Thursday, 22 October 2015

Transformers Devastation (xbox 360) review: Optimistic Prime

Activison has blown hot and cold, when it comes to Transformers games. On one hand, there's the underwhelming tie-in games for the painfully bad live action movies. But then things took a turn for the better when High Moon studio broke the shit Transformers game streak with War for Cybertron, and Fall of Cybertron. Then Activision turned the cold tap back on when High Moon were sacked and the next game was pseudo movie tie-in, which reused assets from the movie and Cybertron games. But Acti's water is flowing hot again, after- with little to no warning- they hired action game specialists, Platinum Games to make an all new Transformers game, inspired by the original cartoon series.

Transformers Devastation (or "TF Devy" as I'll be obnoxiously shortening it to) is familiar territory if you've played any of Platinum's past  action titles, especially Bayonetta. In that you batter the sprockets out of Decepticons with your fists, or a bladed weapon, with a little smidgen of shooting, and the combat has an emphasis on dodging or parrying enemy attacks, which activates a, bullet time, focus period, where you can lay in more damage. In preparation for the game, I was gonna refresh myself by playing through War for and Fall of Cybertron. However, due to a 3 day quiche binge, I didn't have the time. I'm glad I did, because TF Devy is a total different kettle of petro-rabbits.

The combat system is a slightly paired down version of Bayonetta's. There's not as many combos or moves to unlock, but the emphasis is still on mixing up light and heavy attacks, building up to a focused blow, where you transform into your alt-mod, to lay in extra damage. If you've ever seen Bayonetta, or Metal Gear Rising, and thought it looked too complicated, then give this a go. Consider TF Devy a Platinum  games introduction. There's only a few extra moves to unlock, none of which are that essential to the game. Don't worry if you're a concerned fan of Platinum's brand of combat, it hasn't been so watered down to the point there's no joy from turning into an articulated lorry and smashing a robot insect with your trailer. The fist/sword/axe/wrench action is fast, sometimes chaotic, and addictive. Basically, it's the modern day scrolling beat 'em up. Shooting is very much secondary. You have a choice of two guns (same with melee weapons) with  limited ammo. Like I mentioned already, this is nothing like the, shooting focused, Cybertron games. shooting only really comes into play with enemies in hard to reach places (airborne or just far away) or an extra bit of damage on the end of your combo.  So if you're new to Platinum's brand of fist-in-face tomfoolery, medium difficulty is plenty. But if you're the kind of person who wont leave Metal Gear Rising alone until you've finished every stage with a S rank, then put it on hard.

Up yours, dicky! I'm doing the whole game with the missile launcher.

But you can also transform, which comes into use far more than in the Cybertron games. As good as they are, I never felt much use for using the alt-mode (outside of multiplayer) for anything other than the sections that were obviously designed to tell you "You can't walk on these parts, turn into a jet now". TF Devy has a moment like that too, where you chase Blitzwing (who turns into a tank and a jet) across a endless version of the George Washington bridge, but transforming is an integral part of the game. Be it for quick travel, making backtracking slightly less annoying than usual, making a getaway if he action gets too crowded, and is used to build up speed for shield-breaking attacks.

The visuals are spot on. Platinum have good form with cell-shaded graphics, going back to Viewtiful Joe, and TF Devy cements that reputation. It begs the question, why they haven't been employed to adapt a cartoon show sooner?  Just looking at group shots, it could easily be a screengrab of the 1986 animated movie. The transformation animation and the trademark "URGH-UH-ERRGH" noise is oh so familiar; Grimlock scratching his head in idle stance, Megatron's evil sneer, Optimus' magically disappearing trailer. There's no other way a G1 Transformers really could of looked, and Platinum fucking nailed it....for the most part. If you're not fussed about angry pedantism, you can skip the next paragraph.

"Autobots, prepare to grumble."

Ok, quick Transformers history lesson; The original incarnation came in three mediums, the cartoon, the comics, and the short character bios, on the back of the toy box. All of which contradict each other, in some way, shape, or form. The G1 cartoon itself (which this game is based on) has continuity errors coming out of it's ears; colour mistakes; scale going all over the place; animation glitches; writers not really giving a shit. Seriously, watch the entire series, there's three different origin points for the Constructicons! In short, G1 is a bit of a mess, quickly knocked out to flog toys, and fans can't agree on anything. So I'm not gonna bother listing where Platinum has cocked up on keeping true to the cartoon. You know, stuff like; having Soundwave's red cassette-former named Rumble; Bumblebee not turning into a VW Beetle; Megatron turning into a tank instead of a gun; three of the autobots not turning into their original alt-modes; Optimus' face plate bowing out as he talks, instead of going up and down; Starscream having black hands in cutscenes- although that maybe a homage to the colouring mistake of the cartoon? It's not as if I seeth with the kind of anger, that could burn a man, over silly things like Grimlock not having a flame sword as his default weapon. Oh, by the way, this is the G1 Tranformers logo...

 This, is just "fuck it, just do something in desktop publishing"

Not that I'm bothered, or anything.

As you'd expect with Platinum actioner, the controls are clear and immediate. You're always on the move, so having a simplistic and responsive control set up makes the combat fun and never a chore. There's more do it than just hacking away with your energon axe, so Platinum fans will be happily countering attacks and crushing seeker jets with air combos. The cars and T-rex handle very tightly -in that, they can turn on a sixpence, like a demented mouse- and zip around the screen nicely (much like Bayonetta's panther form) and take the pain out of backtracking, plus, you can still attack while in alt-mode. So, potentially, you could finish the whole game as a metal T-rex. Go on, do it now. Before some shouty dicksock, on youtube, does it.

And don't forget to pretend things are scary. That's the big money.

Like I said earlier, shooting is very much secondary, it's only useful against flying enemies. Tug on the targeting button and you'll automatically home in on the nearest enemy, much like the aiming assist in Goldeneye (N64). When you take into account how busy the fighting gets, and how annoying the seeker jets and insecticons are. it's just as well. So I would really suggest you upgrade on of your guns with powerful missiles.

The only problems I encountered, control-wise, is the dodge button (RB) is also used to transform- by holding it down. At the start, I kept doing an impotent forward roll instead of turning into a little yellow car, to escape a gang of robot insects. The other is the camera.When you're fighting in wide open spaces, it ain't so bad. You can make slight adjustments to keep on target, with some help from the on-screen prompt, showing you where an attack is about to come from. But in more claustrophobic encounters, you don't have time to see where the laser death is coming from, as you manically roll around like a failed gymnast, not being able to see what's going on. In the, uninspired, platform sections, it's a pain in the arse. And during two boss fights, where you're essentially in space, the camera is the fucking worst.

This is the clearest shot I could get. During a QTE

As much arcadey fun I had with TF Devy. I couldn't quite shake off the feeling that it could of done with a little extra polish. I don't expect months of gameplay from a arcadey action game, based on a 80s cartoon, The challenge mode gives the kind of action-packed longevity that's right up my ally, but I can't shake the feeling this game was rushed out. It's great that Platinum got as many of the original voice actors as they could- Frank Welker not missing a beat as he reprises Megatron with such ease-  but if you're playing the nostalgia card, then go all in. Look at Angry Birds Transformers, that had a 80s-style animated intro, which TF Devy doesn't. Another nod to G1 was getting '86 movie composer, Vince DiCola, to do the ending theme. But couldn't he do the whole game soundtrack? If a mobile game can get it done, couldn't one of the biggest game publishers in the world splash out for, at least, the original theme tune? The actual soundtrack is decent enough- the expected twiddly rock guitar- and certainly not as shit as Bayonetta- but if the Cybertron games can dust off Stan Bush, why not TF Devy?

"Dare! Better believe you can't survive" See? It's not hard.

There's a whole section dedicated to fabricating status upgrades, and synthesising new weapons, but there's no proper instructions how to use it (because manuals are a thing of the past now) so it's a case of trial and error to see if you're making any positive effect on your character. Unlockable art is de rigueur, but a lot of it is reused box art and covers from the, long defunct, Dreamwave comics. Yes, including that Pat Lee cover. And oddly enough, there's a 59 page legal document on  the main menu screen. Do I get a secret achievement for reading it all? I know reusing character models was done a lot in the old cartoon, but the lack of variety in the boss fights is quite apparent. Christ! You fight Devastator three times

Don't get me wrong, I like TF Devy, it's good fun, the fighting cracks along at a great pace, even on a past gen console (because as we all know, a game is only really good if it's running at 60fps) and when I completed the story (some bollocks about making the Earth all robotic) I instantly had a go on the challenges and played through story mode with another character- because there is subtle differences between the five playable autobots. I just wish there was more to it. As good as the game is, I can't help but wonder how great it could of been if Platinum were let off the leash and to add some of their magic. Fair enough on the generic story- every other episode of the G1 cartoon was "Megatron has a bad thing, lets stop him using it" but were bonkers episodes, like when an Autobot briefly turned into a merman; a planet where the populous communicated only by song; and one episode, where the Decepticons use a disco to hypnotise people into doing their bidding. That shit is right up Platinum's back passage.

Same goes for the boss battles; you fight Devastator three times, and the only variant is that he brings fellow gestalt, Menasour, along with him. The fight with Megatron involves him turning into a tank (one assumes due to Hasbro's behest, hence why he turns into the same tank as his recent "combiner wars" toy) just like Blitwing and does the same attack. So it's half the Bliztwing battle, but with extra laser fire and a black current flavoured mace. Come on Platinum, you couldn't of had Megatron turn into  gun, and have Devastator use him as the giant firearm he's supposed to be? You telling me Platinum couldn't do this?

Go on, tell me Platinum couldn't do this. Shut up! You can't!

TF Devy is a good game, but a not great one. It's keenly priced and well worth the time, if you're in the market for a action game. The drawbacks were easily outweighed by the good stuff, and I had loads of fun with. As it stands, this it THE G1 Transformers game- which isn't saying much, admitedly. So if you're one of those fans (ie, like me) that have been moaning for years about wanting a proper G1 game, it's time to put up or fuck up. Tell Activision this is what you want, and to splash out more money on a sequel. Because as good as TF Devy is, it's only scratched the surface; I want more elaborate boss battles, more cartoon references, more original voice actors, Decepticon missions, all of that! But if you're someone who's aced every stage of Bayonetta 2, you'll be likely left lacking.  But consider this, doesn't Activision still have the license to make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games?

Let's fucking do this!

Format: Xbox 360

Publisher: Activision

Price: £15:97

Bought from: GameStop

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