While Activision’s temporary ownership of the rights to produce videogames based on the Transformers franchise may have been born of the recent reinvestment courtesy of Michael Bay’s motion-picture series, it’s not uncommon for publishers to attempt to squeeze more life out of a license in order to recuperate the costs involved with acquiring it in the first place. It was arguably the videogames based on the James Bond 007 that kick-started this modern trend – another franchise with which Activision is now writing their own rules – and here with Transformers: Fall of Cybertron we come to another story that might otherwise have gone untold.
Some might accuse Activision of milking the franchise, but in the world of rising costs and shrinking sales figures, the wiser observation would be that it’s simply a shrewd business decision. What’s more, after just a small amount of time with Transformers: Fall of Cybertron most gamers will realise that this is more than just a quick cash-in. It may be a fairly generic action videogame, but it’s an entirely enjoyable one.
The videogame begins in an intimidating fashion, quickly bringing the player up-to-speed with both the story and the control system while a false sense of pressure hangs over you. There is no need to rush, there is very little in the way of opposition and next to no chance of you failing, but as with all good action videogames in the modern era Transformers: Fall of Cybertron creates a scenario where you feel as though you should rush, and that you could fail. The Decepticons are bashing down the door and it’s up to you to reinforce our hero Optimus Prime, however doing so is not as straight forward as laying down covering fire.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron follows a traditional level structure, delivering a linear experience that is not to be confused with any of the previous free roaming outings. This is an action videogame through-and-through, and it’s about getting from the start of a level to the end with everything intact, mashing a few Decepticons along the way. It’s direct, uncomplicated fun. Of course there’s an assortment of collectables and other goodies to collect along the way, and players have the ability to upgrade weaponry and purchase perks, but by-and-large Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is about getting the biggest gun you can and showing those enemies what you’re made of.
Given the core principle of Transformers – that of the ability to transform – there are areas in which the player is challenged to race through the levels at speed in your alternative form. These moments also stand true to the action-orientated linear design, and are also entertaining in their brevity. On the whole, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron’s single-player is an enjoyable experience and surprisingly lengthy, with an interesting twist in its closing chapters that makes the videogame entertaining to its very end.
In addition to the single-player gameplay are the multiplayer modes, both competitive and co-operative. The competitive gameplay is a very familiar experience, featuring the usual assortment of team deathmatch, headhunter, capture the flag and conquest gameplay modes, and presents a well implemented experience system which includes on-screen pop-ups for some of the smallest efforts. Offering instant gratification when first playing online, and thus encouraging you to continue even when failing to acquire kills or win matches, once more experienced the bonuses given obviously diminish, but by this point some skill – and thus more enjoyment – will have been established. It’s a tried-and-tested mechanic, but one offered refreshed vigour thanks to it’s cleverly implantation reward structure.
The Escalation gameplay mode is a by-the-numbers survival gameplay mode in which a team must compete against fifteen waves of increasingly difficult enemies. It’s quite possibly the easiest endurance mode a modern action videogame has offered, but nonetheless it’s enjoyable throughout its small assortment of maps, even if you’re unlikely to return for a second time around.
The visual quality of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is remarkably well presented. Upping the current-generation’s average with one swift effort, each and every corner of the campaign maps is littered with detail. Many of the textures take some time to load their most detailed versions, even when simply doing a full loop to face the same object seconds later, but regardless there are very few areas in which players will acknowledge a noticeable lack of quality. The voice acting is also of a commendable standard, offering commentary in-game that not only advances the plot but also builds character and informs the player of relationships.
While many licensed videogames delivered alongside a motion-picture production or even by themselves are generally considered to be the weakest link in the videogame development chain, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron bucks the trend. And this is despite the fact that Activision have put out some rather lukewarm efforts based on the franchise in the past, on the exact same consoles that Transformers: Fall of Cybertron appears. It’s a conundrum that’s impossible to find a solution to; when Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is such an enjoyable experience, how have previous efforts fallen so flat? Whatever the reason may be, Electronic Theatre is glad that Activision has pulled Transformers out of its interactive rut, and can’t wait for more of the same.