More Than Meets The Eye
Written by Joshua David Anderson
Transformers is one of those series that has seen success in almost every field except video games. There are great versions of the cartoons, the comics are consistently high quality, and even the movies, while critically reviled, have made boatloads of money. But in the realm of video games, the Transformers have been decent at best and terrible at worst. So when Activision announced at E3 this year that they would be putting out a somewhat budget multi-platform game starring the Autobots and Decepticons, you can imagine that no one would have cared. But you would have been wrong, because people cared almost immediately. The reason was twofold: the game was being made by renowned action developers Platinum Games, and the look of the game focused very specifically on the original 80s designs. Now that the game is out, fans are also excited about one more thing: Transformers: Devastation is a ton of fun.
If you ask most die hard Transformers junkies what they hate about the Michael Bay movies, the answer will almost always be the designs of the robots. Even the recent cartoons or the last two video game releases by High Moon Studios are generally liked, but the design of the robots are usually criticised. There is just something about the original look of the first generation of Transformers that people love, and Platinum has nailed the look for Devastation perfectly. The Autobots and Decepticons all look like their original cartoon counterparts, and they animate beautifully. The five playable Autobots (Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, and Grimlock) all have a unique feel and weight to them, and their transformations are a joy to see. Similarly, the Decepticons all look fantastic as well, with the named boss characters being particularly wonderful to see in motion. The biggest downside to the game is the sparse environments don’t look nearly as good, and do not change enough over the short campaign. But these flaws seem minor when the characters in the game look and move so well.
The aesthetic and look of the game goes hand in hand with the incredible combat system. Platinum Games is known for making high energy, fast paced combo heavy titles like Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Devil May Cry. The DNA of those games, particularly Bayonetta, is found in Transformers: Devastation. Each playable Autobot has a bevy of moves and combos to use, and all of them look great in motion. In addition, each character can transform into their vehicle form mid-combo to slam down on an enemy or race into them at top speed. It may look a little ridiculous to see a yellow car squeal its tires in midair to zoom down into an enemy’s face, but it feels so cool to do it that you quickly forget about the plausibility. Each Autobot also has a specific skill that you can use, like dashes to grapples, and each hero has an ultimate move you can build up to clear the area of Decepticons. The combat is quick, the hits are brutal, and the game encourages the player to always stay on the offensive.
If there was nothing but the great combat and the cartoon look, Transformers: Devastation would be a great game, if not short and a little thin. However, Platinum has tried to remedy this by adding different difficulties, stats and leveling up, and even random loot drops. That’s right, you can equip different guns and melee weapons on your giant robots, and you can even use old weapons you have found to increase the power and level of your newer ones. There is even boss-specific loot, so you can end up beating the giant Constructicon Devastator, and then equip his drill hands to punch the next set of robots. Along with the story mode, there is a challenge mode that pits you against premade fights, and a decent set of collectables to find. The loot system certainly helps make up for a somewhat short story mode, and the combat feels so fun that you will take any chance to play more of the game, even just to try out that new sword or that character you have never played.
Whether you are a fan of the original show, or you are a devotee of Platinum’s other games, Transformers: Devastation feels like the game you have always wanted. It looks like the Transformers you remember, it plays like a tuned, tightly crafted action brawler, and it offers enough things to do without wearing out its welcome.
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