Don’t believe the non-hype.
Devils Third has had one hell of a journey finally making it to its US release, hell I’d even go as far to say released period. Coming from famed game director Tomonobu Itagaki of Ninja Gaiden fame, this is a game that seems like it took one hell of a journey to get here. With THQ going out of business leading to the inevitable help and distribution from Nintendo, who now seemingly appears to be putting the game out to die barely acknowledging it exists. With no review copies and hardly any copies on shelfs for consumers to find, is the game any good, and are there enough redeeming qualities so many years after the initial reveal that it’s worth tracking down?
A bloody mess.
Ivan used to be a terrorist. At some point in time, he was captured and sent to Guantanamo Bay prison. Think he has it rough? Think again. He might be in prison, but it’s not every day a prisoner gets a big screen TV, drum set, alcohol, and a huge prison cell to his own. Devils Third makes no effort in trying to pretend this game Is going for a super serious tone. I can’t help but wonder if it’s almost a pun of typical action movies, as while the story is very military based, seeing a terrorist taking down satellites above the earth’s atmosphere, causing EMP outages of power across the globe.
Platforms: Wii U
Price I’d Pay: $29.99
How long to beat: 10 hours
Ivan finds himself hunting down all his old allies ala Kill Bill style to save the world. It walks the fine line between trashy b movies and more human moments. Ivan is a goon used by the government to take out the trash whenever they need him; he barely speaks and when he does it’s either something silly, or just odd silent stares. The man is full of puns, but always ready to fill the bad guys full of lead, and has a small backstory exposed. There is more to Ivan then meets the eye, but it’s doubtful players will care. He’s the triple B: Big, buff, bald, and ready to kill.
Gameplay is where Devils Third absolutely shines, or maybe I should reword that. Devils Third gameplay is the most positive and unique element it has going for it. Players control Ivan in a third person perspective, and while progressing through the nine campaign missions will find various weapons to take down the bad guys. Pipe, dual tomahawks , axes and swords are just a few of the melee weapons, and then there is a ton of firearms as well, with the stand outs being the flame thrower/assault rifle combo, or the grenade launcher attachment on another weapon. Ivan is very capable when it comes to movement, and controls rather well for a game that is plagued with other issues, but more on that later. Here is where the fun comes from – melee and shooting is combined to create a “hybrid shooter” as the back of the box tells us.
Ivan has a very basic movement that usually ends up either killing enemies in a finishing blow or just sees them falling apart at the seams with blood gushing everywhere. This is definitely one of the bloodiest Wii U games released. When he isn’t in hacking his way through the bad guys, Ivan can use his guns to deal damage, lighting up enemies as they just crumble under gun fire. Shooting from the hip keeps the camera in third person, but when aiming, combat now reverts to a first person setting. It’s a bit jarring at first, but eventually I got the hang of it and learned to downright love it. It’s here where the combat situations shine. Taking cover, a hail of bullets coming towards Ivan, players pop out, take a shot, bad guys head goes pop, blood flowing everywhere, enemies flaking, Ivan slides out of cover towards an enemy, whips out his huge axe or sword and slices the dude in half. It will put a grin on players every time as it’s just so damn satisfying.
Technical issues may arise.
It’s a shame that the rest of the game isn’t quite up to par with how fun the gameplay is. Granted if the gameplay was terrible, there would be little reason to even play through the game then, so I prefer it this way. Graphically, Devils Third is very much hit and miss. It does have a great use of variety in locations. A prison, factory, mountains, snow, trenches, and a city, there are plenty of locations to visit. The Japanese style temple is one of the better looking environments. But sometimes textures don’t want to load, the geometry of some objects look off or very basic, and it just has a very old gen style look to it. Though seeing as this game started life back about 5 years ago, it seems it’s a product of its time perhaps. Enemies are fair enough, but players be fighting a lot of the standard soldiers for the majority of the time. Some weird creatures show up for a tiny bit at one point, like some ninjas and cyborg suit bodies, but overall, these are sparse in comparison.
The soundtrack is appropriate, and at times offers some cool action moments or vibes, but it was ultimately forgettable to me. Voice acting for Ivan is spot on. He feels like an emotionless, cold killer, but in the game it is apparent in some cut scenes that he does have a heart, even if he barely shows it. The rest of the cast do an admirable job also with the lack of an in depth script. Some hilarious lines, some serious lines, everything comes across solid for the most part and no one really rambles on for far too long.
System performance is something else entirely. Perhaps this is a sign of life, imitating art, imitating life, as the performance across the board on this entire game seems to be as up and down as the development with it. Sometimes it feels like the game is running at 60fps, then suddenly 30, then dropping to 15 or 10 frames a second. In an action game with shooting, this just blows and it can cause a headache. The worst moments definitely don’t happen all the time, and it’s just a bumpy ride overall that is very playable, but when it hits those random potholes, holy shit, duck (or slide) for cover. It’s just a shame as it feels as if there was more time for optimization or if this wasn’t just on the Wii U if might perform better, but it’s what we got.
Wait, there is more?
Once the campaign is complete, which will last most folks eight to ten hours, players can hop into multiplayer. Imagine an online game with all the gameplay elements I was raving about earlier, and that is the MP in a nutshell. It stands out as unique though because it’s so different, adding sliding, verticality/mobility, melee and shooting all into online sessions and it’s addicting as hell. Once players have dabbled in a few multiple player sessions long enough they can obtain points or eggs to unlock more gear and even more modes come into play.
The ideas behind this multiplayer are rather unique, with clans and funny games, but on the Wii U, it’s a huge ghost town as of now and I don’t know if that will change. While it just released in the US, it’s extremely limited and finding players online right now, while there, is very slim. I’ve always been able to get into a game of about 6 to 8 people, but it doesn’t bode well for the community. Granted the few that have been able to find the game might still be plugging away at the campaign first, only time will tell. Though I will mention I’m happy to see that the MP is going to release as free-to-play on PC, because it’s one of the most unique experiences online I’ve had a chance to check out and more people will be able to experience it.
Devils Third has had a very hard life, and it’s nothing short of a miracle that the game ever even released. While some might lament that fact, I’m actually happy to see games of this nature release. It’s not open world, it’s not amazing in its story or setting, it’s not triple A. Yet its gameplay is a unique hybrid indeed, and I’d love to see more companies or teams try their hand at this combination, it’s just that satisfying.
Devils Third has some ambitious and unique online gameplay, and at its core the campaign feels like an old brawler and shooting game from years ago, but it’s games like these that make me appreciate the smaller titles or the underdogs that sit next to all the big budget titles. Devils Third is the embodiment of schlocky B action movies, and if players can associate with that style or old-school games, there is something of value to be found here. If everything read up until this point has you nodding in agreement or wanting to check this out, forget the numerical score, the $60 price tag might just be worth it. Otherwise wait for a price drop…if it ever happens.