Hands-On Preview - Transformers: Devastation
When Transformers Devastation was leaked prior to this year’s E3 press conference, I was skeptical. While Bayonetta 2 was highly regarded as another masterpiece of gameplay, Platinum’s last licensed outing — The Legend of Korra — received mixed reactions at best. So while I appreciated the G1 influenced looks of the Transformers and was happy that Activision wasn’t putting the Transformers license to sleep like it has with Crash Bandicoot, I still didn’t expect much from the game itself. Thank the Prime robot heaven gods that Devastation is not a mediocre action game by any means. Instead, we have another contender for near perfect action gameplay, and this time with a clever usage of Transformer’s most iconic features.
Platinum is a master of satisfying and fast paced combat, and Transformers Devastation is yet another proof of their craftsmanship. The game plays amazingly, with a responsive combat system that allows both novices and experienced action veterans to enjoy. Platinum didn’t ignore the main feature of Transformers, robot to vehicle transformations, and included it as a main feature of combat as well as something the player can engage with on a whim.
Combat in Transformers: Devastation is immensely satisfying. The combo driven fights rely on the player to memorize various layouts of button combinations, which can be experimented with by simply tapping different combinations with slight pauses in between, or by looking up the handy combo list in the pause menu. Anyone who has played a third person action game will feel comfortable, and even those who don’t can stick to the God of War route by simply memorizing three button combinations and relying on dodging when things get hectic. Dodging is key for the more hardcore audience as well, as it is essential for the toughest difficulty. When you dodge just as an enemy is attacking, you’ll activate a slow motion effect that allows you to land more hits as the enemy stands there vulnerable. On higher difficulties, this is the easiest way to unleash the most damage with combos, as enemies will quickly rush to counter you before the critical hit lands. There is a risk/reward system in place here, where dodging attacks as they’re about to land can net you great opportunities, but screw it up and you’ll take damage.
Transformations are incorporated into fights by delegating it to a follow up attack you activate at a precise moment when a blue flash appears. On normal difficulty this will be indicated by a button prompt as well, but on hard you will only have the blue streak to rely on as an indicator that it is time to transform into your vehicle mode for a follow up attack. You are also free to unleash a vehicle based attack for aerial juggles, or to make contact with multiple enemies at once. Transforming into Optimus’ truck with a trailer and then swiping mid-air had a very wide reach and allowed for knocking down several enemies at a time.
The demo culminated in a battle with the titular character Devastator, who is perhaps one of the greatest Decepticons, being a conglomeration of various Constructicons. He is quite massive, and nearly impossible to damage when not striking his head on the hardest difficulty. His wide sweeps and crushes provide ample opportunities to maximize the use of the slow motion dodge effect however. Devastator will frequently cause temporary towers of land to appear, allowing the player to make a dash for the vulnerable head. Due to his enlarged health bar, Devastator is also a glutton for punishment, allowing the player to freely use whichever super attack the current Autobot is capable of. For Bumblebee it would be a barrage of grenades, and for Optimus he uses the trailer and supercharges for massive damage. Each super attack has to be charged up beforehand, and the quickest way to do so is by performing excellently in combat.
Ranged combat thankfully isn’t eliminated but instead limited by how much energy you have for it. Since most memories of Transformers are of the laser blasts present in nearly every battle, I was very glad that not only was it present, but also mixed up depending on which character you played. Bumblebee dual wields laser pistols, and most of the Transformers also have a missile option in their equipment as well when dealing with ranged enemies. The variety in weapons extends to characters as well, with Platinum Games also attempting to mix up the way characters play, such as Bumblebee being able to perform a slide or jump to get behind enemies to deliver a critical blow that other characters can’t.
Lastly, the game is super dedicated to preserving the Generation 1 look of all Transformers, and reuses the voice talent of Peter Cullen for Optimus Prime. The game is very colorful, and features lots of shiny metal on each Transformer, really there is a lot of shine and gleam on these guys. The level in the demo was merely a backdrop to the action, with straight angles nearly everywhere in a generic city under attack. I did enjoy that you could pick up random trucks and vehicles to throw around like toys.
I really hope the entirety of Devastation lives up to that initial demo. I don’t expect any grand tale to be told, but I do hope that the settings and enemies don’t end up overstaying their welcome. If they can keep the enemy variety up, and consistently give us interesting combat situations that also challenge players, then Transformers Devastation might be a return to glory for the license we haven’t seen since 2010’s War for Cybertron.