One of Activision’s reveals during the E3 2015 conference was the release of a new Transformers title. Rather than one of the modern-style titles that’s developed by High Moon or other internal Activision studios, Transformers Devastation aims to capture some of the vintage 80’s charm with the help of action-centric developer Platinum Games.
Transformers: Devastation takes place just after the events of the second season of the cartoon series. A rogue group of Decepticons have been trying to terraform underneath the Earth and transform it into Cybertron, or rather “cyberforming” as hinted by one of the developers. During the game, players will have control of five different Autobots, including Optimus Prime, Bumblebee (with his classic VW beetle transformation), Sideswipe, Wheeljack, and Grimlock. Only the first three Autobots were available and much of my hands-on time was focused on playing Sideswipe. Platinum Games promises five different difficulty modes with increasingly higher challenges as well as that signature Platinum action that rewards style and efficiency over blindly mashing the same attack string. Kenji Saito, director of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, reprises his role as project director for Transformers: Devastation as well.
Platinum Games and Activision have tried their best to capture that vintage charm of the original Saturday morning cartoon. An ’80s guitar soundtrack fills the ears with wailing guitar licks as well as explosive sound effects taken straight from the series’ score. A new parallax layer system helps to give the characters a cel-shaded art style.
The signature trappings of a Platinum Games title also make their appearance in Transformers: Devastation. Finishing a fight will give a player their ranking and immediate feedback on how efficient they were or whichever categories could use a little work (sadly, I was not able to learn if the highest rank was titled Pure Platinum). For those familiar with The Legend of Korra or Bayonetta, performing an expert dodge will slow down time and give the character time to perform a quick combo without fear of counter attack, which can be chained indefinitely with timing sequential dodges.
New to a Transformers title is the addition of procedural generated loot, similar to that found in Diablo or Borderlands. Character upgrades can be raised in various stats through these gear upgrades (plus the skill increases from leveling up). Each character also has a number of guns that can be equipped during the mission preparation phase and range from assault rifles, missile launchers, flamethrowers and more.
Of the five different difficulty levels, I immediately jumped into the third (and currently highest) playing as Sideswipe, a Transformer who can turn into a Lamborghini mid combo and boasted the fastest movement of the three playable Autobots. His dual sword attacks flowed quite nicely between square and triangle attacks with throwing in a dodge on occasion to boost mobility and keep a combo going. Combos frequently swapped between both attack buttons and would end with a transformation move on R1 that could chain into itself and lead right back into another combo. Having these longer combo strings interspliced with perfect dodging and the not-Witch Time meant that there was rarely a second that I wasn’t moving around and blowing stuff up. An immediate response to my style, such as the style meters in Devil May Cry would’ve been a nice touch, but for now, I was satisfied with just having an ever-increasing combo counter.
Where Transformers: Devastation lagged behind were in the boss fights I encountered during the demo. The highlight of the demo was facing off against Devastator, a giant towering Decepticon that was actually made up of smaller robots fit together, not unlike Voltron. On the higher difficulty, a single hit from the enemy could deal nearly half of my life gauge in a single hit, meaning three hits and I was done for. Couple that with the seemingly minuscule amount of damage that Sideswipe could dish out in his combos and that meant this was a battle of attrition and one that I would have to dodge perfectly in order to see it through. It wasn’t possible to see my current gear or levels but that seemed like a good sign that this fight might have been intended to play on a lower difficulty, at least until I could get better gear and increase Sideswipe’s attack power one way or another. For someone that enjoys jumping straight into a game on the higher difficulty and forcing myself to get good, this disconnect where I would have to return with a stronger weapon felt out of place in a Platinum title.
Transformers: Devastation is on the right track to be one of the best licensed titles that Platinum Games has had the pleasure of working on (second to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, of course). Expect to get your hands on Transformers: Devastation as it releases later this Fall as a full retail title for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC.