Devil’s Third by Valhalla Studios is one of those games that was heavily anticipated, probably because it’s unusual to see an over-the-top violent game like it on a Nintendo console. The game has had a troubling history, what with game engine shifts and publishers shutting down. Still, it’s here now, and we’ve gone a few rounds with Ivan to see what the devil is up.
The game follows a violent convict, Ivan, who is contracted by the government to put a stop to a terrorist organization who wish to cause a ridiculous amount of anarchy by destroying the planet’s satellites. Your mission isn’t to actually stop the satellites from being destroyed because that’s already happened, and without satellites, the nature of war is changed. The terrorist group—calling themselves the School of Democracy—consists of a bunch of Ivan’s former comrades, so naturally he’s the best pick to take them out with some measure of extreme prejudice. For once in a game, the lone-wolf protagonist is forced to work with a trained military force, and you can imagine how well that goes down (hint: like a lead zeppelin). Ivan himself is about as cliched a Russian fellow as you can hope to find: violent, coarse, covered in tattoos, and smokes and swigs down vodka like it’s Open Vice Season. And of course, he handles both martial weapons and guns with equal familiarity.
In practice, Devil’s Third is a third-person action game that doesn’t exactly fit neatly in any existing genre category. For one, the camera follows behind Ivan instead of over his shoulder, which feels a bit weird initially, but you get used to it. In addition to the standard shooty attacks, Ivan also has an ability called Enbaku, which aside from making his tattoos glow, gives him extra speed, killing ability, and a greater ability to withstand damage. I use the words “third-person action game” deliberately, because you can, in theory, go through most of the game without having load a single clip into your gun, and rather take out every enemy with an assortment of knives, swords, pipes, and other such deadly paraphernalia. The action is brutal, too. Enemies are just as likely to be sliced to pieces as become riddled with bullet holes, and Ivan has some spectacular finishing moves.
My biggest issue with the game has been loading times. It takes a small age just to get to the title screen, and a short while longer to get from there into the game proper, or into the multiplayer lobby (which entails a further wait to get into a match). Once the game is actually loaded, things proceed far more smoothly, but that’s not the end of the game’s woes. I’m not going to lament the story or the character, because I think their overblown nature is by design. Where the game falls down quite magnificently is on gameplay itself. Sadly for Ivan, the gun battles are not exciting, the Enbaku doesn’t add much in the way of strategy to the game, and melee battles get repetitive. Control-wise, Devil’s Third should have taken a page from Splatoon’s book and included motion controls as one of its options, because I’ve since found that the GamePad makes an excellent controller that rivals mouse for accuracy. That being said, the cursor does perform a snap-to-opponent motion, but the stick is still a horribly inaccurate method of control, no matter what the Gearses and Drakeses and CODs of the world tell you.
Graphically, the game looks like it belongs a bit in the PS2 era of gaming, just in HD. I can forgive it its problems because of the amount of trouble it went through when it underwent a change in game and graphics engines. Ivan’s own design, being covered in sanskrit tattoos, makes him look far more interesting than the walking trope-sin he actually is. The environments are fairly linear, and you won’t be doing much in the way of backtracking to find your way to the end. In an action game, this is a good thing. Devil’s Third also has a bunch of collectibles for you to find in each level, in theory giving you an inkling of replayability, but the levels themselves are tedious enough that a single playthrough will likely be more than enough.
The game has some very interesting multiplayer scenarios which look far more interesting than the single-player campaign, and I’d love to tell you more about them…but I can’t. Although the multiplayer servers were online at the time of writing—because it’s still prerelease—the servers were empty. I stuck around for quite a while waiting for matches and even got in a few rounds of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS before I gave up. I’ll update this review once I’ve had a chance to get some decent multiplayer action in.
I’m uninspired by Devil’s Third as a single-player game, but the multiplayer portion of the game looks like it might actually redeem the entire title. Once there are a decent number of players online, I’ll be back to let you know how it goes. In fact, the mutliplayer portion is getting its own PC port, so makes it very interesting in my book. As it stands, though, Devil’s Third is a wait and see.
Final Score (single player): 6.5 tattooed prawns out of 10
Developer: Valhalla Studios
Distributor: Nintendo South Africa
Platform: Nintendo Wii U
Age Rating: 18+
Release Date: 28 August 2015