Devil’s Third: offline review

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EDITOR’S NOTE: We struggled to find people playing online prior to release, sometimes encountering literally nobody, and never playing a match with the maximum number of players. We will therefore review the online element separately some time after release, especially considering the planned F2P PC version. 

There seems little point in going over the well-documented, troubled history of this game. The story ends with Nintendo picking up publishing rights, and why? One suspects because, almost three years after it was first released, the Wii U still has very few exclusives aimed firmly at the adult market. Devil’s Third is now here to help increase that number; but do we get to make a hilarious ‘Devil’s Turd’ joke, like the rest of the internet probably will?

First impressions ain’t great. As is the norm for a game that started development several years before hitting shop shelves, the graphics are behind the times. How behind? DT looks like a PS3 launch game, complete with moments of plummeting frame rate. Even the design could do with some work. Generally, the cutscenes are what you might expect from a PS2 game in the latter stages of its life, which actually isn’t bad at all; but the general who gruffly gives you intel and orders looks like a Mr Potato Head that’s been melting for a full minute.

So yes, it’s graphically imperfect, but not to the point where it has any significant impact on gameplay. You take control of a Russian chap by the name of Ivan, entirely hairless (well, so far as we can see) so that he can cover himself in a hilarious amount of tattoos all in Japanese for some reason. By the time you reach the end of the prologue, you will already have experience of using both firearms and melee weapons, and have learned that you can swap the ones you’re holding for any you find. Melee combat remains in third person, with basic yet functional controls; weak attack, strong attack, defend, dodge, throw weapon, jump attack. The main problem you’ll find here is that ‘defend’ and ‘dodge’ use the same button; and the jump attack involves holding down one of the same buttons also required for throwing your weapon. In a particularly hectic fight, it’s easy to make mistakes that don’t necessarily feel like your fault.

The enemy organisation carries the acronym SOD, leading to a few unintentionally hilarious lines for us UK people.

Firing from the hip keeps you in third person, but aiming down the sights of a gun takes you into first person. There’s no option to change or disable this but, actually, it works very well and doesn’t interrupt the flow of play at all. Unfortunately, attempting precise fire in first person makes the sloppy aiming stick out like a sore and imprecise thumb. It’s possible to adjust the sensitivity, but we found it impossible to find a spot where the controls were as tight and infallible as, say, Black Ops II on the same console. This is a significant issue that should have been fixed.

Two wrongs almost make a right, in that super-precise fire is rarely needed in an instant; because the AI is so iffy. Enemies will make use of cover, and don’t suffer from schoolboy errors such as running in circles or standing out in the open on a regular basis. However, you can usually – so long as you’re not facing a large group – pop your head out of cover and calmly line up a headshot while your target is seemingly oblivious to the fact that you’re flanking them, and/or the fact that they’re looking directly at you from fifty feet away. Sometimes, it almost feels like cheating.

There are times when this isn’t an option, and this is usually when a small but deadly group rushes you to engage in close quarters. This theoretically then means that you’re forced into melee combat. However, to DT’s credit, most fights give you a lot of leeway in how you want to approach them, in terms of combining firearms and/or explosives and/or melee combat. Our favourite example of this is when a pack of sword-wielding ninjas rush us, and we’ve made sure to hang on to a flamethrower attachment, so we just wave a jet of flame everywhere and watch them fall to the floor in agony rather than engage in a protracted ballet of swordsmanship. That was greatly satisfying every single time.

Lots of pointy things in this game, to make a mess of enemies – or for them to make a mess of you.

That’s the thing. For all of DT’s flaws (and there are many), it’s not hard to squeeze a lot of dumb fun out of the ten-hour-odd campaign if you switch your brain off. There are many weapons, with admirable variety in strengths and weaknesses. The story and script tend to be forgettable nonsense rather than outrageous hilarity, unfortunately, but play itself is… well… almost sort of ‘accidentally competent’. In all fairness, an effort has been made to throw a new idea or experience in every so often to stop things getting stale and, by and large, it works. It’s just a shame that everything the game contains has been used in a million other games. Explosive barrels, ninjas, a secret underground lab, turrets, a vehicle section, mutants, over-the-top gore… one of the final bosses is – prepare yourselves, folks – a giant mutant wearing a jetpack who spits acid and uses a missile launcher.

In fact, the bosses are arguably the low points of the game. They’re not Deus Ex: Human Revolution bad; but the fact that most of them force you into melee combat means that your freedom of approach is snatched away, and you have to deal with just one awkwardly implemented combat system without the option of mixing it up with the other one.

This is gaming pulp fiction. It’s eighties TV cheese in videogame form, like The A Team (with a less coherent story) bathed in blood and given a dollop of T-Virus. It doesn’t deserve to be top of your shopping list, and isn’t worth paying full price for; but if it’s piqued your curiosity and you find it cheap, you’ll find that it easily holds your interest until the end. And the song that plays over the end credits is pretty good. 

critical score 6

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Written by Luke K

He plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. He doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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