Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Review

August 26, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): High Moon Studios
Publisher(s): Activision
Platform(s): Xbox 360, Playstation3, PC
Release Date: August 21, 2012

When I was a kid, I watched the 80’s Transformers cartoon religiously.  I spent countless hours with the Hasbro toys dreaming up epic robot battles, and even used scraps of trash and metal to create a pretend-Cybertron world.  To this day, my faithful companions stand proudly on my work desk, reminding me of a time when big robots and explosions were the only thing I could think about.  In a way, not much has changed.  When Activision reintroduced the franchise to the gaming world with Transformers: War for Cybertron back in 2010, the sequel was the only thing on my mind.

It’s one thing to pay homage to a beloved cartoon, another to tap into its origin story – these are dangerous waters when you’re dealing with diehard fans, but developer High Moon Studios managed to do the impossible.  They created a back-story that fans of the original have joyfully embraced and made the Transformers’ universe feel fresh, relevant, and better than ever.

The Good
- Breathtaking graphics
- Character specific abilities keep the gameplay diverse
- Make your own Transformer
- Dinobots

The Bad
- No more campaign co-op
- Occasional texture pop in and technical hiccups
- Shorter and easier than the predecessor
- Disappointing end fight

During the finals days on the Transformers’ dying planet Cybertron, the Autobots have built an Ark in hopes of reaching a new home beyond the stars.  Shortly before crossing a portal, they’re attacked by the Decepticons in their warship Nemesis.  A battle breaks out and Optimus Prime ends up on the receiving end of Megatron’s gun.  In an attempt to save Prime’s life, Bumblebee plunges between them and takes the shot.  We’re then taken back six days prior to the launch.

If you’re unfamiliar with the predecessor, the game is best described as a Gears of War with robots - but it’s so much more.  You can’t duck behind cover and constant movement is necessary to survive, but the third-person shooter principles are fundamentally the same.  Transformers: Fall of Cybertron keeps the gameplay diverse by introducing character specific abilities.  You’re playing a different Transformer in every chapter and new skills that change the way you traverse the levels keep the battles fresh and interesting.  Autobot Jazz, for example, has a grappling hook that allows you to zip to high places.  His levels offer more verticality and sniping opportunities.  Cliffjumper’s stealth segments present slower pacing and exciting silent kills.  You can even play as the colossal Bruticus who transforms from several smaller Combaticons.

While all the different skills are fun to play with, the biggest and most exciting addition are the Dinobots.  Taking control of Grimmlock for the first time in twenty years is invigorating.  I still remember playing with the Dinobot as a kid, pretending to crush other toys with his tail and fiery breath and now I’m doing it with a controller in my hands.  Awesome!  Grimmlock can’t transform at will like the other robots.  Battling opponents accumulates rage and he can change form temporarily.  This brings a bit of strategy to combat, as you need to save your transformations for the most heated battles and deal with the rest using your powerful sword while in robot form.  Unfortunately, Grimmlock is the only playable Dinobot in story mode.  This is very unfortunate, because it essentially feels like the Dinobots were just tacked on - rather than being a significant part of the narrative.  Nevertheless, the variety in the gameplay is really refreshing and the elasticity of the campaign is the game’s strongest point.

The visuals in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron are superb.  While the predecessor boasted incredibly detailed environments, they were repetitive and monotonous.  Fall of Cybertron is a graphical masterpiece.  Cybertron breathes with its moving machinery and feels surprisingly organic.  The Transformers’ home planet feels like a place with history and I commend the team for pushing the console to its max.  The frame rate is fairly steady, with only minor dips during extremely hectic battles, but texture pop-in prevails throughout.  It’s not game breaking by any means, but it happens often enough to be noticeable and occasionally distracting. 

There’s more variety in the environments and you no longer feel like you’re running down the same corridors.  The scenery changes with each battle and the Dinobot chapters have a mechanical-jungle vibe to them.  The lighting has improved dramatically and adds a deeper, more realistic sense of atmosphere.  Of course, the real stars are the Transformers and they look spectacular.  Each robot is enveloped in meticulous detail that’s constantly in motion.  They animate flawlessly and you never feel like you’re controlling the same machine.

Cybertron is a war torn planet and the deep, throttling explosions follow your every step.  This is a surround-sound paradise and the accompanying orchestral music makes each shootout feel epic.  The score is more climactic than before and gives the narrative a bold, cinematic energy.  The authentic voice acting returns and Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime is once again at his best - but it’s Nolan North as Bruticus, Cliffjumper, and Brawl that steals the show this time around.  North is an extraordinary voice actor that brings an unmatched personality and charm to everything he does. 

The campaign is significantly shorter and easier this time around.  It is clear that invaluable time and effort went into crafting the world, but unfortunately, overall value and content take a big hit.  The campaign is over in less than seven hours and the ending fight is shockingly easy.  Once you’ve beaten the main story, you’re left with Multiplayer and Escalation modes, but they aren’t enough to disguise the flawed single player experience.  Don’t get me wrong; the story mode does the franchise more justice than all of the Michael Bay movies combined, but the lack of challenge takes away from the game as a whole.  Luckily, the multiplayer mode offers a Transformer-creator and gives you plenty of reasons to unlock all parts.  You can mix and match any combination of limbs to form the ultimate fighting machine.  Escalation is probably the most fun to play.  Just like before, you fight waves of increasingly difficult enemies and the sense of camaraderie as you rush across the battlefield to revive an ally is great.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a turning point in the Transformers universe.  High Moon Studios established a groundbreaking back-story that both satisfies fans and welcomes new audiences without losing genuineness of the franchise.  Despite a lack of challenge, the sequel brings gameplay diversity that’s rarely seen in the third person shooter genre and presents it with breathtaking visuals and a fantastic soundtrack.  This is a dream come true for Transformers fans and I cannot wait to see where the series will go from here. 

Review by Tin Salamunic

Final Score “A Must Have” 8.5
Spectacular environments and incredibly detailed Transformer models. There’s a bit of texture pop-in here and there, but none of it distracts from the overall amazing visuals.
Gameplay stays diverse from beginning to end. Some robots are more fun than others, but you’re constantly presented with new and exciting ways to traverse the levels.
While the story is superb, the overall campaign is significantly shorter and easier than the predecessor. The Transformer-Creator is certainly a welcome addition and Escalation mode is as fun as ever.
The voice acting is once again excellent and stays true to the franchise. The score is even more climactic and epic than ever.
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  1. Can't wait to play this. Looks so awesome.

  2. Let's hope the DLC let's you control more Dinobots.

  3. playing this right now while surrounded by transformer toys.good times.

  4. Grimmlock is sucha badass.

  5. I really miss the difficulty of the first one. This was still really great, but all the hype about the Dinobots was kinda disappointing.Awesome graphics though.

  6. The Transformers-creator was cool, but I wish I could play around with the custom robots in a single player mode. Still fun game though.

  7. Grimmlock's Badass.

  8. I'm not much of a Transformers fan, but I may have to get my hands on this.

  9. Great review Tin! Will hold off on this one for now, but glad to know Transformer fan-to-Transformer fan that it lived up to the hype. I gotta save up funds for Borderlands 2! XD

  10. Thanks Michael, you can certainly wait for this one until it drops in price. It's really, really great, but also much shorter than before.


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