For the past few years, Activision’s Transformers games have been pretty good, with High Moon Studios not producing one but two excellent games in its Cybertron series. However, most of these games, including last year’s Rise of the Dark Spark, have been utilizing Michael Bay’s over-the-top cinematic Transformers style, instead of the characters and settings we grew up with in the 80’s.
That will change later this year, however, as Platinum Games, the team behind Bayonetta 2 and the forthcoming Star Fox Zero, will head back to the original generation of Transformers with Devastation, an action-adventure that should please both old-school fans and action lovers alike.
Like previous games in the Transformers canon, Devastation features a mix of melee combat and third-person shooting action, as Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and a handful of other Autobots get into gritty combat with the dreaded Decepticons, who no doubt have another heinous plan to overtake the Earth. However, Platinum Games has retooled the combat system, so that it feels far more visceral than the other Transformers titles. Activision recently provided us with a hands-on with the title to get an idea what to expect.
First off, the melee combat is along the same lines as other Platinum titles, including Metal Gear Rising Revengeance and Bayonetta. Players can chain together powerful combos to rip apart enemies on the ground both big and small. For instance, Optimus Prime can strike a foe multiple times with his fists, creating more powerful combos with each successful hit. To add a final touch, he’ll transform into truck form and perform a “ramming speed” technique, where he bops the enemy for a powerful finish. All characters will have these sorts of combos, according to the developers, so it won’t just be Optimus having all the fun.
There are defensive techniques to master as well, and we had a chance to put these into play against the Devastator, a Constructicon-formed behemoth that came lunging at Prime with a number of attacks. As with previous Platinum releases, you’re able to dodge incoming strikes with quick dashes, giving you an ample opportunity to strike back with a counter of your own as time slows down. In this format, you unleash even more powerful combos, although time will eventually go back to normal, and the enemy goes back on the warpath.
Some of Devastator’s attacks are a little harder to avoid, given his range and all, but it’s a battle system that really works well – and encourages the player to experiment a little bit to find something new.
There’s shooting action as well, as Optimus and his fellow Autobots find themselves fending off Decepticons attacking from afar, as well as up close. Fortunately, the shooting controls are easy to switch to, using the trigger buttons for both targeting and attacking. Switching back and forth between shooting and fighting seems fairly easy, and you may find yourself having to do it often with incoming waves of Decepticon foes.
Being a Transformer game, you also have the ability to transform between vehicle and robot at any given time in Devastation, although you’re obviously a bit more limited in vehicle form when it comes to attacking. That said, these transformations come in handy with getting around a stage, or if you simply feel like running over a few Decepticons instead of fighting them. Hey, Optimus Prime has that built-in grill for a reason.
Perhaps the most appealing factor to Transformers Devastation is that it forgoes Michael Bay’s super-serious design in favor of the old-school. Platinum Games has reverted back to the first generation of Transformers design, eschewing from the classic 80’s series. That means cel-shaded robot fighting, and classic character emulation that will truly bring back memories of old. It’s an art style that works extremely well for the game, and moves much more fluidly than other Transformers titles (particularly last year’s Rise of the Dark Spark).
On top of that, the game features a cavalcade of Transformers voice actors to bring the game to life, led by Optimus Prime himself, Peter Cullen. They add richness to the storyline, valiantly proclaiming Autobot greatness as they head off to turn Decepticons into scrap metal. Again, fans are sure to love that.
Although our demo was short – we didn’t get to play as any other characters in the game besides Prime, nor catch a glimpse of those awesome Dinobots – but Transformers Devastation looks like a promising rebirth of the franchise, under the guise of Platinum Games. It should be interesting to see how the final game fares when it arrives later this year for PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.