Platinum Games in Disguise
I had a child-like excitement when I heard that Platinum Games were developing a game based on the 80’s line of Transformers, a sensation I’m sure was shared with many gamers of my age. Seeing the previews and promo material showing how the authentic looking visuals had been brought to life in HD cell shaded 3D goodness had me salivating, however once the introduction begins to roll you soon start to realise all is not as high quality as has been promised.
Whilst colourful the city setting in which the game begins is devoid of all human life despite the fact that the plot makes it apparent that everyone is apparently fleeing somewhere for their lives. The transformers are the only characters you'll actually see in this one.
Character wise many classic Decepticons make an appearance, arguably all the fan favourites pop up at least once (yes Soundwave is in there complete with Buzzsaw, Frenzy, Ravage, Rumble and Laserbeak), the same can’t unfortunately be said for the Autobots who number only 5 (they even went to the trouble to include Grimlock but with no mention of the other Dinobots).
You've the ability to transform at will and this lends itself to some timed challenges and getting around more quickly in the most part.
Combat wise if you've played Bayonetta or God of War or similar, you'll feel at home here. A simple dodge mechanic grants you some bullet time and a rhythmic combo system which you'll quickly be accustomed to rules the day. It's frankly a bit shallow and doesn't vary much character to character beyond your speed and weapon type (they all share these in the most part as the game progresses), they all feel the same really.
Unfortunately that’s when things only begin to come unraveled. Pretty much every element of the game’s makeup (star)screams of being done too quickly or on the cheap. Visually, whilst authentic it is clearly an uplifted last generation game. It’s as though it was developed by a very capable team who only had half the time they needed to complete the product. Everything that’s here is done to a decent quality, it’s functional but then a line is drawn where there was room to do more but they decided not to. It’s too finished in a lot of ways rather than showing the usual signs of a rushed development.
There’s a welcome leveling and inventory system included in the gameplay, it’s subtle but upon starting a New Game + you’ll realise just how far you’ve come. You collect weapons which can be upgraded to some capacity by combining with other weapons which you will collect A LOT of throughout each chapter. The game tried to slowly take you through a tedious unveiling of every item you've collected when you make a trip to the "Ark" (your base).
Within the Ark you can level up and switch characters, however whilst simple it's never really explained what everything does. You're able to create new Tech which influences your stats or provides special abilities etc. or purchase or sell your collected weapons (remembering to balance throughout the whole team).
The design errs towards repeated playthroughs which is familiar territory for anyone who’s played any of Platinum’s previous works – Bayonetta, Vanquish, Metal Gear Rising Revengence etc. In order to pull off this type of gameplay you need to have a variety of set pieces which you would actually want to do that with (as can be exampled in the 3 titles mentioned), but here the gameplay falls into repetition after less than an hour. You simply don’t need to replay it as the next level includes large parts or area’s that you’ve already done.
There are actually only 2 or 3 locations in the whole game which you’ll be repeatedly revisiting and even these have a low-budget feel, repeated textures, cut and paste enemy types, devoid of life etc.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy parts of the game. The finale has you run a gauntlet of enemies and traps with your whole Autobot crew which really did hark back to the action seen in the source material. These moments are all a bit too far between however and you’re left spending far too much time running in circles in the same city or spaceship.
You may point out that it’s a budget title and was never intended to go up against AAA releases, and you’d be right. If you were to place this next to a similar budget title it stands up well, we’ve just become accustomed to better things from the studio.
It’s such a shame it’s a missed opportunity as there are glimmers of familiar greatness which are then just cut short before they have a chance to shine.
Spoilers: The finale eludes to a sequel which given the lacklustre sales performance of this title may or may not come to pass. I’d certainly be interested if they did decide to do so to see if they can come up with something to right the issues I found.
- Repetitive locations and gameplay
- Lack of Autobots (where's Rodimus at?)
- Potential to be so much more
+ The look is authentic
+ Voice work is authentic
+ The Soundwave Chapter