I didn’t grow up with the Transformers. I didn’t watch any of the cartoons, I didn’t get any of the toys, and I am not interested in the recent movies. So I don’t have any knowledge of the storyline or any connection with the various characters. Despite this, I had a blast playing Transformers: Devastation because it doesn’t require you to know this universe to have fun. If anything, it’s a great introduction to the series that is liable to motivate people to look for more. It succeeds in being a great representation of the franchise while also succeeding purely on its own merits simply because it’s just so much fun.
Developer: Platinum Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release Date: 2015-10-06 (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, X1)
From the start, you’ll immediately be dropped into the action, fighting numerous enemies with a diverse move set at your disposal. Multiple combos, special attacks, dodging, parrying, shooting, the list goes on. The highlight is the transforming mechanic in combat, which allows you to ram into an enemy you knocked back and continue your combo as well as perform shield-breaking attacks to armored enemies. The variety of different foes in the game will require you to use all of these abilities, especially boss fights, which often require to be on your toes. This game does a great job of keeping things interesting, assuring you’ll never be bored.
The high intensity action and variety of offensive and defensive maneuvers are fairly easy to understand and manage thanks to the immediate and responsive controls. The game feels great to play and gives you a real sense of control, making the mayhem on screen not just manageable but malleable. As a result, popping enemies up in the air, narrowly dodging attacks, and ramming into enemies feels good as well as exhilarating. This game really does have a level of polish most license-based game lack.
As you progress, you’ll be able to play as different Transformers. Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, and Grimlock are available, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, weapon types, and special abilities. Each fit different play styles and none of them feel over or underpowered. Each Transformer can equip, buy, sell and synthesize weapons, attributes, and new moves using credits and materials you collect as you play. Unfortunately, although this does help improve your character slightly, there’s a randomness to these upgrades that makes this feel arbitrary. This is where the game is too simple for its own good.
Outside of combat, you'll often have to get pass wind tunnels, break open doors, and race through barriers to progress. Most of this is dealt with by transforming into your car form. It allows for a break in the action while also not being a lull in the game's pacing. There are also several collectables that can be found during this time, such as Decepticon flags, Spy Ops logs, little creatures known as Kremzeeks, and Mystery Objects. These unlock concept art in the gallery and are mostly for those who are completionists, as they have no bearing on the plot and don’t offer any kind of benefit towards the gameplay.
If you’ve played a title made by developer Platinum Games, this should all feel familiar. Frantic brawler action, stylish animations, diverse move set, it’s all here. In fact, it feels a bit too familiar. Aside from the transforming aspects in the game, many of this game’s mechanics have been ripped from the studio’s previous work. The dodging mechanic is the same as in Bayonetta 2, the parry comes from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and the third person shooting resembles Vanquish. So those who have played the studio’s previous titles might be disappointed that there’s very little here that’s original.
Regardless of the originality of the combat, it’s still the highlight of the
game, so much so that you’ll be able to look pass the often drab, uninspired
areas you fight in. You’ll spend way too much time in a destroyed, curiously
empty metropolis city as well as various futuristic, Tron-inspired areas. Even
though the game looks bright, colorful and aesthetically pleasing, thanks to the
cel-shaded graphical style, the level design is so similar, the various levels
will start to blend in together. Even the music, while energetic and
appropriate, fails to leave much of an impression thanks to many of the songs
being sonically identical.
The story suffers the same fate but it could just be due to my lack of knowledge of the Transformers. The plot follows the Autobots trying to stop the Decepticons and Insecticons from using plasma energy to cyberform Earth and destroy all organic life. Most of the details of the plot went right over my head thanks to the dense dialogue and no attempt on the game’s part to acclimate newcomers. However, I was able to get the basic premise, and the story’s focus on action and well performed voice acting kept me engaged. Ultimately though, only fans will be able to appreciate the story and the references it makes.
Transformers: Devastation is meant to be a brief experience that’ll give you immediate satisfaction. With the game clocking in at around 4-5 hours, the game doesn’t last long on purpose. Sure there’s the optional Challenge Mode, but most of us will find that the main campaign is enough. Paying full price for this game might be a bit too high if you’re looking for a title that’ll last you a long time. However, for a game you’ll want to come back to at times to get a rush, this is a great pick-up-and-play title that you should have in your collection. Whether you’re a Transformers fan or not, there’s more than meets the eye here for everyone.