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Before 2010’s Transformers: War for Cybertron, there had been some promising titles based on the toy line, but no Transformers game before it was such a marvelous combination of solid shooter gameplay and intense admiration for the franchise. Now developer High Moon Studios and Activision are priming themselves for the August release date of the sequel Fall of Cybertron. We’ve seen much of the single player already, but at San Diego Comic Con last night we got our first real experience with the surprisingly deep multiplayer modes, including creating our dream Transformer.

The last couple Transformers titles’ multiplayer modes had extensive options for building loadouts for each class in the multiple online modes, but Fall really steps it up. Here we not only set-up what weapons our characters carry, but we began building our dream Autobot with the dozens of customizable options for head, chest, legs, wheels, decals, arms shoulders and more, all of which were expressed in the robot and vehicle models. As we coupled an Optimus Prime head with Soundwave’s chest, we couldn’t help but imagine how excited our 10 year-old selves would be with this game. And as was revealed last night, Dinobot and Insecticons are coming down the line for multiplayer.

With our relatively perfect Destroyer class bot built (that’s the type closest to Optimus Prime, our personal favorite Transformer), we jumped into a five-on-five battle in Conquest Mode. On the in-door map with its aged metal walls, two teams vied to capture multiple control points. It was hotly contested, as the map kept everyone pretty close together. Everybody was quickly getting used to their bots and how to best use their vehicle transformations to navigate the stage. Soon enough we were recalling the controls from the previous game with some modest skill. Our team still lost, but by a narrower margin.

Next up was Team Deathmatch, a feature no online shooter can live without. Once more a five-on-five battle, the Autobots and Decepticons were pretty closely matched, though it did strike us that the amount of damage it took to destroy a giant robot was less than you’d think. Fortunately for our team we had a healer that knew what they were doing, which encouraged the rest of us to come together as a team and play our parts as best we could, leading to us squeaking out a victory.

That lesson in the importance of classes and team roles was helpful as we moved on to the last online mode, Escalation. Our personal favorite of the multiplayer options in War for Cybertron, Escalation was a clever spin on Horde that had a team of four Transformers defending themselves from increasing tough waves of enemies. This year’s version deepens the economy aspects of it, based around buying more ammo and health or unlocking doors to new areas, plus each team member needs to play its part of laying down shields, setting up turrets, and finding all the Energon it can. This year’s version of escalation seems much more nuanced than you’re trained to expect from a licensed game.

Fall of Cybertron will be out in a little over a month, so we’re sure what we played is pretty much the final version of the game, and it’s looking good. The versus multiplayer modes are solid and Escalation looks like it could be something really special, while the character creation looks expertly tailored for fan service, just like the campaign. We’ll no doubt have the final version pretty soon, so keep an eye out for the review.

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