Review: Transformers: Devastation (PS4)

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Title: Transformers: Devastation
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (11.63 GB)
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Activision
Developer: PlatinumGames
Original MSRP: $49.99
ESRB Rating: T
Transformers: Devastation is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Transformers games are not a rarity as they used to be when the original cartoon was on the air. Fans of the transforming vehicle show had very slim pickings when it came to interactive media in the 80’s. There was an old Famicom game that never made it to our shores and there was a Commodore 64 game that I could never afford.

But between then and now, there has been no shortage of Transformers games. Some of them have been the definition of “abomination” while others have not only stood out as great Transformers games, but great titles in general (like the War for Cybertron series on PlayStation 3, and the sleeper PlayStation 2 Transformers game).

So what makes Transformers: Devastation so special? It is, quite literally, the first game to harken back to a cartoon that aired thirty years ago. All other games before this have alluded to the series but aside from that Commodore 64 game, no other domestic Transformers game has been about the original robots in disguise… until now.

PlatinumGames has gone out of its way to maintain authenticity with Devastation. From the voice actors to the explosion style, this game is the 1984 cartoon brought to life in a hyper-action brawler game.

Bumblebee delivers punishment to the Construticons.

Bumblebee delivers punishment to the Construticons.


Gameplay:
“Decepticons May Cry.” That’s immediately what came to mind, and for obvious reasons. PlatinumGames is responsible for the highly praised Bayonetta series and their experience in creating over-the-top combat systems is evident in Transformers: Devastation.

While most recent entries into the Transformers universe have stuck to the tried and true third-person shooter formula, Devastation tries a different route. And while a little over the top in visual execution, it actually works surprisingly well.

That same level of execution is present and feels just as satisfying as it did in their previous games. Beating the living energon out of a Decepticon, only to mix it with a combination that has you transforming into a vehicle, and ramming them into the air, is just as satisfying as it sounds.

Progression through the story is somewhat linear, but not as much as I thought it would be. You do have a map to guide you through the area, and you have some options of routes to take with a destination marker always present to guide you to the right location. Exploration rewards you with in-game cash, weapon stashes, and even some non-story challenges.

TRANSFORMERS: Devastation_20151007162518

Another surprising element to Devastation is its loot system. As a Destiny fan, this felt somewhat familiar. Enemies drop money that can be used to purchase weapons, but sometimes chests are found in the environment that yield weapons as well. These weapons range from melee (swords, axes, drills) to ranged (rifles, rocket launchers, and sniper rifles).

There are ranks to the drops that help you gauge whether or not to sell them. Also, like early Destiny, most of the drops are absolute crap, and I ended up selling more often than not.

… upgrade elements really helped the experience …
At times I would find a weapon with better stats than my current one, but I preferred the one I was holding because of its perks. The game also offers an infuse system where you can apply some of the stats and perks from one weapon to another. I found this useful when I found a preferred dual-sword arsenal, but looted a better single sword.

In addition to the loot system, you are also able to spend you hard earned in-game cash on upgrades via Wheeljack, the Autobot scientist from the old cartoon. This is done with a mini timing game. Even failed attempts yielded some upgrades, so you never feel like you’ve wasted money.

An "exotic"??

An “exotic”??


Since Transformers: Devastation isn’t a very long game the added upgrade elements really helped the experience feel deeper, and even gave it some replay value. You have the option to play as five Autobots or eight if you get the DLC skins. Each has its own fighting style and strengths. In addition to purchasing weapons and items, you have access to combat upgrades as well.

While Devastation is not a third person shooter, it would not be a Transformers game without the use of blasters and rifles. The way the developers included shooter elements is by allowing you to aim with the L2 button and fire with the R2, turning the gameplay into a familiar third person shooter for brief moments. Your character will auto-aim, if you choose not to use L2, but it always felt better to me when I was controlling my own aim.

… the city felt a little bland …
Visuals:
This is quite literally the cartoon come to life. In terms of the robots themselves, they’ve achieved the look right down to the metallic sheen seen in the original Transformers movie.

While the bots themselves look fantastic, the environments felt a little lacking. Honestly, with the intended cartoon look, I can’t imagine hyper-realistic environments coming across well anyway, but the city felt a little bland to me.

I know having humans splatter underfoot might have changed the game’s rating, but having a few avoiding the giant robot fist fights would have been nice. Some of the interiors looked great though. As a fan of the old cartoon, I could definitely see some of the influences.

Welcome back to the 1980s.

Welcome back to the 1980s.


Audio:
The old transforming sound is back! That’s the first thing I noticed. A lot of newer media has ditched the old sound in favor of a more mechanical transformation sound.

I understand the reasoning behind making that iconic sound effect more realistic, but I’m suspending my disbelief regarding giant transforming robots, so I can certainly take it a step further and believe that they are supposed to sound this way.

Other sound effects mix well with the on screen action, but with so much authenticity placed on the visual end, I was surprised to not hear the familiar blaster and laser sounds from the show, especially considering that Fall of Cybertron had the retro gun that echoed the old sound effects from the show.

… the game is actually good …
I can’t address audio without mentioning the amazing voice work. The developers made sure that every voice actor from the old show was used for their appropriate character. Everyone sounds exactly like their cartoon counterpart, with the exception of Starscream – for obvious reasons, as the original voice actor is no longer with us. This made for moments where I felt like I was actually watching the old cartoon with a fresh new HD skin.

My only complaint is the music. It’s rock music and it compliments the on-screen action, but it just feels generic. There are hints of the old tunes from the cartoon which makes me wonder why they couldn’t take the same steps they did with the voice work and give us authentic music.

TRANSFORMERS: Devastation_20151007163220

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online components.

Conclusion:
It took thirty years, but someone finally made an authentic Transformers game based on the cartoon. It was most definitely a risk since the audience who would appreciate the attention to such authenticity is smaller and the kids who love Transformers now would consider the look and characters foreign.

Fortunately the game is actually good. It may not be for non-fans, though the action should still be appealing to fans of Bayonetta and Devil May Cry, but for fans of Transformers, this a great entry into the very limited pool of “good” games for the franchise.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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