Transformers: Devastation does an amazing job of bringing the first generation of toy robots to life.
Developer Platinum Games has a reputation for crafting some of the best character action games in recent memory. This trend started with Bayonetta and continued with modern classic such as Vanquish, Anarchy Reigns and Metal Gear Solid Rising: Revengeance. To be clear, Platinum has had some missteps here and there (Avatar: The Legend of Korra wasn’t well received,) but generally, when you purchase a Platinum-developed title, you know what you’re going to get. Transformers: Devastation is character action game that focuses on the first generation of toy robots and the game does an amazing job of bringing them to life.
In terms of presentation, Devastation manages to achieve something that several Transformers games have tried before: to capture the look and feel of Transformers in virtual form. The graphics are outstanding and it really feels like you’re watching a high-definition version of the first season of cartoon. The audio is also fantastic, since pretty much every Transformer and Decepticon has the voices you remember from the animated series.
So the game looks and sounds amazing, but how does it control? From a gameplay standpoint, you combine heavy and light attacks to defeat enemies and after a series of mêlée attacks, you can quickly transform into a car and deliver a devastating blow. By the way, if you push the right bumper at the precise time, you can perform a parry which momentarily activates Focus, slowing everything down and giving you ample time to attack your opponent several times. In a way, there’s nothing exceptional about the combat, but when you’re punching enemies, transforming into a vehicle, parrying and stringing attacks together, it all feels satisfying, coherent and well put together. Once you get used to the controls and the flow of the game, the combat becomes an elaborate orchestra of explosions that’s both rewarding and intoxicating.
Levels are built in such a way that you need to alternate between robot and vehicle modes every now and them, something that Transformers games have always struggled with. Basically, you want to be a robot when there are enemies around and a vehicle when wind tunnels are blocking your way. This seems like a trivial excuse to get you to turn into a vehicle, but at least you’re not fighting enemies all the time which could become rote and dull after a while.
As you’d expect from a Platinum games, there are also some role-playing elements here and there, but they barely even matter. In a menu called the Ark, you can purchase new moves, synthesize or sell weapons, check the statistics of your Autobots, develop new T.E.C.H. (which grants passive bonuses when equipped) and switch between Transformers. Although it’s nice to see numbers go higher, the inclusion of some light role-playing elements doesn’t make an impactful change in the gameplay and their inclusion feels forced.
The story seems like a lost episode of the Generation One Transformers and as someone who barely remembers the first Transformers series, it’s hard to say if that’s good or bad. Basically, the Insecticons and Decepticons are up to no good and you must defeat them using some of the most iconic Autobots (you can control Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack and Grimlock) and that’s more than enough to support a five-hour game. Needless to say, the story isn’t the game’s strongest part, but I doubt anyone had high hopes for the plot.
Up until this point, I had few complaints, but that doesn’t mean that this is the perfect Transformers game. Apart from the obtuse story and repetitive gameplay, Devastation suffers from other problems. Sometimes the camera struggles to frame the action properly and even though this wasn’t a common occurrence, it often happened when I cornered enemies against walls or buildings. Also, this game isn’t particularly long and even though I had no problems with its length, some people might consider five hours too short, though there are some optional missions.
Devastation is Platinum Games’ love letter to Generation One Transformers. Luckily, there’s more to this game than pure nostalgia, since the combat system is satisfying, the audiovisual aspect is second to none and the fights never fail to impress. There are some shortcomings though, such as the messy camera, some button-mashing and a gameplay that becomes repetitive after a few hours, but I had too much fun with this hack and slash game to care about most of those setbacks.