By Kyle Holmer. This is LOAD FILE, where we spend our days fantasizing a utopia where gigantic anthropomorphized robots run rampant in the streets, saving humanity from those that would do us wrong. This week, Kyle enacts that fantasy in Transformers: Devastation, developed by Platinum Games and published by Activision for the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
I’m just going to get this out of the way right up front: I couldn’t care less about Transformers. Unlike many people born in the mid to late 80s, I didn’t spend any of my childhood watching the television show (even though I was precisely the right age for it), so whenever a new Transformers game gets announced, or another nonsensical Michael Bay film released, I usually just ignore it. While I can appreciate that Orson Welles died playing a robot named Unicorn and Marky Mark can do an incredible rendition of the Stan Bush classic “You’ve Got the Touch” (made famous in the Transformers animated film), I generally don’t engage with anything else from within the Transformers pantheon, barring the occasionally well reviewed game (and only because I make a point of playing everything). So when a new Transformers video game was announced, in the style of the original television show that also included the majority of the original voice cast, I didn’t really pay any attention.
That was until I found out Platinum was developing the game; unlike Transformers, I adore Platinum. Bayonetta 1 and 2 are easily two of the most engaging action games released in the past ten years and The Wonderful 101 is an underrated masterpiece. While they may have the occasional blunder (namely 2014’s The Legend of Korra), they have a near-perfect track record for producing quality action games. Despite the lack of marketing that this game received, and a license I was otherwise indifferent about, I was incredibly eager to get my hands on the newest Platinum joint and for the most part, it doesn’t disappoint.
PLATINUM PROVES THAT EVERYONE GETS TRANSFORMERS MORE THAN MICHAEL BAY
As I mentioned, I’m not all that familiar with the Transformers canon but from what I do know, this game could easily be mistaken for an episode of the animated television show. The setup assumes you’re already familiar with the series, and the conclusion could flow directly into literally any other episode (with one minor “twist” needing to be accounted for). As a result, it’s sure to please fans of the series and do next to nothing for everyone else. Like every other Transformers story, Megatron has concocted a plan that will put the denizens of Earth in danger (in this case, he plans on “cyberforming” the planet, whatever the hell that means), and it’s up to Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots to stop him; it’s literally as routine as a Transformers story could possibly be.
What the game lacks in narrative originality, it more than makes up for in its lavish presentation. It would be very easy to confuse the game’s cutscenes as high-def sequences from the television show; the original voice cast is almost entirely accounted for, and all of the character models mimic their show’s avatars perfectly. There really isn’t much more to say about the story; it’s blatant fan service and for those aforementioned fans, and they’re sure to eat it up; for everyone else, it’s just a really cool looking game that happens to be housing Platinum mechanics.
I REALLY DON’T REMEMBER THE AUTOBOTS BEING SO NIMBLE
As I’ve mentioned, this is a Platinum and as a result, there are certain mechanics that you should expect: a “witch-time” dodging system that will slow down gameplay if you time your evasions properly, a relatively short narrative with a tiered ranking system and multiple difficulty levels, and a weapon/accessory system that will give the player plenty of choices of how to approach any given mission. From a distance, it could easily be mistaken for any other Platinum game, and since that formula hasn’t gotten old yet, it’s incredibly fun to play.
What sets Transformers Devastation apart from say, a Bayonetta game is the inclusion of an “upgrade ‘n’ loot” system. Throughout the game, players will find and recover various weapons scattered throughout the environment, each of which will fall into a discreet type with a corresponding ranking and level. It’s a pretty traditional system for any RPG fan, but instead of discarding unused weapons, you’ll be able to combine them into stronger versions (a system pretty similar to what was seen in Darksiders II), and the various properties that any given weapon contains can be transferred to the weapon you’re attempting to rank up. It’s a novel idea, and definitely allows for a further degree of customization of the Platinum formula, but aside from a handful of specific found weapons, you’re gonna be using one of a handful of predefined weapon types with different damage/element stats. The random loot premise also infects the accessories (different items that will endow the player with various abilities) in that you’ll spend a predetermined amount of money to play a lottery game with a random ability as a reward.
These systems aren’t completely unique, nor do they offer a huge change to the core mechanics, but their inclusion is a welcome one. Coupled with the ability to choose between five different characters, each of which has to be leveled individually and has a handful of unique abilities, it adds another layer of customization not seen in any previous Platinum games. If you were to ignore that however, Transformers Devastation is exactly what you’d expect with only a single exception: the main narrative is slightly shorter, but there is the inclusion of a more robust challenge mode that makes this game similar in length to their previous outings.
TRANSFORMERS DEVASTATION: EXACTLY WHAT MEETS THE EYE
If it’s not abundantly clear already, I’ll reiterate: this is a Platinum video game and if you’re at all familiar with their body of work, you should not only know exactly what you’re getting with Devastation, but also whether it’s worth your time to pick up. Personally, I can’t get enough of the company; they consistently put out quality video games that, while slightly repetitive, are released at a consistent enough pace to avoid stagnating their formula. If for whatever reason, you haven’t played any of their incredibly well-reviewed games (like Metal Gear Rising, Bayonetta, Wonderful 101, etc.) Transformers is a fantastic entry point for the series; it’s an incredibly well-made action game that has systems robust enough for high level play, but simple enough for casual players to thoroughly enjoy.