It is no secret that I absolutely loved High Moon’s 2010 release of Transformers: War for Cybertron. In addition to raving about it in my review
, I also considered it one of the best games the year. A couple of weeks back, I was given a hands on preview of their next game in the series: Fall of Cybertron. The new game, launching later this Fall, brings the series back under the complete control of High Moon. The new game is darker, grittier, and more mature than any of the previous Transformers games. Based on a few short missions that I witnessed, I have no doubt that this one is going to rock as much, if not more, than War for Cybertron.
Back in the driver’s seat
The biggest thing that Fall of Cybertron has going for it is that High Moon is back in t he driver’s seat for the project. While they were responsible for the complete development of the game, they were restricted to the scope of Michael Bay’s third Transformers film. In the end, they did a decent job with it; the resulting game was one of the best movie-game tie in’s I have ever played, but it paled in comparison to the 2010 title. That isn’t an issue here though; Hasbro has given them nearly complete creative freedom with the game and is allowing them to craft the universe as they see fit.
Seeing as though nearly everyone at High Moon is a huge Transformers fan, their vision of the subject matter is directly in line with that of die-hard fans. This project, and the series in general, is the definition of being “by fans, for fans”. Thanks to the maturation of the High Moon staff as individuals, the subject matter has matured as well. This isn’t the Transformers that we remember seeing in our childhood; these are mature Transformers who happen to be the grown up version of our childhood heroes.
The best of both worlds
Although Dark of the Moon wasn’t nearly as good as War for Cybertron, that isn’t to say that the game didn’t have some redeeming qualities. With Fall of Cybertron, High Moon is taking the best of both War for Cybertron and Dark of the Moon and merging them into one game. The gameplay is primarily the same in terms of controls and presentation; this is still a 3rd person action game with a huge focus on character driven storylines.
Gone however are the team based gameplay mechanics from the first game as the game focuses solely on individual Transformer for each missions in the game. This allows High Moon to accomplish a couple of things. First off, the different levels are personalized to the individual characters allowing you learn more about the individual characters which is something that should please fans of the original G-1 series.
This also allows High Moon to greatly vary the gameplay experiences from level to level. There is a huge number of characters in the game, and I mean HUGE. Nearly each and every one of them has they own unique gameplay experience tied to them and their related missions. This will help keep the game fresh and exciting from start to finish. One second you may find yourself in the midst of a dogfight as Starscream and the next battling it out in a high speed pursuit as Bumblebee. Either way, it keeps you on the edge of your seat with non-stop action.
Customization is the spice of life
One new thing that is being added into this installment is the concept of complete customization. This will be present in both the single- and multiplayer modes (which I’ll touch on shortly), but in varying levels. The single-player mode will allow you to tweak and detail your characters to your liking.
As you defeat enemies and complete objectives, each characters will earn experience that can be spent to purchase and upgrade different technology and weapons. Although Bumblebee, for example, might start out with a few simple machine guns or rifles, you can trick him out to be a true powerhouse with missile and grenade launchers. conversely, while Optimus is traditionally a heavy hitter, you can tweak his arsenal out to be more finesse-oriented, the choice is yours.
The game is also adopting more of an open-world approach which will help you cater the experience as well. Missions are always going to be straight forward with one lone goal. You will be able to approach different objectives differently in a manner that tailers more to your gameplay preferences. Want to be a guns-blazing tank, have at it. Prefer to sneak around and take out your enemies in a more subtle manner? You will be able to do so to within a set of parameters.
Cybertron is a dying planet
One thing is clear no matter which part of the game you are witnessing: Cybertron is a dying planet. The planet in its last days and it is the war that is ripping the world apart. Everywhere that you look, there is evidence of the struggle between the Autobots and the Decepticons. The sky is filled with airborn battles and the farthest landscape is littered with artillery and explosions; everywhere that you look, there is war.
War for Cybertron depicted this confrontation on a smaller, more personal scale. That was then this is now. These are the final days of the planet and the conflictand things are truly at their boiling point. The game does a good job at bringing the world of Cybertron to life, despite its bleak situation. The environments are a little more colorful and lifelike than War for Cybertron, which helps to develop more on an emotional attachment between the player and the game world. The colors are more vibrant and the landscape is more varied; it doesn’t look like a giant computer any more as it is evident that this is a planet that someone (the TRansformers) called home.
When the war reaches it’s peak, you and your opponents will be bringing this once-beautiful city to its knees. Destruction of the game world plays a much larger role in this game; at many times during multiple missions, the world around you will literally be reduced to ashes. Buildings fall, towers collapse, and the ground itself will give way. Hell, at one point, you will take control of new Transformers the size of 5 city blocks an unleash destruction on an absolutely massive scale. While it is sad to see, it is a site of beauty to behold (technologically speaking).
It’s a freaking flame-breathing T-Rex!
As I mentioned, the game is going to feature an extremely robust cast of characters; I only witnessed 4 missions from the game and those levels alone became a who’ss-who of the Transformers Universe. The biggest addition however, without a doubt, is the inclusion of the Dinobots. That is right, everyone’s favorite robotic dinosaurs are here and you will be taking control of them, specifically, the biggest and baddest one of them all: Grimlock.
During the Grimlock mission(s), things are presented a little differently than with other missions. While every other Transformer in the game can Transform between the robot and vehichle form at will, Grimlock’s transformation must be earned. As you defeat enemies with your trusty sword as the robot, Grimlock will level up a rage meter which can eventually be unleashed in the form of his transformation. when he transforms, all Hell will break loose.
After transforming, Grimlock is yours to control in his gigantic Tyranosaurus form, completely with fire-breathing capabilities. It is amazing toe experience for yourself for the first time and may rank up there as on of those religious experiences such as swimming in Mario 64 for the first time. The 5-year old boy inside of me, that has been dormant for nearly 30 years, literally screamed with joy as I unleashed destruction upon the Decepticons in my path.
Multiplayer conflicts are going to Escalate
The biggest omission from Dark of the Moon was the Escalation multiplayer mode. When the mode was first revealed in War for Cybertron, it took the Gears of War Horde formula to a whole new level. I truly feel that it set the stage for what Horde mode eventually became in Gears of War 3. Well, that won’t be an issue this time around as it will be back and bigger / better than ever before.
High Moon wasn’t ready to show off the mode yet, and likely won’t be showing it at this week’s E3 either. What they did tell us though is that they are looking to bring an unparalleled level of customization to the mode and allow players to both build their own Transfromers, from scratch, for this mode and other multiplayer game modes.
Good things will come, I promise
I have never had as much faith in a developer as I have in High Moon and their work on this series. These games are truly a labor of love for them and no one is more critical of their Transformers work than they are. Fall of Cybertron is allowing them to do what they do best: take hold of Hasbro’s famed franchise and present it in the way true fans want it presented. This game, which could be the last of the Cybertron saga, is darker and more mature than any Transformers game we have seen before it; just as the staff has matured and grown up since G-1 Transformers graced their television sets on Saturday morning, so has their interpretation of the series. Now, if we can only convince them to do the same with some other franchises from the early 80‘s...
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron will be available for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on August, 28, 2012. The PC version, which will be handled by Mercenary Games, will also be out later this year.
Activision paid for travel and lodging expenses for this press event held in Los Angeles, which included a presentation of the game(s).