Fall of Cybertron Video Game Demo: First Impressions (Bumblebee Level)
On the first week of August 2012, High Moon Studios loaded up a gameplay demo of the upcoming "Fall of Cybertron" video game featuring two levels, one where you could play as the Autobot Bumblebee and the other as the Combaticon Vortex. I just downloaded this today (August 4, 2012) and played through the Bumblebee demo level and wanted to share my thoughts while they were "fresh" in my mind.
"Fall of Cybertron" is the multimedia "event" of 2012. Action figures are being released for it (and more extensively than they were for "War for Cybertron") and High Moon and Hasbro have done a fantastic job promoting the game via multimedia. They've released tons of images and preview videos, but this was the first time one could play the game on their XBox 360 or PS3 in the comfort of their own homes.
The "Bumblebee level" picks up during a historic "Transformers" event: the exodus of the Autobots from Cybertron. The war is lost and their survival now depends on them looking for a new place to survive. This seminal Transformers moment was shown in the original 1984 cartoon series and comic book, and was repeated many times since in various media. This is the first time fans are getting to live this event and participate in it. As the Ark departs, the Decepticon vessel Nemesis pursues the Autobot vessel and begins its attack!
What first struck me about this board was the sheer scale of the battle. In the original "Transformers" comic books and movies, the Decepticons basically latched onto the Ark, and then the Decepticons flooded in (led by Megatron) and a battle ensued. However, in this version, the Nemesis is slowly but surely tearing the Ark apart using gigantic tentacles with claws at the end to tear into the ship and unleash Decepticon soldiers inside. The Ark is shown as what it should have always been, not a big ship that fits about a couple dozen Autobots. Instead, the craft is massive, with a bridge, engine room and so on, making it more akin to the Starship Enterprise from "Star Trek", and this is completely appropriate. The analogy actually continues with the groups of generic Autobot troopers you'll run into, all of whom are mostly colored red. Clearly this is to symbolize their status as Autobots (the Decepticon generic troopers are purple) but it also recalls the famous scifi trope of the "Red Shirt".
During this board, you start playing as Bumblebee, witnessing the events from the bridge as the Nemesis attacks. Massive damage occurs and Optimus Prime goes to fend off Decepticons from the engine room. You're told to stay on the bridge at first, but fate intervenes and you have to go help Optimus Prime by making your way through the ship. As you do so, you encounter Autobots to help you out as well as Decepticons trying to stop you. What really struck me as an older fan was the fact that I was playing a historical event in the "Transformers" legend. Whereas "War for Cybertron" was very much its own contained story that predates the exodus, this was a moment I saw played out as a kid over and over in various media, but this time I was in the mix and the enormity and utter coolness of that thought was almost overwhelming.
This board also serves as a "training board", getting you familiar with movements and controls. It starts out very simply with Ratchet giving you an "exam" (asking you to look where his probe is, effectively helping you learn how to move the targeting/visual reticle) and it goes from there. The game takes great pains to slowly work you up to your various abilities, so at first you've been knocked for a loop so you can't transform, but later in the board you can. When you first start, you begin with a triple-barreled rifle like weapon, but later you upgrade to have a heavier rocket launcher weapon. Along the way, you learn to dash, jump, dash and melee and more. I found the gameplay patterns of the first game a tad challenging but this time out it felt as smooth as silk.
The one thing that I really enjoyed was the absolute seamless switch from a "scene" to game play. These moments help give you a respite from battle and often a chance to reload your weapons and Energon, but then you're back in the thick of it before you know it, relying on verbal cues from the generic Autobots running around to guide you. The game uses this mechanism very effectively and not once did I feel like I was lost or didn't know where to go (something that did happen to me quite a bit in "War for Cybertron").
The graphics were absolutely stunning in this game. Every step of the way I felt like I was on the Ark and the generic Autobots ranged in size from smaller troops to large, bulky guys reminscent of Bulkhead. At one point, a big green guy comes to help you who certainly looks a lot like Bulkhead but he's not named and it may have been an Easter Egg of sorts. I also thought he may have been Brawn, but I was too busy pushing forward at the time (I'll have to try again to see for sure). We do get to see Bruticus ever so briefly however and that was super fun.
If this initial play was any indication, "Fall of Cybertron" is going to be one of the most intense "Transformers" video game experiences ever. You can feel the love and thought that went into this game. Based on this I can't wait to get my copy!