It’s kind of obvious, but Hasbro’s Transformers couldn’t be better-suited for use as video game characters. After all, we’re talking about large robots that can change into vehicles (or vice-versa) at a whim. The idea is rather badass, and it opens up a lot of opportunities for developers who are given the chance to harness the machines’ unique capabilities, including Platinum Games, which was most recently awarded that opportunity.
Known for creating distinctive games and deep beat ’em-ups, Platinum Games’ take on the iconic license is a colourful, nostalgia-fuelled brawler. Called Transformers: Devastation, it once again pits the good Autobots against the evil Decepticons, using gameplay that borrows a bit from the developer’s past efforts.
The game’s relatively brief campaign begins on earth, in an unnamed but partially destroyed metropolis. There, we find Optimus Prime and his team of do-gooders, who are doing their best to limit the damage. Things quickly go from bad to worse, though, because our alien heroes soon discover that their sworn enemies have set a devious plan in motion after finding a ship buried underneath the city. From there, it’s a constant, high-octane battle to save the day and prevent humanity from going extinct.
Fans of the classic cartoon will certainly appreciate all of the familiar characters — including the Constructicons and Kremzeek himself — and will also find themselves at home within this storyline. It’s not incredibly deep, or overly long, but there’s enough to it and its continued good versus bad themes to keep one interested. Longtime fans will get the most out of the experience, though, and will likely appreciate things more than people like myself. While I respect the license and have enjoyed some of its games, plus one or two of its movies, I’m not a super fan or anything like that.
Of course, this is a Platinum Games release, meaning that gameplay is at the forefront of the experience.
On the interactive side of things, Transformers fanatics can expect a fast-paced, rock n’ roll infused brawler that incorporates both ranged and close combat weaponry. Look forward to lots of in-your-face action, complete with a battle system that borrows the dodge and time-stalling ‘witch time’ features from Bayonetta. Jump out of the way of an enemy’s attack at the right moment and you’ll be able to slow things down to a crawl and use it to your advantage, thanks to some surprisingly acrobatic robots.
The combat mechanics may not be as deep or involved as those of Bayonetta and its sequel, but that doesn’t mean that Transformers: Devastation is basic or uninspired. Each available character plays a bit differently, and uses its own skills to its advantage, including Bumblebee’s fists and Optimus’ weapons. They all happen to have their own special moves, too, and those can be devastating once unlocked, either by waiting for a meter to refill or causing a certain amount of damage.
At its core, though, Devastation promotes combos that begin with a few melee attacks and conclude with a quick vehicle attack. Once you’ve landed some consecutive punches or slashes, a coloured glint will appear and you’ll be able to press a button to instigate such a slam. It’s a neat mechanic which allows for added damage and looks good while doing so. Of course, said vehicles also factor in in other ways, and you’ll find yourself driving quite a bit.
Not all enemies will be on the ground, though, and that’s where ranged weapons like blasters and rocket launchers come into play. Then again, they’re helpful against all enemies, and can pack quite a punch when upgraded. Hell, rockets are one of the best assets a robot can have against a boss or mini-boss, of which there are many.
What you may not know is that, while the game’s opening forces you to switch between a few different characters, it’s possible to stick with just one throughout the rest of its four to five hour-long campaign. Doing so has its benefits, too, because repeatedly using one character will allow you to upgrade his stats and weapons. In fact, there’s even a weapon synthesis system, which allows you to fuse two different weapons together for added benefits.
As you progress, you’ll find an assortment of collectibles, as well as tons of in-game currency that can be used to pay for individual weapons, stat boosts or the synthesizing process itself. However, you can also opt to risk either one or five thousand credits on T.E.C.H. perks, which are randomly created through a timed button press mini-game. Sometimes you’ll fail and will come away with a dud, but successful timing can result in some great perks, three of which can be equipped at one time.
This system was designed to promote repeat play throughs, and the game’s length supports that. However, not every gamer will feel enticed to do so. Transformers: Devastation is a good game, but it’s not great, and it gets pretty repetitive thanks to a lack of variety. The same is true of its environments, which don’t have much life to them and can become pretty boring. There are lots of collectibles to find, 50 challenge missions to partake in and some short side quests strewn throughout the campaign, but only diehard Transformers fans and beat ’em-up aficionados will likely find themselves compelled to complete a play through as every character.
Presentation-wise, this is most definitely a win, because the use of cel-shaded visuals really accentuates the action, while retaining a bit of that retro, hand-drawn look that fans of the G1 cartoon are used to. Things flow well, too, and everything feels seamless, which is nice to say. The audio is also really solid, employing hard rock music and quality voice acting.
With Transformers: Devastation, Platinum Games has delivered a very competent and rather satisfying beat ’em up that is chock full of fan service. It may not have the depth of Bayonetta, or the lasting power of some other games, but it’s sure to impress the robots’ faithful.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Transformers: Devastation is a solid and fanfare-filled beat 'em-up, but repetitive gameplay and a lack of variety keep it from being great.