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Transformers: Devastation

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: PlatinumGames
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:

Transformers: Devastation is the Transformers game I think Iíve always wanted, but never really got. As far back as the NES, developers have been attempting to translate the cars-to-vehicles concept into a good game. In more recent memory, High Moon Studios did an excellent job, though even their take wasnít able to capture the spark of Generation One nostalgia I craved.

Where High Moonís games faltered, Transformers: Devastation absolutely shines. It doesnít feature the same level of story detail and variety of mission objectives as recent Transformers games, but it absolutely nails it in terms of nostalgia and the fun of playing with the toys.

Devastation is a near-perfect trip down memory lane. Rather than a roster of "re-imagined" versions of your favorite bots, Devastation offers familiar characters in their original 1980ís Generation One form. Other than Megatron converting into a tank rather than a gun (which makes sense given the context), everyone looks exactly the way you remember, but with a style more akin to Transformers: The Movie or the IDW comics rather than the cartoon series. The flat, slow blockiness is replaced with dynamically-shaded, acrobatic characters. Itís the equivalent of getting chocolate, only to find out itís the good chocolate.

I say "near-perfect" only in the sense that audio is "off." For the most part, everything is great; most of the original voice actors reprise their roles and some of the sound effects are just as you remember. It sounds great, but in an odd way what is there serves as a reminder of what is not. The showís music, including the theme song, are replaced with similar-sounding proxies and the familiar weapon sounds are replaced with generic weapon fire. Audio is by no means a deal breaker, but considering how much went into the visuals, I am curious about the audio oversights.


Gameplay:

Transformers: Devastation follows a plotline as paper thin as a typical episode of the show. Megatron uncovers ancient Cybertronian buried deep within the Earth and plans on using it to terraform Earth into a second Cybertron. Swearing to protect Earth no matter the cost, Optimus Prime leads the Autobots on a mission to stop Megatron and, hopefully, retrieve the long-lost Cybertronian technology.

Gameplay is presented in a hybrid linear/ open world format. Youíre presented with a large city to explore, though mobility is limited to city streets and a few rooftops. You canít go wherever you want, but at the same time, thereís ample room to explore and lots to do outside the main storyline. Missions are mostly combat-focused affairs. Some bit of story plays out and you either need to fight a group of Decepticons, defend an objective, or fight a boss character. Of the three, squaring off with "named" Decepticons like Starscream and Megatron are the most fun. Unless youíre playing on Easy, button-mashing will only get you so far. Instead, you need to assess your characterís move set and figure out what works bests. This becomes especially important when youíre pitted against the massive combiners Devestator and Menasor.

Outside of story missions, Devastation offers a couple of side tasks to complete. These include solving action and speed-based puzzles to uncover chests, which hold character loots and power-ups, to completing side missions in each chapter. Thereís a lot to do, though not everything is entertaining. Puzzles are either too obtuse (such as when you have to figure out the exact weapon to use) or require too much precision to be much fun, and side missions are always timed and far too repetitive. In fact, if Devastation has one major fault, it is repetition. Battles are fun, but bashing other bots is only fun for so long. If anything, Devastation is better played in short bursts rather than long sessions.

Once unlocked in the Story Mode, all side-missions are available as Challenge Missions.


Difficulty:

Transformers: Devastation offers three difficulty levels providing wildly different gameplay variations. Easy is an absolute breeze. With some exceptions, you can get through most battles by button-mashing and occasionally stumbling into a timed combo. On higher difficultly levels, youíre required to use every trick in your arsenal. Enemy attacks come fast and do lots of damage. If youíre not quick, youíre restarting the fight within a minute or two.

Players who really want a challenge can go for higher battle ranks. Similar to other action games, every encounter is graded based on the variety of moves used, damage taken, power-ups used, and other factors. Highly-skilled players will want to go for the elusive "S"-tier rankings, though getting there is a rough road.


Game Mechanics:

The large cast isnít limited to just Decepticons. You start with just Optimus and Bumblebee, though you eventually unlock a small cast of playable characters including Sideswipe, Wheeljack, and Grimlock. Fans are sure to grumble about missing favorites (for me -- Prowl), but everyone is sure to find someone to play as. Other than look, the only noticeable differences between characters is their special power move. Each bot has their own ability ratings for traits like durability and attack power which only matter until you unlock the ability to upgrade characters and weapons.

Mechanically, Transformers: Devastation plays like other Platinum produced action games, such as Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Combo-based combat is the main focus. On the most basic level, you can string together basic attacks to form combos. These do decent enough damage and will be your go-to attacks throughout most of the game. As encounters increase in intensity, youíll need to unlock additional moves Ė both defensive and offensive Ė to create better combos. These include aerial strikes, reverses, parries, and a time-slowing Focus move.

Most of the additional moves involve one stick flick or button press, yet require precise timing to execute in-game. This is where the true gameplay challenge comes from and will go a long way towards deciding if you want to stick with the game or, at the very least, drop the difficulty. Getting the timings just right takes practice and once you get it right, youíll pop them off as easily as the basic combos. My only problem is the overuse of the (RB) button. Holding the button converts your character to Vehicle Mode, while tapping it quickly at the end of a combo does a quick conversion for a vehicle-based combo finisher attack. Unless, of course, the enemy is attacking at the same time as your combo finished, at which point you enter Focus Mode and exit your combo. Itís all based on how long you press the button and when, which will lead to unintended moves and frustration.

The loot system is an unexpected bonus. You can equip four weapons; a main melee weapon and three additional ranged or melee weapons. Each weapon has its own traits and can be leveled up in the Ark by sacrificing other weapons to it. Thereís a decent number of weapons available, such as axes, swords, and missiles of all types, each with a grade on them. In most cases, youíll use the commonly dropped weapons until you defeat bosses, at which point you take their weapon. By the end of the game, I had Wheeljack brandishing the Star Saber while using Megatronís Cannon, Starscreamís Null Beam, and Shockwave in gun form as side weapons. Itís a fun addition, though the ammo limit on ranged weapons, and aiming difficulties, keeps them from being incorporated into combos in any meaningful way.

For Transformers fans, Transformers: Devastation is a must play unless youíre not a fan of fast-paced action games. It isnít a particularly deep game, but the nostalgia factor does make up for a lot of the other shortcomings. For non-fans, Transformers: Devastation is a tougher sell. Unless youíre in the market for another combo-based action game, the repetitive gameplay isnít appealing for long stretches of time.

**Note: A digital copy of Transformers: Devastation was used for review. Retail box copies are also available.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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