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2015’s Best Games: Transformers Devastation

To round off the year, we’re taking a look back at our favourite games of 2015 – it’s been a hell of a year! First up, Platinum’s surprising take on a beloved franchise…

For players of a certain age, Devastation is an absolute dream come true. It looks like the original G1 cartoon and sounds like it as well (by virtue of the fact that most voice actors reprise their roles, although it’s lacking the original theme and music), with gameplay handled by the same team that gave us Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. And while the mid-price release gives some indication of what to expect in terms of the amount of content, it also massively undersells the level of quality and authenticity displayed by this superb action game.

Falling somewhere between the flow of Bayonetta and the weight and purpose of Revengeance with a splash of Vanquish thrown in for good measure, moment-to-moment combat is slick, satisfying and sensational. The transformation mechanic feels – arguably for the first time ever in a Transformers game – like it actually serves a purpose… several, in fact. Combos can be ended with powerful vehicular attacks (which themselves can often lead to follow-ups), or you can use the smaller frame and quicker movement of the vehicle form to escape larger, more telegraphed incoming attacks. The latter isn’t quite true for Prime (being a truck, he’s a little on the slow side) nor for Grimlock, but the Dinobot is a law unto himself. Dinosaur form has its own set of attacks meaning that you can create seamless combos that switch between the two modes, though his lack of pace makes him better suited for skilled players. Oh, and wrestling fans – following a successful dodge or parry, Grimlock can perform piledrivers and other grapple attacks on smaller foes for score bonuses, but he’s the only playable character who can do so.

There’s a fair amount of variety between each of the five Autobots despite what is effectively a universal move set – even the same basic command performs slightly different versions of attacks between characters and vehicular versatility (as often seen in character–specific special moves) is pretty awesome, while most weapon types are limited to a portion of the cast. These are received via random drops, a simple yet enjoyable loot system slapping random perks and stats on melee and ranged weapons, which can be fused and improved in order to get the perks you want on the gear you want it on. As you rise through the difficulty levels, you’ll perhaps feel slightly at the mercy of this system at times (especially if you can’t seem to get good weapons to drop) but with plenty of ways to boost drop rates, you shouldn’t have to go too long without seeing A, S or even SS rank gear. Just be ready to change things up should you unlock something in the next tier up – the difference is staggering and it’s worth relearning your basic combos for the extra damage.

Coming in at just five-to-six hours across seven chapters, things like the character progression system and loot system are essential in supporting the basic act of climbing the difficulty ladder to create longevity – as long as you aren’t averse to replaying chapters multiple times, there’s actually a fair bit to see and do here. Warrior difficulty is pitched pretty well (the easier Scout mode is only really there for youngsters and Transformers fans who don’t really do character action games) and Commander is best tackled after at least a partial run on a lower setting to fully learn the mechanics, as it doesn’t pull many punches. But that’s important, as it prepares you for the pair of (absolutely brutal) unlockable difficulties where, in true Platinum style, where every incoming hit hurts like hell and getting sloppy or greedy will almost always get you killed. Still, with the cruel enemy placement of Magnus and Prime modes (end-game opponents appear in the very first level) comes the prospect of better loot. It’s also worth mentioning that level design, while guilty of a few too many A-to-B strolls between fights, does promote exploration and replay with optional missions found out of the way that contribute to your overall level rank.

Bosses represent a clear highlight (there are eight in the first level alone) and each has its own set of patterns and gimmicks to learn – with the original series’ composer on hand to back these up with hard-rocking themes, the best of these are truly memorable showdowns. Learning them is also key to tackling the Challenge mode, which likes to throw them around in new scenarios and sometimes even in pairs. It can get quite messy but there are some neat ideas among all the repurposed stuff here, and it’s another way of extending the life of what is otherwise an undeniably short game.

A small slice of succulent steak (or suitably delicious vegetarian alternative, if you’d rather) it may be, but between rock-solid combat, slick presentation and an unwavering respect for its source material, Devastation is classic Platinum. Absolutely essential for Transformers fans (it’s by far the best G1-centric game so far) but even for those who aren’t so fond of robots in disguise will struggle to deny its quality.

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