Transformers: Devastation Review (PlayStation 4)
It's been an odd decade for Transformers fans. On the one hand, there's been more Transformers-related things coming out than ever, but on the other, most of those products are the god-awful Michael Bay Transformers (or their mind-blowingly bad tie-ins). Transformers: Devastation promises to it up to all the oldest of old-school 'bot fans, with a sound and style that harkens back to the Generation One television show.
Oh, and it was made by Platinum Games.
Get ready to have your energon blown, baby-bots, because there's so much more to this than meets the eye.
In Devastation, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, and Grimlock face off against Megatron and his Decepticon forces, who are trying to "cyberform" Earth to make it a more bot-friendly environment. The writing is perfect, Saturday morning cartoon-style fare; the characters take the straightforward plot seriously, and each are written with their distinct personalities in mind— Optimus is heroic and contemplative, Bumblebee is light-hearted and quippy, and Megatron is mega-evil. These are the classic characters at their best.
If you've played Platinum Games' previous works, like the near-flawless Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance or Bayonetta series, you'll have a decent idea of the framework here. Transformers: Devastation fits solidly into the "stylish action" genre, meaning that most of the gameplay is about helping you crush challenging foes while looking as cool as possible. Each character can be equipped with a variety of guns and melee weapons (which are all upgradeable, randomly-dropped loot) to create lengthy, powerful combos that have you weaving in and out of robot and vehicle mode for maximum damage. Each bot fights differently-- Bumblebee is quick and evasive, Sideswipe can relentlessly assault his foes, Optimus Prime hits like a literal truck-- ensuring maximum variety to each battle.
The combat clicks in that perfect, Platinum Games way; each swing of your weapon is with swiftness and precision, the characters are distinct, yet all fun to play as, and your vehicle attacks are dramatic, devastating, and utterly satisfying to behold. When you're doing well, enemies look like complete chumps as you rain down complex combos and goofy Autobot quips on them. When you're doing not as well, you're going to get clobbered.
Like most of Platinum's games, the best defense is non-stop offense, so if you let up on your foes for one second they won't hesitate to crush you. Fortunately, there are several difficulty settings, so if you're an action expert you can get as much challenge as you'd like, and if you're less experienced, but want to get in on the bot-on-bot action, you can still play just fine. Between battles you can also buy new weapons, synthesize weapons together, and acquire passive skills— there's a lot of item management you can take advantage of, if you're into that kind of thing. If you're not, you can simply sell your spare loot, buy the thing with the biggest numbers, and get your Autobutt back to battle.
Transformers: Devastation really goes the extra mile with its voice cast, bringing back as many living members of the Generation One cast as possible, with Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime, Frank Welker as Megatron (and a bunch of other voices because he's Frank Freaking Welker), Dan Gilvezan as Bumblebee, Michael Bell as Sideswipe, and Gregg "Me Grimlock" Berger as Grimlock. Hearing each of these legendary performers return to characters they originally portrayed over thirty years ago will warm the coldest reaches of your cyber-heart. They're all such enthusiastic, skilled, professional actors it's easy to hear why people still love their performances so many years later. Plus, they're all written so well it really feels like the classic '80s cartoon again, especially in the case of Dan Gilvezan's Bumblebee, he's playing a character who's been sadly mute in most of his appearances in the last decade in order to match his movie counterpart, so it's just nice to hear that lil' goofball get to talk.
Cel-shading can be a risky proposition; in some games, it gives a distinct visual style, and in others it's a way to hide how many corners are being cut. In Transformers: Devastation, however, it makes everything look like the shinest, best rendition of the Saturday morning cartoon brought to life. The synth-infused sound track and great sound effects round out the aesthetics to deliver a retro-inspired experience that's pitch perfect.
On the down side, however, there is a serious lack of environmental and enemy variety, here. Expect to spend a lot of time zipping around the same city and beating up similar looking Decepticons (although the base gameplay is so solid you probably won't mind). The non-combat sections have you doing things like shooting out laser turrets or doing mild platforming, and while they’re not, per se, they aren't the flawless experience that combat is, so they feel a little weaker by comparison.
Transformers: Devastation is the game most Transformers fans have been waiting their entire lives for. If you're a fan of the original series, getting to hear the golden tones of your favorite bots again will make you feel like a kid again, breathlessly taking in the action as you grip your bowl of cereal tight. Even if you're not a fan, Platinum Games has outdone themselves again to create a that's addictive, immensely satisfying, and as deep and challenging as you want it to be. Whether you’re a hardcore ‘bot fan or just someone who likes beating up video game bad guys, do yourself a favor— transform and roll out to get this masterfully-crafted action experience.
This review is based on a digital copy of Transformers: Devastation provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.