There is almost always a dark time in a universe, it is how we define the heroes and villains of the story. The funny thing is that often, because we want the hero to shine, that dark period is alluded to rather than directly addressed as a verse is establishing itself. A great example would be in the Star Wars Universe the first movie speaks of a dark time when Luke’s father is killed by a villain by the name of Darth Vader who hunted down and destroyed the Jedi. We don’t see it but we imagine great battles with the Jedi dwindling in numbers. This movie has a great heroic end and once the heroes are established the verse can be put into dark times again. Very much the same thing can be said of the Star Trek movies, where the heroes of the enterprise are established and then the dark force of Khan descends upon it. This isn’t limited to movies, fans of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series wondered for quite a while all the detail in the battle of Jericho Hill before it was briefly delivered in the books and delved into in the comics (which I highly recommend). The point is that generally the most dramatic and beloved parts of a universe is when the hero is put to the greatest test and barely succeeds and this near defeat changes them. In the Transformers Universe this moment is The Fall Of Cybertron, so the pressure was definitely on with this installment of the story because it defines all stories that follow.
Optimus Prime is not an optimist as he walks the halls of one of the Autobot bases talking to Bumble Bee about the eminent loss of the war and that the only chance left for them is to run for it. All of the escape ships have either made it or been destroyed by this point except for one last great ship, the Ark. The problem is the planet’s Energon supplies have been depleted and there isn’t enough juice to use automated systems, defend the base AND launch the Ark so manual routing and re-routing as well as trying to find alternate sources of energy become the challenge of the day. That and the fact that the Decepticons want nothing more than the complete destruction of all Autobots.
You find all this out at the beginning of the game and you only need to glance at the control information in the game booklet to see you will play different Autobots and Decepticons throughout the game, the nice part being the wide variety. There are heroes great and small in most good stories and that is definitely the case here. This is one of the darkest times for the Transformers and this game doesn’t shy away from that. This is the Wrath Of Khan, Empire Strikes Back and Jericho Hill of the Transformers ‘verse and they make sure if feels like it. It even gives a great and dark origin for the Dinobots!
The graphics and sound are done really well and they test your video level at the beginning for a reason, they want to make sure the atmosphere is dark. The voice acting is well done and fits Transformers which is important since there is no organic life on the planet. Everywhere you look it is metal and yet they have to give that metal a balance between the realistic and the personalities we have grown to love. The graphics during transformations are terrific, I changed a few times just to watch the animation and the sounds all reinforce the point that these are living and very heavy machines. The atmosphere pulls you in immediately and the cutscenes are done both well and emotionally.
The Transformers saga of the post-Saturday morning cartoons era has been plagued by issues, from storyline to effects in the movies and storyline to gameplay in the games. Actually as video games go the Transformers Universe’s gameplay options have immensely run the gambit and some are known as the most spectacular failures in recent years. It became known for being a miss more often than a hit with fans of the ‘verse lining up each time to pay their money knowing they were definitely taking their chances.
That is why I am so happy to say that while the gameplay on this title isn’t necessarily original, it is both solid and enjoyable, so much so that I think the gameplay lends itself to replay. In most ways it is very much a standard third person shooter with first person aimed shot. This is a run and gun game with limited cover and generally some strategy necessary to clear certain waves of enemies. The big difference is that as a Transformer you can run and gun as a robot or as your vehicle shape. The vehicle is very similar to the classic styles we are used to with the exception of the cars being hovercrafts and everything in the designs and weapons are made to have a vaguely alien feel.
Each form has it’s advantages and weapons stock so if you find yourself running out of ammunition in one form you can switch to the other and keep fighting. When in robot form you can pick up or purchase different weapons as well as upgrade them, while in vehicle form you only have your standard weapon but your speed is greatly increased, especially when you use boost. Also different enemies have different vulnerabilities so certain enemies which might be slow but tough will knock you around in robot form and take your lunch money (ok maybe not that last part) but once you change to vehicle form you can keep out of their attack range and they are weak against you vehicle weapon. After a while you get used to knowing which enemy to attack in which form.
As I mentioned before this is a dark time for the Transformers, particularly the Autobots, so one of my favorite features is the variety of characters you get to play, including Decepticons. I consider myself an Autobot fan but I had an incredible time playing Megatron and some of the most enjoyable missions are actually ones that mess up the chances for the Autobots to escape. Playing both sides also means more vehicle choices and ways to complete missions. Most missions don’t have an exact way they have to be completed, you are often given a Transformer, told to complete a task and it is up to you how you do it and in what form. If I go into this any deeper I would start to give away plot points so I will just say sometimes switching back and forth between vehicle and robot form make for the best mission success. The only complaint I feel I need to bring up is there is a great deal of difference in difficulty between Easy and Normal, they needed some level in between.
The multiplayer is pretty standard third person shooter stuff with team, capture the flag, co-op survival mode and such being the gameplay possibilities with the two main differences being that you can switch between robot and vehicle at any time you like and you have to earn money during the match to pick up more weapons, health, or ammo. There were a few times when I was too low on cash to get more ammo so I would go into a melee fest on the enemy to get more precious money. This definitely makes it so that no two multiplayer games play out exactly the same and really holds a players interest.
Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron is my favorite Transformer game and possibly my favorite Transformer storyline of all time. I like the darker storylines, I like when the good guys have to accept that this may well be their last stand, the dark days show character and when combined with straight forward third person gameplay I think this is a must play for any fan of the franchise.