficult to know exactly what you are allowed to do. I would have appreciated a brief walkthrough of the system right at the beginning.
10. NOSTALGIA TRAP
For Transformers fans out there, you will be delighted to discover that you can weild the classic pew-pew guns from the 80s series, re-enacting those laserfights that enthralled you so much as a kid. Unfortunately, when the gun appears at the Teletraan, you will be irked and infuriated to discover that it’s actually DLC, and a Gamestop pre-order bonus and you’ll be paying even more for another piece of your childhood. I don’t blame High Moon for this – it was likely the marketing department – still, it’s a dick move.
High Moon have done for Transformers what Rocksteady has done for Batman. The game is not without a few problems, but the love they lavished on this world is apparent, and is well worth a purchase.
Sherwin Sullivan Tjia is the author of five books: Gentle Fictions, Pedigree Girls (Insomniac Press), The World is a Heartbreaker (Coach House Books), The Hipless Boy (Conundrum Press). His latest is a choose-your-own-adventure story told from the perspective of a cat. It’s called You Are a Cat! (Conundrum Press). His most recent invention, the E-Z-Purr, is a CD with over an hour of cats purring! and is available for purchase from CD Baby.
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