Transformers: Devastation is not a catastrophe like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5. It's clearly a game that was made on a modest budget during a restricted development cycle, but it's a Platinum game and that's exactly what it feels like – exactly. It's an action-packed, fluid, and adrenaline-rousing exercise in ultra-quick response time and controller-squeezing endurance. It might not feature the refinement or inventiveness of Platinum's best work, but it is quality entertainment for fans of hack-and-slash and the beloved Cybertronian machines. However, you should be wary of the price – but we'll get to that later.
As a third-person brawler, Transformers: Devastation feels just like Bayonetta 2 but repurposed and reskinned to host a war between the Autobots and Decepticons. The combat is all about stringing together melee moves while dodging enemy attacks at just the right time. Waiting until the last second to dodge initiates Focus mode, which is the same thing as Bayonetta's Witch Time. Both mechanically and format-wise, Devastation mocks the adventures and core abilities of Platinum's witchiest woman – but there are a couple unique layers securely fastened onto this familiar machine to give it a bit of a fresh spark.
Instead of transforming into an animal to move through the environment at a swift pace, the Autobots – unsurprisingly – morph into vehicles. (Well, except for Grimlock, who turns into a Dinobot.) This ability has a few functions, but most importantly it lends to a powerful attack that obliterates otherwise impenetrable shields. It's also responsible for a few chase sequences, which are all about ramp hopping and weaving throughout a gauntlet of hazards. The handling can be somewhat unruly at times, and the method of transforming, which utilizes the same button as dodge, isn't always reliable. But it's far from amounting to a massive problem.
Other than vehicle abilities, the Autobots attack and dodge in a highly responsive manner. There were no moments during traditional combat where we felt like we were the victims of unfair circumstances or unresponsive controls. The shooting mechanics do leave a little to be desired, but not because of control issues. It's because the amount of ammo you carry is so limited that you likely won't be able to use guns as much as certain situations require. You never want to be able to hang back and shoot up enemy after enemy in a game about melee beat-downs – but there are times where it's effortless to deplete your ammo reserves before making a meaningful dent in the airborne opponents that arrive in droves.
But why are you using these mechanics? To save Earth from the evil Decepticons, of course. The story is fun yet incredibly shallow, but it's not out of line from what you'd expect from G1 Transformers. Your favorite Autobots – Optimus, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, and Grimlock – are here and playable, and there's an abundance of fan service. The cel-shaded art style is fitting for creating visuals that are honest to the '80s cartoon, but sadly the graphics are unambitious on a technical level. Simply put, this looks like an Xbox 360 game. Luckily it runs at a steady 60fps, which helps to make up for the repetitive assets and bland textures. The kickass metal soundtrack and authentic sound effects also help the visual shortcomings to fade into the distance.
The events of Devastation primarily unfold in two environments: a metropolis devoid of human presence and a Cybertronian structure. Throughout the course of the game, you'll venture back and forth through these environments, often backtracking through familiar locations. It's a linear experience as you go from mission to mission, but there is a enough freedom to allow you to explore these areas fairly thoroughly. Looking around suspicious corners and venturing down tucked-away streets will result in finding many types of collectibles and weapon pickups. There are also challenge areas – just like the ones in the Bayonetta series – to find and conquer. So even though the environments might be bland and generic, there's plenty to do to keep busy.
When you're not beating down robotic grunts, you'll be engaged in frequent boss battles, occasional platforming, and the aforementioned vehicle-based activities. Every now and again, though, the formula will be shaken up with action sequences that are framed in unconventional ways. From a side-scrolling boss battle that takes place on a damaged bridge, to a top-down perspective accompanying a short fetch quest, there's certainly a dash of variety to break from the repetition of brawling. Some of it is stylish and exhilarating, while the rest comes across as a bit forced. Not to beat it to death, but these sequences are also straight from the Bayonetta recipe; they're just not as intricate or spectacular in scope.
Each playable character has four weapons slots, which can be filled with a combination of melee weapons and guns. Not only will new weapons be acquired frequently for defeating enemies and completing mini-challenges, but there's also an in-game shop where more can be purchased. When visiting the Ark – via portals conveniently placed near checkpoints – you'll be presented with a menu that houses some customization options. It's here that weapons can be combined for greater effect, stat boosters can be created and equipped, and new moves/items can be purchased. It's extremely limited compared to The Gates of Hell in Bayonetta, but that doesn't mean it doesn't serve its purpose by investing you more deeply in your role.
Sadly that brings us to Devastation's most deceptive quality: it's extremely light on content. We played on normal difficulty and completed story mode in just 4 hours and 53 minutes. If you don't plan to continually replay the game on various difficulties for higher performance ratings, there's not much else to do. The only other mode that offers up gameplay is filled with challenge stages that can be unlocked during the campaign. Granted there are 50 of these short, time-based challenges, but they don't quite make up for the brief campaign and the repetitive aspects of Devastation.
If you're a fan of Bayonetta, Vanquish, or even The Wonderful 101, Transformers: Devastation is for you. If you're an adult that grew up on G1 Transformers, and if you can handle a demanding action experience, Devastation is for you. The problem is that it's not a game you should spend more than $20-30 on. While the combat is undoubtedly satisfying and rewarding, the sense of repetition, the last-gen visuals, and the brevity of the adventure feel more matched for a budget price. We suggest waiting for a sale and a nostalgic craving for Saturday morning cartoons. That's when you have our full permission to transform and roll out!