The widely popular robots in disguise can trace their origins back to a Japanese toy line in the early 1980’s, but it wasn’t until Hasbro released the Transformers: Generation I cartoon series a couple years later, that Transformers became a household name. Although the disappointing and disgraceful Michael Bay movies have tarnished the Transformers brand, PlatinumGames takes Transformers: Devastation back to it’s roots to the first generation. Fans of the series will easily recognize all of the voice actors from the ‘80s show, and even the cel-shaded visuals, rich in colors and character help give the game a “cartoon come to live” persona.
Although the game has its flaws, it successfully captures the essence of the Transformers cartoon series I grew up watching. Transformers: Devastation opens with Megatron and the Constructicons wreaking havoc across an unfamiliar city. Unbeknownst to the Autobots at the time, Megatron has discovered a way to utilize the power of plasma energy to cyberform the planet (essentially making a new Cybertron). The story isn’t overly complicated, providing just enough narrative to keep the story progressing forward.
Transformers: Devastation doesn't include any type of multiplayer, focusing solely on a single-player experience, albeit a short one. Players get the opportunity to control five different Autobots: Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, Grimlock and Optimus Prime. Although the combat system isn’t as deep as Platinum’s previous titles, each of the Autobots feel slightly different. Sideswipe is fast and capable of unleashing a flurry of quick attacks. Others, such as Optimus are slower, but carry much more power behind every attack. Regardless of your character, the gameplay experience will be similar, as you destroy countless waves of Decepticons.
Without a way to block attacks, dodging becomes key and time slows down if perfectly timed, allowing for a few extra hits. The dynamic combat takes bits and pieces from Platinum's previous games, creating a fast-paced combat system focusing on combos and timely dodging. Combos are completed using both light and heavy attacks, and if successful, you’ll see a button prompt for a powerful vehicle attack.
Things don’t always go as planned, however, especially if you miss completing a combo, or try button-mashing your way to victory without dodging or parrying. Enemies will always take advantage of your miss cues, beating you with their fists before knocking you to the ground.
Transformers, Autobots, and Decepticons are uniquely designed, but a hack-and-slash game such as this, needs cannon fodder enemies for the player. Platinum has done a good job of giving these enemies a unique feel, creating individual encounters throughout each chapter. Basic Decepticons in large groups are still dangerous, but the game begins to mix enemy types with those with shields and even flying enemies that need to be shot out of the sky with ranged attacks.
Much to my surprise, the loot element in the game caught me off guard. While the item variety leaves a lot to be desired, I did appreciate the ability to feed unwanted items into other weapons to increase their power. With that said, the entire system is poorly explained, and required a bit of trial-and-error on my end to fully comprehend the ramifications of using one weapon versus another. Secret chests scattered throughout the action are a great way to find rare items, but aiming for a better rank in combat encounters yield better rewards. Initially, I avoided the side-missions that you’ll find while exploring, but some of the best items I used to complete the game were rewards from receiving an S rank in a side-mission.
Transformers: Devastation has been a pleasant surprise to PlatinumGames recent lineup. The Legend of Korra featured a similar combat system, but the rest of the game lacked polish. Yes, environments are still repetitive, and textures are lacking in certain areas, but the engaging, dynamic combat system, rocking soundtrack and use of the Transformers license ensure Devastation is an enjoyable experience for fans and newcomers to the series.
Note: The Transformers: Devastation review is based on a digital PS4 copy of the game, provided for review.