The beautiful death of a planet in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

As much as I'd like to feel sorry for the decimation of Cybertron, home of my childhood heroes, developer High Moon studios left me craving even more destruction with Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron takes place during the final hours of a civil war that eventually destroys the planet. The Decepticons have won, driving the Autobots to seek a new home somewhere amongst the stars. As Optimus Prime and his Autobot buddies race to find a way off the planet, Megatron and his dastardly Decepticons seek to rid the universe of all Autobot life. They're big old meanies like that.

Several Autobots and Decepticons will get screen time in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, and become playable in specific levels crafted to take advantage of each individual's unique set of abilities. "Every single character we've created is all about the special abilities they have that make them a unique play experience, and also what really [wraps] them into the world and what they're doing," says Matt Tieger, game director at High Moon Studios.

Abilities are varied, from what I've seen of the game. Cliffjumper has a unique cloaking ability, allowing him to sneak past enemy patrols and engage with silent take-downs. Vortex, a Decepticon who can transform between an assault chopper and jet, destroys SAM placements underneath Transformers: Fall of Cybertron's biggest level: a massive bridge. The Autobot Jazz uses a grappling hook, allowing him to traverse the environment quickly.

As Tieger demonstrated the different Transformers and their abilities throughout my hands-off demo, the most savory moments involved explosions and combat. When Bruticus -- a giant Decepticon created when small Combaticons link together -- emerged, apathetically destroying everything in his scope, the spectacle of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron felt like the most promising element for me.

Cybertron looks like it's dying. The image of that world about to go dark, the relentless war waging on its surface, really resonated with me. My demo was short, but what I saw was gorgeous.

My biggest complaint about what I saw of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is its use of the Unreal engine. A lot of its limitations -- slowdown when a lot was happening at once and the texture warping -- were the blemishes on an otherwise beautiful chassis.

Though High Moon's previous effort, Transformers: War for Cybertron, garnered favorable reviews, the developer knows issues need to be addressed. "We're incredibly proud of the work we've done on Transformers: War for Cybertron. It's the highest rated Transformers game ever done," says Tieger. "But as artists we always want to push our craft and do better. So we took a hard look at what we've done and, frankly, listened to the criticisms of War for Cybertron."

My hope is that High Moon spent as much time polishing the multiplayer in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron as they did the single-player side. I wasn't able to sample any multiplayer, but the care and variety emphasized on the single-player side suggests Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is poised to build on the excellent foundation set by its predecessor.