If you think about Transformers, the likelihood is that your immediate thought is of Michael Bay’s metallically busy hulks, wrestling with both each other and their own conscience. If you look past this though, back into the annuls of time, you’ll fly past such cartoons as Robots In Disguise and Beast Wars, all the way back to where it all began, Generation 1. Transformers: Devastation borrows heavily from this original series, and for any die-hard Transformers fan, this is a very good thing indeed.
Transformers: Devastation, developed by Bayonetta coders Platinum Games, kicks off with a typical Generation 1 style destructive opening sequence. All is peaceful in the city, when all metallic hell breaks loose and the Decepticons, led by the reliably maniacal Megatron, pop in for a little visit. The story itself is pure Transformers nostalgia and if you were a young fleshling in the mid-1980s you’ll be instantly taken back. If you’re a little younger than me, then you might get an idea of what watching cartoons in the ‘80s was really like.
I’m instantly drawn to the story, and in truth, its twists and turns appeal to my inner-child. The plot is typical Transformers fodder. Megatron wants to convert the Earth into a second Cybertron, backed by a seemingly endless supply of Decepticon lackeys, and it’s up to a small band of brave and skilful Autobots to stop them. Initially you get to learn the control methods and combos using the valiant Optimus Prime, with Bumblebee and Sideswipe as his companions in the cut-scenes. As you progress through the chapters, you’ll unlock Grimlock and Wheeljack too. Each character has their own signature fighting style, which reflects their combat class, and you can progress each character as you move through the game by levelling up.
The combat mechanics borrow heavily from Platinum’s previous games, with button-melting combos and the ability to Focus as you time a dodge. This allows you a few precious seconds of movement almost outside of time, to dodge out-of-the-way and then hammer the Decepticreep into oblivion with another combo. Certain strings of moves will allow you to unleash a vehicle attack for even more destruction. There’s a certain satisfaction to seeing Optimus swinging his trailer around, donut-ing another of the endless Decepticon Scouts into spare parts. The combat isn’t limited to just hacking away though, there is also the opportunity to whip out Optimus’ Ion cannon and blast them into pieces. These ranged weapons have a limited energy span though and need replenishing as you go. You can also add to your arsenal of weaponry as you fight the good fight, with up to three ranged weapon slots to fill in The Ark for each character.
Each downed enemy will drop a variety of things to pick up. These come in the form of credits, power-ups, energy, weapon energy, health-kits and more. As you travel between one combat arena and another, you’ll spot other areas where collectables might be hiding. Huge chests and hidden caches of goodies are scattered throughout the city and you may have to perform a special move to gain access to them. Some items are scattered around, ready for you to simply wander over and pick them up while others are sneakily hidden away and are only accessible by activating a specific button. There are also special items to collect, such as the irritating Kremzeek, another throwback from the original cartoon series.
The majority of encounters you’ll have in the game are scouts and sergeants. These are visually based on Runabout and Runamuck, the Decepticon Battlechargers. They’re basically thugs who like to destroy Autobots and this is reflected well in the game. There are countless Seekers, Insecticons and heavy Scouts to defeat too, who are pretty much all recognisable as characters from the Generation 1 continuity. It’s not long into the game that you start to face-off against singular, or multiple, named foes. You’ll meet the mammoth gestalt figure of Devastator. These are six combined Constructicons, all forming one giant Decepticon chaos machine.
Watching Optimus battle this behemoth on his own somehow feels slightly wrong. On paper, the Autobot Commander would put up a brave fight, but would eventually fall to the might of the Decepticon. But that wouldn’t be theatre, right? So, using all of your Focus and cunning, and not a little bit of combo-power and luck, you fell the mighty robot and stand ready to fight again. A David vs Goliath moment in shiny steel. There’s more to come too, as Bumblebee faces off against Megatron and as you go deeper into the story, you’ll face other prominent Decepticon warriors, like Thundercracker, Blitzwing, Soundwave, Menasor, Shockwave and the treacherous Starscream.
All of this is brought to nostalgic life by the majority of the character’s original ‘80s cartoon voice artists making a return. Peter Cullen voices the noble Optimus, Frank Welker as Megatron. Frankly, this makes the game. A Generation 1 style without Cullen’s voice would have been a total disaster and the game has the Generation 1 cartoon art-style down to a tee. If they remade the original cartoon with today’s technology, this is exactly how it would look. Individual cel-shaded animation, all down to the transformation from robot to vehicle/Dinobot, it is simply breath-taking. The city is secondary to the robots on display, but there are some nice touches with interaction on vehicles and previously mentioned loot chests.
Transformers: Devastation is a nostalgic trip for me. The graphics stunningly depict my most cherished childhood toy line, with the voice-acting talent to nudge my memory-banks into sheer robot-heaven. While the game itself could do with some little polishes, like a snap-to feature for the ranged weapon aiming and a camera angle that is a little more controllable, the joy of being able to transform at will and attack and defend against the most evil of Decepticons more than makes up for these short-comings.
The campaign is a little on the short side too, don’t be expecting an epic of High Moon proportions, but there are some Challenge quests to unlock, to keep you returning. I’d have liked to have seen a few more Autobots to play with and the cut-scenes could have been treated to the whole cartoon Autobot-to-Decepticon symbol filler to top the authenticity off too. It’s also a shame that the city reuses a lot of the routes and landscaping as it makes the gameplay a little samey, but the achievement of defeating a far more powerful Decepticon outweigh this massively.
The weapon synthesis and power-up creation lab add something a little bit different to the game and you can always get a kick from smearing the floor with Starscream’s energon. All-in-all, Transformers: Devastation is fantastic fun that should appeal to Transformers fans and melee combat fans alike.
Thanks to Xbox and Activision for their support.
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