Let’s call a spade a spade. Transformers: Devastation is a pure, unadulterated exploitation of nostalgia.
But, what else is new? How many years have we already been paying for exploitations of our youth? New TMNT; Transformers movies; Star Wars 1-3.
Marquee franchises, one after the other, all inhaling endless amounts of money and forcing something out the other end as fast as they can for us to consume down our digital esophaguses and drain our wallets; I know how Neo felt when he learned Kung Fu (except my knowledge revolves around the Foot Clan and Sith Lords).
The problem is that most of what I just highlighted was hot garbage. Full stop. I’m literally second hand embarrassed at the fact that any of those made and were encouraged to continue creating the movie equivalents of wet farts.
So forgive me if at first blush I didn’t get all hot and bothered about the new Transformers game; but I know now that I should have. The new Transformers game is a cell shaded, true to source breath of fresh air.
This game has cracked the code. They've managed to recreate the memories of watching the show - the heavy black outlines and vivid colors - in just the way you’d think the cartoon should in look this future world of HIGH DEFINITION. Even the audio is perfectly recreated as they’ve managed to wrangle up all of the original voice actors (at least the ones that are still alive)! It’s a HD 1080p generation 1 Transformers cartoon and they’re putting you in charge.
With Platinum Games in charge, you’re basically playing Bayonetta but as an Autobot (read: awesome) - bullet time paired with an mix of melee and ranged combat and various customizable weapon types to keep things as interesting as you want them to be. Combat is an intense mix of timing and combos with boss battles that challenge you (the satisfying kind of challenge, not the hand slammed in the car door kind).
Some parts get an A for effort if not execution - the environments are laughably simple, and the driving missions are not particularly good, there are minimal enemy types aside from the Decepticon mainstays - but if you dwell on them, you’re purposefully avoiding having fun or are incapable of having it (or maybe you don't like Transformers, to which I ask, how did you get this far?). Since this is a safe place and we can be honest, I'll also cop to the fact that this game is wafer thin. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-6 hours of gameplay if you burn straight through. There are challenges that are supposed to encourage replayability, but the reality is you're playing the same game over with minor tweaks.
With all that said, once you’re into a battle, the action sucks you in and you’re suddenly Optimus Prime fighting Megatron. You’re living out that kid’s dream. You are a Transformer. None of that other stuff ends up mattering all that much.
The question this all leaves me with is; why isn't this done more often? Imagine a well done, TMNT - side scrolling like the updated Strider or 3D like Transformers was done in. Star Wars Battlefront is giving it an honest go - I've documented my issues with that game already - but my quibbles aside, it's a relatively well done game. I'm not meaning to discourage reimagined source material or different takes on older IP or to say new IP can't be good, but it seems like low hanging fruit to make a game like Transformers has done. I welcome more nostalgic takes on classic entities brought into the next century.
TL;DR - love Transformers? Then you're a proverbial fat kid and this game is cake.
*I originally wrote this when the game first came out, and honestly this game is a stretch at $50, but it’s dropped down since then and I think it’s now a good value and in the range of $20-30.