For the last couple years, the Transformers games have mostly been third-person shooters. But by switching the combat to a hack & slash motif, Transformers Devastation (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC) feels like a welcome change. It’s just too bad it sometimes feels like a redundant one as well.
As usual, Transformers Devastation has the Decepticons mucking up the place, and the Autobots trying to clean up after them. Which is why Optimus Prime, Bumbleebee, and the rest of the mod squad have to run around a damaged city and an underground space disco, taking out the bad guys by any means necessary.
Normally, that would mean shooting first and asking questions later. But in Transformers Devastation, you’re more into smacking your enemies than you are shooting them. Which isn’t to say you can’t use your guns, you can. But since most of your enemies like to get up close and personal, and you never have a lot of ammo at any one time, you’re better off saving your bullets for enemies who prefer to stay out of arms reach.
As you’d expect from a hack & slash action game, Transformers Devastation has you doing a number of different combinations of light and heavy attacks, jumping attacks, counter moves, dodging, and even some special smacks that recharge over time. You can even end combos with a devastation (no pun intended) vehicular attack, as well as do a move where you convert to your car form, drive straight at someone, and then switch back to your robot form at the last moment to deliver a crushing blow that’s especially effective on enemies that have shields. And, if all else fails, you can toss an abandoned car at them (though, to be honest, it works better if that abandoned car is actually an abandoned gas truck).
It is during these battles that Transformers Devastation really shines, especially if you use a liberal mix of the combos, special attacks, and dodge moves, since they work well in concert thanks to the game’s intuitive controls (well, once you adjust the overly-sensitive camera, that is). Though it also helps that none of the combos are needlessly complicated; there’s nothing along the lines of up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A.
Along with all the hacking, slashing, and occasional shooting, Transformers Devastation also has you doing Dukes Of Hazzard-style jumps when you’re a car, exploring side streets, and picking up collectibles and power-ups, including some that require you to hit a button, and then smash a box that just appeared or grab some items that will disappear if you’re not quick enough.
While all of this sounds like fun, and it is, there are elements of Transformers Devastation that ruin the mood. And not just because those annoying Kremzeeks are hanging around for some reason. No, it’s more about redundancy. Because there’s not a lot breaking up all the hack & slash action — the aforementioned jumping, exploring, and collecting are just brief diversions — this game gets a bit samey after a while. And this is doubly true for the boss battles. Rather than having to figure out how to beat them, you just have to run over and smack them a bunch of times. Though it doesn’t help that most of the boss’ special attacks are so telegraphed that it doesn’t just hurt when you get hit, it’s kind of embarrassing.
That said, there are times in Transformers Devastation when you do get a break from all the button mashing. In one instance, you take control of a turret and lay waste to swarms of Insecticons (who, oddly enough, look like the aliens from Galaga during this fight). But it’s hard not to think this brief gun battle isn’t a lot of fun just because it’s giving you something different to do.
Transformers Devastation also has a really annoying upgrade system. On several occasions, you can go to the Ark to combine weapons into cooler ones, switch characters, or get upgrades. But you don’t buy these upgrades, you buy the opportunity to play a really simple minigame that determines if the upgrade you bought is really good or just okay. It’s kind of a dick move.
In the end, Transformers Devastation is a welcome change from all the third-person shooting we’ve done with Optimus Prime and his merry men lately. Especially since it has a wide variety of attacks as well as an intuitive controls that makes it easy to combine those varied attacks effectively. It’s just too bad that they didn’t change things up even further.