Ever since it took over the "Transformers" video game franchise back in 2010, High Moon Studios has certainly been working its magic with the Hasbro-licensed robots in disguise. This run began with the release of "War For Cybertron," a third-person action/adventure featuring shooter elements in both robotic and vehicular form. The ability to choose between Autobot and Decepticon campaigns was quite appealing, as you could be either the hero or villain. The multiplayer was nothing to scoff at either, especially with being able to play through missions with friends.
A year later, High Moon returned with a game based on Michael Bay's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" film, and while it was a serviceable effort, it just didn't live up to the potential of "War For Cybertron"'s originality. Fans were left clamoring for more on "War's" level.
This fall, they'll be getting what they wished for with the long-awaited "Transformers: Fall of Cybertron," announced last year and shown in bits and pieces since. A few months ago, CBR News got a good look at multiple stages in a hands-off demo. Preparing for its showcase at the Electronic Entertainment Expo this week, Activision provided us the opportunity to try out a few stages from the game to see how it feels compared to the original "War." Despite using a new engine, the "Transformers" style definitely remains intact.
The first of the three stages we managed to see involved Bumblebee, who rides with fellow Autobots in a huge space bridge cruiser headed towards Earth. However, midway through their flight, they run head-on into Decepticon opposition. Bumblebee needs to act fast, maneuvering his way from the cockpit around to sections of the ship to help fend off the invading forces.
It's with this stage that "Transformers: Fall of Cybertron" presents a tutorial, one that walks you through some of the main control functions. You'll learn how to aim and shoot, activate switches, use melee attacks, and transform between car and robot form (a simple click of the R3 button). What's great about this sort of game is that, no matter which form you use, you have firepower to spare, though your melee attacks are also quite useful when it comes to turning Decepticons into dented metal.
When you're transformed into a car, you can also use an optional boost, which not only gives you good clearance over large jumps, but also literally gives you the jump over your enemies, letting you ram into them in battle before transforming back into a robot to blast them. We didn't see too much of this in action during the demo, but it's nice to have, especially where multiplayer is concerned.
The demo continued with Bumblebee in a tight situation, needing to save Optimus Prime from a Decepticon's bullet by absorbing it into his body. Before we learned his fate -- the scene faded out. We'll have to wait until the game's final release to see what becomes of him.
We were then taken to the second playable level of the demo, which we were previously shown earlier this year. It involves Vortex, a Decepticon with the ability to transform into either a jet or a helicopter, as he's called in to help disable an Autobot transport bridge. One of his Constructicon pals tries to blast it with missiles, but to no avail, as it's too well-armored. Vortex must then fly in and destroy any turrets and enemies in the area, then proceed to open up parts of the bridge so his cohort can destroy them.
This stage introduces the high level of technology being used for "Fall of Cybertron." High Moon Studios is utilizing the Unreal Engine 3 tech in order to build immense levels to fly around in, and the section we saw, which covers quite a bit of ground above and below the massive bridge, is only a third of the actual level -- quite the shock considering the first game's stages didn't offer much in the way of scope.
As far as transforming between Vortex's functions, they were quite easy, as he flew at high speed into areas then transformed into a helicopter so he could hover around enemies from up high while firing missiles. He could then finish the job by going to one of the landing decks and turning into a robot, blasting them on the ground with his pulse rifle. This stage has a lot to offer in terms of action, and it came to a close for us when we started to fly inside the bridge's immense under workings.
Finally, we were shown Grimlock's stage, and if anything is going to appeal to long-time fans of the Transformers franchise, it's his inclusion in the title. Not only does he kind of resemble the old-school Dinobot (with a bit more polish, mind you), but he's also voiceed by Gregg Berger, who handled the same role for the character in the classic '80s "Transformers" TV series.
Grimlock is effective in combat, even if he doesn't carry a gun like his fellow Autobots. Instead, he has a combination of a sword and shield, which are quite useful when it comes to bashing enemies. We had a chance to test this out in a stage where he drops into a pit of sorts, and Insecticons greet him in droves. The smaller ones are easy to pick off with his blade, but with the bigger ones, he needs to roll out of the way as they charge, then strike them from behind when they're vulnerable.
Once we managed to beat up enough enemies, we filled Grimlock's "rage" meter, enabling him to transform into the big fire-breathing T-Rex we all know and love. This part of the demo was probably the most fun -- we had a great time blasting enemies with our fire breath, then swinging our tale like a sledgehammer to kill a dozen Insecticons at once. In a rather personal matter, Grimlock was also able to pick up an Insecticon with his teeth and deliver a fierce chomp to snap it in half. Following the fight, our demo came to a close.
Even though we never got a chance to run around with Optimus Prime and command the buildings-tall Autobot Metroplex (as seen in a previous demo), "Transformers: Fall of Cybertron" offered plenty of action from the stages we tried out. Fans of the previous games will definitely want to transform and roll out with this one.
"Transformers: Fall of Cybertron" arrives August 28 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.