Transformers Devastation: review

 photo devastation-trans_zpsfjxp4sqb.jpg

  • Format: Xbox One (version reviewed), PS4, PS3, 360, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Activision
  • Developer: Platinum Games
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://www.transformersgame.com/
  • Game purchased by reviewer

Transformers are awesome. There’s no point trying to argue; it’s an objective fact. Platinum Games are also awesome, having developed games such as The Wonderful 101, Bayonetta 1 & 2, and Vanquish. In related news, chocolate spread is awesome and cheeseburgers are awesome. Combining the two, however, isn’t necessarily a great idea.

Carefully edited footage can certainly present Devastation as the perfect game for fans of so-called “Generation 1” Transformers. The art style does an excellent job of emulating the original cartoon series and comics, falling somewhere between the two. Even better, the original voice actors have been brought on board! The heroes and villains included will have fans drooling too, including (but certainly not limited to) Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, Bumblebee, Soundwave, Grimlock, and even a few Combiners. You don’t get to control any Decepticons, but you get a choice of Autobots; and yes, you can switch between robot and vehicle forms at will.

So far so good, right? Yes indeed. All the above is good, and there’s more to pile on top. Frame rate is lovely and smooth (on Xbox One as we played it, anyway), which is very important in a fast-paced action game such as this. You get to use a mix of guns and metallic fists, but the normal state of affairs is battling multiple enemies at once in close quarters, with a variety of angles to keep an eye on at once. Dodge an attack at just the right moment, and time will slow for a few seconds a la Bayonetta, allowing you to get a few uninterrupted hits in, or – should you need to – get to a semi-safe distance for a breather. All works perfectly thanks to the smoothness.

This is a bullshot of course but, apart from the angle, it’s pretty close to actual gameplay.

Bayonetta’s getting a lot of mentions in this review already, but the sad fact is that this is – essentially – a Bayonetta spinoff in a Transformers halloween costume. Every ranged weapon has an extremely restrictive ammo count, meaning that the vast majority of combat in the game is melee (not to mention the fact that enemies will usually rush you to fight toe-to-toe). This in itself reduces the Transformersness of the game somewhat. Even worse, the melee combat system is so similar to Bayonetta’s (while not being quite so good) that it’s impossible for anybody who’s played either of those games to not call the Umbra Witch to mind. What works against both the licence and the quest to make the best game possible, somewhat ironically, are the elements that deviate from the Bayonetta template.

There are a total of five playable Autobots, each with their own set of stats upgraded through play. Jumping between characters on your first playthrough isn’t a great idea though, as that means splitting XP; potentially making later boss fights very frustrating. As it is, some characters already have large advantages over others (Prime has much more health than Wheeljack, for example). It’s still debatable just how much difference there is bot to bot, though. The vehicles are different (and Grimlock turns into a dinosaur of course!), but the fact that most weapons can be equipped by at least four of the five characters saps much of the potential uniqueness out of your choice.

In what is quite frankly an ugly and unwelcome present from fellow Activision title Destiny, fallen enemies drop loot, which often means weapons. This results in plenty of duplicates in your collection, but that’s kind of the point. Each weapon can be levelled up to increase damage, speed etc – but only by sacrificing other weapons for what is, essentially, weapon XP. There’s a little strategy to this, in that the more powerful the weapon you sacrifice, the greater the benefit for the receiving weapon. There will sometimes be some kind of perk/s attached to the weapon, and you can choose one to carry over. This aspect can work both ways. If you ignore weapon levelling entirely, you might find that the bosses begin to become a slog depending on your chosen difficulty. Conversely, we pushed one of the game’s most powerful melee weapons to maximum level, and found that the final boss fight (spoiler: It’s Megatron) was the easiest in the whole game as a result.

This is a bullshot of course, but… well, you get the idea.

As talented as Platinum are, this is a game that gives the impression of a developer with little to no interest in the licence they’ve been given to work with. As previously implied it comes dangerously close to cutting and pasting from Bayonetta at times, but whose decision was that; the developer’s, or the publisher’s? We’ll probably never know. It is a good action game, just not one that would look any different without the Transformers skin. More damning than the flaws mentioned elsewhere is perhaps the short playtime, with the regular difficulty likely lasting most people just 5-7 hours with little incentive to return. There are dozens of mini challenge stages to unlock… but most are far too similar to one another to hold the interest of anybody except those with a tedious determination to hoover up achievements/trophies.

It’s a good game while it lasts, but it doesn’t last long enough; and it doesn’t make enough use of the Transformers licence outside of cutscenes. Definitely overpriced right now, it’ll be well worth picking up if you’re a fan once it’s been hit with the inevitable pre-Christmas price chop of 50%. Until then, you’d be better off laying down the same amount of cash for a game that’s just as good or better, but offers anything up to ten times the playtime yet half the frustration.

critical score 6

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Written by Luke K

He plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. He doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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