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September 6, 2012
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By Matthew Scott Hunter

TRANSFORMERS: FALL OF CYBERTRON (T)

****

Activision

Xbox 360

Two years ago, Transformers: War for Cybertron proved that, without any affiliation with the awful Michael Bay film franchise, a video game featuring everyone’s favorite “robots in disguise” could be awesome. Like a sleek sports car that has transformed into a badass robot, Fall of Cybertron isn’t necessarily better or worse than its predecessor, but it is decidedly different. Co-op levels have transformed into single-player-only levels—each tailored specifically to the strengths of the single Autobot or Decepticon you’re assigned. Branching paths have transformed into rigidly linear progression, but progression that leads inexorably to spectacularly memorable set pieces. In many ways, the sequel offers less freedom than the original, but that’s because it doesn’t want players to stray too far from the story the game is trying to tell. It’s a story of desperation. The war is all but over. The question is no longer whether or not the Autobots can win, but whether or not there will be any Autobots left after they lose.

Each level has you assume the role of a new Transformer—each with unique abilities that make every level distinctive. Cliffjumper’s cloaking ability makes his level ripe for stealth. Jazz’s grapple-hook ability makes his level an acrobatic exercise in platforming. And Grimlock’s ability to transform into a fire-breathing dinosaur makes his level a playground for destruction. But if you’re somehow unsatisfied with the varied talents of the Transformers you’re given, you can always build your own in competitive multiplayer mode, where every victory rewards you with new ways to customize your virtual toy. Whether you have an encyclopedic knowledge of Cybertronian history or you can’t tell a Transformer from a Gobot, Fall of Cybertron has plenty to offer anyone who likes a good third-person shooter.

WAY OF THE SAMURAI 4 (M)

**

Xseed Games

PlayStation Network

How the Way of the Samurai series continues to exist is one of the great mysteries of the universe. In every single installment, the fight mechanics feel stiff and the graphics seem to be at least one console generation behind. This particular episode takes place in mid-19th century Japan during an influx of European settlers. You can choose to welcome these strangers from overseas, or you can side with the more xenophobic factions. Either way, you’ll clash swords with plenty of enemies, who descend on you in groups but attack you one at a time, so you can get the maximum amount of tediousness out of each battle.

RETRO/GRADE (E)

***

24 Carat Games

PlayStation Network

Retro/Grade is a standard rhythm game cleverly masquerading as a scrolling shooter like Gradius or R-Type. The gimmick is that you’re moving backwards in time, from the final boss battle to the beginning of the game, and you’re attempting to repeat (in reverse) all the past laser shots that brought you to victory. So you need to maneuver your spaceship to meet each laser blast at its point of origin the same way you hit each scrolling note in Guitar Hero. The difference is that Guitar Hero has a large assortment of songs, whereas Retro/Grade’s limited soundtrack becomes repetitive pretty quick.



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