This article originally appeared on Waypoint.
The reviews for Michael Bay's fifth Transformers movie, The Last Knight, are in, and they're not pretty. "Overlong, overstuffed and soulless," is the Empire summary. The Guardian offers: "[The film] comes in at 149 minutes, and each of those minutes lasts as long as the reign of Charlemange." And the IBT review concludes with the comment that this is "one of the better Transformers movies" beneath a one-out-of-five star score.
Come on—like you, like any of us, expected anything different. These live-action CGI slugfests have become a case of barrel-scraping bombast, nonsensical explosions and muddled exposition over even a shred of relatable story or circumstances, ever since 2007's first one just about kept childhood memories intact. I'm over them, long past being broken up about seeing Bumblebee et al reduced to this farce.
But if you're still clinging on to the tiniest hope of ever seeing these mechanical icons appearing in a film worthy of their worldwide impact in the 1980s, and The Last Knight's got you reeling, feeling like there's no way to sooth this burn: video games can help.
If you like the impossibly raised-stakes situations of the Bayhem-helmed affairs, however badly they're actually executed, then the High Moon Studios-made War for Cybertron and its sequel, Fall of Cybertron, are terrific shooters of high drama, starring countless classic Bots and Cons. Optimus Prime and pals are stomping around in their pre-Earth (dis)guises here, the pair of games documenting a take on the Transformers' fraught final days on Cybertron, their home planet, and attempted escape.
These are pretty dark stories, with major characters dying and plenty of robotic gore on display—but they're excellently designed (as you might expect, given High Moon would go on to lend a hand in the production of Bungie's Destiny), and a riot to romp through, so long as you can suck up all the tragedy that befalls a few all-time favorites. Hell, we all got over Optimus fading to black in the original movie, right? This is a cakewalk next to that heartbreaker. The second game, Fall of Cybertron, got a PS4 and XBO port in the summer of 2016, making it digitally available to anyone who missed its bow on previous-gen systems.
My personal choice for a play-along pick-me-up of a Robots in Disguise persuasion, though, is Transformers: Devastation. And with Nier: Automata amongst this year's best in show, now's a fine time, regardless of related multiplex happenings, to check out PlatinumGames' only release of 2015, coming between the spectacular Bayonetta 2 and the studio's divisive work on Star Fox and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchises.
Where the Cybertron pair go for do-or-die action, staying true to that whole "no sacrifice, no victory" mantra that underpinned 2007's Transformers flick, Devastation is pure Saturday morning Runamuck fun and games. (Oh yeah, you see what I did there, wink etc.) It's styled to look like the old, "Generation 1" cartoons, features original music from The Movie composer Vince DiCola, and is clearly set in the 1980s (look at all those Griswold Family Trucksters). And while its environment art and identikit Decepticon foes are repetitive and dull, there's great personality to the five controllable Autobots—Prime, Bee, Sideswipe (my boy, my best boy… maybe after Ironhide), Wheeljack (RIP) and Grimlock.
And then there's that reliable Platinum combat— Devastation might star enormous machines that collapse down into sports cars and trucks (and, um, dinosaurs, but never mind), but they move with the balletic grace of Bayonetta, and there's even a Witch Time-like time-slowing mechanic when dodges are timed just so. No matter how many seekers line up for a smackdown, the actual process of dismantling enemies here never gets tired—light attack, strong attack, combos aplenty, special transformation moves activated with the simple tap of a shoulder button, and powerful special abilities, unique to each character, that can turn the tide of battle.
The story is… Well, the story is there. It's all Plasma Energy this and Golden Age that, with Prime and Megatron—each with their original series voice actor providing the reassuringly cheesy lines ("There's more to this situation than meets the eye," says the Autobot leader early on, oh zing)—beating each other up across both Earth and Cybertron, and even in space. There's a neat nod to Nova Prime, who'll be familiar to anyone who ever dipped into the IDW comics, and the undeniable tease of a sequel—a sequel that, given Devastation's modest sales (around 240,000 on PS4, according to VG Chartz, and substantially less on other platforms) probably won't ever happen. Boo.
"I'm unable to discuss future plans at this point," is what Activision's Robert Conkey told me at the end of 2015. Now we're halfway into 2017, and no news has yet emerged regarding a follow-up to Devastation. But this is a good game, and a great one when compared to what Transformers fans have typically had available for their consoles of choice. It's a knowingly fan-servicing affair, from its opening stage riffing on a cartoon episode to its Kremzeek collectibles hidden around the maze-like levels; but that Platinum quality can't be denied, which keeps it entertaining for those less into the robots themselves, and the storyline silliness that permeates its campaign represents a warm rush of comforting nostalgia.
It's cheap (between £10 and £15 on PS4 in the UK, poking around online); it'll likely take less time to finish than watching a couple of the Bay movies, credits scenes included, back to back; and it doesn't murder any bots that actually meant something, back when. Devastation will pop a smile on your face—and, by the sound of things, you're gonna need something to lift you up after stepping out of a Last Knight screening.