For the past few years, if I knew I wanted to play a good, fast paced, borderline psychotic action game, I needed to look no further than any of the titles from Platinum Games. Much like how Polyphony Digital has made a name for themselves with the racing genre, Platinum Games has established themselves as the masters of the third person action game…specifically brawlers. I’ve had a blast with everything from the Bayonetta games to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Platinum Games gets it; sometimes you just need to shut down and mindlessly mash buttons for an hour while neon particle effects saturate the screen and loud music blares in your ears. Sometimes, a heavy emotional story is just more than you want to deal with at the moment, and that’s fine. Platinum has you covered.
Their latest entry takes my favorite childhood show, Transformers, and injects them with a healthy dose of Mountain Dew. Think of the gameplay from any Platinum Games game (let’s use Bayonetta as an example), and replace the playable character with Optimus Prime, and you have Transformers: Devastation. Add to that the fact that you can freely switch to vehicle mode with the press of a button, and you have yourself a pretty awesome action game that should cater to Transformers fans quite nicely, especially those who harbor fond memories of the G1 80s animated series. Blocky and cel-shaded design? Check. Original voice actors? Check. Shia LeBouf? Nope.
There are no bells and whistles to this game. You play as one of five Autobots (Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, Grimlock) and progress through a series of unfortunately boring and bland levels. Every few segments has you going up against a boss or two. Sometimes you fight in the city streets, sometimes you fight underground, and sometimes you fight inside a structure like the Proudspark. There is nothing in this game as far as environment design that would suggest the developers were even a tiny bit concerned about being unique.
And do you know what? I don’t even care. Yeah, Bayonetta had some really off the wall designs, and MGR: Revengeance as well, but if I’m jumping into a Transformers game, I couldn’t care less about the 2483562834785 generic buildings and city streets that I’m running through. Because I’m an AUTOBOT, dammit, and I’m beating up other giant robots (in disguise) and stuff is blowing up around me.
So that’s pretty much what you need to know about the game’s design. Environments = meh. Transformer designs = thumbs up. Now let’s get to the important stuff: the gameplay. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A for jump, X for light attack, Y for strong attack, and the triggers for ranged weapons. Right? It’s classic third person action, and it translates extremely well to the world of Transformers. There isn’t anything complex to learn because we’ve all played this control scheme a kajillion times over. This means as soon as you fire up the game, you already know what you’re doing. I’ve been playing Bayonetta 2 a lot recently, and I basically found myself inadvertently entering the same combos. And guess what? It all worked! Sure, Grimlock might not be as sexy as Bayonetta when he’s in the midst of combat, but the last time I checked, Bayonetta couldn’t turn into a dinosaur and run about with her tiny little arms flapping about.
Pretty much the only new gameplay element that you need to learn to incorporate is holding RB to toggle in and out of vehicle mode (or in Grimlock’s case, a dinobot). Switching over to a vehicle has its obvious benefits, such as traversing through the levels quicker and blowing through certain obstacles, but you can also use the vehicles mid-combo for an extra strong attack. It’s an awesome sight to see Bumblebee wail on a Decepticon, switch to a car, and back to a robot all within the same combo chain. When you combine melee attacks, ranged attacks, and vehicle attacks, you get a combat system that combo friendly, and simplistic yet complex at the same time.
However, that’s not to say there’s a ton of variety, because at the end of the day, you’re playing through 8-10 hours of essentially the same stuff. You only get a handful of generic Decepticon foot soldiers to blow through, and while there are a few platforming sections, they really aren’t interesting enough to break up the monotony. I mentioned earlier that the environment design is pretty bland. On its own, that’s not a big deal, but when you combine it with repetitive enemies and objectives throughout the course of the game, it starts to grow a bit stale. The combat is a blast, and truth be told, I played through the entirety of the game in what felt like just a few hours, but I’d be lying if I didn’t think to myself “That’s it?” when the game ended. A large portion of the game felt like I was running in circle through the same five areas, which means that A) I actually WAS going through the same sections over and over, or B) everything looks the same and there’s nothing to differentiate between the different levels. Neither of those is something you want in a game, even one that’s a “mindless button masher.”
It’s not ALL bad, though. For starters, the game comes in at $49.99, so at least you’re not paying a full $59.99 price for a game that’s admittedly fun, but repetitive. Is it worth the $49.99? I guess that really depends on how big of a G1 Transformers fan you are. If you’re a huge fanboy and you like third person action games, then I don’t see why you wouldn’t have a decent time with Devastation. Sure you’ll realize the repetition after a while, but fan favorite characters and fast/furious combat make things go by fairly quickly. If you’re not someone who still rocks Transformer underoos, however, you might find it hard to justify a game where you don’t have a lot to do other than beating up the same few enemies with five playable characters over and over. Personally, I like the Transformers franchise enough to have a good time with it.