Written by Tom Hynes
Earlier this year I saw a first glimpse of Transformers Devastation and I felt an ambivalent hit of excitement and fear. Excitement that this looked like a great Transformers game based on the 80’s cartoon but fear that a Generation 1 Transformers game may not be created with the care and attention it rightly deserves as there have been poor attempts in the past.
As soon as I started the story mode and saw the opening cutscene I couldn’t help but smile, the cartoony cel-shaded graphics was a perfect choice for making the game look like a much higher resolution 3D version of the 80’s cartoon., This was shortly followed by hearing the voice acting of Frank Welker as Megatron and Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime as well as the start of what could be an episode of Transformers: Megatron has hatched an evil plot, Starscream objects, Megatron brushes him aside followed by Optimus Prime and the Autobots showing up to put a stop to it.
Following this I was thrust into combat against some generic Decepticon soldiers. The game quickly teaches you the basics of the combat system which is pretty simple and easy to get to grips with, pull off a combo and you’ll earn a button prompt for a ‘vehicle attack.’ This is where your character will quickly transform to vehicle mode and use it in order to power up a special high damage attack. Combat is extremely fast paced but not so much that it’s hard to keep up. There’s a dodging system to come to terms with too, dodge your opponent’s’ strikes at the right time and you’ll be rewarded with a couple of seconds where time is slowed allowing you to mount a counter attack and get a head start on starting a new combo. It’s a simple but very effective system that makes you really feel in control of a powerful robot capable of taking on hordes of enemies.
After the introductory few chapters of the game you’re given the choice of swapping characters. You have the choice of 5 well known Autobots including Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack and Grimlock who all have their own unique special attacks and different strengths and weaknesses. Optimus and Grimlock can be equipped with harder, larger but slower hitting melee weapons whereas the other smaller characters don’t get this option but have a greater variety of ranged weapons available to them.
This game also has a massive amount of boss battles against a plethora of pretty well known Decepticons. Within the first hour of the game you’ll encounter Devastator as well as a short but intense scuffle with Megatron. Each one of these always feels like a monumental encounter and are always pretty challenging.
Another exciting and welcome addition to the game in the inclusion of The Ark. Between missions and at certain checkpoints you’ll be able to head back to The Ark to upgrade your characters and equipment, create new equipment and buy and sell equipment, The game’s loot system is similar to Diablo and Borderlands in that you’ll find a lot of weapons with different stats, rank and abilities throughout the game and will need to sort through and collect a lot in order to find the best of it. Brilliantly though, instead of simply selling it you can ‘synthesise’ it with other weapons in order to increase their stats. Say you’ve got a missile launcher you like and want to level it up to do more damage or give it a new ability you can combine or ‘synthesise’ a lesser weapon to it to improve it. You also get the option to create T.E.C.H. items, these are extra bits of equipment that can be equipped to give your characters bonuses such as improved damage or defense, increased health and much more. These are created through a short minigame where you’ll see Wheeljack work on a circuit board and a gauge with a pin moving across it above it, you have to stop the pin in the right place in order to make something worthwhile. As a minigame it can be pretty tedious but is worth persevering with in order to get some good upgrade pieces as they can provide some great benefits.
This game is however not without it’s flaws, the main campaign felt pretty short and I felt could’ve had a lot more to it. On the upside there’s a challenge mode boasting 50 levels each with adjustable difficulty to be ploughed through when you’re bored of the main campaign. The areas and levels never feel like they have a huge amount of variety to them and end up feeling quite samey quite quickly but thankfully on top of combat there are chase sections which largely require you to use vehicle mode and allow you to see some of these areas in a slightly different light. Ranged combat in this game isn’t anywhere near as impressive as melee and in the instances where it’s required it fails to shine apart from in a couple of turret shooting sections which are great but these only happen at one point in the game.
Despite these flaws it can’t dampen the fact that this game is a massive amount of fun, it’s not hugely challenging but there’s a huge amount of satisfaction in pulling off combo after combo and massive powerful attacks. It makes it fun to be a Transformer and makes it feel genuinely powerful as it should. Comparatively to High Moon’s War For Cybertron and Fall Of Cybertron it falls down on environment and gameplay variety but what it lacks there it makes up for in fun, the huge variety of weapons and loot you can acquire and the feeling of power which was lacking in both of these past efforts. The more exciting prospect is that judging by recent announcements by Hasbro and a select few bits in the ending cutscene that this is the first of a few more Transformers games to come. If that is indeed the case then this is an utterly excellent foundation for future games to be based on and I hope they can expand and refine the brilliant execution of them here. For the time being I’d go as far as stating that this is the best G1 Transformers game that’s been highly respectful and faithful to the source material. If you were a fan of the 80’s cartoon then you will fall in love with this game as I have.
Reviewed on Xbox 360