I remember as a kid loving The Transformers. Not this current stuff, or Beast Wars or anything like that, sure those are good, but I am referring to the original 80’s cartoon series. Optimus Prime, Ratchet, Iron Hide, Bumble Bee and the Dinobots. Watching that series now is a bit tricky since the show didn’t age near as well as the nostalgia has.
I’m surprised that it took this long to get a regular full on generation one Transformers game. Sure, other markets overseas have had one or two and we almost got close with the Highmoon series and the almost-ok ‘Rise of the Dark Spark’ game last year, but we haven’t had a game fully based upon that classic 80’s series.
Transformers Devestation is by no means a bad game, but it relies solely on that nostalgia to make you think it’s better than it really is. Lines from the original animated movie are peppered in as though the script was written like mere fan fiction. “When are we gonna start bustin’ Decepti-chops” a classic line spoken in the animated movie by Iron Hide, an Autobot nowhere to be found in this game, yet the line makes it in, spoken by Sideswipe. I am curious to why only five Autobots made it into the game, yet the Decepticons employ nearly their whole roster here and then some. No Iron Hide, Prowl, Jazz, not even Ratchet or Cliff Jumper. You run around with the following Autobots: Optimus Prime, Bumble Bee, Wheel Jack, Grimlock and Sideswipe. Each have their own styles, but I stuck with the reliable Optimus Prime.
I’m glad they at least got most of the original voice cast here, as Peter Cullen’s Optimus Prime has some fantastic lines. Frank Welker is back as Megatron, though it’s hard to even tell as his voice has not carried that character well enough these many years later. The music is odd considering the animated movie is known for a stellar soundtrack. You get some okay action music and some guitar rifts that feel out of place. “You’ve got the touch” and “Nothing is gonna stand in our way” are nowhere to be heard. Even the credits have a very generic Transformers theme.
Graphically the game looks amazing… though that is mainly only in screenshots. It’s when the game is moving that you see it for what it really is. The Transformers themselves look fantastic, but the environments, of which I have more to say on them shortly, look dull and very plain. Optimus Prime easily looks the best as he has no mouth, a characteristic that looks weirdly animated on those that do.
Getting back to the poorly textured locations, there are basically two styles of them, Earth city and Cybertronian Ship. Its embarrassing how few areas there are in the game. The city area you will visit for half of your adventure, and it’s the same area again and again. I think I fought most of my battles in the same large open courtyard. The city is empty, destroyed, and buildings topple over revealing nothing inside. No furnishings, no office supplies, nothing. I don’t think I even saw an actual human being, other than cars driving around before the attacks.
You’ll be joined very rarely by your fellow Autobots later in the game, though don’t expect them to do much. Missions are basically beat up this group and thirty seconds later the mission complete alert pops up. I once beat a mission in 11.5 seconds and got an S ranking, Not an SS ranking, nope… 11.5 seconds wasn’t good enough yet I took no damage… weird. Some missions may take longer but I don’t think there was one longer than five minutes.
The menu interface in the game isn’t great, and any part of interacting with it is a mess, its serviceable, but barely. There is a craft system to the game, and the menu’s with that are equally confusing. The system is there, and it does allow you to make more powerful weapons, but I think I used it maybe ten or fifteen times to make a better sword, hammer and pair of guns for Optimus. You can make items that boost some stats, but the in game points are better spent to leveling your character instead. It is impossible to level up each character fully in one play-through.
The combat in the game is solid and fun. It really is the saving grace of this game. You’ll mainly be attacking and slaying Decepticons with a sword, hammer, or your fists. I used Menosor’s sword, and a fiery hammer with Prime. You can use guns, but I only found them really useful against flying enemies and they rarely showed up after an hour or so into the game.
You’ll have a few fights in the game against the combiners, both Devastator and Menosor, these are the Decepticons that are combinations of multiple vehicles that merge to make one large Decepticon. These fights are incredibly easy when they should be challenging. It is also a shame that the same tactics work on both of them, and by tactics I mean melee and dodging, The dodging in the game is similar to Bayonetta and her ‘Witch Time” where a well timed dodge slows time and allows you to get a few good hits in. Once I mastered that, I was barely getting hit.
The controls are super responsive which helps the combat and moving around. I felt I could roll out of the way fast enough, and perform an upper-truck punch as I call it, to any enemy I came across. Prime even has a swinging trailer attack that is fantastic, you can even use it in the air. It works pretty much like a roundhouse kick. The only control method that is awkward is the vehicle slam down attack, it just doesn’t work well enough to use in battle and therefore I just didn’t use it.
Pausing the game gives the visuals a washout out look that makes it look like the 80’s series and I wish there was a filter to make the game do that while playing. It really looks like you’re watching the show off a worn out VHS tape.
The story, which acts out almost every generic beat of the original series is enjoyable the further in you get, which is unfortunate given the short length of the title. Megatron wants to cover Earth in metal and make it essentially Cybertron 2 and it’s up to you to stop him.
A variety of mini-games are also available during the games 5-6 hour campaign. One singular top down hack and slash mission, to a side scrolling car chase, and even two sections of getting on a turret and blasting Insecticons. These were fun distractions that I wish there were more of. The platforming aspect of the game got old as there is very little variety in jumping around the same areas consistently.
Overall, Transformers: Devestation, as I have mentioned, relies a lot on people remembering and loving the original cartoon. This is a game based solely on satisfying fan service. If you judge it as a simply a game, then it is mediocre, repetitive and short. But, as much as it is those things, it is also fun, fluid and has some stellar combat. Showdowns like Bumble Bee vs Megatron, to Optimus vs Starscream, you can act out some great geeky scenarios.
The game retails for 64.99 and I just can’t recommend it at full price. This is a game that would have been better suited as a budget title.
We can do better, Autobots… Roll out.