My taste in films is somewhat strange. I can feel like watching the latest blockbuster at the local cinema just as much as revisiting David Fincher's filmography; I can stay glued to the couch if I get my hands on any of Stallone's testosterone-filled flicks, but also if Man of Steel's on TV, if only for the sake of criticising it. Until today, I didn't think that a game could be the equivalent of that. That was before Devil's Third came into my life.
It's undeniable that this, the first work of Valhalla Game Studios, is ugly. It's based on outdated mechanics and it doesn't deserve its place on the current generation. However, despite all the hate and heat it's going to get, I must admit that the game has appeal. Perhaps this is due to its tough main character, the kind of guy that, fortunately, is an endangered species. It seems like the game just doesn't take itself seriously, or it's skewed so pretentiously that the result ended up being ridiculously funny. Anyway, let's talk exactly what the hell Devil's Third is.
We're talking about the first work of Tomonobu Itagaki, creator of Dead or Alive after leaving Tecmo and Team Ninja in 2008. THQ was originally set to launch this game for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but the Californian company turned to dust before that could happen. The project was in limbo until Nintendo thought it deserved a second chance. In terms of its development Devil's Third was less a bed of roses and more mired in the manure underneath the flower bed. But this still doesn't justify this poor outcome.
The game sees us in the middle of a world war, following the fall of the entire satellite network orbiting our planet. The USA is in a state of crisis, but they find a solution: recruiting Ivan, a Russian ex-mercenary that had been in prison up until then. It turns out that his former comrades have something to do with what happened and it's now his job to undo the mess. As promising as the argument might look, in the end it's merely a backdrop that justifies the hail of bullets, knives and explosions that take place in Devil's Third.
Regarding the gameplay, it's an attempt to mix hack'n'slash with first-person shooter, but it simply doesn't cut it in either genre. Ivan has a katana to slice his way through the hordes of enemies that he encounters, many of them fully-equipped too. Still, due to the number of soldiers that usually appear, the only plausible option is to choose firearms and forget knives and swords until there are only a couple of rivals left.
The hand-to-hand combat feels old, with a system that offers more problems than it solves. Dodging and blocking are both performed with the same button, with the only difference being that the former is achieved if you simultaneously move the analog stick to the side. This control system is really inconvenient, and Ivan will most likely do the opposite of what you're asking him to do. The only good point is that there are multiple weapons to choose from and each of them has a pretty cool finishing move. Despite what Itagaki thinks, playing with the Wii U Pro Controller doesn't improve the experience at all.
This would be a minor problem if the main mechanics worked properly, but this isn't the case either. The entire game runs in third-person except when we start shooting, and it's then that Devil's Third shows one of its worst sides. First-person is heavily flawed with a rough targeting system alongside some recoilless guns. For instance, you can pull on the machine gun's trigger as much as you want; your aim won't be affected in the slightest.
Devil's Third's problems would make up a lengthy list. There are serious drops in the framerate both in cinematic sequences and in-game, and textures take their sweet time loading. The cover system, despite being automatic, has a lot of issues too and leaves you out of cover when you think you're safe. The level design is unidirectional and, in most cases, you're limited to just walking through a hallway. Level bosses go from extremely easy to terribly unfair, and they also fall victim to the odd bug. Last but not least, Devil's Third doesn't even meet the minimum requirements for a game in this generation, as far as its technical level is concerned. We've seen visual treats on the Wii U like Mario Kart 8 or Bayonetta 2, so this failure can't be blamed on the console's power.
To add insult to injury, there's the multiplayer, an element that we haven't been able to get hands-on with fully. It's the other half of the game, with an arsenal of outfits, weapons and objects for you to customise your character with before going into battle. The competitive modes are many and varied, and it can accommodate up to eight players per team, or sixteen going solo.
All of this is topped off with a chat system that works pretty well. It's a pity that all this content comes with the stain of micro-transactions. Yes, Devil's Third implements golden eggs as currency, an object that can only be obtained with real money and yet they do make a difference. It's a frustrating feature - one of the worst practices in the industry - and this alone yanks the game's score down.
At this point the verdict seems clear, but as I said at the beginning, there's something important to point out: I had fun with Devil's Third. It might be because the game already had an infamous reputation after it got to the Japanese press, who were the first to try it out, with Itagaki facing them and defending (by attacking) a title that seemed untenable.
Perhaps it's also due to the fact that, well, the story has no rhyme or reason and its main character seems to be pretty aware of it when he confronts, shirtless and without letting go of his cigar, an entire army by himself. But the thing is that Devil's Third has a certain charm if you decide to cut it some slack (a lot of slack, to be honest), that is, if you accept its mistakes and you don't take it too seriously.
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