An utter joy for fans of Transformers, but it doesn't do quite enough to woo the masses
Available formats: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 (reviewed) and PC
I briefly met Michael Bay once, immediately after his disastrous CES 2014 appearance. I hated what he’d done with the Transformers movies but he didn’t look to be quite in the mood for a critical discussion. I settled on telling him how much I liked ‘The Rock’ and moved on, though I’ve always regretted not saying what I thought was wrong with those films.
Worry not though, for there isn’t a whiff of Bay in Transformers: Devastation. Platinum Games’ take on the ‘Robots in Disguise’ is a faithful updating of the original series. Of course it doesn’t look as ropey as an eighties cartoon (check YouTube if you don’t believe me), but the look and dialogue are faithful to the source material and the fonts, menus and colour schemes will send any Transformers fan into a tizzy of excitement. Throw in original voice talent and a plot written by a respected Transformers comics scribe and you’re in fan heaven.
Platinum Games is best known for its pair of Bayonetta games, and Devastation is certainly a close relative of those titles. The fighting action is fast and explosive, with gorgeous animations, clearly signposted mechanics and a really satisfying crunch with every connecting blow.
You can largely button bash your way through it, as long as you master the dodge move. This provides a short period of slow motion giving you the opportunity to do some serious damage. That said you’ll enjoy it a lot more if you master a handful of simple combos, in order to take on quicker or tougher opponents more effectively.
There’s plenty to master if you’re keen, with five main playable characters, each with their own moves and special attacks. Then there’s a range of weapons that alter their movesets, from dual swords to huge hammers and everything inbetween. Add in a range of projectile weapons, which are handy but always secondary to the fisticuffs, and you have quite an arsenal. All the weapons, and your own abilities, can be upgraded in various ways too, so there’s plenty of to tinker with.
Now these ain’t just battlin’ robots, they’re battlin’ robots in disguise and Platinum Games has integrated the Autobots car modes into the combat. You can transform at any time to quickly larger areas or to avoid incoming fire with a turn of speed. However the switch becomes essential as a way of knocking down enemy energy shields, plus most combos end with the option of a transforming vehicle-mode attack.
Set on Earth, the plot is the usual nonsensical hokum about crashed spaceships, Cybertronian technology and the end of the world. It’s all an excuse to hang together a series of varied showdowns with the usual enemy – the Decepticons.
If you like Transformers then you’ll thrill at the extensive lineup of classic ‘Generation One’ Decepticons presented for your pummelling pleasure. I don’t want to spoil too much but all my favourites made it into the game. Big names such as Starscream and Megatron make early appearances, plus you’ll soon be fighting the likes of the Constructicons and Insecticons.
Available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, as well as current consoles and PC, the whole thing feels a bit last-gen, the environments are small and simple with little set dressing. That said, the simplistic looks and small scale neatly fits with the look of those original cartoons, as does the pacing, it’s pretty much all fighting and little filler. Cutscenes are short and to the point and the next scrap is often mere seconds away.
Platinum Games has not only been respectful to the original characters, it’s created a game that captures something of eighties game design too, with on-rails and horizontal-scrolling shooter segments too. Both fit perfectly into the game, helping break up the fisticuffs. Still it’s not the most varied or lenghty of games, but teh mechanics are slick enough and the characters varied enough to easily justify a second playthrough on one of the 5 different difficulty levels.
Returning to Bay’s Transformer movies, my key complaint was that the plot always seemed to revolve around the human characters, despite them being largely useless in actually dealing with the problems at hand. Devastation puts the robots squarely back in the driving seat (without a human in sight), and it gets rid of that over-fussy mechanical look. Best of all Platinum can direct an action scene without it disintegrating into a confusing mush of over-edited grinding gears.
Transformers: Devastation may look to the past for inspiration, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia, especially when it shines as brightly as this. With a respectful nod to 2012’s Fall of Cybertron, this is the best Transformers game since Melbourne House’s excellent PS2 title over a decade ago. Beware though, if you’re not a fan of either Bayonetta or Transformers then there’s little for you here.
|Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC
|Windows Vista, 7, 8 or 10
|Intel Core 2 Duo E4400 / AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+
|NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 512MB / ATI Radeon HD 3870 512MB or better
|Hard disk space