There are very few entertainment franchises that boast the nearly evergreen presence that Transformers has had since its inception. Spanning decades of toys, television shows, movies, and more, the epic space war between the Autobots and the Decepticons is discovered by new generations time and time again. Transformers’ licensing into everything and anything that can yield a return would not be complete without including video games. In recent years, fans were blessed with High Moon Studios’ War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron. Both were pretty good and the most competent Transformers games to date. Activision has now given responsibility for the franchise’s next game to Japanese developer Platinum Games with Transformers: Devastation.
Hopping into my hands-on time, I could not help but gaze into the shiny, colorful cel-shaded world rendered in Devastation and found it to be a pleasant contrast from the drab, gritty pallet of High Moon’s titles. The developers on hand told me the game’s visual style is inspired by the original 80s cartoon series and the new IDW Publishing comic reboot and it shows. The Michael Bay era’s junkyard scrap-looking aesthetic of Transformers is gone and refreshingly replaced with the blocky yet sweetly simple designs from the series’ origins.
The fan service continues with Peter Cullen reprising his most famous role of the Autobot leader Optimus Prime and his nemesis Megatron voiced by the original actor, Frank Weller. IDW comic writer and Marvel veteran Andy Schmidt will pen Devastation’s story.
Platinum has earned a reputation for delivering fast and fluid action, as evidenced in their Metal Gear Rising, Vanquish, and Bayonetta games. Thankfully their top-notch handle on frenetic yet fun combat continues in Devastation. My thumbs had no problem nimbly mashing buttons on the controller as I quickly beat down Decepticon enemies. While the game includes gun weaponry, the main focus here is on hand-to-hand melee combat, another major difference from the third-person shooter style of High Moon’s Cybertron games.
Once I pulled off a large enough combo, an on-screen prompt allowed me to execute a more powerful vehicle attack, in which your Autobot automatically transforms into a car and slams into the targeted enemy. Since I was playing as the small yet agile Bumblebee, I could do two vehicle attacks in a row. Escaping away from enemies and traversing the map is made easy by quickly transforming into a vehicle at anytime. Plus once your character is cruising at full speed, ramming into an enemy activates a damage-packed rush attack. Devastation’s combat is easy to get used to and feels satisfying once you get the rhythm of it all down.
My demo ended with the suitably included Decepticon named Devastator, a towering result of smaller Constructicon Decepticons combining together, and an example of Platinum Games’ strength in crafting epicly large combat moments. Devastator shows up as a video game boss of immense stature, especially compared to the petite frame of my Bumblebee. But it’s thank to the Autobot’s light size that I could quickly avoid Devastator’s throws, strike back, and repeat. Additionally, some of Devastator’s stomps caused the ground to spike up out of the ground, allowing me to stair step my way into the air and launch a combo of attacks to his upper body, which slowed down the time falling to the ground, a la Devil May Cry.
My biggest concern about Transformers: Devastation lies in my fears that the brawler is a shallow package lacking enough to keep gamers invested in it after the novelty of its appearance wears off. Combat is not particularly complex – honestly a child probably could handle it. I did not spot any system to upgrade attributes or the weapons of my Autobot character, an essential, incentivising element found in Metal Gear Rising and other Platinum titles. You are only allowed to play as one of five Autobots: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, and Grimlock. There is no multiplayer whatsoever. Once I list all the shortcomings in my mind, not much about Devastation screams full-fledged AAA game, especially if it’s priced at $60.
It’s got the touch, but does it got the power? Let’s hope Platinum can transform Devastation into a game with more depth by the time it rolls out later this year on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.