Transformers: Devastation Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox One
It’s nothing short of a crime that the first thing I think of when I hear the word Transformers is the Michael Bay’s explosion-porn rather than the colourful, familiar stories of Autobot heroism that peppered my childhood. Transformers fans have had little to be excited about in any meaningful way as the franchise has been dragged through the mud of poorly constructed movies and half-baked videogames. In steps Platinum, with their rich and varied history, to deliver Transformers: Devastation - perhaps the best Transformers game you’ll get the chance to play.
Where Devastation really excels is in delivering a proper helping of tasty nostalgia, and you’ll have barely made it passed the title menu before the inner-child in you starts to smile. This feels like Transformers, from the eye-popping colours to the double kick-drum driven rock you’ll feel perfectly assured that this is what you’ve been waiting for. As you launch yourself into Devastation the game wastes absolutely no time in getting the story started and throwing you into the action. The set-up is a simple one with the Decepticons trying to cyberform Earth which in turn leads you on a series of MacGuffin chases and boss fights as you try to save the planet. So far, so 80s and with Andy Schmidt on board for writing duties the game never feels anything less than, well, Transformers - not to mention that Frank Welker and Peter Cullen are also onboard providing voicework for Optimus Prime and Megatron.
To put a stop to the Decepticon’s plans you will have a team of five Autobots to choose from: Optimus Prime, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, Bumblebee, and Grimlock. The characters unlock pretty quickly and you will have the option at various points to access a hub that lets you change and customise your Autobot. Platinum have stayed clear of turning Devastation into a simple Transformers shooter but instead have produced a combo-tastic brawler that delights for both ends of the gaming spectrum whether it be for the casual gamer or the hardcore. Much like the aesthetic the core gameplay feels familiar, from combos of light and heavy attacks to a successfully timed dodge activating ‘Focus’ which Bayonetta fans will ostensibly see as a blatant lifting of ‘Witch Time’. You are able to transform at the hold of a button, giving you the ability to either escape a hairy situation quickly or to use ranged attacks while on the move. Some enemies also come protected by shields and the only way to deal damage is to transform and ram their shield, adding yet another dynamic element to combat that is always on the move. Add to this a selection of four weapons, a customisable array of melee and ranged weapons tied to your D-pad, and you have a pretty robust playlist of destruction at your fingertips.
And you’ll need every piece of that destruction because whether you play on an easy setting or not Transformers: Devastation is tough. As you travel through the city, unlocking it through a series of switches to remove barriers, you’ll encounter an array of enemies that feel so different from one another that it’s hard not to be impressed by the work Platinum have put in. Of course the grunts are replicated but the mini-bosses and bosses are truly something to see, and also devastating. The first time you come across Devastator you will struggle not to feel overwhelmed by the size of the Decepticon and to also not get killed very quickly. But like all good brawlers it’s all about timing and understanding your enemies and while some of the fights you encounter will feel immediately unsurpassable, a little bit of time and understanding will aid you. Sometimes that might not be enough as a simple misstep and the sheer power of the bosses will ungraciously end your run.
Devastation also has a few surprises up its sleeve and a number of times throughout the game the developers mix things up to keep events interesting. These usually involve changing the perspective of the game from its third-person roots. In one memorable section the game changes to a top-down perspective as you race around the city and while not perfect it does just enough to surprise and engage you at all the right times. It’s this level of understanding that really pushes Transformers: Devastation beyond the sum of its parts. There are a few mis-steps however with these breaks from the norm and a very late-on boss fight with Starscream is cumbersome and messy, and even in writing this I’m not sure as to how he was defeated.
All of this praise has been a preamble to offset the only real negative of Devastation, and that is that it is undeniably a game that has been made on a modest budget and you must manage expectations as to how much you are going to get in return from your purchase. From start to finish you are looking at around six hours for the story-mode, expect to finish this in one or two sittings. There are a few challenge modes to go back to and some collectibles to unlock artwork but ultimately these feel more like afterthoughts by developers trying to justify the price of the game. Platinum have also added a weapon crafting system that is so basic that you will genuinely wonder why they even bothered, mainly because you can complete the game without crafting one single weapon. Also the city rendered before you is a cut and paste job of the most unashamed variety and being funnelled down the same streets for the majority of the playtime can begin to become tiresome. If you can find Transformers: Devastation at a budget price then it is hard to argue with a purchase, especially if you are a G1 fan, but the adventure will be over perhaps sooner than expected.
As a list of negatives go it’s not the longest and definitely not a deal-breaker. What you have here is a fantastic looking brawler (running flawlessly at 60 frames), made by a team that understands both the source material and what the fans want. It’s short and low on features but it is a lot of fun and while it was finished in one sitting I feel that says more about the way the game entertains you, keeping you captive and engaged across the paltry playtime. It’s a must for brawler fans, it’s a must for Transformers fans and the only real thing you’ll feel is missing is that you aren’t playing it while sitting in your pyjamas, eating sugary cereal while your parents are asleep. Here’s to hoping that Platinum get the chance to roll-out once again with this much under-served franchise.