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Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: High Moon Studios
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1; 2 - 12 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Adventure/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron does an excellent job of portraying the Transformers, in my opinion. There have been good Transformers games and not-so-good Transformers games, but the characters are very faithfully presented in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.

The environments on Cybertron are nicely done as well; there is a good bit of repetition of textures, but there is enough variety in larger constructs to give a very unique feel to some of the areas. The underside of the bridge when you're playing as Vortex, for example, does a good job of creating the feel of being in a deep rift, with organic metal landscape in the distance and huge multi-layered bridge structures to destroy.

The music is sweeping and orchestral, at times sounding very Star Wars-esque, but with some military undertones. From an audio standpoint, however, my favorite aspect was the vocals. There were opportunities to interact with some of the "real" Transformers on the same side as your current character at certain points in the game, as well as some dialogue between your character and a partner at some points, which added flavor to the game. Additionally, each playable character has their own phrases they say for different events. While some characters might shout, "Just what I need" when they find a pick-up, Megatron will say, "I shouldn't have to search for this," like the narcissistic, self-entitled brat he is. I did, however, love how Megatron would yell out, "Mobility is the key, now" when he transforms into his vehicle (tank) form.

In my opinion, one of the important things for a Transformers game is creating a game where the multiple modes make sense and work. This is excellently handled in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron; I found that I spent about half of my time in vehicle form and half of my time in robot form. In fact, I achieved an almost zen-like synergy when using Vortex in the mission to destroy the bridge, where I would run, jump, transform into my helicopter form, thrust into jet mode, spiral around structures, then, at the last moment, transform back into robot form and punch out an enemy. It was like Transformers free-running.

This was probably the most awesome example, but I liberally used both modes for several of the characters; Megatron and CliffJumper spring to mind. Megatron's tank form is devastatingly destructive, but there are several place you'll need his Hover ability to handle some of the platformer-esque floor changes. CliffJumper's vehicle form is quite squatty and he can use this diminutive size to hide in air ducts to escape enemies.

The only time I found I couldn't transform was in the final battle between Optimus Prime and Megatron. This was strange, as my opponent could transform (but only did so briefly), but I could not. Well, actually, when you first play as Grimlock, he's unable to transform, but that's part of the story and as you play through the level, he gains the ability to transform.

The different missions have their own feel, adding some diversity to the game, from underground tunnels to platforms on towers and from controlling a robot small enough to fit into air ducts to controlling Bruticus or even commanding the mighty power of Metroplex. You'll have to shoot, run, jump, transform, drive, fly and - occasionally - think your way through the various challenges you encounter, but (when it's not being frustrating) it can be a lot of fun.

There are also Multiplayer game modes available, but unfortunately, there weren't any multiplayer games available as I was playing this before launch. For more information on the Multiplayer aspects, check out J.R. Nip's Transformers: Fall of Cybertron: Hands-On Multiplayer Rundown (link below).

Generally, I tend to enjoy games that have a fairly constant increase in difficulty. As I get better at playing, the game gets more difficult to suit, making level progression (in level-based games) fairly linear. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron doesn't fit this model. I found that I could play easily through some areas, but then would hit another area that was much, much more difficult to beat. Taking out the bridge, for example, was frustratingly difficult. Mind you, I had incorrectly assumed that the large heavy cannons were indestructible, since I had hit one with several shots without any apparent damage to it. As it turns out, it takes several shots, but they can, in fact, be taken out.

Some of the stronger enemies require a bit of strategy to beat them, although it's more along the lines of your typical boss battle; you'll need to realize how to make them vulnerable and then quickly capitalize on that vulnerability.

There are three different difficulty levels to choose from: Easy, Normal and Hard. If you find yourself frustrated at a certain point, you can drop the difficulty by pausing the game and changing it. I played through on Normal and resisted the urge to change to Easy during the frustrating bits until almost the end of the game, but playing as Megatron trying to defend Shockwave as he worked on Trypticon proved to be more angst than I could take, so I finally switched to Easy for that one. After switching to Easy, I finished that level in just a couple of tries, so it was obviously easier than Normal. However, when I later played as Jazz on the Ark (and still in Easy Mode), I found the fight against Bruticus to still be challenging - although I didn't die during that encounter.

Game Mechanics:
The weapon upgrade system is nice in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, with a selection of various standard and heavy weapons, some available at the outset of the game and others available after encountering them in the game. All weapons have available upgrades and, for the standard weapons, unlocking all of the normal upgrades makes a more powerful upgrade available for purchase. It's also very appealing that all upgrades that are unlocked remain available to you as you progress through the game, even though you're playing with different characters. It doesn't make sense, really, but it's a welcome feature. It would be really annoying to have to earn upgrades only to lose them when you advance to the next level.

I noticed some minor slow-down or lag when I was playing as Grimlock and trying to take out an especially large swarm of Insecticons, but in general, the PS3 kept up just fine. What really annoyed me and put a major hamper on the fun factor was that the game locked up on me on multiple occasions. I finished the game and in the entire course of my play-through, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron locked up on me a total of five times. Two of these lockups were encountered while trying to reload my saved game to continue my Campaign and after it crashing twice, I restarted that level so that I could continue. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron has an autosave feature, so usually my loss of progress was very slight, but in the case of having to restart the level, it was at least ten minutes of gameplay.

This game seems to have been made by developers who love the Transformers. This is underscored by the playful antic videos accompanied by what sounds to be an 80s rock ballad during the credits, but it is also visible in the detail taken throughout the game. However, it also feels a bit rushed, in that there are some bugs that weren't fixed which lead to crashes and things occurring out-of-sequence (or, having gotten out of sequence, not allowing progress in the game). If that's a bit obtuse, let me put it this way: There are times in the game when you're supposed to press some action button for something similar to a quick-time event to advance a story section. However, it's possible to press the button too early (perhaps while mashing a lot of buttons in the hopes that you can actually do something in the cut scene) and trip that action before it's expected. When this happens, you end up with Grimlock in Dinosaur Mode with a prompt across the bottom of the screen that says to push (R2) to transform into Dinosaur Mode... and you can't do anything to progress. I had to quit the game and restart from my save point.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a labor of love and is a good representation of the Transformers - when it works right. It's a shame that there are bugs that can sour the experience, but alas, that's what you've got here.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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