Transformers: DevastationOverview -
Like some sort of new-fangled combiner, Activision, Hasbro and PlatinumGames have come together to create 'Transformers Devastation.' This new game has no specific relation to any previous Transformers titles, and in fact, leans heavily on the gameplay design of games like 'Bayonetta,' 'Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance,' and even 'DmC.' In terms of story and the game's very distinct looks, the recent 'Generations' flavor of Transformers is the cited reference; however, it should be pretty clear that the games cell-shaded look is meant to invoke memories of the original TV cartoon and 1986 movie.
With five playable Autobots and 150 upgradable weapons, 'Transformers Devastation' is one of Activision's more low-key titles, but for longtime 'Transformers' fans, is this just another cash-in?
The art design of 'Transformers Devastation' is the game's most striking aspect. Most of these characters have never looked this good in a video game, and that's despite the relatively cheap model geometry. Again, a Japanese studio using smart texture work to pull off an amazing look shouldn't be such a surprise. The look isn't perfectly applied to all. The monochrome Megatron in particular looks a lot crummier than just about everybody else.
Furthermore, while some of the vehicle designs are dead on (Starscream, Optimus), Bumblebee (for example) has been made intellectually distinct from his vintage look.
For better or for worse, there are primarily only two main environment types used for the entire game, urban and alien spaceship. (There are also sewers and bridges and free fall/float areas, but these feel like subsets.) Environmental detail of any sort is sparse. This in part follows the aesthetic of the cartoon, but it is nevertheless very 'Earth Defense Force' in feel. Fortunately, there is heavy compensation to distract from this bleakness. Not only is there the firework-emitting combat system, but 'Devastation' goes all in with screen filters. I recall seeing gameplay capture and thinking that the v-sync was out of control, but playing the actual game and there is a constant thread of electronic distortion of all sorts (color, spot noise, loss of sync) that is meant to emulate an idea of Autobot vision in combat. It is quite pleasing on the PS4, but doesn't come over well in a Twitch environment.
Again, the scaling and shading used on enemies like the Insecticons can be viewed as thrifty, but it all feels put together well.
Of special notice are the transforming animations, which again take after the show and 86 movie. Those movements in the movie which would see Optimus (and everyone else) transform and attack in a single bound happen in the game, but are quick rather than slo-mo. I truly wish this game had a proper photo mode. I took to taking a screenshot at every character introduction just cause.
The sound of 'Devastation' is almost wild. The sound effects are of a classic and familiar kind, but I think they could have taken it further. For example, with the Decepticon strafing runs from the jets, there are sounds that could have been added to make them that much more perfect from a fan service point of view.
In an interesting turn, Vince DiCola's soundtrack is possibly more fitting for PlatinumGames than for the Transformers property. It's those guitar rifts in combat that partly miss the 'Transformers' mark to me in spite of everything. In contrast, the music used for the Ark really grew on me.
The voice acting is one of the game's stars. Peter Cullen as Optimus is excellent as always, but I think my favorite was hearing Soundwave. (Incidentally, Soundwave never transforms, but he does deploy his minions a few times.) Fans won't be able to ignore how so many of the lines have been cleverly switched around and nested against character. Be prepared, however, as some of the voice acting (certain voices really) is amiss.
I'd have to go back to the PS2 days to find a 'Transformers' game that was as faithful and fun as 'Transformers: Devastation,' and I think 'Devastation' has the edge in both categories. 'Devastation' is a wonderful counter-point to both the checklist openworld games and the endless parade of indies that are flooding the consoles. Not since I first watched the 20th Anniversary Movie DVD has my Transformers nostalgia been so engaged. The game is a must for fans.
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