Taking my rose tinted Transformers glasses off is very hard. My review of the seminal film was a labour of love, so when I heard Platinum were releasing a Generation 1 game, I knew I would be buying it first day. In shot it’s essential for fans, but a bit shallow for others. It doesn’t hit the heights of the PS2 – era, open-world game developed by Melbourne House in 2004.
From the start you are fired into a total nostalgia fest. The cel shaded nature of the game perfectly mirrors the 80’s animated series and movie, when you add the original voice actors, this is almost a guarantee of sales straight away. I held of pre-ordering until I knew that there was some substance to the game. Being developed by Platinum of Vanquish and Bayonetta fame, was enough to get me to hit the order button. Unfortunately the nostalgia kick is damaged by some of the games mechanics, namely the collectables ad shooting. We all know that Blasters and weapons are an important part of the Transformer arsenal, unfortunately in this game they just feel too slow and underpowered. If you see three Decepticon soldiers on the rooftops a single blast should be enough for them or indeed you. Instead we have a decreasing enemy health bar that makes long range blaster fights tedious and unrealistic. Added to this the slow moving missiles, pointless flame thrower and other weapons and you get a part of the game that would have been better left out. Wait until Megatron fires his cannon at you, then you will know what a blaster should be.
The irritation continues with the multitude of gates, chests and underground stashes, added to the game as collectibles. While needed to make it more of a game, the challenges can be slightly frustrating and time consuming. Most of all they are distracting and take you away from the main meat of the game. Collecting weapons allows you to combine them to beef up your currently held weapons. For me it was sacrilege for Optimus Prime to have anything other than his blaster rifle or Axe, so any weapons received were broken into their component parts and used to upgrade the traditional weapons. A nice feature in the game but on unfortunately, that more effort has gone into than necessary.
The city map you play the majority of the game in is also a problem. It is too bland and can be confusing. Unfortunately it is also predictable, a corridor or narrow street will usually open up into a wide expanse, signifying a boss battle or an encounter, that introduces a new skill or enemy type. Too often you see this coming and as such know what to expect, to go back to the PS2 Transformers game, it had an open world and borrowed many elements from Halo. The traversal using your vehicle was more of an option, rather than forced, meaning you used it more. In this game you use your vehicle form when you are told to, removing the feeling of creativity.
The negatives of this game, try their best to ruin the experience but they cannot defeat the pure joy that the melee combat is. Think the battle between Optimus and Megatron, and you have the feeling that even a simple encounter brings. Heavy strikes on one button, light on the other and all the normal combos in between. Platinum have also added their signature ‘witch time’ mechanic, that grants you some slow-down when you dodge an attack perfectly. When you are getting hunted down by Megatron or swatting at the ankles of Devastator, a well timed dodge can turn the tide of the fight. Normal fights are even more enjoyable. A few successful hits leads to the vehicle mode icon coming up on screen. Hit this and you transform and ram the enemy into the air to continue the combo. Although seeing Bumblebee do this to Megatron is a little strange, the mechanic works well and combat is challenging. Boss fights introduce a number of different styles and it never gets boring battering a Decepticon into submission with your fists or axe and swords. Only when the game deviates from this and makes you use guns and projectiles does the frantic and frenetic action slow down for the worse. If only there had been even more focus on combat, then this would be a game for the ages. As it is you end up wandering around doing trivial and menial tasks waiting for the next good fight.
When the running time of a game is 5 hours, you really need to make it all killer no filler. Transformers Devastation just has a few too many weak sections to recommend it to anyone less than thirty. If you love the characters as much as I do, then you will enjoy the game despite its flaws. It shares a lot of the same concerns and criticisms that another Platinum title does – Metal Gear Rising Revengeance. Short, Stylish and essential for fans of the IP. If not, you can give this a miss.