Transformers: Devastation Review — Great Action in Disguise

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There's no Shia LaBeouf. There are no Chevy badges flying all over the place. And there are none of Michael Bay's twisted-metal monstrosities clogging up your screen. Transformers: Devastation brings back the bots you know and love from the '80s and makes them even better. 

Starring Optimus Prime and four of his trusty Autobot comrades, Devastation features classic animation enhanced by new-school graphics and breakneck, combo-heavy action courtesy of Platinum, the studio that brought you Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. It's time to start busting Decepti-chops. 

Story: Megatron Must Be Stopped... No Matter the Cost

Devastation takes placeon Earth, and as usual, the Decepticons and metal-mullet-sporting über baddie Megatron are doing their best to suck the energon out of the planet for some clearly nefarious purpose. The game starts with robo-tentacles erupting from the ground in some nondescript city, but soon after the Autobots make quick work of Megatron's initial setup, they find a spaceship of Cybertronian origin and a threat that's much more than meets the eye. 

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But who are we kidding? The story was never the selling point of Transformers, and even though the 1986 animated movie is severely underrated, that's not why you're here. Just rest assured that many of the favorites from the past make an appearance while you battle through hordes of purple-crested enemies. 

My only complaint is that the game isn't longer. The story mode is only seven chapters long, and with each chapter taking about an hour, it's not a stretch to plop down and plow through the campaign in a single sitting. But unlike other one-and-done games, Devastation leaves you wanting more. 

Cast: Instruments of Destruction

The gang's all here — almost. There's no Hot Rod, Jazz or Ultra Magnus, but you do get some of the most memorable faces from both sides of the great robot divide.

Transformers: Devastation is like a greatest hits of the Cybertronian hall of fame, and with each returning face, the game just gets better and better.

The Autobots are led, as always, by the magnanimous Optimus Prime, who is assisted by the small but courageous Bumblebee, Sideswipe the speed freak, the science-minded Wheeljack, and Grimlock, king of the Dinobots. On the other side, Megatron is the yin to Prime's yang, and is joined by the Constructicons, who combine to form the Devastator, the Insecticons, Soundwave (and Ravage) and many more.

As you progress through the game, cameos and appearances from other bots come fast and frequent. Transformers: Devastation is like a greatest hits of the Cybertronian hall of fame, and with each returning familiar face, the game just gets better.

Gameplay: Nothin's Gonna Stand in Our Way

Punch, punch, uppercut and then transform into a truck and ram an enemy while he's still in midair? No, it doesn't make sense, but it's glorious. This is the kind of action Platinum does best, and the studio has managed to adapt it to the Transformers world in a way that makes you laugh in utter joy.

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The game starts out by having you chain together basic punches or projectile attacks. Then, you are introduced to more advanced tactics, like a dodge roll and a charging attack that takes you from vehicle mode to robot mode while adding in part of a Rising Dragon Fist. Before you know it, you're linking combos and fending off multiple foes like one of Cybertron's finest.

Each member of the Autobot attack squad also gets signature special moves, such as Optimus Prime's 360 truck-mode tail whip, and a unique ultimate attack that deals massive damage across a wide area. Every bot also gets a double jump for traversing across platforms, but the heart of the game is making your way from one battle arena to another.

Combat feels fluid and heavy at the same time — a perfect fit for the two-story-tall metal machines that you're in charge of controlling.

In true Transformers fashion, you can change at will from robot mode to vehicle mode, which allows you to race down streets and tunnels shooting, punching and generally making havoc (except when you're playing as Grimlock, who is, of course, a dinosaur). This feels fluid and heavy at the same time — a perfect fit for the two-story-tall metal machines that you're in charge of controlling. 

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Unlike in a lot of Platinum games, there is a somewhat deep weapon customization system that lets you collect and upgrade new weapons, and even steal a few from defeated foes such as Devastator's drills.

The bots aren't limited to fisticuffs, either. Each bot starts off with a trademark loadout (one melee and one ranged weapon), but if you want to change it up, you can swap out weapons at any time. Upgrading weapons is as simple as recycling the ones you don't want, and each weapon is clearly labeled, so you know which bot can use it.

There's also a rudimentary talent system that involves paying Wheeljack a few credits to research some new tech, and a simple timing game to determine the quality of your new add-on. With them, you can customize robots with increases to damage or health recovery, although if you do poorly on the timing game, you can get some negative attributes too, like decreased defense.

One look at this game feels like a power cleanse of the Michael Bay filth that has been clogging up theaters since 2007.

To help make up for the short story mode, Transformers: Devastation features three levels of difficulty (Scout, Warrior and Commander), which, as you move up, offer more than simply an increased number of enemies with higher health. By beating the story on various difficulties, you can also unlock one of 50 challenge scenarios, so even after blasting through the main campaign, there's still a number of one-off battles to test your metal … ahem, mettle. 

Visuals: They've Got the Touch

One look at this game feels like a power cleanse of the Michael Bay filth that has been clogging up theaters since 2007. The bots are drawn with a flat cel-shaded look that captures the '80s cartoons and is accented by the neon glow from their eyes and energy weapons. OK, so Megatron doesn't transform into a gun, and Bumblebee only looks like a Volkswagen Beetle if you're standing really far away from the screen and squinting, but the essence of the Transformers is here. In a perfect world, this is how the Transformers would look on the big screen — now, we just have to find a way to convince DreamWorks to get on board. 

Sound and Music: Cover Your Receptors, Perceptor

The crunchy metallic sound effect of the Transformers' iconic shapeshifting ability is also back, and with the ability to change forms at any time, you can treat your ears to it as much as you'd like. Some projectile weapons lack a little impact, but that void is totally filled by the metal-on-metal clangs and ka-chunks of melee combat. 

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For voice acting, both Peter Cullen and Frank Welker return as Optimus Prime and Megatron, just as it should be. In Transformers: Devastation, the verbal sparring between these two leaders is on point. Platinum hasn't forgotten about many of the supporting members either, including Dan Gilvezan as Bumblebee and Gregg Berger as Grimlock. The one major change is a new actor for Starscream, but fear not, because Scott Whyte does a pretty good job of portraying the whiny, conniving Decepticon lieutenant.

Let's not forget that Stan Bush is back as well. The musical maestro responsible for much of the 1986 Transformers movie soundtrack has returned to make sure the audio experience hits the mark as well. The title screen features a subtle remix of the original theme song, robotic vocoder voice and all, and during play, there's a fun mix of synthy electronic songs and '80s-inspired heavy metal. Overall, the music doesn't quite reach the heights it did in the past, but it more than adequately takes you back to a simpler time of benevolent bots in a battle to save the world.

Bottom Line

I would have waited an eternity for this game, but thankfully, I didn't have to. Transformers: Devastation not only satisfies the child in me who longs for more energon-fueled action, but also satisfies the modern gamer with the kind of fast-paced combat that Platinum is known for. While the story mode is a little short, the 50 extra challenge missions kept me from feeling shortchanged.

Did I forget to mention that Transformers: Devastation costs just $50? Yeah, that's right — even the price is nostalgic for the old days. It's time to give the Decepticons a humongous repair bill. Autobots, transform and roll out.

Sam is a Senior Writer at Engadget and previously worked at Gizmodo as a Senior Reporter. Before that, he worked at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag as a Staff Writer and Senior Product Review Analyst, overseeing benchmarks and testing for countless product reviews. He was also an archery instructor and a penguin trainer too (really).