Sunday, 26 August 2012

Review: Transformers Fall of Cybertron Singleplayer


Welcome to the first part of my three part review of Fall of cybertron.  This part is specific to the games campaign mode while part two will focus on the multiplayer and finally part three will feature escalation and the released and upcoming DLC.

Bruticus is cool to play but his level is pretty short
So a brief recap of events.  War for cybertron told the story of how the war between the autobots and decepticons reached its peak when Megatron obtained a dangerous but incredibly powerful energy source called dark energon.  With this power he gained the edge he needed to break the stalemate and start winning the war.  He corrupts the planets core with dark energon and despite a heroic effort on the part of Optimus and his autobots, the planet is too damaged to support life and begins to repair itself.  The downside is the fact that the planet will be dead for millions of years to clear the corruption.  The autobots flee leaving Optimus and his army behind to prevent megatron from following them and also to escape himself when the planet is drained of its remaining energon.

The story picks up a few years later when the planet is almost completely dry of energon.  Both sides are desperate to maintain their dwindling supplies while also trying to find ways to obtain more.  The autobots intend to leave while Megatron has dedicated all of his remaining supplies to stop them, even at the cost of his own forces energy.  Unlike last years game which had a split narrative allowing you to play a decepticon or autobot campaign in either order, fall of cybertron has a single linear narrative which changes factions with each level.  It works better from a storytelling point because its easier to see the effects of each characters actions as you play and allows High moon to focus on specific characters.

Vortex's level is huge in scale showing some massive structures
The levels themselves are designed around the character specific to that level.  For example the level "death from above" is built solely for Vortex of the combaticons due to his ability to fly.  The level is vertically designed allowing the player to navigate the map quickly in jet mode or utilise the vertical nature of the map to attack from different angles.  This approach works well in the narrative sense, but i found it a little lacking compared to war for cybertron.  The three man team of the original game made the levels feel more like a squad of autobots or decepticons fighting in a war, rather than being a lone wolf taking on an army on their own.  There is still plenty of chatter between characters but I still miss the squad approach.

Another minor fault is the lack of cooperative play in the campaign.  Although the levels are now more character specific some of them may have worked still with a co-op mechanic.  Being able to play as the combaticons, dinobots and many other characters with a friend would have been pretty cool.  Again this isn't a major issue but its still a shame it was dropped.

The variety within the levels though is very impressive taking you from the blasted ruins of Iacon city to the sea of rust and inner sectors of decepticon HQ Kaon.  Every level is packed with detail and flow naturally between checkpoints.  It was rare that i ever found myself wondering what to do next or where to go, thanks to the games UI and on screen markers.  In fact the UI is very clutter free allowing more of the screen to be filled with the epic battles that take place.

Grimlock feels like a real powerhouse as he smashes everything
Probably one of the standout levels of the game is Grimlock, which sees you stomping everything you come across as a massive T-rex, and if you don't have the energy to be a dinosaur you can always just chop your enemies up with Grimlocks energon sword.  He plays very differently to the other characters having no ranged weapons at all, but more than makes up for it by having huge health reserves and the ability to perform gruesome executions of enemy troops for a health refill.

Once you finish the campaign there are a few reasons to go back and play it all again.  Most levels have audio logs to collect which expand the story and shed light on events outside of the games levels.  Blueprints unlock new guns to buy in the teletraan store which in turn allow you to upgrade them to be more effective.  The teletraan store saves all of your previous upgrades and unlocks and some achievements revolve around unlocking and upgrading all the weapons in the game so there are plenty of reasons to jump right back into the action post completion.

Control wise the game uses the traditional third person controls for a console shooter.  Triggers govern weapon aiming and firing while the analogue stick control movement and facing.  Transforming could have been assigned to a face button rather than the L3 button on playstation.  The controls are very easy to pickup and everything is explained clearly in a tutorial level.

The games difficulty can spike at times.  Playing it on normal i sometimes found myself being able to withstand withering fire one moment but the next i would die in a few shots.  Death occured for me more when attacked by shotgunners which do horrendous amounts of damage.  Other times it simply because animations would drag you over the edge of a platform and kill you that way.

The largest transformer seen in game dominates optimus' levels
I experienced one lockup of the game when playing the final level after only an hour or so of play, but a restart of the system fixed this.  My biggest glitch was the sound being out of synch with the gameplay and causing in game stutter.  At times the game would freeze for a second before playing again and this seems to happen when replaying a level.  Starting again from fresh does fix this sometimes but not everytime.

Graphically the game is pretty good.  The unreal engine has been pushed to the limit here and it shows with occassional texture pop in and some of the characters details up close in cut scenes show a few low res textures.  When the game is firing on all cylinders though it is truly stunning to watch.  Character and level details are meticulous, adding atmosphere and depth to the levels, while really making the characters stand out.  Even the grunt units you kill en masse have plenty of attention paid to their appearance.  The moving parts on the characters and the way they transform are all unique and when taken into multiplayer you really get to see all the hard work put in by the developers.

The sound department has been working overtime here with an epic soundtrack that mixes rock, orchestra and electronic to create a soundtrack specific to high moons interpretation of the transformers canon.  Weapon sound effects are much improved this time around with even the smallest weapon sounding like it could punch a hole through a tank without issue.  Every character has unique transformation sound effects and engine sounds while the voice cast do an amazing job with the characters.  Gregg Berger returns to voice Grimlock while Peter Cullen once again voices the immortal Optimus Prime.  My only gripe with the voice work is Shockwave who is voiced by Steve blum who does a good job, but he will never replace Corey Burton as the voice of the cycloptic decepticon.

Stay smooth Jazz
Overall the singleplayer in fall of cybertron is a pretty intense experience and a great game for fans of the transformers universe.  For non fans this might not be quite as epic but still worth the ride.  It has epic set pieces plenty of weapon variety and the unique gameplay aspect of being able to switch from robot to vehicle mode on the fly.

SCORE: 7.8/10 - It would have been higher had the squad mechanic been kept and the game had been a little less gltichy in regards to sound and freezing issues.  Its still one of the best games released this year regardless and if you are a fan of transformers there is no excuse not to get it if you own a PC, PS3 or Xbox 360.

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