by Sorin Annuar
reviewed on PC
Hearkening back to the ‘80s cartoon
There is an extremely high chance that if you grew up in the ‘80s you have at least heard of Transformers, even if you weren’t a fan of the metal titans from Cybertron and the civil war they brought to Earth. Since then the base concepts of the struggle between the heroic Autobots and the nefarious Decepticons have been reiterated, relabelled and reanimated in various incarnations, most recently thanks to Michael Bay’s live-action efforts and TV series such as Transformers Prime and 2015’s Robots in Disguise.
With each generation came its own video game tie-ins, although recent games have either been based on the live-action movies or a reimagining, as seen in High Moon Studios’ excellent War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron games. But strangely, despite the fact that the main reason most fans of the series still revere the franchise is because of the original ‘80s cartoon, there hasn’t been a console release of a Generation 1 Transformers game since the Japanese-only release of the simply titled Transformers on the Playstation 2 in 2003.
Transformers: Devastation, then, is the closest we will come to playing through an episode of the original cartoon. Developed by third person action game experts Platinum Games, whose most notable works include Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and the Bayonetta series, Devastation aims to take their trademark combo-heavy combat and marry it with the aesthetic of the original cartoon. And for the most part, they achieve the look and feel of the cartoon perfectly: cel-shaded and colourful, Optimus Prime and his cohorts look like they’re taking part in a missing episode from the animation. Add to that the brilliant sonic coup of getting both Peter Cullen and Frank Welker to voice Optimus Prime and Megatron/Soundwave respectively as they did in the original series, and the game sounds like the cartoon. This is even before you realise that Vince DiCola, who scored the 1986 Transformers: The Movie soundtrack, was brought onboard to write music for the game. Top that off with the fact that the first boss fight in the game is against the gestalt behemoth, Devastator. Off the bat, this game wants to grab you hard by the nostalgia.
Reality behind the appearances
However, once you get past the initial thrill of seeing the authenticity of the game’s presentation, the limitations of the game design will begin to gnaw away at your experience. The combat is solid but doesn’t reach the heights of Platinum’s previous works, so you will more or less end up repeating the same combo ad infinitum until the game ends. You have the choice of five Autobots: Optimus Prime, Sideswipe, Bumblebee, Grimlock and Wheeljack, each with their own strengths, although this is largely irrelevant as for the most part your best option is to stick to one character as you won’t be able to upgrade everyone.
The environments are large enough but the city where most of the action takes place looks generic and repetitive. This is fine when you’re meant to race through checkpoints, but navigating does become a chore when almost all the buildings look the same. Add to this the rare moment when you’re forced to do a short bout of platforming with a sometimes non-cooperative camera and the nostalgic sheen of the game does diminish somewhat.
For fans, the longstanding design choice of not making Megatron anything other than a gun is still present (in this iteration he’s a tank); that and the fact that Bumblebee no longer turns into a Volkswagen Beetle are neat summations of the game itself: it’s almost what you remember from your childhood, but concessions have been made.
Only for fans
As a love letter to the nostalgia of the ‘80s cartoon, despite its high points the game feels fleeting and leaves you wishing for the full potential of the licence to be realised. There are times the game gives the impression that it should have been a download-only game, like Platinum’s own The Legend of Korra adaptation, and not a full-priced boxed release. If you’re not a fan of Transformers in the first place, this game isn’t really for you. What fan service there is will mean nothing to you and you’ll be left with a fun if unambitious third person action game. If, however, you are a fan of the original series, add a 1 to the score, as your inner child will probably thank you for the nostalgia trip. Even then, though, you may still walk away from the game thinking that there should have been more than meets the eye.
Combat is fun though not very deep; it’s the closest you’ll get to playing as Generation 1 Transformers; looks and sounds authentic
Flow of the game can be repetitive; feels like they could have done more; annoying platforming