Transformers: Devastation: The Kotaku Review

Transformers: Devastation: The Kotaku Review

To quote a tiny yellow robot during one of Transformers: Devastation's many brilliant moments, "I did not see that coming." Despite the killer cel-shaded look and a cast packed with voice actors from the '80s cartoon reprising their roles as the original robots in disguise, all signs pointed towards Transformers: Devastation being a massive disappointment.

Announced at E3 2015 for release less than four months later, developed by a team whose last cel-shaded cartoon tie-in was the lacklustre The Legend of Korra beat-em up — both not good signs. And when publisher Activision told us review code wouldn't be available until launch day — well, it felt like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 all over again.

Then came Tuesday morning. I downloaded the game, started it up and spent several hours grinning like an idiot.

The plot is pure Generation One with a hint of something darker. Megatron has devised a means to harness highly-unstable plasma energy to "cyberform" the Earth, wiping out all organic life in the process of creating a new home for the Decepticons. It's up to Optimus Prime and his crack team of Autobots — Bumblebee, Wheeljack, Sideswipe and Grimlock — to stop Megatron's plan and discover the sinister secret behind the ultra-powerful technology.

The first five minutes were lovely. Within the next five I was battling one of the Autobots' biggest enemies. Over the course of six hours I took out countless nameless Decepticons, uncovered secrets, collected data files, and tore through a roster of big bads that reads like 14-year-old Fahey's Christmas list.

Transformers: Devastation: The Kotaku Review

There's obviously love for first generation Transformers on the Platinum Games dev team, but a licence only gets a licensed video game so far. '80s robot nostalgia is the blanket wrapped about this couch cushion fort of a game, but as any secret robot commando knows it's what's inside that counts.

Inside there's war. Brutal, lightning-fast war.

It's exactly the sort of war one would expect from Platinum Games. Silky-smooth melee combos and mildly sloppy shooting come together in a beautiful symphony of destruction. Timed counters factor in heavily, slowing down time and allowing player characters to get in a few extra licks. Players will need to master both the counters and break moves — super-powerful attacks that can only be performed by bot in vehicle mode travelling at max speed — in order to challenge the game's higher difficulty levels.

Transformers: Devastation: The Kotaku Review

So we've solid story packed with familiar metal faces that borrows concepts from multiple Generation One continuities and a satisfying combat system that rewards timing and tenacity. All of this takes place across a sprawling city map and several lesser locations packed with secrets and skill challenges and collectibles.

And then there's the random extra junk. There's a weapons synthesis feature that allows players to transform the ridiculous piles of loot they collect in their travels into more powerful weapons.

Transformers: Devastation: The Kotaku Review

Developing T.E.C.H. creates stat or skill boosting accessories for the Autobots to wear by spending cash and pressing a button at the right time in a simplistic mini-game.

Transformers: Devastation: The Kotaku Review

Plus there's a lab where players can buy and sell weapons, items and a small series of special moves.

Me, I'd rather just bust some Decepti-chops. Every now and then I'll pop into the Teletraan-1 hub and sacrifice some lesser weapons in order to power up my primaries, but for the most part I'm hopping right back into the action.

I'm not so blinded by Transformers: Devastation's nostalgia overload that I don't see its problems. The game's camera is a mess, especially during driving sequences and when battling massive bosses. The battles against minion bots quickly become boring and predictable. Most of the action takes place in the generic city environment, and trips outside (or inside) rarely last for long.

But as stingy as Platinum Games is with environments and minion variety, they're more than generous when it comes to big-name baddies showing up to battle. The fight with Devastator from the very first screenshots of the game? That takes place within the first ten minutes of play, with a showdown with Megatron not far behind. The usual suspects have been rounded up, along with a few not-so-usual ones.

Every time I feel like the game is about to settle into boring old beat-em up patterns, something like what happens in the SPOILERY video below pops up.

And suddenly I am 100 per cent invested and excited once more.

Much fuss has been made about the game's length. I completed the main story in six hours, foregoing most of the 50 challenges missions unlocked as the game progresses. I'm currently in the middle of my second play through on a higher difficulty level in order to unlock the two highest, which supposedly boast mixed-up enemy configurations. I've gotten plenty out of the game so far. I was just slightly sad it had to end at all.

Or does it? This could be the beginning of a beautiful ongoing series, and judging from hints given towards the end of story mode, I'm pretty damn excited to see where Platinum Games takes Transformers next.

Last October Activision quietly released a Platinum Games developed beat-em up based on a beloved cartoon property, and it was not great. The Legend of Korra was a basic game featuring a familiar character but lacking the compelling story and warmth that built the show's massive fan base.

This October Activision quietly released a Platinum Games developed beat-em up based on a beloved cartoon property, and it is great. Transformers: Devastation is a relatively basic game that beats with the shiny metal heart of the franchise that spawned it.


Comments

    Got this finished it and almost finished it again. This whole time equals money sentiment is bullshit. I put hundreds of hour into Destiny and didnt find as much enjoyment as Ive experienced in the 11 hours of this Ive played.

    Is it nostalgia driven, probably, but who gives a shit. Money well spent!

    I'm getting the impression from the review that like Legend of Korra this game is pretty much exactly where it should be. A little short, with a palette swap attitude towards new content, but ultimately a good game. In a perfect world they'd be longer and with more encounter variety, but given the audience they simply aren't viable with the sort of budget those things require. Instead they do good fundamentals, make the right stylistic and design choices, and release a faithful game that's fun to play.
    I know Legend of Korra wasn't winning Game of the Year awards but it was a game designed to sell based on box art and it actually delivered on that box art rather than phoning it in. It's just a shame they couldn't get the price lower.

    My only complaints with Devastation would be the 'meh'-ish combos in combat (Which is directly linked to the insane weapon customization and vehicle mode attacks, so it's a teeny complaint) and the lack of Platinum style QTEs. A 'neither-here-nor-there' would be the sound design isn't 100% G1, with some decidedly uniconic sounds for everything. The music is alright, but I feel it could have used some lyrics or gone a lot more 80s and turned up the synth... But those are personal hangups.

    Otherwise, it was a really enjoyable experience. The references were cute and I enjoyed the little bits of hybridization here and there... A certain triple-changer using fire and ice attacks, Optimus Primal's sword and some canon immigration from the IDW comics amongst other things. But none of it (In my personal opinion) weighed too heavily on the overall emulation of the 1984 cartoon... It felt like one of those old three part episodes like 'The Ultimate Doom', good stuff.

    Bottom line, you get Judd Nelson back as Hot Rod(imus) and do a 'The Movie' DLC? I'm buying it. Simple as that.

    The length of the game is a HUGE NEGATIVE. There are hints in the story of more to come, but the game suddenly ramps up suddenly, then ends just as quickly without capitalizing on those teases. It's disappointing because the game is so engaging that you want more. I feel sorry for those in the USA. This game costs them $50 (standard retail for a game over there is $60) so they got hit worse than we did with the cost of this budget title.

    Last edited 11/10/15 2:18 pm

    The curse that most well made has is that the lenght is rather short compare to other decent games. Second curse is that most of greatest (bit exaggerating here) games don't have a sequel. Fallout 4 will be great I'm sure but sadly Todd Howard stated that there will be no sequel in the future. Maybe the next Elder Scrolls but no more Fallout :(

    I still can't believe that Platinum isn't a more well-known studio. Their games always feel great to play and their track record is impressively consistent.

    I was sceptical about this, but now I'm sold. Hope it sells well enough to grow into a series.

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