Transformers: Devastation Review: Mortal Combot
Kalvin Martinez / Dec 11th, 2015 No Comments
A common trap is putting too much stock into pedigree. Judging a product solely on someone or something’s past triumphs is risky. This can be especially dangerous when it comes to a licensed game. Rarely do they result in anything worthwhile. For every Batman: Arkham Asylum and The Walking Dead: Season 1, there is a Cool Spot and The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.
Even with the considerable action pedigree of Platinum Games, Transformers: Devastation was a shaky proposition. Yet, Transformers: Devastation beats the licensed game curse with its stellar presentation that makes it feel like the cartoon come to life, and high-octane action that makes you feel like a giant transforming robot.
And I Would Have Gotten Away with it Too…
There are only seven stories in the world, and one is the age old struggle between Autobot and Decepticon. Optimus Prime and Megatron are two immortal beings locked in an eternal tango. It is a battle of good versus evil, and 18-wheeler vs. tank. This isn’t a new fight, just a new iteration of an endless clash. Things are grave in this latest face-off; the Earth’s fate hangs in the balance. A giant ship full of Insecticons has landed on Earth and begun cyberforming it.
Megatron, never one to let an opportunity to dominate slip past, decides to seize control of the ship and accelerate the cyberforming process. Optimus Prime and the Autobots being paragons of good and allies to humanity cannot let this plan come to fruition. The Autobots run around the city tracking down ways to stop the cyberforming, all while fighting off the most fearsome of Decipticons. As they learn more about the ship and what is behind the cyberforming, Optimus Prime must make a hard decision when he finally squares off against Megatron: save Earth or preserve the Cybertronian culture.
It ain’t no The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao that’s for sure, but what the story may lack in complexity, it more than makes up for in terms of authenticity. Whether it is good thing to emulate the writing of a 1980s cartoon aimed at young boys is debatable. Fans of Transformers will get a kick out of the glorious fan service laced throughout the game. All the loving character moments are like syringes of nostalgia ready to induce those warm and fuzzy feelings of being a kid in your pajama pants eating a big bowl of cereal while sitting way too close to the TV.
What aids greatly in making the game feel like the cartoon is the presentation. A good part of it comes in the writing, which nails the characterization and goofiness of the cartoon’s narratives. But more of it comes from the superb voice acting and killer soundtrack. Many of the original voice actors were recruited to reprise their roles, which aids tremendously in giving the game that Saturday morning cartoon vibe.
Enter the 36 Cylinders
Over the course of the game’s seven-ish chapters, you can take the fight to the Decepticons as one of five Autobots: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack and Grimlock. Each Autobot has their own stats and fighting quirks. Optimus Prime is a brawler, Bumblebee is quick, Sideswipe has combo oriented attacks, Wheeljack is an all-arounder, and Grimlock is a slower, power house. With a wide variety to choose from, it is easy to find an Autobot suited to your play style (cough, Sideswipe is the best, cough).
While each Autobot behaves differently, they all have access to the same pool of basic moves. There are three specific combo chains they can perform: stringing four light attacks, mashing heavy attack, and mixing two light and heavy attack chains. Since Transformers are both robot and vehicle in equal measure, the Autobots can execute a finishing vehicle attack by performing successful combos. The different combo attacks culminate in different vehicle attacks, with variations between the various Autobots. It is important to master combos and vehicle attacks because it’ll give you an offensive advantage and it is easy to get overwhelmed by enemies if you’re not dealing out enough damage.
Whether in combat or exploring the level, Autobots can transform into their vehicle form for extra speed. By reaching top speed and pressing light or heavy attack, you can perform a powerful defense-shattering move. Many enemies later in the game utilize shields that block normal attacks, making it necessary to get handy at changing from robot to vehicle on the fly to shatter their defenses and make them vulnerable to attacks. It can also be useful in giving a tough enemy an extra something to whittle down their health.
Other aspects of your arsenal are the ability to use long-range weaponry from machine guns to missiles, and a special attack. Guns are useful when taking on pesky flying Decepticons, allowing you to ground them and do considerable damage. Every melee attack uses stamina, but if you manage your stamina well, you can use a special attack. When these attacks connect, they can do a good deal of damage, making it effective to mix in with normal combo strains, but the biggest tide changer in a battle is the ability to perform an overdrive attack, which deals massive damage.
Outside of mastering combos and robot/switching, the most useful move in your arsenal is parrying/focus mode. Right before an enemy attacks, if you press the dodge button you can enter a special focus mode. Focus mode slows the pace of combat down, allowing you a sizeable opening to unleash combos on your enemies. It can also save you from taking damage from an incoming attack. In boss battles, it is imperative to master the parry because you’ll get decimated quickly if you don’t.
Boss battles are fantastic in Transformers: Devastation. You’ll run into a who’s who of Deceipticons to square off against. Whether it is going bot-a-bot with Starscream or dancing with Devastator, you’ll need to be smart to best these formidable opponents. One of the cooler battles later in the game forces you to take on two giant Decepticons in a heated battle that’ll test all the skills you’ve learned in the game.
Not only does the game have a good deal of depth in the basic hack-and-slash found in the melee combat, but there is some extra depth to be found in some of the underlying systems in the game. Every Autobot can level up with the ability to improve specific stats making them stronger. Enemies also drop items and weapons randomly. These weapon drops can be fused to make better weaponry to outfit your Autobot of choice how you want. The weapon and move creation/fusion systems are good diversions from the main game.
Transformers: Devastation is a highly enjoyable experience, maybe more than it has any right to be. The love that oozes from every facet of the game becomes obvious when playing through it. It is hard not to get charges of nostalgia when taking control of Optimus Prime or witnessing Starscream’s quiet desperation. Every aspect of the game hits you with nostalgia and backs it up with great combat and depth.
tags: activision , platinum games , ps4 , review , Transformers: Devastation