Imagine a world where the Transformers film franchise is put in much more capable hands. Say, Guillermo Del Toro, whose giant robot fighting opus Pacific Rim wasn’t perfect but was a lot less dumb and a lot more fun than anything Michael Bay has ever done, gets a shot at it. James Cameron knows a thing or two about killer cyborgs, what about him? What if Disney gained ownership of the Transformers and gave it the royal treatment they’ve given Avengers and will hopefully give Star Wars? Unfortunately these scenarios are just fantasy but something very similar has happened recently in the world of video games. True, the High Moon developed War For Cybertron series of Gears of War inspired third person shooters have been nothing to sneeze at, nowhere near the endless series of embarrassing debacles that the TF movies have been, but now the stakes have been raised, as the Robots in Disguise are under the guidance of Japanese action masters Platinum Games, and the team formerly responsible for Capcom masterpieces like Devil May Cry 3, Viewtiful Joe, Okami and Resident Evil 4 has more than “rolled out” the red carpet for Optimus, Megatron and company.
IDW Transformers Comic writer Andy Schmidt sets the stage, Megatron has hatched a plan to cyberform Planet Earth, using plasma energy to turn everything organic into cold, lifeless metal, and only Optimus Prime and his Autobot comrades can stand in his way. True it’s not Shakespeare, but it gets the good guys fighting the bad guys, and fight they do. Platinum have melded the stylish combat of their Bayonetta series with the fast paced shooting of their underappreciated Vanquish and the results are an absolute joy to control. Characters duck and weave effortlessly in and out of enemy attacks, earning a period of slow down similar to Bayonetta’s “witch time”, rack up a high enough combo and you can turn into a vehicle and ram your opponent for further damage, continuing your combo even longer, all while your Autobot of choice (Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack or Grimlock) offers perfectly cartoon appropriate comments and quips, delivered by classic voice actors Michael Bell, Dan Gilvezan and of course, Peter Cullen.
Gameplay takes players through city streets and alien ships under siege by Insecticon and Decepticon grunts, in between massive and highly satisfying boss battles against higher tier baddies like Starscream and Soundwave. Graphics are rendered absolutely beautifully, seamlessly cel-shaded a’la last year’s Guilty Gear Xrd Sign, almost indistinguishable from its 80’s anime source material. The levels are bursting with both obvious and cleverly hidden items to collect, and in lieu of an actual offensive upgrade system for the player characters, weapons and power ups can be beefed up, combined and even created. The system is highly unique and wholly addictive, and you’ll find yourself wanting to build up everything available for each ‘bot to its max, which is good because the journey itself is a little on the short side, but it’s a trip you won’t mind taking multiple times.
After the last few enormous open world games I’ve tackled (Shadow of Mordor, Batman: Arkham Knight, The Witcher 3, Mad Max), it’s nice to sit down with something that is just simple, pure fun and doesn’t feel like playing it is a part time job, and the unexpected but highly refreshing positive reception this game has received from the majority of the games media shows that I must not be alone. I don’t think I’ve gotten this much pure enjoyment out of a title since last year’s WiiU exclusive action romp Bayonetta 2, and it’s no coincidence, that was also from Platinum Games. The fact that this is finally the perfect adaptation of the much loved Generation One iteration of Transformers that fans have been salivating for since the 80’s is just the icing on the cake.