I’m glad nobody else was in the room when I was playing Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.
Just like its predecessor, War for Cybertron, Fall had me grinning like the Cheshire Cat from start to finish. From its witty one-liners and clever nods to series lore, to an obvious effort by High Moon Studios to cram as much fun into every square inch of the game as robotically possible, my time with the Autobots and Decepticons was spent in a constant state of barely contained glee. I hate to imagine what anyone would have thought of me were they actually sitting in the same room, listening to me giggle at the pitch-perfect dialogue or making the transforming noise with my mouth every few minutes.
“All games should be this fun,” I thought. I was a kid again, sitting in front of the TV on a Saturday morning as my favorite heroes and villains prepared to duke it out.
Only this time I was taking part in the action, which made it THAT MUCH COOLER.
I’m gushing, of course, but it’s a rare game that can make me do that. Notice I did not say a “perfect” game, or even a game that will be remembered by the masses in 10 years. Some games, though, click perfectly with me despite any flaws, glitches or hiccups. Fall of Cybertron is one such game.
I have to switch mindsets when I review a game. If I’m not setting out to be critical, I tend to let my entertainment get away with far too much. I like to give the creators every opportunity to entertain me. I figure I paid the money, so I might as well do my best to make the experience worth it, right?
Also, it’s usually far less work to find something enjoyable in a piece of crap than to let a deep dislike for it take over my brain. I’d much rather walk away from a game or movie feeling like it was decent, stupid fun than drive home forcing everyone in the car to listen to me tear it apart. And then complain about it over the phone to family. And then tweet about how terrible it is. And then blog about how the director should die in a fire. And then blog about it again because that’s just how terrible it was.
Those last few meandering paragraphs were basically for me to be able to say this: I absolutely did not want to review Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. I knew that the moment I finished War for Cybertron two years ago, heart racing with childlike wonder as the credits rolled. If a review copy had been offered free of charge, I would have turned it down outright.
Why? Because after War for Cybertron made the Transformers as enjoyable for this 30-year-old man as they were when he was a six-year-old boy, I wanted to give High Moon Studios every conceivable chance to catch lightning in a bottle for a second time. More specifically, I wanted them to make me feel like a kid again, and that’s hard to pull off when the person playing the game is looking at everything through a critical eye, stopping to jot down notes, or trying to remember a clever turn of phrase they want to include in the review.
In short, I just wanted to have a blast. I was ready and willing to overlook every fault imaginable if it meant Fall of Cybertron could give me the same sense of joy High Moon managed to produce with War for Cybertron. Luckily, Fall of Cybertron did not require any such effort on my part. High Moon created yet another action-packed third-person shooter sporting so much care and attention to the source material that the Transformers universe practically leapt from my television screen and into my living room.
With Fall of Cybertron, I also wanted to take the game at my own pace and make it last, another thing I can’t do when reviewing a game. I wanted my time with the Transformers to really count for something, and so I slowed down and only allowed myself to play two chapters a night. Every time I put down the controller I could feel my fingers itching for more. I thought about the game while I drifted off to sleep and eagerly anticipated each evening’s play session while grinding away at work. Just like when I was watching the episodes every afternoon as a kid, I had to wait until the next day to find out what happened next.
I’ve heard many estimates put the campaign at around six hours, something I know for a fact many people on my friends list breezed through in a single sitting. At 13 chapters in length, I spent nearly a week with Optimus, Soundwave, Grimlock and the rest of the gang, transforming into vehicle form to roll across exploding metallic landscapes or flying through an artillery filled sky, tearing Insecticons apart with my bare hands and unloading clip after clip into my invading foes. I got to control a transforming skyscraper, take flight as a robotic pterodactyl and overtake an enemy outpost in a scene that felt like I was storming a rust-covered beach in Normandy. I wanted to let those experiences linger and sink in.
That makes me think about the last game I played for review, Darksiders II. I had to absolutely plow through 40 hours of that game to put a review together in time for launch and, while I loved it, I can’t help but wonder what my experience would have been like were I not constantly sitting down for epic sessions, cramming in as much time with Death in as short a span of days as I could manage. Darksiders II probably could have kept me entertained for a month or so if taken at my normal pace. I’d probably still be there now, wandering around the Forgelands and wondering where my next adventure might lead.
But don’t get me wrong here. I love reviewing video games. It’s one of my favorite things about this gig, even when the game I’m playing is a honking pile of poop. I enjoy a good writing challenge and putting my experience with something as personal as a video game into words is something I really, really get a kick out of…most of the time.
That said, it’s nice to take a break from being too analytical from time to time and let ourselves get swept away by something. Sometimes it’s okay to just put on the footy pajamas, grab our favorite action figures and remind ourselves that it’s quite alright to play a video game for the sole purpose of having fun. I did it with Fall of Cybertron. There’s no telling when that sort of experience will find me again, so I’m glad I took the opportunity to really enjoy it.
About the Author:
Ryan Winslett is an Arizona-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a contributing writer for Gaming Blend and his work has also appeared on Joystiq, Gamasutra and Joystick Division. His only crime is loving too much.
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