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‘Transformers: Fall of Cybertron’ surprisingly good

I can hardly believe it myself. But a “Transformers” video game is currently in the running for my list of the top 10 games of 2012. What the what?

I have never fallen for the appeal of “Transformers” toys, TV shows, movies or video games. I barely understand the lore.

There are good sentient robots called Autobot Transformers. And there are bad sentient robots called Decepticon Transformers. And they fight each other, and they turn into cars?

I’m not trying to be ornery about it. I just get confused by all the sci-fi robot stuff. For years, it has been hard for me as a human to relate to angry metal.

“Transformers: Fall of Cybertron” changes that.

On one side, you’ve got Optimus and Bumblebee and other protagonists. On the other side, you’ve got Megatron and Starscream and other antagonists. (Correct?)

These robots-in-disguise are battling each other in a civil war over their robot homeland, Cybertron. What started the civil war? I have no idea. It could be a fight for a cake for all I know.

But the action transfers to a spacecraft called the Ark.

And from level to level, I portray different kinds of Transformers (good, bad, ugly) in this third-person, fast-paced war shooter.

The fun of “Fall of Cybertron” comes from the single most important thing a game can deliver: good execution by people who make games.

Playing it is smooth, intuitive, compelling and excellently explosive. It is cool to sprint and drive. This game moves.

Guns are varied and powerful. Melee punches are great. Aiming at rivals is easy but it’s still challenging to take out those rivals.

Cinematic scenes add interesting (sometimes funny) layers of character arcs and narratives.

Playable characters transform into vehicles (cars, helicopters, etc.).

This game also presents an incredible solution to the repetitive nature of shooting games. Since I routinely portray different Transformers, I’m therefore constantly handed new characters, weapons and vehicle abilities to stave off boredom.

That is, just when I get comfortable with one type of shooting/action groove, the game graces me with a new slew of guns, armor, grappling hooks, invisibility cloaks and adventure. That is awesome.

I love that characters frequently talk in voice-over. That keeps me interested in their plight.

Downside: I hate the escort mission where I must kill rivals while protecting the escorted subject. But that speaks to my own personal lifelong hatred toward escort missions, so take that criticism with a grain of salt.

And the third act bogs down for a few minutes. Fortunately, the game ends with a nice crazy splash.

The online multiplayer is OK, but I gave up on it because beginning levels offer prohibitively weak guns, I think, compared to guns earned later in online levels.

So there we have it: “Transformers: Fall of Cybertron” kicks mucho behind. It is a sleeper hit. Aren’t sleeper hits the best? You’re not expecting anything at all, then bang, you’re awakened.

(“Transformers: Fall of Cybertron” by Activision retails or $60 for Xbox 360, PS 3 – Plays very fun. Looks very good. Challenging. Rated “T” for animated blood, violence. Four out of four stars.)

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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