Metal Gear Rising Director May be the Saviour of Transformers: Devastation

We get hands-on with Platinum's next game, and come away surprised.

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Platinum Games’ video game spin-off of The Legend of Korra was a notable misstep that showed even the world’s premiere action game developer is fallible. It was a bitter pill to swallow, and with the studio now developing more games simultaneously than ever before, there's a worry that Platinum has lost its sheen.

In addition to the Xbox One exclusive Scalebound, Platinum is also co-developing Star Fox Zero with Nintendo, and a sequel to Nier for Square Enix. At E3 2015 it was revealed that Activision has added another title to Platinum’s already packed slate: Transformers: Devastation.

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Let’s be honest, with the studio seemingly stretched thinner than ever, we’d bet the licensed project based on an easy-money franchise would be the one to get short shrift. However, based on what we saw at E3 2015, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

It looks like Platinum is bringing out the big guns for Transformers: Devastation. Specifically, Kenji Saito, director of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Saito’s flair for style matched with Platinum’s reputation for substance is already making Transformers: Devastation a far more exciting prospect than Legend of Korra ever was.

"There’s a satisfying simplicity to it all that lets you sit back and enjoy the bright, beautiful cel-shaded Transformers."

Transformers: Devastation is designed to be the antithesis of Michael Bay’s movies, taking the over-designed, dull-looking behemoths of the modern day and replacing them with the colourful Generation 1 characters you originally fell in love with.

“We’re paying homage to the rich history of the brand,” said an Activision representative. “Recently, it’s been gritty and real, we’re changing that and going towards the classic stuff from the Transformers universe.”

Naturally, the cartoon series is a key inspiration, but also the Transformers Generations line of toys from Hasbro and IDW's comic series. Andy Schmidt, who has written the IDW comic series and also worked on High Moon’s Transformers games, is creating the story for Devastation.

In short, Transformers: Devastation takes place at a time when the Earth is forcefully being changed into the new Cybertron. The Autobots have no clue why, but the Decepticons do, and they’ve infiltrated an ancient ship hidden deep in the planet. And thus the adventure begins.

It comes as no surprise that gameplay in Transformers: Devastation will primarily involve arena-based combat. Equally unsurprising is the inclusion of a mechanic that functions a lot like Witch Time in Bayonetta.

By executing a dodge at the precise moment an enemy takes a swing at you (helpfully denoted by a flash effect), time slows to a crawl and the enemy is powerless to stop your barrage of attacks.

Unlike Bayonetta, there isn’t a dizzying amount of weapons and combos to think about during combat. Combos are input with casual taps and timing is very lenient. There’s a satisfying simplicity to it all that lets you sit back and enjoy the bright, beautiful cel-shaded Transformers, which animate with a charming, lumbering awkwardness.

Basic attacks and heavy attacks can be chained together and, after enough have landed, the player can hit a button to Transform into the truck (if you’re Optimus Prime) or a Beetle (if you’re Bumblebee) and ram into enemies.

In total there will be five playable characters, and Platinum is making efforts to ensure every one feels distinct. In our hands-on, Optimus was a bit of a powerhouse, capable of dishing out damage and taking it in equal measure.

Bumblebee, meanwhile, was a lot lighter on his feet. While Optimus dodges by rolling away, Bumblebee slides underneath the enemy’s legs and pops up behind them. He’s a lither, quicker character, but does less damage.

Our demo ended with a boss battle that, in typical Saito fashion, pits us against an enemy that towers above: Devastator, the super life-form constructed of multiple bots.

While most of our fight was spent narrowly dodging stomps and grabs, taking every opportunity to chip away at its leg, Devastator would occasionally smash the ground, creating a pillar of earth we could hop on and use to take the fight to his face.

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Another boss battle threw us in an arena with Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons, who is rocking his purple colours again, for those interested. This fight required us to make use of the transformed vehicle mode to build up speed, rush at him, and execute an uppercut to break his guard.

Using the arena to build speed and unleash destructive uppercuts and area-of-effect spin attacks will no doubt become more important as harder enemy variants are introduced.

We’ll be honest, we came out way more excited for Transfomers: Devastation than when we went in. There’s lots of other little touches we love. The little animated character portraits that strike exaggerated poses at various points during the conversation. The vibrant visual style that renders the Autobots with beautiful gleams of colour. The fact that Optimus Prime's idle animation has him putting his hands on his hips and striking a sassy pose, instead of a gruff prepare-for-battle position.

All of this inspires confidence that Platinum is giving Transformers the care and attention it deserves, and helps put The Legend of Korra behind us.

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