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 Written by Matt Swider  on February 28, 2012

Transformers Sequel Preview: The fall-bound Transformers: Fall of Cyberton is still in an alpha state, but Matt Swider got to check it out Las Vegas.

Optimus Prime

The developer of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is not only out to build a better sequel to the well-received Transformers: War for Cybertron, it's determine to right the first game's missteps so much that they become the selling points of this fall-bound game. ?The constructive criticism of the [first] game,? creative director Matt Tieger openly admitted, ?was that the visuals got repetitive after a while, the gameplay got repetitive, the AI system wasn't smart enough, and dammit I can't find any ammo.?

Transformers - Their Uniqueness Cannot Be Denied...
To prove that his team at High Moon Studios is addressing each one of these issues, Activision invited journalists to Las Vegas to check out an alpha build of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Right off the bat, the first demo level featured a new character to the game named Vortex. ?He's a robot, and a helicopter and a jet,? rattled off Tieger before moving on to the coolest part. ?He's also one of five guys who is part of a team called Combaticons. They can form up into one big giant called Bruticus.? If you're not familiar with this Transformers combiner, then think of it as Power Rangers' Megazord. If you're still lost, think of it as an 80-foot unstoppable juggernaut.


...In the graphics
The transition from Vortex, who is a quick, nimble and almost acrobatic character, to Bruticus, who doesn't hold back on the hulking and plodding attributes, really showed off the scale and the variety that High Moon Studios has in its sights for the visuals. The game is also a little brighter this time around. ?The repetition that we saw happening with the last game was because we had a very muted color palette. We decided to break that up a little bit.? Now there is a more obvious split between day and night missions, a heavier reliance on exterior levels as opposed to the first game's interior majority, and an improved lighting and metal shaders system.

...In the gameplay of each Transformer
With a similar goal of variety in mind for the once-repetitive gameplay, the team has built a custom-created mechanic around each character, always triggered by pressing the Right Bumper (on Xbox 360) or R1 Button (on PS3). Vortex's special Right Bumper move is a 360-degree shockwave, which sends guys ragdolling. ?You couple that with cool catwalks and vicarious places [for bad guys] to be at, and radoll is always a recipe for fun,? summarized Tieger. He contrasted Vortex's shockwave with Bruticus' devastating ground-pound, then moved onto the next character in the demo, popular Autobot, Jazz.

Jazz grappling hook

Jazz was a part of the 2010 Transformers game, but only as a pre-order incentive and later a purchasable DLC character. This time, however, he returns as an on-disc playable character and comes with a zip-line-like grappling hook, which fans of the G1 animated series will surely recall. As Tieger describes in further detail, Jazz's unique Right Bumper ability is ?a bit more like a zip-line. It doesn't swing like a Batman grappling hook; it's more of a direct, linear thing.? The grappling hook came in handy in the demo because while Jazz was equipped with a sniper rifle, so was his wall-crawling enemy. ?This is a sniper vs. sniper battle. But it's very different from other games in that both of the combatants are extremely nimble and very vertical.?

Tieger referred to that character-driven Right Bumper as ?my special Transformers button,? then proceeded to show off Optimus Prime's special ability: a massive Transformer called Metroplex. ?Now that Right Bumper that was a grappling hook for somebody else is a targeting sphere that you use to command this city-sized transformer who is basically your buddy in the level. He always destroys whatever you target him at.?


The final Transformer we got to check out was the giant fire-breathing dinosaur robot, Grimlock. His play pattern is different from the rest of the pack because he's a sword and shield dinobot, not a gun-toting Transformer. This means that your only ranged attack is picking up bad guys and throwing them into other enemies. With fire coming from his mechanical mouth in the front and his tail whipping from the back, this T-Rex dinobot is the most fun looking Transformer we got to see in terms of visuals and gameplay. As Tiger puts it, ?if you don't want to play as a fire-breathing T-Rex, I don't want to know you.?

...In the AI challenges
Graphics and gameplay are the core of what High Moon Studios has been working on and what they could easily show us in this hands-off demo, but the team has also rewritten the AI system. But, as Tieger explained, it wasn't an easy process given the nature of the Transformers license. ?We had some really unique challenges when it comes to AI systems where you can transform and can be on the other side of the map before the AI can finish processing how to handle you.? Nevertheless, he believes that the sequel's AI strikes the right balance of being challenging while still embracing the freedom of transformation.


The still-very-much-in-progress multiplayer wasn't ready to be shown off, but the team did give us a tour of the intricate character customization menu. Just how intricate does customizing the four classes get in this sequel? Tieger broke it down, ?we took every chassis and split it apart: head, chest, upper arm, lower arm, legs, wings, wheels, all sorts of stuff. So now you can actually build the Transformer you've always wanted to make.? Cycling through the options, he demonstrated the subtle but impressive metallic slider bar.

?Not only do you get to pick colors, you can also determine the degree of metallic,? Tieger said as he ran the metallic slider bar from left to right. ?This is a very metallic-looking character. It looks like it's wrapped in tin foil. But if you want a more painted metal, you can take the slider bar and slide that down.? The transition from glossy to matte metal was subtle, but meaningful in the context of a robot-filled game like Trasnformers: Fall of Cyberton.


As detailed as multiplayer character customization is, the different pieces that you can earn from challenges don't necessarily make you a better bot on the battlefield. ?We had some really long discussions about whether the parts have gameplay implication like Armored Core, or they're purely cosmetic,? Tieger revealed. ?They're actually cosmetic.? He explained that the idea is to make ?my transformer.? In other words, having a superior piece of customizable equipment was just going to lead to everyone running around in the same gear, essentially killing the joy of the customization system. Makes sense.

Final Thoughts
There's a lot to like about Transformers: Fall of Cyberton, and moving forward from this alpha build, there's bound to be even more reasons to pick it up this fall. The interwoven campaign between Autobots and Deceptacons is teeming with more gameplay variety - an obvious fact demonstrated by how much time the developer spent detailing it for us for this preview. Likewise, the new graphics add to their drive for variety, both in size and brightness in the single-player portion and the sheer amount of customizable options in multiplayer. For those reasons, it's going to be really hard find reasons to be disappointed with this sequel.

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