On October 6th, 2011 the sequel to the landmark Transformers: War for Cybertron video game was officially announced. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron was set to take over the November issue of Game Informer with two different cover spreads, and full feature coverage inside which included first looks at some characters, environments, and the story to come. Two months later at the VGA Awards, the first cinematic trailer was released, giving the Transformers fandom and many others outside it confirmation that the High Moon team were going to deliver something incredible. As time went on since the game’s announcement, Hasbro and the developers flooded TF news outlets with game updates, behind-the-scenes looks, and toy reveals to keep the hype train sufficiently fueled. Finally, on August 21st, 2012, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron was released in North America for Xbox 360, Play Station 3, and PC.
War for Cybertron closes with Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Ratchet, Air Raid, and Jetfire watching as their fellow Autobots leave Cybertron in various ships, Bumblebee noting that Megatron is still out there. Prime states that they will continue to resist him, though in time they too will leave on the newly-commissioned Ark. Fall of Cybertron opens on that Ark, mid-battle as the Decepticons give chase in an attempt to prevent the Autobots from escaping through the space bridge. Players are guided through this tutorial level as Bumblebee, who must help rid the ship of the invading Decepticons and reach Optimus to help him in his fight against Megatron. The new mechanics for sprinting, item pickups, abilities, weapons systems, and weapon arm swapping are introduced as Bee progresses towards his objective. The level also teases certain characters early on such as Soundwave and Bruticus, who can be seen ravaging the ship. Players eventually reach Optimus, who at the time is about to be blown to bits before Bumblebee jumps in to save his leader. From there the game flashes back to the main story leading up to these events.
Unlike its predecessor, Fall of Cybertron’s campaign blends the two factions’ sides of the story into one fluid series of levels instead of having one for the Autobots and one for the Decepticons. Following the tutorial, the story begins with Optimus trying to salvage enough energon for the Ark as well as finding leads on why Grimlock left his post. Optimus gets a lot of play time compared to other characters as chapters two and three are dedicated to him, but along the way players will encounter the new Teletraan-1 store, which allows for weapon swapping and upgrading and the chance to buy ammo, health, player upgrades, and various T.E.C.H. items, and meet old and new faces such as Warpath, Perceptor, and Metroplex, who becomes your new bodyguard for the third chapter. Chapter three also introduces Onslaught and Brawl to the story and concludes with an (extremely satisfying) explanation for Megatron’s new look.
From there we follow Cliffjumper and Jazz on their adventure through the Sea of Rust to find out where Grimlock and his gang went. New enemies and new abilities are introduced through Cliffjumper’s cloaking ability which now has the added feature of performing stealth takedowns, but also has the new challenge of being crackable by the Decepticon guardians, who have a surveillance mode and an attack mode. Jazz’s new grapple ability allows players to express themselves even further in their gameplay as they make their way to Shockwave’s tower. However, the path to Grimlock’s distress signal source is riddled with Insecticons and even more banter. These two levels are players’ first full taste of the game’s varied playstyles as they allow players to sneak around, snipe, and utilize high mobility without having to play as a flier. They also let the level designers flex their muscles a bit by giving Cybertron more diverse biomes and feel more alive.
After the Autobots have been alerted to the lake of energon surrounding Shockwave’s tower, the Decepticons must make their move. After five chapters of playing as the good guys, players finally get the Decepticon perspective as well as the grand entrance of the Combaticons, who are unfortunately stuck under Starscream’s rule for a bit. Nevertheless, Vortex is the character of focus in the sixth chapter as Transformers fans are allowed to fly a helicopter through an ancient Autobot city alongside the NPC Blast Off. The two are tasked with clearing a shortcut for the others to the bridge so they can blow said bridge and cut off the Autobot transport carrying their spoils from the lake. Vortex’s level once again changes playstyles with a much more open environment that gives players the space they need to fight on foot or in the air as they please. Eventually we reach the massive bridge, which proves to be troublesome to destroy. The Combaticons pull through and blow the bridge, but when Starscream jumps the gun, the Autobots point a lot of theirs in his and the Combaticon’s faces. Tired of having his plans ruined, Onslaught sends Swindle to the transport’s underside to counter the counter-attack. While everyone’s favorite parts peddler wields the same grapple ability as Jazz, the mostly flat, acid-laden terrain players must traverse poses new challenges Jazz’s gameplay did not, especially once the titans come to play and there’s little cover to be found.
After disabling the wheels and anti-aircraft guns, the now-flying transport is helpless to defend itself against an all-out assault from the Decepticons’ latest super weapon: Bruticus. His back-up plan falling into place, Onslaught calls upon his team to combine in the moment many fans had been waiting for since the first cinematic trailer. Now in control of the might fusilateral quintrocombiner, players have little thinking to do for this chapter as they get to slaughter waves of Autobots and deal extreme amounts of damage to the ship with their choice of melee attacks, Vortex’s iconic rotor shield which doubles as a saw, Blast Off’s flamethrower, and Bruticus’s Sonic Pain Wave ability where he slams the ground and creates a massive shockwave. On top of all these attacks that either vaporize Autobots on the spot or send them flying off the ship, Bruticus has a very sizeable health pool which allows players to focus on destruction rather than staying alive. Once the door to the command center of the ship has been sufficiently knocked upon, the Combaticons slaughter everyone inside and do their best to salvage the ship that is now about to crash. Despite their best efforts though, Starscream is displeased and has them arrested for disobeying his orders.
Following Starscream’s failure, attention is turned to a seemingly empty workshop where two Decepticon generics dump some Autobot corpses. After they leave, players are prompted to transform and the Decepticon-emblazoned, alien boombox does as prompted. The chapter starts out with players controlling Soundwave, who rebuilds his leader in a new body. From here players are given control of Megatron and are subsequently set on a path of destruction that leads to bad comedy and a gladiatorial fight. Players are subjected to the Megatron ExperienceTM which includes waves of Decepticon soldiers who are somehow loyal to Starscream, and the opportunity to “shut Starscream up.” After reclaiming his spot as leader and being informed by Shockwave that a planet teeming with energy has been located, Megatron wastes no time in carrying out his plans to destroy the Autobots by raiding a massive facility at the start of the next chapter. That facility of course is built on the site of Trypticon’s crash-landing from the previous game. As players make their way through the facility, they’re met with odds that would be insurmountable for any other Cybertronian. However, this is not any Cybertronian. This is Megatron, who is armed with a massive arm cannon, the ability to “fly,” and inhuman levels of hatred. Leaving behind a massive trail of death and destruction, Megatron finally acquires all of Trypticon’s parts and orders Soundwave to initiate the Nemesis protocol to have their former most powerful weapon locked in starship mode so the Decepticons can hunt their enemies through the stars.
Shifting focus once more, the pacing slows as players must inspect strange outages as a generic Decepticon soldier. The two soldiers are swiftly murdered however as Starscream decloaks and begins sticking his nose in Shockwave’s business, revealing some recent experiments. Starscream’s level combines elements of Cliffjumper and Vortex’s mechanics with the cloak ability and an environment that requires a lot of flying around. Players can take the more direct approach in this chapter as well, but the security outposts around Shockwave’s lab are heavily guarded and don’t provide an ample amount of cover. Of course to keep things varied, Starscream’s stealth takedowns are unique and tailored to his personality and don’t reuse animations from Cliffjumper. After infiltrating the lab, the main Insecticons are introduced as they follow Shockwave through the halls towards Starscream’s objective: Grimlock. The chapter concludes with Starscream trying to offer the restraint brute freedom in exchange for pledging loyalty to him.
The story and player control transition seamlessly to Grimlock, who politely declines the offer before not-so-politely grabbing Starscream and throwing him at the control panel, freeing himself anyway. Typical shooter mechanics are once again tossed aside in the name of creative violence as players are armed with a sword, a shield, and the ability to throw objects and enemies at other objects and enemies. Regaining his senses, Grimlock sets out on yet another path of destruction in search for his fellow Dinobots, the first of whom he finds being Swoop. For the time being, Grimlock can’t transform despite Swoop having no trouble at all. On their search for the others, Grimlock and Swoop stumble across some of Shockwave’s horrific Insecticon experiments and encounter Hardshell shortly afterwards. The Insecticon bruiser doesn’t speak, but very much packs a punch from his mobile turret platform. Grimlock however, doesn’t need an alt mode to squash bugs, and soon the two Dinobots find themselves jumping down a cavernous hole created by Slug. Pressing forward, players are treated to more and more Insecticon slaughter until they’re finally rewarded for their patience. Shockwave informs Grimlock he has yet to unlock his full potential, which he’s tasked Kickback with assisting in. Grimlock follows the eager bug into a somewhat gladiatorial chamber where he can taunt the Dinobot from afar. Building rage and introducing a new mechanic, Grimlock finally transforms into the mighty Space T-Rex and scares the living daylights out of Kickback, who tries to escape and is squished in Quintessonian fashion by the well-mannered Slug. From there they continue their search for Snarl and players get to continue their rampage with all new mechanics. While Grimlock’s alternate mode is limited to being his cooldown ability, the ability itself is very much worth the wait as his iconic firebreath is the new ranged weapon and he gets all-out melee combos that are very satisfying to watch. Successful in rescuing Snarl from Sharpshot (Shrapnel), Grimlock presses onward towards the space bridge tower to destroy it. Despite even more hoards of Decepticons and Shockwave’s attempt to control him, Grimlock manages to destroy the controls and destabilize the portal, though his escape is not as fruitful and leaves a loose end untied.
With the space bridge portal destabilizing, the Autobots are left with no choice but to launch immediately, costing one Autobot their life. The Ark launches and the Nemesis follows suit, dropping players right in midst of a battle in space. Player focus shifts repeatedly through the final chapter from Soundwave, to Jetfire, to Bruticus, to Jazz, and finally to the moment the first chapter left off on and a choice between Megatron and Optimus in the final battle before the jump through space. Players fight through the Ark as Soundwave and his deployable cassettes to destroy the ship’s artillery before changing over to Jetfire, who seeks to destroy the various tow cables connecting the two vessels. After completing Jetfire’s mission, Bruticus nearly takes out the Autobot flier as he heads for the Ark to ravage even more of its defenses. To complete the little back and forth struggle, Jazz speeds in and players are tasked with stopping the Combaticons and sending them tumbling back into space. At the very end, whatever the player’s choice, they are pit against the opposing faction leader in a 1-on-1 battle that lasts until the portal consumes both ships and collapses, completing High Moon’s objective of telling the story of how the Transformers left their home planet in search for a new one.
Even with the massive upgrade in storytelling and single-player gameplay, Fall of Cybertron still had much to offer. While its online features no longer include co-op campaign like its predecessor did, Escalation and Multiplayer modes are retained and in many ways improved upon. Escalation in Fall of Cybertron is limited compared to its previous incarnation, capping the waves at 15 for victory instead of the achievement-marked 25th wave and the optional endless ones that followed, and limiting each map to a set cast of 4 characters. One map consists of Perceptor, Cliffjumper, Jazz, and Wheeljack, while another had Onslaught, Swindle, Brawl, and Quake; and each character possessed one of four abilities: flak shield, heal beam, battle sentry, and ammo refill. The mode still operated very similarly though, rewarding players for kills with spendable points that could be used on weapons, ammo, health, and area unlocks to expand the map. The maps also included environmental tools to kill enemies such as flamethrowers.
Multiplayer had numerous improvements, but certain changes were definitely drawbacks. The game modes Code of Power, Power Struggle, and Countdown to Extinction did not return in the Cybertron sequel, but the new kill confirmed mode Headhunter made its debut, the mode in which players collect sparks from their kills and deliver them to collection points that change locations throughout the match until one team reaches a certain amount. Alongside the new mode, Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch, Conquest, and Capture the Flag returned. In terms of character creation, customization options got the biggest overhaul as players could now build their own characters across the same four classes (now called Infiltrator, Destroyer, Titan, and Scientist) by mixing and matching arms, shoulders, chests/vehicle modes, heads, legs, wheels, wings, and cannons from various character models. While this is a large step up from the options in War for Cybertron, some fans missed the color siders the old game had, which were replaced with a wide range of pre-chosen color pairs for each faction. Weapons, abilities, and upgrades for both are still retained however, albeit many were changed or replaced like the disguise ability from War for Cybertron. Another drawback is that while the game itself and its DLC packs introduce more characters to the game’s universe, the updated character creation system leaves out Arcee and Slipstream (and for some reason Barricade), the two campaign completion rewards in War for Cybertron, due to their chassis supposedly not meshing well with the frames of male characters.
With this, High Moon Studios’s run in the Transformers franchise is over. Even though for months the game would get small multiplayer updates, eventually the flame was reduced to a mere ember. In 2016 the game was released for Xbox One and PS4, but with the release of Transformers Devastation, not many players were left and the game’s designs were no longer present in the Hasbro toyline. To this day though, the spirit of and love for this game live on in the fans and artists of the franchise. Designs have been used in comics and influenced shows since the game’s release, and fans still speak very highly of their experiences with both War for and Fall of Cybertron. It may have been a decade since the game was released, but at times it feels like just yesterday that the lobbies were full and people were losing their minds in both good and bad ways over the Combaticon figures. So if you’ve got memories and love to share, be sure to hit up the boards with the discussion link. And if you’re feeling Re-Energized…