Transformers: Fall of Cybertron preview

High Moon Studios surprised fans when it made a good game out of the Transformers license with War for Cybertron. Two years later, fans are getting a proper sequel--one that appears to end the Cybertron series.

Fall of Cybertron certainly starts with a bang: the destruction of the Autobots' home planet. It's a great narrative hook, one that worked well with Uncharted 2. High Moon makes it immediately clear that Fall of Cybertron will be much darker than its predecessor. While it's a bit odd to see talking robots in such a grave situation, fans are probably eager to know that this game covers such a key part of the franchise's lore.

Perhaps even more important than its setting are the characters. While there will be many returning favorites, like Bumblebee, Fall introduces a number of new characters, including Vortex, Grimlock, and Metroplex. The latter is definitely the most interesting addition to the cast. As a city-sized robot, he towers above everything else in the Transformers universe. His presence alone makes the game feel that much more epic. And while it seems unlikely you'll ever be able to directly control him, you are able to call upon missile strikes from the behemoth.

Grimlock is also another interesting addition to the cast. As a Dinobot, he has the odd ability to transform into a robotic dinosaur. However, unlike the other playable robots, the transformation cannot happen on a whim. Instead, it's a temporary ability you charge up by fighting enemies. Once transformed into a dinosaur, you'll be able to chomp enemies and breathe out a flamethrower. Oddly, High Moon Studios promises an explanation for the Dinobots with this game--a treat for fans of the series, to be sure.

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Finally, Vortex plays a bit more like what we'd expect out of a Transformer. He can turn into a helicopter, which really opens up some interesting gameplay possibilities. Playing as Vortex has a bit of a learning curve, as it takes some time getting used to the flight controls. However, it was incredibly satisfying to play as Vortex once I mastered the controls. I was able to strafe above enemies, fire missile salvos below. Then, transform back into a robot and go in for some melee kills. That kind of aerial and ground combat is certainly something unique the Transformers IP can offer.

While the war between talking transforming alien robots doesn't really make sense to me, the universe allows for some genuinely interesting gameplay possibilities. One thing I was constantly impressed by in the E3 demo was the sense of scale. Whether I was flying around a level as Votex, or I was fighting as Optimus Prime with Metroplex in the background, I couldn't help but admire how "epic" every battle felt. And by knowing how the game begins (and ends), there's both a sense of urgency and doom to all of these encounters.

Fall of Cybertron will be available on PS3 and Xbox 360 on August 28. A PC version has also been announced for the same day.

Watch the Shacknews E3 2012 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. This preview is based on a hands-on demo shown at a pre-E3 event.