Transformers: Devastation Review
When I first heard about the collaboration between the legendary Transformers franchise and beat ‘em up extraordinaires Platinum Games, tickets were immediately booked for the hype train. I did have a fondness for High Moon’s War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron, but they never grabbed my attention as much as the sight of Bumblebee pulling off shoryukens on Decepticon scumbags. Remember, childhood dreams sometimes do come true.
The premise is simple: Megatron has found something beneath the city, and is now destroying said city to get it. You, the Autobots of Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack and Grimlock, must stop him. It’s fairly wafer-thin stuff, making it ideal for the ‘Saturday Morning Cartoon’ vibe Platinum is trying to capture, and besides, Platinum isn’t known for their stories, it’s the combat that made them famous.
And immediately you can tell this is worthy of being a Platinum title, as the melee combat feels like they’ve taken everything that made Metal Gear Rising and Bayonetta amazing and put them here. The driving sections are also good, with each Transformer having an obviously different feel. Prime seems to have the turning circle of a small moon, making precise driving somewhat difficult, yet Bumblebee, being a small car, can be much more evasive.
It’s the car combat that really brings things down. Aiming and shooting whilst driving is tricky, even with a generous auto-aim. There are certain sections requires you to chase down Decepticons in your car, trying to slow them down with bullets, but the broad side of a barn door would remain unblemished with this targeting system.
But here’s a little secret for you: if you just mash the right trigger while driving instead of aiming, your Transformer of choice will lock on to the nearest bad guy automatically, making the aiming system redundant in the first place. The vehicular combat is just a hassle, and fortunately, you’ll be dealing with the majority of scraps using the aforementioned robotic fisticuffs.
The controls for the melee fighting couldn’t be more simplistic for a beat ‘em up, yet that’s what makes Platinum Games so satisfying to play. You use a combination of X and Y attacks to perform combos, and then you can press RB at the precise end of the combo to use a vehicle attack, which sees your character transform into a vehicle and lunge at your foe for massive damage.
Defensively, Devastation works just like Bayonetta; use RB to dodge at the right time to activate the slow-mo Focus mode, in which you have a couple of seconds to obtain massive damage, and that’s pretty much all there is to it. Easy to pick up, but difficult to master. Classic Platinum.
The ‘difficult to master’ part that I’m referring to comes from learning enemy patterns, so you can nail the specific timing of their attacks. Boss fights in particular follow this rule, meaning you’ll likely have to die the first time around, learning with each attempt so that you can annihilate them on the next go.
In terms of actual difficulty, players can choose between Scout, Warrior and Commander difficulties, or easy, normal and hard to you and me. Not wanting to be a coward, I jumped on Commander and instantly got destroyed by the first boss, Devastator. After him though, things weren’t too bad, and that might be because the levelling-up/weapon system is busted.
Let me explain: in order to differentiate Devastation from the rest of the Platinum catalogue, they added a both RPG style levelling to each character, along with randomly generated weapons, with their own levels and stats. An interesting feature, sure, but one that can rob Transformers of its difficulty. Firstly, you can use credits that you earn in battle to level-up your characters instead of doing so by killing dudes, meaning you can buy your way to max health/attack/defense (delete as appropriate) by the time you reach Chapter 3. Secondly though, and perhaps most importantly, you could obtain a weapon that’s above and beyond what you should be wielding at that level.
I was up to Chapter 5 out of 7, and I nipped into Challenge Mode just for a change of pace. After getting the highest rank of SS, I received a Burning Hammer that dealt well over twice as much damage as my most powerful weapon. Suddenly, tough enemies were going down in a couple of hits. The last run of villains, the likes of Starscream, Soundwave and Megatron, all fell before the might of my Burning Hammer. I almost felt cheated. The epic confrontation between Prime and Megatron was less like a battle and more like bullying. Megatron never had a chance.
Still, I had a lot of fun with Devastation. Who hasn’t wanted to carve up Decepticons as Optimus Prime, or tear through them as Grimlock? And I also know my gripes with the difficulty mean nothing in the face of the unlockable Magnus and Prime modes. The Burning Hammer might meet it’s match. I would recommend this game, but only to fans of previous Platinum games, as the lifespan comes from multiple playthroughs on higher difficulty levels. Casual fans might not see the value of this for £40, especially seeing how the campaign is only around six hours long on Commander.
If you want to judge for yourself, here’s a look at the gameplay trailer.