It’s been a long time since I’ve played a Transformers game. I fondly remember the simply titled Transformers on PS2 back in 2004; It was a grand game with fantastic visuals, tons of collectables, and fun gameplay. After Michael Bay decided to crap all over the Transformers name I quickly lost interest. The one movie tie-in Transformers game I played was one I remember being 100% awful, and unfortunately, we haven’t had many good Transformers games since. In comes fighting game giant Platinum Games to save the day with their newest beat’em up, Transformers: Devastation. Devastation was sort of a last second thing for me — There weren’t many games in the month of October I was interested in covering, but I’m sure as heck glad I took this one because let me tell you, it’s a great game.
Transformers: Devastation follows the comic book\cartoon universe for Transformers rather than the live action movie universe, and that is definitely a good thing. Because of this the art style is fantastic; Colors really pop, and it feels like you’re actually watching an episode of the cartoon or reading one of the comic book issues. The plot is about as simple as you would expect from a story about alien robots that constantly bash each other’s faces in. Megatron and his Decepticon army have hatched a plot to entirely “Cyberform” all of Earth — That is, they’re going to turn the planet into a giant metal rust bucket akin to their original home planet, Cybertron. The Autobots, being the human loving guys they are, will have none of this.
The game starts with Optimus Prime and the gang attempting to defend a city from Decepticon attack. Devastation wastes no time throwing you straight into the mix, giving you a lengthy tutorial level that actually respects the player’s intelligence. That is, the opening level gives you vital information without being obnoxious about it, and the difficulty quickly ramps up once you’ve gotten a hold of the basic controls. Maybe I’m just awful at beat’em up games, but Devastation is challenging. It isn’t infuriatingly so, but if you make one wrong move in the heat of battle, you’re going to get a few good robotic slaps to the face.
On the surface, Devastation looks like a run-of-the-mill action beat’em up, but once you really get into the game it’s surprisingly complex and deep. During levels you can acquire new weapons of varying rarity, you can synthesize weapons to create new ones, and you can even buy upgrades for your Transformers. I was not expecting the game to have so much to it besides punching and kicking, but even the punching and kicking is pretty developed. You have your average light and heavy attacks, yes, but the amount of combos and special moves you can pull of by landing enough consecutive hits or dodging enemy attacks makes for some crazy combat. I was pleasantly surprised to see so much thought put into the gameplay.
You’re not limited to any one character at any one time in Devastation. You will be able to find small points that can lead you to The Ark, where you can look at your newly acquired gear, synthesize equipment, buy upgrades, and switch between your Autobots. In Devastation, you’re able to control 5 different Autobots who all have their own unique abilities: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, and Grimlock. Each can utilize their respective two forms (Their robot or vehicle forms) to overcome obstacles and defeat enemies. No one character is more useful than the last, and everyone is capable of overcoming every obstacle; It ends up coming down to preference. Do you want a heavy hitter? Optimus Prime can equip larger weapons to deal massive damge. Sideswipe and Bumblebee are much faster but do less damage. I found myself enjoying all of the characters and switching constantly, but you could probably beat the game with one single character in theory. Where’s the fun in that, though?
I have to reiterate how much I love the combat in Devastation; It’s the perfect balance of fun and challenge. However, I did find it to be a bit too difficult at times. Sometimes when you’re going up against a powerful boss like Devastator or Megatron (both of which you fight two times in chapter one alone), there will be times that they’ll hit you with powerful attack after powerful attack, giving you absolutely no reaction time or breathing room. I died more than a few of what I’d call a cheap death. These bosses hit hard.
This isn’t so much of a problem if you can successfully dodge an attack and go into focus mode, which slows down time so you can counter, but when you’re getting beaten into the ground, it’s difficult to react with precise timing to pull a dodge off. I think I must have died at least 15 times on the first chapter, but honestly, I’m okay with that. The bosses weren’t unfair by any means, I just feel like the combat can work against you sometimes. I still overcame the challenge and it was certainly satisfying to do so. That’s pretty much how the entirety of combat feels in Transformers: Devastation. It’s not infuriatingly unfair, but it’s not going to hold your hand either.
Another important aspect of combat are the controls — You need smooth and responsive controls for a game this high strung. Luckily, the controls are nearly perfect. I played Devastation on PC, and I was a bit worried because PC ports (especially of fighting games) tend to be a bit lackluster. Much to my surprise, the controls were spot on in the PC version, aside from the weapon switching commands being bound to the arrow keys (Really? The arrow keys??). The good thing about this is that keys can be rebound or you can simply play with a controller, so if you’ve got the PC version and you’re not totally satisfied with how it controls, you’ve got alternatives.
Though Devastation has a great PC port, it is suffering from one problem, and an odd one at that: It doesn’t support any resolution above 1280×720. At first I thought something was wrong with my game, but after some Googling I found that other people had similar issues. How can you develop a game to run at 1080p on Xbox One and PS4 but not on PC? That’s just nonsensical. Resolution is king with PC players, that should be a no brainer. I hope this will be quickly patched because it’d be nice to experience this game with better picture.
Editor’s Note: After doing some more research, it seems as though this resolution problem is something that only happens to certain people. I, myself have the issue and several others do as well, but others are capable of setting the game at 1080p resolutions. I’m not entirely sure what causes this, but it’s clearly not an intentional design choice, so I can’t fault the game for that. I can fault it for not being consistent across the board, though.
In the end, Transformers: Devastation is a surprisingly great game that blew me away with it’s depth and challenge. I would highly recommend it to any Platinum Games, Transformers, or beat’em up fans out there. It can be a little irritating with enemies that will hit you over and over with no room to breathe, but it’s not so hard that you can’t overcome it. I’m disappointed by the lack of support for higher resolutions on the PC version, but it doesn’t stop me from recommending the game any more because even though it is annoying, it’s not an experience killer. If you’re sick of Michael Bay’s take on Transformers, do yourself a favor and pick this one up — It’s how Transformers was meant to be.
A PC code for Transformers: Devastation was provided by Activision for the purpose of this review
- Challenging and in depth combat
- Tons of collectable weapons
- Colorful and vibrant art style
- Smooth and responsive controls (Even on the PC port!)
- PC version doesn't support any resolution above 1280x720 for some players
- Getting attacked over and over again with no room to breathe can be obnoxious