Devil's Third Review

By Blair Nokes on December 21, 2015

Devil's Third actually has quite a bit of history behind its development. Industry veteran Tomonobu Itagaki has been recognized for the Ninja Gaiden and the Dead or Alive series. Ninja Gaiden is especially well praised for its punishing difficulty and excellent gameplay. Since his departure from Tecmo back in 2008, Itagaki had taken other members of Team Ninja and formed Valhalla Knights in 2009. Devil's Third was to be their first titled developed, but unfortunately had its share of setbacks. The game was originally announced by THQ and was to use Relic's engine most known for Darksiders 2. Due to the company's closure and THQ's declaration of bankruptcy, Valhalla Knights took back ownership of the title and decided to use the Unreal Engine 3. Originally announced for multiple platforms, Devil's Third soon became a Wii U exclusive, with its multiplayer component released as a free-to-play game for PC later on. Despite its very long development time, Devil's Third finally released nearing the end of 2015 in North America. Quantities don't seem very high in retail stores however, so regardless of the game's quality this may end up being a rarer find for collectors based on that aspect alone. It initially released in Japan with generally positive reviews, but seems to have been widely panned over in the west. Is this worth your time over the holiday season, should you wait for a price drop or just avoid it altogether? The answer is d) I'm not entirely sure.

As a concept Devil's Third ranks as one of the more interesting genre splices; it's aimed as a hybrid between action hack-n-slash, and first person shooting. Players take control of tattooed baldy Ivan the Terrible, aka "The Ghost." He is a former mercenary let loose from his private dwelling in Guantanamo Bay to right the wrongs of his past, and take down a former band of mercenaries he once belonged to "“ The School of Democracy.

The game's plot interestingly incorporates the Kessler effect: that the density of space debris in lower Earth's orbit is so great that collisions between objects could cascade, and in turn render our use of space satellites unfeasible as orbital ranges are far too dangerous. With this in play, warfare has been reduced to traditional methods of soldiers. It's kind of a neat counter to most modern shooters nowadays that focus on orbital strikes and technological warfare.

War certainly does erupt, and the game takes place over several continents and wildly different settings from underground sewers, to snowy fields, to traditional Japanese structures, to large industrial facilities and so on. For what it's worth, Devil's Third certainly does accomplish a variety in level design so levels don't feel too familiar. The actual story itself plays like a cheesy B-action movie that you will either enjoy, or become numbed to just for the sake of progressing through.
It was the latter for me; I'm normally one to enjoy an intentionally bad-made action game that serves as a parody of the genre, but this just doesn't really deliver. To make matters worse, the game is ridiculously short, clocking in at well under 5 hours. The game earnestly tries to spice up the gameplay variety, offering various vehicle missions, sniping, and demolition, but none of them really feel well thought-out; and the pacing can be pretty wonky at times. There were several instances where you would finish a cutscene only to move a few spaces in the same location and initiate another cutscene sequence. That actual gameplay portion had the player do absolutely nothing; there were no objectives that prompted the succeeding cutscene, it was an odd filler that served no purpose.

You're pitted against various human enemies ranging from lowly foot soldiers, to ninjas and highly armoured brutes. Most levels do have a boss battle that all range in degrees of difficulty. Some can be effortlessly mowed down with your firearms, while others need a little more monitoring to understand their movement patterns. Aside from certain unblockable moves that kill you in one shot, the game never really provides a decent challenge, which is a bit of a surprise considering who's behind this game.

The gameplay itself has its enjoyable moments where you're shooting an enemy's legs only to see their head's explode in a death animation, or its gratuitous gore as you're hacking up bodies with melee weapons that range from your standard Katana to Fireman Axes. That being said both feel a considerable lack of polish. Shooting isn't precise, and the draw distance is pretty poor which is odd considering the game will encourage you to shoot from afar. The melee combat is pretty rudimentary, and offers no depth outside of the staple Light-Light-Heavy game-winning combo. For someone who prides themselves on their thoroughness, Devil's Third feels like it could have used more development time, which shouldn't really be the case since this was technically announced 7 years ago. I feel that a lot of this game is an unfortunate product of its outside developmental factors.

There is an online component that consists of typical modes like free for all and team deathmatch. You create your own personal avatar and get silly cosmetic upgrades via in-game currency. When the servers are up, which isn't very often, matches are pretty fun. It's still utilizing the floaty shooting that hampered the single player, so unfortunately I don't expect this being something many will play when there are titles like Splatoon out that have tighter controls, and much greater lasting appeal.

Devil's Third is also a visual mixed bag. Some of the character renders show decent enough detail, but just about everything else present in the game is lackluster. Explosions showing pixelated 2D smoke and fire, textures and geometry popping in, frame rate stutters in exciting moments, your player character getting stuck in the environment, poor camera angles, and long loading times are present throughout the entirety of the game. This just doesn't feel like it should be considered a finished product, and feels more like I paid full price to stress test an incomplete game.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Devil's Third isn't a game I'd recommend. Sure, there are brief moments of enjoyment, and I am particularly intrigued by the genre at a conceptual stage. Heck, even the plot of the game's story was more interesting than it ought to be. These unfortunately do not detract from the forgettable storyline, unpolished controls, short playthrough, and its myriad of technical issues. Asking for full retail price is almost absurd, especially during the holiday season when some of Nintendo's greatest are either as expensive or far less, and much, much more deserving. Is Devil's Third inherently bad as a video game? No, not at all; it showed a lot of promise. And perhaps that's where the bulk of my frustration lies "“ in what the game could have been, instead of what was seemingly rushed out just to make some form of a return on an investment.

Cool plot involving the Kessler Syndrome.
I really like the idea of a hack-n-slash/first person shooter hybrid.
Online has its moments.
It’s not short and sweet, it’s just short.
Riddled with technical and performance issues.
Obvious signs of rushed development.
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