Transformers: Devastation (Review)

Image result for transformers devastation

Developer: PlatinumGames
Publisher: Activision
Format: PC, PS3, PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Copy obtained via PlayStation Plus

PlatinumGames is a developer well know for their keen sense of style and action.
With games like Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Metal Gear Rising under their belt, they’ve proven that they know a thing or two about designing fights as immense spectacles. While they’ve definitely created a few duds (The Legend of Korra, for example), Transformers: Devastation is proof of what their talented team is capable of.

Upon starting the game, it’s immediately noticeable how much thought and love went into making it. The game boasts a stylized cel-shaded aesthetic that mirrors the classic cartoon immaculately. Everything from the bulky shapes of the Transformers, the way the light reflects off their windows and metal bodies, and even the return of the original cartoon’s voice cast makes this feel like one of the most authentic Transformers experiences to grace a platform.

One of the highest praises I can sing about Devastation is the fact that it made someone like myself, who isn’t even a fan of Transformers, enjoy my time with the game. As silly as a bunch of transforming robots may be, there’s a certain charm to the absurdness of it all. One problem I’ve always had with the franchise is that I’ve never felt connected to any of the Transformers, and while I can’t quite say that I am now, I do have a newfound respect for them. Whether it’s the stoic leadership of Optimus Prime, the humor of Bumblebee, or the diabolic scheming of Megatron, I feel like I’m beginning to understand why so many fans find these characters endearing.

In Devastation, we find the Autobots and Decepticons one again engaged in battle. A strange group of bug shaped bots, known as Insecticons, are destroying a human city on Earth. You’re tasked with discovering their origin, figuring out how to stop them, and preventing Megatron from using them for his own evil purposes. It’s a very simple plot that’s primarily there to set up encounters where the Transformers must fight each other, but it also takes a few twists and turns along the way to better delve into the lore of Transformers.

In fact, this was one of the things that surprised me the most.
I never grew up watching Transformers, so my knowledge stems mostly from the Michael Bay films, which I didn’t particularly care for. I didn’t know that there was actually a surprisingly deep amount of lore to this universe. Talking about the game with my younger brother, who is a HUGE fan of Transformers, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that the series has more depth to it besides just being a bunch of giant robots punching and shooting each other.

While the plot never turns into anything daring or original, I still found it pretty entertaining to play through. It does manage to fall into a lot of predictable story beats, but I’m willing to forgive it based on how fun it is to play.

Without a doubt, Devastation is a hell of a lot of fun.
You spend the majority of the game fighting off Decepticon underlings, Insecticon guardians, and facing off against iconic villains like Starscream and Soundwave. The game is built around your average “light” and “heavy” attack scheme, but also includes long range blasters, dodges, reversals, and the ability to change your combat options by transforming into a vehicle.

It’s admittedly simple to just button mash your way through most enemy types, but you’re forced to learn some of the deeper mechanics as get you further in. Learning how to successfully time a dodge out of the way of an enemy attack and follow it up with one of your own is extremely satisfying. In fact, much of the combat is based around dodging attacks.  You have a very small window to correctly time the dodge and follow it up with your own onslaught, so it takes a bit of practice to get to the point where you can nail it consistently, especially on higher difficulties.

The other huge focus in combat is vehicle attacks.
You can transform at the push of a button (complete with the classic sound effect) and drive around to pick up speed and deliver a powerful smash attack, which is required to break through certain enemy shields. You can also build up a combo in your robot form and follow it up with a different type of vehicle attack, one that deals incredible damage. One of the things I really liked about Devastation is that it allows you to play as five different Autobots (Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Wheeljack, Sideswipe, and Grimlock), each with their own combos and varied vehicle attacks.

However, your ultimate combat option is your special attack, which (when fully charged) deals a completely ludicrous amount of damage, which more or less kills any type of enemy except a boss instantly. Each Autobot has a different special attack (some better than others), all of which are at least entertaining to watch unfold on screen.

As you fight and defeat enemies, you’ll gain experience points that level up your stats. This can increase your health, maximize your damage output, increase your driving speed, and more. I haven’t decided how I feel about it yet, but your leveling progress carries over across difficulty levels, meaning you could grind on Easy for a while and bring your overpowered characters over to the harder difficulties.

There’s also a deep weapon and crafting system.
As you roam around between fights, you can find chests containing random weapons. Swords, axes, rocket launchers…you name it, this game has it. You can break down weapons to power up others, transfer weapon skills, or simply sell your extra weapons for cash. Unfortunately, as deep as they are, I didn’t feel a need to use these systems that often. After leveling up the base weapon of every Transformer, I would just use my cash to level up their stats, which is an odd design choice, but one I didn’t mind. The bonus from upgrading my stats seemed to increase my damage output more than leveling/crafting weapons was, so I ended up not messing around with those features.

You can also find hidden missions and collectibles throughout the environment. Most of these bonus missions just task you with destroying a wave or two of enemies, but some find you looking for hidden caches or breaking shielded items in your vehicle form. As far as collectibles are concerned, there’s little jumping fireball alien things to find, Decepticon flags to destroy, and reconnaissance drones to shoot out of the sky. However, my favorite type of collectible was the data log, which expands on the lore. I’m a lore junky, so learning more about the Transformers universe was interesting to me. Finding these collectibles also unlocks hundreds of pictures in an art gallery, which is pretty neat to peruse. Unfortunately, while the areas you play in have a bunch of collectibles to find, none of them are that fascinating from a visual standpoint. The city map is the biggest and also the one you play in the most. With a few minor exceptions, roughly 90% of the buildings are just copied and pasted around the city, which actually leads to moments of you getting lost and repeatedly pulling up your map.

I also want to touch on the bosses, which were some of the best parts of the game. While they don’t necessarily introduce new mechanics, they do require you to play a little more cautiously. You can’t simply spam the same attack repeatedly (like you can with most basic enemies), so you really have to memorize their move sets and learn how to counter their attacks correctly. Some bosses, like Devastator (pictured above) are a bit slower and can be taken down with patience, but most bosses are extremely fast and lethal. Most fights usually have an environmental danger occurring during it, be it an enclosed fence of lasers or the actual flooring beneath you shifting and rising.

These fights are real tests of what you’ve learned, with a few of them being quite frustrating. Some bosses are really good at keeping a long chain of attacks going, meaning you’re virtually screwed if they get a good hit in.

Unfortunately, the bosses can be cheated pretty easily. If you have a characters special attack charged and ready, you can activate it right at the start of a boss fight and take out roughly a third of their health in an instant. While not an instant kill, it helps put you in a massive advantage right from the start.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Challenge Modes.
These little challenges are unlocked as you play the game, but I’m missing quite a few of them, so I don’t know what exactly contributes to them unlocking. Regardless, they’re a fun distraction from the campaign. I’ve played through 10-15 of them, but the only thing I notice that’s different in these fights is that enemies seem to deal a little more damage and attack a lot faster.

The one really cool thing about the challenges is that beating them rewards you with more weapons, cash, and experience points. They can also be replayed if you’re looking for a quick way to get more of those resources.

FINAL VERDICT

I was impressed by Transformers: Devastation.
Although I’m not a fan of the franchise, it made me appreciate the characters and have an enjoyable time. I was also surprised by just how deep the lore of the Transformers universe is. While I’m assuming it doesn’t touch on every piece of it, Devastation gives a glimpse at the Transformers history, which I found compelling. The plot itself is bit clichéd, but the intense combat and awesome visuals more than make up for it. Is it a perfect game? No, but fans of Transformers or action games are sure to find a lot to like here.

– Zack Burrows

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