Is Transformers: Devastation One Of The Top 50 Games Of 2015?
Each year around Thanksgiving, we start compiling our list of contenders for our Top 50 games. Inevitably, there are some that are “on the bubble,” that need more voices for our discussion. The Fight for the Top 50 is our chance to give games on the cusp a fair shake at a coveted spot on the roster. This year, I’ve taken Activision and Platinum Games’ Transformers: Devastation under my wing. Features editor Tim Turi recently gave it a shot, and we’re here to hash out if it’s got the touch to make the Top 50.
Mike: So Tim, what are your first impressions of the game?
Tim: I remember first seeing this game in trailers and being immediately impressed by how crisp the cel-shaded visuals looked. I didn’t grow up watching G1 Transformers, but I watched the entire original series and the big ‘80s movie several years back. I fell in love with the wacky characters, the camp, the cheesy music, and ridiculous situations the show puts these transforming robots in (“A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur’s Court” is a personal favorite). Anyway, all that is to say that at first blush this game is a triumph in the transposition of something from one medium to another.
Mike: Admittedly, if it weren’t for the Transformers license, I’m not sure that I would have taken it all the way through. I’m a die-hard fan of the property, own far too many toys (though my collection doesn’t begin to rival Matt Miller’s), and have played nearly every game in which Optimus and friends have starred. It’s important for me to say that I find myself in a weird position championing this game, because I don’t typically enjoy Platinum’s work. However, this one sings to me, not just because of the license, but because of how the action comes together after you get through the overlong opening missions.
Tim: The license definitely helps, and Platinum’s adoration for the original cartoon shines through brightly. The original voice actors reprising Optimus Prime and Megatron don’t hurt either, along with the new soundtrack from Vince DiCola. Unlike you, I have been a huge fan of many of Platinum’s games, especially the Bayonetta series. A lot of that DNA is alive and well in Transformers: Devastation. I still love when the game rewards you with slow-motion combat after a near-miss dodge or transforming into a semi for a vehicular ram attack mid-combo. I feel like the actual combat delivers a healthy amount of challenge and demands players fully understand the systems.
Mike: Agreed. The challenge is there, which makes performing well in combat rewarding and fulfilling. Where I stumbled was the poor explanation of the ancillary systems. Platinum has a bad habit of throwing things at players without fully explaining them. You’ll start earning new gear and upgrades before there is any explanation. It was frustrating to wonder how to change weapons and use what I’d unlocked. This points to the overlong opening before you can access the Ark hub and use those systems. I loved the action and the careful touches Platinum imported from the source material, but its implementation at the periphery needed some improvement.
Tim: I’m with you there. Early on you’ll be collecting new blasters and energy swords, but have no idea how/when you’ll be able to use them. I also think the synthesis system – where you can make weapons stronger by infusing them with others – is a little overwhelming out of the gate. Especially when you consider that the game lets you juggle and upgrade the four-weapon equipment loadouts for four different characters early on. Despite that, I enjoy sacrificing lesser weapons to boost up my main gear, whether that’s my slow, powerful lightning hammer or fast ice blades with a slowing effect.
Mike: It’s because I was able to come to grips with those systems – for the same reasons you mentioned – that I ultimately had a much better experience later in the game than I did at first. Had I given up, my impression would have been that it was a cluttered and frustrating experience. As more options opened I played around with the infusion system, I came to the conclusions you did. This is a situation where the systems don’t truly reveal themselves until you embrace the depth of customization. And what I initially hated about the game and its failures to instruct, became an enjoyable piece of the whole.
I’m on board with it for making our Top 50 list, as I think it’s one of the best licensed Transformers experiences we’ve seen (even taking into account High Moon Studios’ fantastic work). For those who aren’t as familiar with the source material but enjoy Platinum’s work, it has the same hooks as its titles based on original material.
What’s your take on things after having played it?
Tim: Initially I was a little worried that too much of the game would take place in the city as Decepticons fought for control, but was pleased to see things eventually shift to a Cybertronian ship buried in the Earth’s core. I loved fighting the Insecticons in the bowels of the Proudstar, and even liked the little bug-swatting shooting-gallery section Platinum slipped in. Some of the platforming/driving sequences that stitch together the satisfying combat encounters are a little clunky, but they were never offensive enough to detract from my overall appreciation of the game. How did you like speeding down the streets and leaping across buildings when you weren’t fighting?
Mike: I thought the open world was too barren. I disliked the platforming immensely. But fighting the Constructicons two at a time, watching Menasor split into his component Stunticons to rapidly change position, and fighting Soundwave and the cassettes more than balanced out those missteps. I don’t love everything about Transformers: Devastation, but I came away feeling pretty good about it.
Does it have your vote for the Top 50?
Tim’s Verdict: Transformers: Devastation shouldn’t be missed by fans of the original cartoon or those who love Platinum’s stellar action games. This goofy cartoon romp is a triumph in licensed video games and has my a vote for our Top 50 Games of 2015.