By – Thomas Faust

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Platinum Games have a pretty good track record. Specializing in frantic third person action games, the Japanese studio made a name for itself with many well-received console releases. Their works are often lauded for the tight gameplay and at the same time critically panned for their short length. After the lukewarm The Legend of Korra, TRANSFORMERS: Devastation is their second game commissioned by Activision, and it’s also available on the PC. Of all the action figure franchises, Hasbro’s TRANSFORMERS had to suffer the most in the last couple of years. While Michael Bay movies and grim video games with muddy visuals have certainly brought in huge amounts of money, they are a far cry from the franchise’s humble beginnings. It feels a bit as if someone sucked the pure childlike joy out of the concept of, “Giant robots that can turn into vehicles, fighting each other”.

The first thing you’ll notice is that Devastation is very colorful, especially when compared to Activision’s other games in the franchise. While the Cybertron series and Rise of the Dark Spark both were muddy brown and greyish affairs, Devastation fully embraces its cartoonish heritage and offers vibrant colors in the character models. Backgrounds are decidedly less detailed, but that’s actually in line with the mid 80s cartoon style.

A couple of the original voice actors are also onboard, and the soundtrack feels like it was lifted straight from the original series, with sometimes annoying but fitting heavy metal tunes shrieking along in the background. The writing is also very “80s cartoonish”, with not a single crack in the fourth wall to be found. In a time where video games are toppling over each other when it comes to clever writing, this heavy-handedness feels decidedly retro. The story is nothing to write home about, but it gets the job of making you feel like you’re playing an extra-long episode of G1-era TRANSFORMERS done.

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The presentation is like a dream come true for fans who still remember the original series. All of the famous good and bad guys make an appearance, and you’ll often face the latter in frequent boss fights, which are without a doubt the main attraction here. There were two particular boss fights taking place in space, and they were both absolutely chaotic and amazing. The camera, which occasionally has trouble keeping up with the action , went absolutely haywire and you couldn’t tell up from down anymore. It was a glorious mess, and I’ll probably remember the game fondly for these specific scenes of havoc.

The actual fighting is on par with Platinum’s other work, which is to say that it is quite spectacular. You’ve got your regular and heavy attacks, as well as a bunch of special moves that can be bought at the shop. Countering attacks isn’t exactly easy, so you’re usually better off just dodging them, which also gains you a few moments of useful bullet time. Of course you can also transform into a car, which is used both as a means of getting from one point to another and also as combo finisher in combat. After striking an enemy a few times, you can transform and then ram into them, often lifting them up in the air and making them vulnerable for more attacks.

All in all, the fighting feels incredibly fluid and surprisingly varied. Fighting a bunch of goons at once is chaotic and occasionally messy, as you try to dodge all incoming attacks and at the same time dish out some damage of your own. Facing off against one of the countless bosses and mini bosses is an entirely different affair, though. Some fights are reminiscent of proper one-on-one fighting games, while others need you to identify the weak point in your enemies’ attack pattern, slowly inch your way towards them amidst a barrage of weapons fire, and then strike them at exactly the right moment. Fighting in TRANSFORMERS: Devastation feels like a spectacle and is a lot of fun.

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One aspect of the game I didn’t like was the way it handles character progression and loot. There are a bunch of stats that you can level up presumably by using actions tied to these stats, but you’re never really told what they actually do. This feels completely unnecessary, and the game would probably play just about the same if those stats didn’t exist. Then there is looting and crafting, which seems inscrutable at first. Your Autobot can take up to four weapons into combat and switch them on the fly. You’ll collect more weapons along the way, some of which change the elemental affinities of your attacks or add extra status effects.

By combining your loot, you can craft stronger versions and add more special effects to them. Once you get the hang of this system, it’s actually quite fun, and maxing out your weapons feels pretty rewarding and seems to have an impact on the damage you do. On the other hand, I cannot shake the feeling that crafting is included because apparently that’s what all the games are doing these days. A simpler approach – collecting experience you can use to directly improve your damage, health, armor etc. for instance – would perhaps have been better and more intuitive while still allowing for some customization.

My initial playthrough lasted about 5 hours, but there’s quite a bit of replayability here. The five playable characters – Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, and Grimlock – all handle differently and have different special attacks. Replaying the game with each of them nets you a few extra achievements. You’ll also eventually unlock 50 different Challenge Mode stages, all of which are quite long and can be completed for further rewards. A lot of the content in TRANSFORMERS: Devastation is optional, thus complaints about the game’s length aren’t entirely accurate. I reckon that it should take around 20-30 hours until you’ve really seen everything the game has to offer if you’re willing to replay the campaign with each character and also do the challenges.

Despite being released simultaneously available on all systems, the game doesn’t appear to have been developed with consoles in mind first and foremost. The settings menu has enough customization options, allowing the owners of weaker machines to get that framerate up to 60. Playing with a keyboard felt somewhat unintuitive, but thankfully the keyboard controls can be reconfigured to your liking. However, playing with a controller is recommended.

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Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

TRANSFORMERS: Devastation feels like the best and worst that video games have to offer these days: a fun-filled romp with some features that feel tacked on because apparently they just have to be in modern games. It’s a good thing that Devastation focuses on the fun part first and foremost. The relatively short campaign and the lack of any multiplayer option make the $49.99 price tag seem a bit steep, but this is mitigated by replay value and added challenge missions. At the end of the day, this is a game that feels right in all the important places and maintains the usual Platinum quality. I highly recommend TRANSFORMERS: Devastation.

TRANSFORMERS: Devastation Technical Summary:

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  • Time Played – 7 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 1920×1080
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – Minor clipping errors
  • Control Scheme – Keyboard, Gamepad
  • DRM – Steam
  • System Specs – 3.5Ghz AMD FX-6300, AMD Radeon R9 270X, 8GB RAM
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Steam
  • Demo – No
  • Saved Game Location – Users\Documents\TRANSFORMERS_Devastation

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