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'Transformers: Fall of Cybertron' aims higher with Metroplex, Starscream and all that Jazz

Fall of Cybertron has the touch, the power, and the Dinobots.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Eyes-on with Transformers: Fall of Cybertron at E3 2012.

If the turncoat cowardice of the Decepticon Starscream or the unrestrained rage of Dinobot Grimlock is something you've always wanted to experience firsthand, High Moon Studios has you covered, Transformers fan.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, the developer's latest take on Transformers as a third-person shooter (with occasional, seemingly superfluous driving moments) builds on the surprisingly capable War for Cybertron. That's the one that thankfully doesn't look anything like those Michael Bay Transformers movies.

At E3, High Moon Studios' Matt Tieger walked us through four gameplay segments from the upcoming Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, starting with the unlikable Starscream. Megatron's disloyal soldier coolly murdering his fellow Decepticons, a mutiny against his former evil allies. High Moon showed Starscream's playable moments for clear reasons, as his transformation from stealthy, on-foot backstabber to flying jet – oh, he can also turn himself invisible – represent some of the biggest variation in gameplay one Transformer can have.

"He's the one guy who's gonna butt heads with Optimus prime over leadership."

The next segment showed Dinobot Grimlock in action, the powerful but dim Autobot ally who fights with sword and shield. He'll come up against a swarm of Insecticons at one point and be sent into a full on rage from the torment and violent combat. Grimlock's transformation into a robotic dinosaur isn't something the player control. He'll automatically unleash tail-smashing, fire-breathing death upon the Decepticons when riled up.

Though Grimlock isn't the brightest of Transformers, Tieger says he's key to Fall of Cybertron's story. (For more on the game's Dinobots, don't miss our feature on High Moon's struggle to get Slag, Sludge, Snarl, et al. into the sequel.)

"He's the one guy who's gonna butt heads with Optimus Prime over leadership," Tieger said. Grimlock arc, specifically "what he believes and why he's so powerful" will also help color "why Optimus is the leader of the Autobots."

Grimlock's encounter with the Insecticons – and perhaps our in-game introduction to Dinobaut Slag – made direct reference to the franchise's animated movie in a scene that plays heavily on Transformers nostalgia. Transformers geeks in attendance were pleased.

Later segments showed Optimus Prime at play, engaged in battle with Decepticons as the towering Metroplex loomed overhead, launching missile strikes at enemy positions. A final gameplay segment introduced us to Cliffjumper and Jazz, the latter of which was playable and boasted grappling hook mechanics.

Yes, they're stuffing a Unicron-sized amount of gameplay styles into this game.

The Optimus-Metroplex scene in particular illustrated the huge scale and fan service that High Moon is injecting into what appears to be a very straightforward, but solidly built game. Fall of Cybertron capitalizes on its license strengths quite well, but doesn't seem to break new ground.

That's also apparent in the game's multiplayer mode, dubbed Escalation. It is essentially Transformers: Fall of Cybertron's take on Horde Mode, sending waves and waves of enemies at the player as a quartet of robots in disguise attempt to stay alive. Players can choose from one of four classes (Scientist, Infiltrator, Destroyer and Titan), which offer variations on medic, engineer, heavy and combat support multiplayer archetypes.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron will roll out on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC on August 28.

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