Developer: High Moon Studios
Platform: PS3, XBox 360, PC
Genre: Third Person Shooter, Action
Modes: Single Player, Online Multiplayer
There is definitely nothing tragically wrong with a grown man playing a computer game version of the toys he used to play with as a child. Nothing wrong at all. In fact its quite healthy – the kind of thing James Bond or Don Draper would have done during their down time. The kind of scenario that will get the lady’s uncontrollably moist.
Well okay; this is undoubtedly an experience that will result in two things: a disturbing re-connection with the faded memories of a joy filled childhood, and also bouts of uncontrollable sobbing familiar to anyone who expected more from life.
Well to hell with all that depressing self awareness, and to hell with the societal expectations placed on a fully functioning modern adult. Its time to switch off those concerns and just enjoy something for what it is. Worry about the crippling psychological and social consequences later.
Fall of Cybertron kicks things off with a hell of a bang by re-imagining a legendary scene which is no doubt etched into the mind of any guy who has passed the 30 year mark, and spent their formative years being enchanted by a bunch of badly animated robots which could change into an assortment of vehicles, war machines, cassette players and hairdryers. As a curtain raiser it leaves no doubt as to the games aspirations to craft a cinematic story of epic proportions, one that can easily outshine the recent Michael Bay travesties. It perfectly sets the stage for what is a full throttle and breathless action romp. Things quickly move up into top gear during the first full mission as you take control of Optimus Prime – the bad ass leader of the good guys – as he volunteers to lead a heroically suicidal one man attack on the enemy. That is – one man and his 100 foot robo-monster side kick. It is a jaw dropping set piece of action scenes as the huge metal behemoth stampedes through the enemy ranks, crushing anything and everything which happens to get in his way. It cant help but induce fits of whooping and hysterical laughter, and undoubtedly makes it clear that this is an ode to the unrestrained ridiculousness of the classic Transformers cartoon.
After such an explosive and sustained opening there follows a worrying but mercifully brief lull as a few of the more boring and child friendly hero’s get some screen time and try to demonstrate some of the more basic concepts, even though most have these have already been established during the previous smashy-smashy orgy. Even the dreaded ‘stealth’ section rears its ugly head, along with some dreary platforming and plenty of contrived switch pressing. These sections are actually well done in most respects, and on paper probably seemed like a good opportunity to give the player a pause for breath, but compared to the heavy metal carnage they tend to pail. They simply have to be persevered with in the knowledge that at a certain point the player is finally given control of what everybody wants – the villains! At this point the game fires up into a frantic rhythm and never lets up.
The story is simple stuff befitting of the cartoons – an epic war of evil bickering warlords attempting to conquer the whiter than white good guy under dogs, full of twists and turns, but never really leading anywhere other than an almighty showdown. Yet such simplicity still manages to deliver interesting human-like characters in the robots in a way in which the films completely failed to do. It is true for the most part that the gameplay simply involves shooting and running over hordes of robots, and the contrived button pressing missions never really go away, but every new Transformer put at your disposal is utilised in an imaginative and satisfying way. Each character comes with particular skills accessed with the RB (R1) button and need to be used to progress across the crumbling landscapes of the metallic world, or to defeat certain tricky enemies. There are helicopters, fighter planes, tanks, hover cars, even fire breathing dinosaurs to take control of and dish out some robotic twatage. And in one particularly incredible section several robots join together to form a Godzilla style monster with little more purpose than to bash the shit out of everything. Need more be said?
Disappointingly there is a distinct lack of one on one battles between the most famous hero’s and villains; at least not in the traditional gladiatorial combat style. There are boss battles but these are usually against particularly strong but faceless minions. It does seem odd that High Moon have ignored such an obvious narrative trick. Instead Fall of Cybertron prefers to end most missions with desperate horde style survival battles. These are definitely fun and challenging but a few traditional boss battles would have surely benefited the cinematic and epic style of the story.
As a prequel, with events taking place long before the transformers adopted their Earth ‘disguises’, the Transformer characters have an unfamiliar and much more futuristic look. There are obvious influences from the recent live action films – most notably the intricate moving parts which were made possible by fancy CGI. Initially its a little disappointing to find that the design has not entirely bi-passed the taint of Michael Bay and are not drawn exactly according to the old school classic models, however, on closer inspection it becomes obvious that the new looks reference far much more from the original cartoon than anything else. Developers High Moon have actually been quite clever in attempting to establish their own original reboot which marks something of a halfway point between the two. It is a savvy move which should please the greying, sagging, dead eyed 30 year olds – protective of their long lost childhoods – while not leaving today’s hip and modern kids completely baffled by the nonsensical retro style. It is a mix which on the whole works well and should ensure a healthy and diverse fanbase.
The most irritating slip in design is the lifeless voice acting which is delivered without any of the classic vocoder and delay effects which typify a robotic voice – a detail which was understood by people back in the 80s. Neither are there any of the peculiar character quirks such as Starscreams distinctive sniveling screeching, or Megatron’s raw gravelly tones which helped ensure characters were instantly memorable. Instead we are given a bunch of bland American voices which cant help but sound ridiculous coming from giant scrapping robots.
For those inclined there is a highly competent online multiplayer on offer, as long as you don’t find the fact that 90% of people online are children slightly degrading. The usual variety of matches and games are included, and there is also an impressive amount of un-lockable weapons and armour with which you can build your own transformers, although at the moment these are confined to just 4 vehicle classes.
FOC is a fully rounded and highly polished game which proudly displays the impressive production values and reflects the love and attention put in by the developers for something they evidently hold dear. Most interestingly though is the realisation that the colourful and engaging story – notably absent of any human characters (particularly trendy teens in love) taking center stage – proves without any shadow of a doubt that the Transformers franchise suites the world of games far more than it does the world of cinema.
Now if you don’t mind, its time to retreat to the corner of a dark room and wonder where it all went wrong.
Graphics – 8.5
The completely alien world of Cybertron is brought fully to life with some epic scenery and imaginative environments. The Transformers have been lovingly redesigned and look better than ever.
Sound – 7.5
Loss of points for the crappy American voices but everything else is spot on as long as your ears can take the constant explosions of metal.
Enjoyment – 8.5
Fun is undoubtedly the word here. Innocent childish fun.