High Moon’s philosophy with Tranformers: Fall of Cybertron seems to have been that subtlety is an unnecessary weight around the neck of player enjoyment. So where some games build to crescendos or act breaks, here we have a title that’s as bombastic in its first level as it is in its last, painted in the garish hues of its plastic inspiration and fuelled by a constant barrage of explosions and defeated enemies.
But where a less interested developer would have failed, Fall of Cybertron is a brilliant time sink. Its glorious, robotic violence echoes through the decaying halls of the titular planet, the eternal clash of good toy against bad toy once played out across bedroom floors now transported to the TV instead.
The game is a third-person shooter that splits its time equally between Autobots and Decepticons, as each of the warring factions tries to finagle a way off their collapsing planet. While stomping around, blasting or punching everything that moves is the order of the day, each of the Transformers you play as has a different special ability that keeps things fresh.
Jazz, for example, a wise cracking, battle hardened Autobot, has a grappling hook that lets you drag down obstacles and swing across to otherwise inaccessible ledges. Vortex on the other hand, an angry member of the Decepticon’s ‘Combaticon’ team, can do a powerful blast that pushes back any enemies who’ve encroached on his personal space.
Then of course there’s the transforming side of things. Being able to shift into a car, a helicopter or a tank at the click of a thumbstick opens up some interesting avenues for experimentation, and on the harder difficulty levels you’ll need to swap between forms at regular intervals to try and stay ahead of the waves of soldier-bots bearing down on you.
Every level is interspersed with monumental set pieces. Giant robots tower in the background, smashing orbital cannons as you race through the ruins of a once great city to use your targeting computer to show a barrage weapon where it needs to drop its payload. Insect-like robots pour out of grates and cracks in a sewer system as they try to escape a bomb blast. Everything is breathless and enormous, with the silences between explosions filled up by fan-courting one-liners.
There are a few weak links though. Towards the end, the game does seem to run out of ideas, with the penultimate level lacking the spark that made the rest of the game so entertaining. The multiplayer too is a little shallow, featuring class and team based warfare but not really adding anything new or distinct to the mix. And while customising your own Transformer is many thirty-something’s dream, in practice it’s a little underwhelming.
Still, Fall of Cybertron is a blockbuster single-player experience, full of moments that will leave you gasping. It’s not perfect, but its sheer scope makes it hard to fault while you’re actually engrossed in its planet-wide conflict. This is a game worthy of the imaginations of a generation of kids who grew up transfixed on the antics of Hasbro’s finest creations.
Format: Xbox 360 (tested), PS3, PC
Developer: High Moon Studios