Making a Transformers game should be the exact opposite of making a superhero game. While trying to balance naturally unbalanced characters has made cape-wearing games notoriously tough to get right, it seems like it should be incredibly simple to get the concept of robots that can turn into vehicles to work in videogame form. But ever since the incomprehensible 8-bit attempt, precious few developers have risen to the challenge and created anything decent based on the property. The PlayStation 2 game based on the Armada series is probably the best, but even that didn’t get everything right, and following the adulation it received from fans, some of the mistakes it made have somehow become staples of a modern Transformers game. While robot and vehicle forms should offer combat and mobility focuses respectively, it has become the norm to let both forms do both jobs, which kind of destroys any value in the primary selling point of the franchise.
Fall Of Cybertron doesn’t just follow this trend – it could be the worst offender yet. Ever since some bright spark decided that cars could strafe, vehicle mode has just been another option in a fight, though not one that necessarily offers much beyond getting involved as a robot. But here, with a few Energon shards poured into the right perks, vehicle form somehow becomes the go-to combat option; increased armour and far more effective weapons – usually with far more plentiful ammo reserves – make wheeled vehicles preferable to robot form in most instances. Only the unique vehicles buck this trend, flying ones the clear highlight as any level involving Transformers with the capacity for flight has been cleverly designed to offer multiple approaches and an open play space in which to enjoy this freedom.
It’s a shame too, because the on-foot stuff is actually really good. Upgradeable weapons and abilities let you customise your loadout to your liking, while gunplay is surprisingly solid, though it is a little jarring that enemies have a cover system with which to hide behind the waist-high walls that litter Cybertron and you don’t. The split campaign thing has been done away with too, with one narrative that shows the action unfolding from both Autobot and Decepticon perspectives as it progresses. It’s a strong campaign with set pieces on a par with some of the better straight-up shooters of the last few years, and multiplayer is a full-featured and strangely addictive addition, even if the customisation options offered by the ability to create your own Transformer fall a little short unless you’re willing to stump up more cash for the paid DLC parts.
High Moon is really starting to find form and do the franchise justice. And despite the game’s flaws, fans will surely find Fall Of Cybertron to be the best reflection of their beloved robots in disguise in many a year. Too bad they couldn’t get Grimlock right, though…