Transformers: Devastation, developed by Platinum Games, is proof that High Moon isn’t the only developer who can make proper use of the Transformers license. Devastation harkens back to the original series and to great effect, bringing the best of the original run to the forefront, while taking inspirations from Platinum’s well know action lineup. The result is a really good Transformers game, but one that might not be up to snuff without the powerful license.
When Platinum Games is attached to a game, you have certain expectations of gameplay quality. For the most part, Transformers lives up to that. The combat system borrows heavily from the likes of Bayonetta, but definitely isn’t as well refined. You can combo together attacks, aim down sights to fire your weapon, use special attacks, and dodge your way to slo-mo safety. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a Transformers game if you couldn’t transform, and with the press of a button you can go full-on robot in disguise mode with a new set of attacks. Loot picked up during missions can be equipped and upgraded on the Ark, where you can also spend credits buying new moves and leveling up your stats. Before each mission you can select which of the 5 autobots you’d like to play as, with fan favorites Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Grimlock most likely to take center stage.
While it initially appears deep and rewarding, combat just barely avoids being shallow by being flashy and easy to learn. It doesn’t punish you for lack of precision, but it rewards you for having it by being just a tad too easy on normal difficulty. Worth noting is that there is generally a noticeable difficulty spike in boss fights, but one that actually decreases as the game goes on. The camera, while not always so, is often uncooperative, especially when the game forces you into a directly top down view, leaving you open to off screen attacks and plenty of frustration.
Story and Modes:
The Decepticons are at it again as Megatron finds on old Autobot ship, the Proudstar captained by Nova Prime. While its original mission was to Cyberform uninhabited worlds, the vessel somehow landed on earth and Megatron is not above wiping out the humans to give himself a new home. Led by Optimus Prime, the Autobots must stop his nefarious plot while attempting to preserve their culture through the Ferrotaxis, a device full of knowledge, but one that is also controlling the Insecticons Cyberforming the planet. It’s a story that scratches that old Generation 1 itch and leaves a surprising opportunity for more games to follow.
Beyond the story mode you’ll unlock challenge missions that test your combat prowess, specific skills, or sometimes silly things like your ability to punt Decepticons. There are several dozen missions to unlock and spread across points in the story mode. These are fun distractions, but are certainly more targeted at high score heroes rather than story purists.
Visuals and Sound:
Platinums Games deserves heaps of praise for how lovingly they captured the distinct style of G1 Transformers. Playing Devastation is like reliving the glory days back in the 80’s, before the countless spinoffs and before the Michael Bay films. Every Autobot and Decepticon has the classic look and many are instantly recognizable for longtime fans. Peter Cullen and Frank Welker reprise their roles are Optimus and Megatron respectively and deliver some of their finest performances. Seriously, they’ve been doing this for decades and they still manage to outdo themselves each time they return to the role.
Unfortunately, the strong styling of the bots themselves doesn’t carry over to the boring and overused city landscapes. The world in which the Transformers do battle feels cheap, uninspired, and is an overall disappointment. Though attempts are made to spice things up with Cybertronian inspirations, these environments also fall flat for just feeling too plain. The trade-off in this case is that the game always runs well. During my time on PS4 I never notice any frame drops, so if they’re there they are hardly noticeable.
No one has done Transformers like this since the 80’s, so credit where credit is due. This is the first time someone has been able to capture the magic of the series’ original run in video game form, so that something. The story is familiar feeling (heck Michael Bay already did something like this in Dark of the Moon) but the fact that it’s Transformers makes up for that a bit. Combat too is borrowed, but unique for the license and feels like a great fit.
Ok, let me be clear that this is very much a good game, but it isn’t a great game. What makes this game great is the license and the fact that it is a Transformers game that doesn’t suck. We have been treated to some of the finest games to ever feature the Autobots and Decepticons in the last few years thanks to High Moon, but we’ve also been treated to a few duds, so it’s nice to see someone else able to do justice to the fans. Even still, $49.99 is a steep asking price for anyone but the hardcore G1 fans. There are cheaper, better games featuring our favorite TV robots with campaigns longer than 5 hours and more than just challenge arenas to fall back on. Devastation feels like a game that you’d normally purchase for $20-$30, and at that price it’d be a steal. If you need the touch, if you need the power, Transformers: Devastation can scratch the itch, otherwise, wait for the price to drop or stick to the High Moon developed titles.