Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Review

Mike Kayatta | 27 Aug 2012 18:30
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Maybe you didn't grow up with the Transformers in particular, but most kids at least had something like them: that one special set of toys perfect for those imaginative days spent alone in your room. You'd hold the good guy in one hand, his arch-nemesis in the other, and stage a conflict so epic that by the time you were done, you'd transformed tissue boxes into fortresses, tied up the villain's minions with a shoelace, and maybe, if things had gotten really serious, even pulled the arm from one of your favorite figures just to reinforce how close he'd come to certain doom. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is exactly that afternoon: every story your action figures ever lived, visualized and packaged within a videogame.

Countless other games have grown from beloved toys and popular franchises, but few have tackled their subject matter with the sense of import that Fall of Cybertron seems to achieve with nearly each minute of play. Political dissention has stricken both sides of a brutal civil war, giant robots of both factions are dying in the streets, and somehow, as if by magic, we actually care about all of it. That sense of involvement is all the more impressive considering the story's twelve protagonists, all of whom players control during different parts of the campaign.

At first, the game's insistence at moving you among warriors on opposing sides of a major conflict (sometimes during a single battle) feels odd; watching the same bright red Autobots you risked your life to save just minutes prior suddenly become ash against your rocket launcher feels like a betrayal. Yet, the more times it happens, the more you realize that the game is about more than any one hero or villain's journey, and instead concerns a story larger than any of them alone. And much like that kid with his toys, it's your responsibility to play out both sides of the fight if you want it told.

Most characters you'll control are similar - third-person gunners able to draw from the same armory of unique weapons you've accumulated throughout the game - but stand apart in both the vehicle they're able to transform into at will, and a single distinctive skill, such as the ability to cloak or command an artillery strike. Some Transformers, such as Grimlock, the fire-breathing, sword-and-shield-swinging T-Rex, break that mold entirely, forgoing ranged combat for sections of simplistic, yet welcome melee-focused fighting.

While the roster is large, for the most part, you won't be able to select which character you'd like to play, as each level is individually designed to work with a specific Transformer's special talents. But what you trade for that choice, the environments make up for with a density of lore and detail only available to a carefully-constructed linear experience. Each chapter is wonderfully different, taking you from the depths of an underground research facility to the edge of space itself, with each map focused on a slightly new twist of the game's basic shooting formula. As locations and characters change, so does the tone. When you're Optimus, you'll risk your life to save your comrades, lead the troops, and hear other Autobots regain hope as you run past them on the battlefield. When you're Megatron, you'll encourage torture, punish mercy, and hear those same Autobots lamenting your arrival and their own imminent demise.

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