Escalation returns in Fall of Cybertron as the only co-op mode available in the game. Much of what made Escalation a hit in War for Cybertron returns as well as some nice evolutionary changes.
Nothing is Free on Cybertron
Rather than buying everything at machines, most of the pickups in Fall of Cybertron are on the ground. You'll find gadgets, regular and heavy weapons along with both sets of ammo reloads and energon health cubes scattered around the battlefield. Everything still costs money however, nothing is free in Escalation. Doors make a return to open up new areas of the battlefield. Doors also cost money to open, a cheap one costs 250 credits and some of the more expensive ones cost upwards of 2000 credits. Two new additions to Escalation include environmental triggers and a weapon upgrade machine. The environmental triggers seem to be more defensive than offensive. Examples include a hallway that spews fire called the furnace and, on a different map, an electric fence across walkways. These cost money to activate and only last for a certain amount of time. Weapon upgrade machines do what you'd expect but are very expensive, a 2500 credit upgrade gives the team a greater ammo capacity, a 5000 credit upgrade gives the team faster reloads and so on. It's essential to community fund these machines, it's unlikely a single person could afford to fund this machine on their own to the maximum level.
Can I Get a Couple Extra Rounds?
Escalation in Fall of Cybertron only lasts for 15 rounds rather than going on an infinite number of rounds like it did in the previous game. While this does make for games that take a reasonable length of time to finish, it can seem like it's not quite enough time to get all the weapon upgrades and doors unlocked. One nice improvement is that the game doesn't end if everyone dies in a round, you get three continues to help in your fight to finish out wave 15.
Very Limited Characters
One improvement I hope for as DLC releases is the addition of more characters to choose. Escalation is four players only and there are only four characters to choose from, no doubling up either. I'm not sure why High Moon decided on this restriction, my only guess is that it's to have a balanced squad so you have one of each class in the fight.
Overall Escalation is a fast frantic fight that lasts for just enough time to keep it fun. It doesn’t feel like it's a 50 round grind similar to competing PvE equipped games. Lots of games these days have this wave based PvE mode but Escalation seems more fun. It doesn’t overstay its welcome by being too long. The action is much more frantic because enemies spawn everywhere and you can’t choke point them. If you’re into this type of co-op game mode, you really shouldn’t miss Fall of Cybertron.
Poor Launch Lobby System
Where to start with multiplayer? Seeming to follow industry standards typical of launch week both the lobby system and game joining is kind of a mess. Party splitting, game drops and even one person from your party ending up in a totally different game than everyone else are all things you'll face. High Moon dropped a patch on August 23rd but it doesn't seem to address these connectivity problems. It did fix the obnoxious countdown clock blaring for 30 seconds before the match starts though. It's good to have priorities.
Mix and Match Parts
The biggest change in multiplayer is the heavily hyped character customization system. Your character is broken up into anatomical pieces and you can mix and match parts. Some parts are free, some are earned and some parts are purchased via in-game credits you earn for killing the enemy. Some parts are DLC and cost 80 Microsoft Points each or you can buy them in bulk for 800 Microsoft Points. Essentially you buy a robot pack and you can play as that Transformer (such as Jazz) or you can take parts of Jazz and stick them on another Transformer to build of your own. These parts are all cosmetic though, they don’t do anything else for your character. While it might be fun to noodle with your character between rounds, in-battle what your guy looks like really doesn't matter. The combat is so fast and furious you hardly have time to admire the chest, wings, legs or arms of the robot you're trying to turn into scrap metal. I think this feature is more a gimmick aimed at die hard transformers fans.
Not Breaking New Ground with Multiplayer Modes
Out of the box, Fall of Cybertron multiplayer comes with four multiplayer modes: Team Deathmatch, Conquest, Capture the Flag and Headhunter. The first three are exactly what you've played in any number of competing shooters. Headhunter mode is something a little more rare though not unique. When you make a kill in Headhunter mode, the dying robot drops their spark (essentially a ball of energy). Someone from your team must then pick up the spark and return it to a constantly changing capture point to score a point for your team. It's fun and frantic but lower level characters are at a very obvious disadvantage in this mode against higher level characters with top tier gear unlocked. I wish in Headhunter you could hand the sparks you collect off to other characters which would help promote team cooperation. Titans are great for destroying everything but they move at a snails pace. It would be awesome if a Titan could hand their sparks off to a fast Scientist or Scout to run them to the check-in point.
Level Grinding Initiated
The multiplayer also follows the now very familiar XP system to level up your character. You gain XP by killing enemies, completing objectives and completing challenges. Each of the four classes has two slots to equip your choice of four different weapons. Each weapon has three different enhancement options. You can pick from one of those to equip a weapon modification. Lastly, your character has an ability slot with a couple abilities to choose from. Each ability has an enhancement slot with three enhancements to choose from. As you level up your character, these weapons, abilities and enhancements unlock at specific levels and, by the time you hit level 25, everything is unlocked. It would be nice if you could earn approximately the same amount of XP no matter what game type you choose to play, however that doesn't seem to be the case. Playing Conquest I usually end with at least 6000 XP but in the other three modes I'm usually only at about 2000 XP. This makes Conquest the clear choice for level grinding.
The battlefield is littered with pickups, but noticeably absent is the ever popular overshield. Things like ammo, Energon and Energon Recharger are fairly obvious in what they do. Intercooler and Ultra-Power Core, which are new, are not so obvious. It wouldn't have hurt to have some text on the screen that shows up when you pick up such items that reminds you what it is you just picked up. Overall, I find I rarely live long enough to worry about picking up ammo or health and I don't find the rest of the pickups to be that enticing so I largely ignore them all.
Transforming is the Key to Success
The maps seem better suited this time around to accommodate vehicle play, especially for the flying class. You will need to utilize both robotic and vehicle forms to be successful but you might prefer to do most of your fighting in robot form. For whatever reason, High Moon has restricted vehicle weapons to a single pre-defined one. You have no choices here unlike your equipment for robot mode. In general, it seems like the load out options are a little more restrictive than they were in War for Cybertron. Perhaps this was a balancing decision or maybe it was an anti-cheat measure to fix the class load out swapping bug people were exploiting in the previous game.
Overall multiplayer in Fall of Cybertron is fun, fast and frantic and can best be described as a class based Call of Duty with robots. Having a special ability, a whole other form to fight in and some battlefield pickup enhancements seems to add just enough to make it fun and slightly different. While I don't envision playing Fall of Cybertron for the long haul, it'll be a good fill in shooter to pass the time with until the big boys come out to play this fall.
Any Last Words, Prime?
You won’t need to consult Teletran One on this. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is too fun to miss out on! Unless you hated the Transformers and thought Gobots were the future this game is a must buy. Fans likely preordered this game to get the G1 DLC but Fall of Cybertron takes a franchise based game to new heights. High Moon studios made it clear that they will not produce shovel ware and slap a known brand on it. With Fall of Cybertron they are sure to build a large fan base eager to see what they make next.