E3 2012: Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
High Moon Studios did well by the Transformers franchise with its last effort, War for Cybertron.
For a start, the studio made the wise move of avoiding the recent Michael Bay films' licence like the plague, opting instead to appeal to the nostalgia of the Transformers' long-term fans.
Employing the more mature nature of the comics and the recognisable voice talent and personalities of the iconic cartoon, the mood of War for Cybertron was pitch perfect.
Where it faltered, if only moderately, was in the gameplay department. Chief among the common criticisms of War For Cyberton was its repetitive nature, both in terms of action and the lack of variety amongst its environments.
High Moon has identified that it must harness the uniqueness of the individual, playable Transformers in Fall of Cybertron to plug the gaps in its promising formula. And it seems that the goal of the game's E3 demonstration is to prove to the world that it's done just that.
A gameplay section starring Starscream – the first of four characters to be showcased - demonstrated action not terribly dissimilar to what players saw in the first game. But it proved a great ambassador for the visual improvements to the environments and indeed the Transformers themselves.
Straight away, it's clear that a concerted effort has been placed on ensuring that the metallic environs of Cybertron are as varied as possible. The backdrops are expansive, saturated with colour and alive with activity. A later level starring Autobot leader Optimus Prime features brighter colours, with Greek-style temples, pillars and statues that are somehow still distinctly Cybertronian. It's a welcome escape from the dark colours and bland purples of the past. In this same level, the gargantuan, city-sized Autobot Metroplex stomps around in the background, smashing through a Decepticon warp cannon under Prime's orders.
The inclusion of Grimlock, the leader of the Dinobots, as a playable character presents perhaps the most significant departure from the Gears of War-lite gameplay of War for Cybertron. In robot form, he's a melee-only character armed only with a sword and an energon shield. Unlike the other characters, Grimlock can't transform on cue; instead, by destroying enemy Transformers, his rage meter fills allowing him to transform into a devastatingly powerful Tyrannosaurus Rex. After a rewarding and spectacular transformation cut scene, the rampaging dinosaur is finally free to stomp, tail-swipe and fire breathe his way through dozens of unwitting Decepticons.
Jazz rejoins the fray, but this time he's acquired a grappling-hook ability that makes him a highly manoeuvrable and agile character. It helps him to cross large chasms and scale tall structures, closing distance rather quickly all the while. It makes for fast-paced action in which Jazz can run circles around his foes despite being considerably outnumbered.
The fan service of War for Cybertron looks set to continue in Fall of Cybertron, with even more popular, classic characters along for the ride. Pleasingly, it looks like High Moon has also learned to embrace their uniqueness in ways that will provide some much-needed variety.