Regular readers will know I’m somewhat of a Transformers fan, so it won’t surprise you to hear that I was grinning like a loon whilst watching High Moon demo Fall for Cybertron.
First a quick geek-out: There are so many little details in this game about the only thing missing is Maccadams Oil Bar. You get the Rust Sea, triple changers, The Ark, sentinels, combiners, Dinobots and Insecticons. The characterisations stay true to G1 right down to Grimlock being the leader of the Lightning Strike Coalition Force, Jazz speaking like a hipster, and Cliffjumper being brash and fearless.
During the playthrough we were shown Optimus Prime, Shockwave, Starscream, Vortex, Brawl, Bruticus, Jazz, Cliffjumper, Insecticons, Warpath, Grimlock and Metroplex. Will any other characters return from War For Cybertron?
“I think I’ve got enough cred as a Transformers fan to know which are the most popular,” says Matt Tieger, game director for Fall Of Cybertron, “There will be characters returning, you will just have to wait to see which ones.”
“There is always a desire to add more characters but we reached a point where we had done enough and concentrated on making what we had as good as possible. We could have doubled the number of playable characters but then the experience would have been half as good.”
Fall Of Cybertron finds the Autobots losing the war and documents their exodus from the planet. Rather than two separate campaigns, there is now one story with the majority of the first third being Autobot centric, the middle section featuring the Decepticons, and then flicking back to the Autobots for the finale.
The first section of gameplay we were shown features Vortex, a member of the Combaticons, and for the purposes of Fall Of Cybertron a triple changer. This means he has three modes rather than two; in this case they are robot, helicopter and fighter jet.
The Decepticon is tasked by Starscream with destroying a bridge but the pesky Autobots have shielded the support structure. To complete the mission Vortex must destroy the enemy drones and release the clamps to expose the bridge infrastructure.
The multiple modes of Vortex mean you can tackle the mission in a way that suits your play style. Do you switch to helicopter mode and hover high in the air, picking off targets one by one or do you swoop in as a jet fighter?
In the demo, Vortex transforms into robot mode to attack the enemy and it quickly became clear that the game’s AI has has seen some major improvements. To suggest that the enemy A.I. in War For Cybertron was a little stupid would be an understatement, so I asked High Moon just how much work had been put in.
“Transformers is unique, getting into a Warthog is not the same as transforming into a jeep,” said Matt.
“The closest game that has parallels to what we had to do is Iron Man. That game has the same challenges as we do, you can move so fast, at any time, anywhere you want, in any mode. Transformers is fundamentally different to anything else on the market.”
“For the War for Cybertron A.I. we made some good choices and we made some bad choices. When it came to this game it was not ‘OK lets make it 10% better here’, it was ‘Throw it out, we know what we need to create, let’s start from scratch’”.
Back in the demo and Vortex transforms and lands in robot mode, targets an Autobot standing beside a cube shaped structure and, as he does so, the target moves into cover. The camera is pointing down at the battlefield and we can see Vortex creeping up to the cube in a clockwise direction to flank the enemy but the Autobot skips round the opposite side of the cube, keeping in cover.
Vortex changes direction and runs clockwise and the Autobot follows suit, the game of cat and mouse continuing as Vortex chases the enemy round the cube. The solution? Transform into helicopter mode and blast the pesky bot from the skies.
The next section we are shown features one of the moments Transformers fans have been waiting for as Brawl, Blast Off, Vortex, Onslaught and Swindle combine to form one giant Transformer, Bruticus. The assembled Autobots are now mere specs on the landscape as Bruticus smashes, stomps and flames his way through the level.
Vortex forms an arm of Bruticus and in a neat touch you can spin his rotor blades to create a shield which pings off any incoming projectiles. The combiner is also armed with a flamethrower and an earth-shaking ground pound attack which destroys both robots and buildings.
We are shown a few brief moments of gameplay featuring Bruticus and I ask if this is just showpiece, a small gimmick section in which you play a big stompy robot. “Bruticus is cool, the play time you have as him is… substantial,” teases Matt.
Bruticus is not the biggest Transformer, not by a long way, and the next scene finds Optimus Prime on the brink of defeat, fighting the Decepticons across the huge courtyards of Iacon. In desperation, he calls on the behemoth known as Metroplex.[drop]Metroplex is unlike any other transformer and does not transform into a any mere vehicle, instead he can generally be seen masquerading as a city; in robot mode the top of his head must be knocking out any satellites orbiting Cybertron. This guy is huge; Asura’s Wrath huge.
Although you don’t actually play as Metroplex, you can command him to attack certain enemies. Once you’ve given him his target he’ll either unload a barrage of shots at the Decepticons or attack them physically. At one point Optimus issues an order and a foot the size of a small town whistles overhead as Metroplex crushes the Decepticons with a big stomp of his size 2,325,946 boots.
The demo moves on to find Grimlock and the Dinobots captured by Shockwave, with the sneaky Starscream trying to persuade Grimmers to join his cause. Grimlock is unlike any other character in the game as he lacks a ranged weapon, instead fighting with an Engeron sword and shield. By attacking enemies Grimlock will fill up a rage meter and, when maxed out, he can transform into a fire breathing Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Now you may question what a T-Rex is doing on a distant Cybertronian planet and it will be explained in the game, but for now let me quote Matt, “It’s a f***ing fire-breathing space T-Rex, what else do you want?!”
“Grimlock was always on my list of things to do right from the start of War For Cybertron. Starscream and Grimlock are my two favourite Transformers. As Game Director I get to make selfish decision and although Grimlock was on the list from the start it wasn’t the right time for him to appear when we created the first game. We had had the different vehicle types and we did not want to introduce a T-Rex into the mix.”