I was born in 1992.
This makes me a “millennial”. I grew up watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Keenan and Kel. I can’t remember a time before S Club 7 and the Spice Girls. Although I’m no stranger to the sound of a modem, the internet is something I’ve always had constant access to.
I know what you’re thinking. “Liam, your mere existence is awesome. You belong to the coolest generation! You were born late enough to naturally understand technology, but early enough to still reminisce about “retro” products like VHS tapes and Nokia 3310’s. You look great in that chequered shirt. You are rocking that beard. Are you humming the theme song to Pokémon? Is that the cold, dead eyed stare of a human being so ingrained in this post-modern, social society in which the lines between reality and parody are so blurred that you feel perpetually fractured and lost? What a guy!”
Yes that’s right, being young is great. But, if there’s one thing I feel like my generation has missed out on, it’s a cartoon about giant robots that can turn into cars.
You see, my first exposure to the Transformers franchise was with Michael Bay’s 2007 reboot, a film in which main character Shia Labeouff convinces his parents that he was wanking, instead of admitting he was talking to giant alien robots. Suffice to say, It didn’t really resonate with me.
With all this in mind, the recently released Transformers Devastation is probably not targeted at me. The game is based heavily off the “gen 1” Transformers TV series, and sees many of the original voice cast returning in order to make the experience as authentic as it could possibly be. It is (as many grown men in their mid 30’s have gleefully informed me) a game that evokes a strong sense of nostalgia, but did I, someone who is completely new to the series, enjoy it?
Simple answer? Yes. Very much so.
Transformers Devastation is a beautifully presented hack ‘n slash adventure brought to you by (arguably) the masters of spectacle fighters themselves, Bayonetta developer Platinum Games.
In the game you play as one of five classic Autobots (Optimus Prime, BumbleBee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack and Grimlock), driving, shooting and smashing your way through the game’s seven short but sweet chapters.
90% of the game involves fighting and, luckily, the game play is sublime. Running at a smooth 60 frames on both PC and current gen, Devastation truly puts the term “spectacle” into “spectacle fighter”. Combat revolves around performing a number of combos with your melee weapons, pulling off a few special moves, and taking care of enemies from a distance using ranged attacks. Dodging enemies also allows you to slow down time, which offers a brief respite from the chaotic skirmish occurring around you. If all of this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Devastation controls and feels an awful lot like Bayonetta, but seeing as Bayonetta is arguably flawless, this is very much a good thing.
Every time an enemy is defeated you’re rewarded with both experience points and weapons, the latter of which can be upgraded, combined, salvaged and sold in between missions. You can also craft ability boosters, and there’s an ingame shop where you can buy new moves and additional weapons. Again, nothing new here, but it’s all presented wonderfully and adds an awful lot of depth to the overall experience.
Each level basically boils down to moving between point A and point B, attacking standard enemies on the way, and usually fighting a named Transformer at the end such as Soundwave or the Constructicons. It’s a simple concept (one which admittedly gets repetitive towards the game’s second half) but was engaging and fun enough to keep me playing.
The general aesthetic and overall presentation mimics the style of the 80’s TV show, but modernises it in the process, making Devastation one of the most colourful games I’ve played this generation so far. Although it may initially appear basic, its flat textures and colourful sky boxes lends itself well to the simplistic style of the original show.
It feels great to play too; each punch and kick carries weight with it, and everything moves at such a blindingly fast pace that even the simple act of observing the game is a joy.
Devastation is sadly not without its flaws though.
It’s quite repetitive. There’s no denying that. Although the gameplay is hugely enjoyable, that’s all there really is too it, and there’s only so many arenas of enemies you can fight before it starts to lose its charm. Still, the game does shake things up along the way, throwing in a few classic turret and platforming sections for good measure, so It’s certainly a while before things start to feel irritatingly stale.
Transformers Devastation is also one of the shortest games I’ve played in a long time.
It took me four hours to finish the game’s main story mode, which is (let’s face it) notably short by modern standards.
And yet… I can’t really decide whether I liked this or not. On the one hand, it’s a shame that there’s only around four hours of campaign content available (especially when even in that short amount of time the game re-uses both locations and bosses inexcusably often) but on the other hand, there’s enough end-game content such as challenge modes, to justify a few more playthroughs.
Also (and I really don’t know whether this point has any weight behind it but… well, here it goes) this is a game that is targeting itself primarily towards those who loved the original Transformers TV show growing up. Surely, then, this means that the majority of those who will play this are in their mid 30’s. They probably have families and a job, and don’t have any awful lot of time to play games anymore. If this is the case then… shit, maybe this is the perfect game for them, a short but sweet love letter to one of their favourite memories of childhood. I can’t imagine this was a conscious decision made by the developers, but it may be a fortunate side effect.
Also, confession time, it was so refreshing to play this in one single sitting. I can’t remember the last time I had the luxury of playing a game in one exciting run, un-distracted by convoluted storylines and huge worlds to explore. Those games certainly have their place (don’t get me wrong) but what a joy to experience something so briefly wonderful.
I really like Transformers Devastation. It’s short, sweet, and great fun to play. If you’re a fan of the original series, and the kids are away this weekend, then make sure you pick this one up.
You won’t regret it.