Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Review: Transformers Fall of Cybertron Multiplayer


If you haven't read my singleplayer review you can find it on the frontpage of the blog just below this post.

I really enjoyed the multiplayer from War for cybertron despite its few flaws.  It was fast and chaotic and equal parts fun and rage inducing at times.  It was fun because the ability to switch between robot and vehicle mode during an intense firefight really captured the essence of Transformers as you sped away from danger or boosted into the fray.  It was rage inducing due to a lack of autobalance and almost regular host drops which basically meant every point experience you earned was gone.  This happened regularly when the host decided they didn't like to lose so they simply logged and kept trying until they were on the winning team.

Fall of cybertrons multiplayer addresses this issue by introducing a host drop feature which pauses the action while it finds a new host from amongst the remaining players in the match.  This is a major benefit and probably the most welcome of the new features brought into the online component of the game. 

Team sizes have increased from ten to twelve players which might not sound like much but the additional player on each team makes the downtime between firefights shorter.  The autobalance in matches generally works well although on one occassion I found myself on a team of five against seven which we obviously lost.  Luckily this doesn't happen often.

You can switch between autobot and decepticon versions here
Gametypes aren't that varied or original, if you have played War for cybertron you already know whats on offer.  Team deathmatch sees both teams attempting to reach a kill count of forty which is a relatively low number when kills can come thick and fast on some maps.  Capture the flag is pretty self explanatory.  A version of skull hunter which sees you collecting the sparks on downed players to return to base if rarely played online.  The mode most played is conquest which like battlefield and other shooters like it involves capturing control points on the map tp accumulate four hundred points.  Its the mode that gets you the most experience and actually has a flow to it unlike the other matches which lack any cohesion between players.

The game features four seperate classes each with their own playstyle, skill and weapon sets.
  • Infiltrator - These are the smallest physically and are made up of characters such as Jazz, Breakdown and Wheeljack.  They turn into small fast sports vehicles that can match the scientists for speed but have weaker weapons in vehicle mode.  They utilise cloaking abilities or EMP grenades to stun opponents and sport a mix of long and short range weapons.  Long range weapons include sniper rifles and semi automatic rifles, while short range sees them using auto shotguns and smgs.
  • Destroyer -  Visually they look like characters like Swindle, Optimus Prime and Ironhide.  They are large slow and act as a support class to the team.  They transform into trucks or heavy vehicles such as 4X4's equipped with missiles.  Destroyers equip heavy weapons like riot cannons and grenade launchers making them focus on AoE damage instead of accurate fire.  They utilise shields to protect allies from fire or activate hover jets to avoid fire and slam down onto foes.
  • Titan - The physically largest class in the game and thus the slowest in both robot and vehicle mode.  These guys look like Perceptor, Megatron and Brawl and turn into tanks.  Their tank form obviously mounts a powerful cannon, while in robot mode they come equipped with large chainguns, rocket launchers and slime cannons.  They have the most health but are easy targets are most ranges.  Their abilities allow them to either deploy a handheld shield which absorbs damage and allows them melee foes away from them, or turn into a whirlwind of melee strikes at the cost of mobility.
  • Scientist - Made up of characters like Starscream, Jetfire and Vortex scientists are the fastest in vehicle mode.  They still have the least health compared to the other classes but more than make up for this with speed and their special abilities.  They can equip assault rifles but also more specialised weapons such as gear shredders which fire ricocheting disks and orbital pistols which weaken enemy armour and do small amounts of damage.  They can act as healers with repair beams or backup the teams firepower with sentry turrets.

The maps are on average much larger than War for cybertrons offering.  Jets can now move about freely and utilise their speed and maneuverability to quickly get around the map to perform hit and run attacks or captures locations/flags.  There are still some maps that feature a more clautrophobic feel like sewers which is very small with tight corridors for those players who like to get up close and personal.

The character detail remains high despite the on screen action
The health system from the original game has been dropped in favour of a single health bar and shield like that of the singleplayer game.  This means that no single class is weaker physically anymore which makes certain classes more fun to play, such as the scientist which previously had the least health and didn't last long in a fight.  This system does create a few balance problems though.  Scientists are now the best overall class in the class in the game with a decent weapon selection, sentry turret ability which can damage or slow targets and their flight makes them tough to counter  on the move. 

The weapons now have a more varied approach compared to war for cybertron.  The standard selection is still here such as the pistol, smg, lmg, rocket launcher but new additions like the orbital cannon which reduces your targets armour, corrosive slime cannon which does damage over time and slows enemies and EDK techvolt which does low damage but arcs to multiple targets make the selection very varied.  These are not all the weapons on offer as there are more to choose from as you level up with each class.  Vehicle modes now only have a single weapon each where in the past you were able to switch between machine guns and rockets for jets.

Finally the biggest addition and my biggest gripe is the much touted create your own transformer feature.  Prior to launch the team at High moon studios mentioned that players could create their own unique transformer with a huge selection of parts which would all work together seamlessly to create the vehicle.  The sad truth of the matter is that you are confined to the parts of existing characters in the game.  Your head options for instance are class locked so you can only choose the heads used by other destroyer class characters when you make your own own destroyer.  The only body part that matters when you create a character is the body which means if you pick say Onslaught's chest piece regardless of what the rest of the character is made of, the vehicle will always be Onslaughts standard mode.

You can still make a relatively "unique" character except you will be spotting all the parts from canon characters the entire time and the vehicle will still fixed based on the chest.  Many players have created their own robotic abominations so I guess I am in a minority here.  I just find it a shame that high moon didn't go all out and give us some parts specific to multiplayer so we could create characters never before seen.  New vehicle chassis's and parts would have really been cool.  For those of you like me who prefer simply playing as the characters in the correct colours and forms etc. you can simply use armour sets which are already named.  So if you want to play as Jazz you simply pick the that armour set and you are ready to go.

There is alot more depth to character creation compared to WFC
Overall the multiplayer has seen many improvements over its predecessor.  The netcode could use a little improvement in patches to make it smoother and take some of the pressure off the host machine but it works well more often than not.  Lag is a semi-regular issue, but since the host is another player you are at the mercy of their net speed and world location.  Sometimes its relatively smooth, other times it hitches and warps like crazy.  Maybe a third game will see the addition of dedicated servers to the mix, but until then we are stuck with this crap shoot online net speed.

Graphically the game looks like the singleplayer so there is no need to go in depth here, but there are a few odd things graphically that I am yet to figure out.  In the character select screen the game can take a very long time on the PS3 to load all of the textures, making your character look very fuzzy and low res.  Colour palettes are still very minimal and once again you cannot simply pick white as a colour.  Sorry Jazz fans you will have to suffer some blue on the Autobot intelligence officer if you want the white colour this time round.  In game there is an odd filter over the screen that makes the action look ever so slightly hazy.  This isn't present in the singleplayer so I assume its a filter to reduce load times or to hide some of the texture pop in, but it does cause frame rate drops at times and I assume its present on the PC version also, though maybe they are able to remove it via the .ini file or in game options.

SCORE: 8.0/10 - Bump this upto 8.5 if high moon patch in some netcode improvements and improve the frame rate a little.  Other than that its a really good diversion and will likely be what you play the most on fall of cybertron.

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