A bunch of robots punching the snot out of each other. Thatís the Transformers series, in a nutshell. Oh, and the fact that the entire thing is largely a front to sell toys to impressionable kids. But the latest franchise game from High Moon Studios, Fall of Cybertron, seems neither shallow or a blatant cash-in. The multiplayer demo hit Xbox Live and PlayStation Network recently, showing gamers exactly why this is the case.
For a start, High Moon Studios is riding on a high after stunning fans the world over with the rather fantastic 2010 prequel, War for Cybertron
. Jumping into just one game assures us that weíre in for a similarly entertaining ride - big, chunky robots that feel weighty but responsive to control, in arenas that offer many opportunities for combat strategy.
Customisation has been vastly improved too. Initially, you can select one of four mechs to venture into battle with - the Infiltrator, Scientist, Destroyer and Titan - each with their own unique speed, power and defence statistics. Delve deeper, and you can select the primary and secondary weapons for that Transformer, what upgrades to include, and how to build each and every body part from a long list of unlockable options.
With each Transformer type comes a different kind of vehicle to morph into. Changing your custom robotís chest plate will even alter the shape of that vehicle. While in matches, youíll be playing as either an Autobot or Decepticon, you can attach Transformer body parts from Dinobots and Insecticons too. Win!
The stages that you do battle in are much more intricate than those found in War for Cybertron
too. Large, foreboding maps that really emphasise the character of the Transformers and the dying world around them. Although the colours of the maps we played in consisted of grim greys underscored by flashes of brighter palettes, the interesting environment design make up for this. Towering, cyberpunk-style structures loom over you, high in the sky, whilst buildings on the ground seem inspired by ancient temples and buildings from human history.
The level design for one particular stage includes multi-leveled, dilapidated building blocks with ledges that overlook a good chunk of the map. But, with a number of entrance points to that specific area, youíre always having to watch your back if you choose to hold steady there. Jump pads send grounded Transformers to upper floors, conveniently positioning them right behind you if youíre not careful.
You donít just have a bunch of firepower at your disposal. As youíd expect, the vehicles that you can transform into play a huge part in the success or failure of your multiplayer match. Itís important to remember that, when low on health and stuck in a rut, thereís no shame in running away - clicking the left thumbstick allows you to transform into a plane, car or tank at will to make good your escape.
Again, the level design offers opportunities for escape as much as it does for combat. Take a running start, flip into a race car and hop out of the windows of a building to land on a broken road that leads to another segment of the map. Or, if you simply want to reach a higher vantage point, you can change into a plane and head towards a ledge that would normally be inaccessible by foot (unless you engage in the aforementioned daring window escape).
Depending on your customisation, you can also activate a number of support tools that can aid you in the destruction of your opponents. One such tool is a cloak that allows you to sneak past foes or infilatrate an area to take command of a particular zone. Another places a shield right in front of your Autobot or Decepticon, deflecting enemy fire and giving you a few seconds to escape or consider a new combat strategy. You can even use one particular option to heal teammates when they are low on health.
So with all this in mind, as well as the ability to switch what kind of Transformer you are upon respawn by selecting ĎChange Characterí in the pause menu, it would seem that robot duking really can involve tactics and strategies. While on the surface, the list of multiplayer modes in Fall of Cybertron
makes it appear like a me-too TPS, itís when you get to the core of the Transformers
mechanics where this game can really come into its own.
You can still download the Xbox 360 and PS3 demo on their respective download services, if you fancy. The full game is released on August 24 - letís hope the rest of the multiplayer experience lives up to this good first impression.