The Transformers license has certainly seen its fair share of solid games; from the PlayStation 2 title based upon the Armada series all the way through to High Moon's Cybertron releases, it's a property that's generally transcended the usual licensed game fodder. Now, the talented team over at Platinum Games has taken the task of continuing this legacy with Transformers: Devastation, keeping everything that Generation 1 fans from the 80s loved intact. But does this release share anything in common with Rodimus Prime – or is it more Ultra Magnus at heart?
This game is an action-adventure beat-em-up, playing very similarly to Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. The game's story kicks off with Megatron and his Decepticons up to no good (as usual), and Optimus Prime and his Autobots are there to investigate and put an end to his agenda. To avoid any story spoilers, this may sound run-of-the-mill, but it's actually quite good and is further enhanced by the superb visual and audio presentation. All of the voice actors from the 80s cartoon return here to breathe life into Optimus Prime, Megatron, Wheeljack, Bumblebee, Soundwave, and many more. It really feels like watching a Saturday morning episode of the show.
As mentioned, the game's mechanics are extremely similar to Bayonetta – and that's a terrific element to build upon for Transformers. Combat is handled with light and strong attack buttons, and at the end of a combo, you will be prompted to press the vehicle attack button. This creates some crazy robot-to-vehicle combos, which look very slick and stylish. You can even knock enemies into the air and continue combos while airborne, giving more flexibility to the combat system.
You'll also need to use your vehicle mode for rush attacks. This technique breaks force field barriers around objects and enemies, adding a bit more depth to the combat. There's a dodge mechanic as well, which works similarly to 'Witch Time' from Bayonetta. What this means is that if you dodge at the proper frame, the game will go into slow-mo, and allow you to dish out more damage on foes – it's immensely gratifying. Finally, you can use firearms during combat with an over-the-shoulder camera, and when you combine the bullet time with your weapon, you'll do a sleek side-dive while shooting.
At certain points in the game, and even upon completing each chapter, you will return to the Ark. This serves as an intermission or safe haven to change characters, buy upgrades, equip and synthesise weapons, or create and equip new T.E.C.H. There are five Autobots to play as: Optimus Prime, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, Bumblebee, and Grimlock. Each of the characters all play uniquely, whether it be their special moves, character trait moves, or their stats. Also, as you play the game, you will upgrade a variety of stats in terms of speed, strength, intelligence, etc. You can purchase new moves for the characters as well, such as parrying, counter attacks, and other combat-based attacks.
While each character also has signature weapons, they can be shared among the pool of robots in disguise. Want to swap Optimus' axe for twin-blade swords? No problem. Want Bumblebee to equip Devastator's Drills instead of resorting to bare knuckles? Go for it. The same also applies to the firearms. This level of flexibility really encourages you to experiment with different loadouts. You can equip up to four weapons – both melee and firearms – to bring out on the field. You can also synthesise weapons you find to increase their stats and make them more effective.
In addition, you can create and equip T.E.C.H. Creating this initiates a mini-game where you must time your button press to line the dial up in a certain colour-coded area of the meter. Depending on which colour you land on, your created T.E.C.H. may have better bonuses and will net you better perks. You can equip up to three pieces of T.E.C.H. and these can range from increasing your max health to increasing melee damage, movement speed, and many more. There's a trade-off, though: mess up the mini-game and the T.E.C.H. will have weaker properties.
One element that truly makes Transformers Devastation flow is the variety. While the majority of the gameplay will rely on combat, there's a solid blend of exploration as well.You also aren't bombarded with enemies to the point where the game feels repetitive. When exploring, you'll come across floating devices that trigger a hidden item to appear – usually loot chests. These loot chests will contain new weapons to equip and synthesise at the Ark. There are also side-scrolling and top-down scenes that offer fun perspectives to missions, as well as a rail-shooting segment.
Now, Platinum Games is known for its epic boss battles, and the studio's latest does not upset in this department either. Here is a property where there are massive robots going up against even more mammoth-sized robots. Every boss battle is as intense as you would expect from the Japanese developer, and will certainly test your skills. Knowing when to dodge is essential if you want to succeed. Even though some boss battles are repeated, they are extremely well crafted.
But the game's not perfect. The camera is one such letdown, as without a proper lock-on utility, it can be hard to avoid some cheap shots. The second issue is that the amount of ammo you can carry is a little on the stingy side. While the game's combat is melee focused, when resorting to firearms, you'll find yourself running empty before you know it. And lastly, the game's length may be a contentious issue for some. It will take approximately four to five hours to complete the seven-chapter story mode. While many may find the short length a turn-off, it's certainly replayable given that you can play as other characters. There is a chapter select in the game, so upon beating it, you can return to any chapter and continue to upgrade and find all of the collectibles hidden in the title. There's also a Challenge Mode, containing 50 missions to test your skills in.
And you will want to spend time with this game because it's absolutely beautiful. Platinum Games has nailed the visual style of the 80s cartoon, and we're talking every little detail here. All of the characters have been given an equal amount of attention, with superb design and fluid animations. Environments are also a perfect representation of how you would expect them to look in the animated series.
No matter how crazy the action gets, the game is also locked at 60 frames-per-second, with barely a single dip in sight. In terms of audio, crank up that sound system, because this is one awesome sounding game. The combat sound effects, the rockin' soundtrack, the iconic voice acting – it's all here and sounds absolutely superb. The soundtrack really does an outstanding job of immersing you into the action, whether in combat or when you're exploring the environment. Also, the game's theme song is composed by Vince DiCola, who's known for his sublime work on the Transformers animated film from the 80s.
Transformers: Devastation is a great example of how to take a licensed property and turn it into a quality title. While the game is a little on the short side, it's strong from start to finish. Generation 1 fans have every reason to be excited for this, as it's not only lovingly crafted but it's also a genuinely enjoyable game on its own merits. From its stunning visual presentation to its immensely gratifying combat system, this is worthy of wielding the Matrix of Leadership. We recommend transforming and rolling out to your nearest store to pick up a copy.