Don't worry, Michael Bay didn't have anything to do with this game. From Activision and High Moon Studios comes the follow up to '10s War for Cybertron with more twitchy third person bullet spraying. Solid campaign principles linked with a sturdy online component make this a really fun excursion into the "in disguise" universe.
The campaign takes place on the robo home world of Cybertron. The last skirmish has taken it's toll on the planet, and the ever so crucial power source known as Energon is being readily depleted. "Quakes and violent electrical storms" act as an orchestral accompaniment to the full chorus of war with the Autobots and Decepticons again acting as belligerents. The start sees the 'Bots attempting to make a break for it and escape on the Ark, the last known transport that has the capacity to hold a decent number of Cybertron inhabitants so that a new "life" on another planet is possible. But this concentrated gathering produces the perfect occasion for the 'Cons to strike and take out the Autobots "once and for all." As their planet dies and escape becomes the paramount task, fending off Decepticon forces must also hold importance as well as discovering what Megatron's true "endgame" is in this scenario. Can Optimus Prime and the others pull off the rally or will mechanized evil carpe diem?
The setup for the game is a little bland at first, but the story does begin to take shape. And to be honest, heavily critiquing the plot lines to a Transformers game borderlines on cynicism, if you ask me. It's really here to serve as a reason for big robots to shoot other big robots with BFGs. To which it does very well. Single player is stretched over 13 missions that will take you to various locales on the machine planet. A kind of different, but cool, system is the "mixed bag" of levels. Some will have you on the Autobot side controlling characters like Optimus, Bumblebee, Jazz, Cliffjumper, and such while others place you in the Decepticon stable with Vortex, Starscream, Shockwave, and even Megatron (not Calvin Johnson). And much like in War, Fall allows you to switch back and forth between robot and vehicle as you see fit.
And as you go along your path of destruction, you'll accumulate "Energon Shards." These are used as in-game currency, of sorts. Throughout levels, you'll find stations (for lack of a better term) that will gain you access into the Teletraan 1 Cybertron Defense Network. This is the spot to turn Shards into valuable assets. The first is purchasing actual firearms to attach to your bot. Primary weapons include unique-ly stylized weapons that function as normal machine guns, assault rifles, shotguns, and such. "Heavy" weapons are fashioned a bit more to fit within the lexicon. There's normal stuff like rocket launchers, but then you'll find, for example, electric "beam" cannons and an Energon siphoning rifle. The mix-and-match element becomes pretty important the more you progress, especially with the equipment. Assault T.E.C.H and Utility T.E.C.H are the two types of extras you may carry with you. Predictably Assault pieces are geared towards causing harm with mines, bombs, and attack drones. Utility things improve and repair your assigned bot with ammo and armor replenishment, health "regens," and so forth.
Fall of Cybertron was something that I had to kind of "get used to." At first playing the campaign I was a little underwhelmed by the gameplay. I felt it to be simple, but not entertaining enough for that to be looked over. After a few missions, however, the game started to pick up notable steam. Don't get me wrong, it plays great throughout, in terms of controls, physics, AI, and all other important principles. Honestly, playing as Bumblebee and Optimus just isn't as interesting compared to the missions with the less popular of the groups. The three missions with Cliff, Jazz, and 'Con member Vortex are sweet. These are dependent on your understanding of their special ability and putting it to good use. It is essential for you to utilize Cliff's cloaking to sneak around and nab assassinations. If not, you will die and be stuck. Jazz has a grappling tool that must be used to access "hard to reach" places. Without it, progression is impossible. I really like this aspect of the game.
Additionally, I was playing this one a bit too cautiously to start out. The Gears of Wars and Ghost Recons from this generation have made me gun shy to find cover before unloading when playing third person action stuff. I had to bring back the State of Emergency and Armed and Dangerous mentality from a generation ago to unlock the winning formula. There is plenty of ammo and health scattered about. Go in guns a blazin' and ask questions later. Now having said that, it is necessary to "dip out" when your shields are about done, so laying low for a few seconds is the right strat. But laying back just pins you in corners as the other faction bears down on you. Fight them head on, and have a blast doing it! Shoot before hiding. Charge before retreating. Think PS2, not 360.
Also, don't expect a "hybrid" feel to the campaign. Sure, there are doors that have to be opened and walls that need a rocket put through them here and there. But you won't have extensive puzzle solving or heavy RPG elements (unless you count weapon upgrades as heavy). This is more of a "roots" experience than an experiment on the lines of generic conventions. Honestly, in late August of 2012, I find this to be a much needed breath of classic air. Pushing boundaries and encapsulating gameplay experiences far and wide is all the rage now, as this is the best way to generate a legion of fans that anxiously clamors for DLC like throwing livestock to a horde of hungry zombies locked up in a barn. I, myself, am in the same boat. If Halo 4 becomes as addictive to me as the third one did, I'll be itching for new campaign "threads" and map packs by mid December. But there's nothing wrong with a game being a bit more "self contained." Even in today's gameosphere.
It may be crazy to think, but there are some that may not even touch the campaign of Fall on account of the robust multiplayer on display. Four adversarial modes are available with four different character classes. TDM makes it's usual appearance, as does CTF. Conquest is the a territorial game type with three fixed scoring points, one on either "spawn" side and one up for grabs in the middle. Headhunter has you maiming the other side for "sparks;" pick up the spark of a scrapped 'Bot/'Con, and deposit it in one of the revolving depots. There is also plenty of variation to be had in the classes. Infiltrators are dodge-y, lightweight bots with minimal armor, but the ability to cloak. Destroyers are the stable, well rounded of the bunch that makes for a good teammate with their pop-up Diffraction Barrier. The bulky Titans are predictably slower, but have a heavy chain gun as the primary weapon and transform into cannon wielding tanks. Scientists act as Medics. Not the most offensive minded, but the flight ability joined with the specification to replenish teammate health make them invaluable in frays.
There really isn't much to say about online specifically, other than it's technically solid and is a lot of fun! The different classes work themselves out to be like rock-paper-scissors. I found the most success with Titan. And while most enemies weren't too much of a headache if I started the duel first, someone good with their Infiltrator knew how to bounce around, take advantage of my weapon's inaccuracy, and "disable" me. Surprisingly, I found the most entertaining game mode to be Conquest. Mainly because it's very hard to keep control of the scoring area. In most games with "territories", the team that spawns near A controls A virtually the whole time, team that spawns C keeps C, and the match is decided by who holds B the longest. For whatever reasons, each match was way more interesting than that. Sometimes you'll have all three, sometimes none, sometimes B looks like a bullet laden game of hot potato. But rarely will a match be a blowout. This was by far the most competitive type during my time in, and also served up great shootouts. I was really expecting Headhunter to be it, but I think because the robots move like, well, robots and not "people," it feels very awkward to run and grab a spark, then run and score it. All in all, I have a blast playing this title online and I actually think I get a little better after every match. Thumbs up. There is also a mode called Escalation. It's the co-op survival selection with up to four battling against 15 waves of enemies. A worthwhile addition, but you know the drill.
The presentation side also took me a while to warm up to. That isn't to say that the graphics are bad or lacking. Technically speaking, Fall's level design (campaign especially) is fantastically constructed and artistically consistent. But it's just so much different to gaze at robots, and machine walls, and all metal environments, that it's offensive to the eyes at first. But after a few missions in and the game floats to other parts of Cybertron, a weird variety starts to emerge. From cities to deserts, it's like uncanny mechanized cousins to normal TPS backdrops. The sound it just a notch or two lower than it's visual partner. Again, not bad per se, but bullets and explosions can only be made so interesting before it sounds like you're just trying too hard to be different. Fidgeting, if you will. So, High Moon stayed on the safe side and came up with an audio package that won't win awards, but will serve this game just fine. Although I must confess I did like the script and VO work a lot. Particularly the Decepticon chatter.