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Transformers: Devastation review

Transformers fans finally get the Generation 1 game they’ve been waiting for.

Credit: Activision

Transformers has been part of my life for about as long as I can remember thanks to the originals (Generation 1) coming out when I was 6 years old. I’ve kept up with the franchise over the past 30 years and still have my original toys and comics. While I’m pleased that the franchise is still going strong I must admit I enjoy the originals the most and can’t see the new movies ever topping the 1986 animated movie.

There have been many Transformers games over the years but sadly most of them have been pretty terrible. Thankfully the more recent War for Cybertron games have been the best of the lot. Now finally fans are being treated to a proper Generation 1 game thanks to Platinum Games (Bayonetta).

The game lets the player take the role of one of five Autobots – Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, Grimlock and of course Optimus Prime. You start out as Optimus Prime and gradually unlock the others with Grimlock coming last. After the initial missions you are able to swap characters each time you visit the Ark (Autobot HQ) if you like. On my first playthrough after trying each one out I decided to stick with my favourite, Optimus Prime.

The Decepticon roster is more impressive than the Autobots but that is because you need plenty of robots to scrap against. Those making an appearance include Megatron, Starscream, Soundwave, Shockwave, Thundercracker and Skywarp. There’s also the Insecticons – Bombshell, Kickback and Skrapnel (usually named Shrapnel) – triple-changer Blitzwing and combiners the Constructicons who form Devastator and The Stunticons who form Menasor. As well as the well-known characters the game uses clones of the Insecticons, Seekers and Battlechargers as cannon-fodder.

Credit: Activision

Credit: Activision

The game initially features three difficulty levels – Scout, Warrior and Commander – with two more to unlock – Magnus and Prime. The main game is the Story mode which is set across seven chapters. The story feels like just another episode of the G1 cartoon series and has a typical Megatron is going to destroy Earth and the Autobots must stop him plot.

Each chapter is divided up into a series of missions and as you move around the world you come up against all kinds of resistance. Some fights are against the easier bots, others are against the more well-known bots and then there are also some truly epic boss fights. Going up against Devastator and Menasor at the same time was a highlight for me.

If you’ve played any titles from Platinum Games then you’ll know to expect some really decent combat. Transformers: Devastation initially feels like just a button masher but to do well you really need to master the combat. This is particularly true to tackle the tougher difficulties. The combat is repetitive but really satisfying if you enjoy these kinds of games.

On Xbox the X and Y buttons are used as light and heavy melee attacks. These can be chained into combos and then extended by performing the correct moves. The most common attack to learn is a five hit combo followed by a press of the right shoulder button. This transforms you into your vehicle mode to deal big damage.

The right shoulder button is also used to dodge incoming attacks. It takes some practice to learn the timing but the game features visual and audio cues to help. A successful dodge activates a cool Focus mode where the action slows down briefly allowing you to reposition and counter. Some enemies possess shields which can only be broken by transforming to vehicle mode and performing a rush attack which is a melee attack while driving at full speed.

You can equip four different weapons at a time which need to be a mix of melee and ranged. The combat is melee heavy which really suits the game but you can also hit the Right Trigger to pull out your gun with Left Trigger to fire. Guns can be used in both robot and vehicle forms and they auto-aim at the nearest enemy. Certain enemies can only be attacked from distance but guns also allow you to mix up the combat.

Each Autobot comes with their own special move. For example, Prime calls his trailer and unleashes a devastating spin-attack, Grimlock grapples, Wheeljack has a shield and Sideswipe gets a dash. These are activated with the left shoulder button and recharge over time. Attacks also eventually let you unleash a super-powerful Ultimate attack.

As you fight you collect health, items, credits and weapons. During play you can pause at any time to use items such as a health or weapon energy pack. There are also power-ups that let you increase things such as your defence or attack power for a short time.

Credit: Activision

Credit: Activision

In between missions you can head back to the Ark. Here you can spend credits to upgrade the stats of your Autobots. You can buy or sell weapons and change the loadouts for each character. Surplus weapons can also be synthesized to upgrade a base weapon. Doing so lets you improve the stats of a weapon by levelling it up as well as transfer unique abilities between them.

Credits can be spent on T.E.C.H. research and doing so lets Wheeljack perform some R&D. A quick mini-game decides how powerful the final tech is. Each Autobot can equip a maximum of three tech pieces at once. Once equipped they provide passive boosts such as longer Focus, bigger experience gains or faster cooldowns.

Also hidden away in the Ark is the ability to use your credits to purchase extra moves for each Autobot. These can be expensive but add extra depth to the combat by adding moves such a parry, counter and other special attacks. They are essential in beating the tougher modes.

My first play through on Warrior difficulty took around 6 hours but as the difficulty increases you can expect to take a lot longer. The length might sound a little short but it’s worth noting that this is a game that demands to be replayed. Every single battle gives you rating on your performance so an average performance is only going to score you a C or D. A really good performance might land you a B or A but the top rating that you’ll want to be going for is the S rank. If you want to get yourself an S rank across the whole game on Prime difficulty expect to put a few hundred hours in.

Credit: Activision

Credit: Activision

Alongside the main Story missions are optional sidequests to discover and conquer, some of these are rather challenging. The Story is also full of collectibles which unlock snippets of extra story or artwork. These include Decepticon insignia flags and spy planes to shoot, the letters of TRANSFORMERS to find and special chests to discover. My first playthrough I unlocked about a third of the collectibles and had conquered 80% of the missions.

Once you’re done with Story mode there is also a Challenge mode to tackle. This contains 50 different challenge missions with a variety of scenarios. Some of these are really tough and again to get the better ranks you need to be top of your game. Each challenge needs to be unlocked by meeting specific criteria in one of the modes. My first playthrough of Story mode had let me unlock just over half of the Challenge missions.

There must be some huge Transformers G1 fans at Platinum Games because they have absolutely nailed the way the game looks. Take a look at any screenshot or video and you can see that Devastation looks exactly like the old cartoon series did. The art direction is simply stunning and it’s an incredible achievement.

The models of all the Autobots and Decepticons are near perfect replicas of the Generation 1 characters. The transformations look wonderful and the developers have even managed to include all the famous poses and body language you would expect from each character. For example when idle Optimus stands with his hands on his hips and when back at the Ark he looks thoughtful with his hand on his chin. Certain iconic moments from the original movie also make an appearance but I won’t spoil those here.

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The game doesn’t just look amazing it also sounds brilliant too. Many of the original voice actors have reprised their roles. Peter Cullen is here as Optimus Prime, Frank Welker as Megatron and Soundwave, Dan Gilvezan as Bumblebee, Michael Bell as Sideswipe and Gregg Berger as Grimlock. The composer from the animated movie, Vince DiCola, has even written new music for the game.

In addition to the huge selection of characters and how the game looks and sounds there are so many things that will delight long term fans. Look out for things such as Prime’s Energon Axe, The Ark, Cybertron, a Space Bridge, Autobot/Decepticon insignia transitions and Teletraan 1. My personal favourite is the use of Kremzeeks as collectibles.

So much love has gone into Transformers: Devastation making it essential gaming for fans as it’s the best Transformers game ever made. Fans of action games, especially those by Platinum Games, will also find plenty of things to like here too. I really hope Platinum Games will build on the work here in the future to make another Transformers G1 title, a playable version of the animated movie please?

Transformers: Devastation was reviewed using a retail Xbox One copy supplied by Activision.

Publisher: Activision Developer: Platinum Games Age Rating: 12 Release Date: October 9, 2015 Reviewed On: Xbox One Also available on: PS4, PC, PS3, Xbox 360

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