Review: ‘Transformers: Devastation’ a playable ’80s cartoon

Activision has published a love letter to the original “Transformers” animated series, which began its run more than 31 years …

Activision has published a love letter to the original “Transformers” animated series, which began its run more than 31 years ago.

“Transformers: Devastation” is as close to a playable 1980s cartoon as gamers have seen. And just like those toons us millennials watched as kids, the game is short sweet while lacking anything truly special.

Without delay, “Devastation” jumps right into its conflict. The evil Decepticons are up to their old tricks, once again looking to cyberform Earth to replace Cybertron, their home world. The Autobots, as ever, take a stand for all the creatures of the planet and seek to foil Megatron’s plans.

“Devastation” is, by and large, a classic beat-’em-up actioner that combines shooting elements. Switching between the two methods of dispatching Decepticons is smooth, as is the transformation from robot to vehicle (or dinosaur). It’s not overly complicated; completing combos rewards the player with an extra, powerful attack. What’s lame about the combo system is that the finishing attack can be achieved by putting together combinations that don’t land on enemies, then use the power-attack to bash enemies. It’s an unfortunate exploit that has yet to be patched.

Five classic Autobots are at your disposal in this one: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack and Grimlock. These aren’t skins that play the same, either. Optimus is stronger than Bumblebee, but Bee is faster. I favored Optimus as the game went on for his raw power and big-damage unique attacks.

Each character can equip up to four weapons, both ranged and melee, that can be swapped between the five Autobots and upgraded. All in all, it’s a deceptively deep system that plays with few hiccups.

And it’s an interesting-looking game, to boot. “Devastation” truly looks like a playable cartoon with its cel-shaded graphics and heavy black outlines around characters — plus drab, repetitive backgrounds. A game like this really should have released before the current-gen systems hit shelves a few years ago because this isn’t cutting-edge from a visual standpoint, merely unique.

And boy, is this short. Seven chapters can be completed in four-to-six hours, depending on play speed and willingness to attempt simple side-missions that crop up. Such a quickly-disposable experience doesn’t seem worth its $49.99 price tag. I was provided a free review copy by Activision, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable forking over so much money for a few moderately entertaining hours of gameplay.

But maybe that’s OK with you, or maybe you can grab the game at a discount rate. If so, “Transformers: Devastation” should leave you satisfied and, likely, wanting more.

“Transformers: Devastation,” from developer PlatinumGames and publisher Activision, is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC.

Scott Fontana