I know. I know. I’m late on this one. But I have a really good reason. I only recently managed to secure a copy. The game initially showed up stateside, where GameStop had a mere 420 copies nationwide. To say that the speculator market went insane over this is an understatement. For at least two months the game went for as much as $300 in online auctions. Nintendo quietly released more into retailers hands. The aftermarket price did fall a lot, but you can still pay as much as $80 for one. I lucked out, finding mine at retail last week, and it was likely the only new copy in my State.
The game has been a bit of a pariah since its release. Not only was there an initial speculator craze, that made a handful of second-hand sellers a considerable chunk of change, there was negative reception. There was a lot of negative reception. From other reviewers who hated it, to average players who hated it, the word of mouth got around fast. But is it really that terrible? Is it deserving of the ire not seen since the likes of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie?
PROS: Fun mechanics. Large weapon assortments.
CONS: Technical issues. Dumb A.I.. Microtransactions negatively impact multiplayer.
DTV: The action, and cheese are right out of a B-Movie.
Before I get into just why Devil’s Third is so reviled, I have to give a little bit of background. Way back in 2008, Tomonobu Itagaki left Tecmo, along with several Team Ninja members. He had announced he was leaving because he hadn’t been paid what he felt the company had promised him. He also announced he was suing them. Shortly thereafter he, and the others would form a new studio Valhalla Game Studios.
Valhalla would immediately begin work on Devil’s Third. In 2010 it was showed off at E3 for the first time. There wasn’t much focus on it compared with all of the other stuff at the show, but that wasn’t where the bad news would begin. During development, the game switched engines a number of times. The initial engine they started on had to be scrapped when the company they licensed it from went belly up. The game was then restarted on Relic’s Darksiders II engine. After awhile the team ran into other problems, and they moved the project to the Unreal 3 Engine.
Things became worse for Valhalla in 2013 when THQ went out of business. During the sale of THQ’s assets the IP for Devil’s Third was given back to Valhalla. But they now had no cash flow to finish their game. Itagaki spent a year trying to find another publisher. Eventually Nintendo would pick it up. Nintendo would also dictate that Devil’s Third would be a Wii U exclusive.
Upon firing up the game you’ll go through the typical credit screens. One for Valhalla, one for Epic’s Unreal 3 Engine, and you’ll finally end up at a calibration screen. Before you can even get to the title screen you’ll be asked to move the screen borders to your TV’s actual borders. After that you’ll make your way to the title screen.
The title screen has three menus. A single player mode, a multiplayer mode, and an options menu. In the options menu you can choose preset button configurations for the game pad. You can also revisit your border settings, volume, and contrast settings. One nice thing is the ability to tweak the sensitivity of the thumb sticks. It isn’t going to make it anywhere near as seamless as mouse look in a PC game. But it does give you a leg up on a couple of other games.
The single player campaign is a mixed bag. The story is right out of a direct-to-video action movie you’d find in a Best Buy bargain bin. In a war torn future, the global landscape has changed. The US was broken up into different territories, most of the world is in ruins, and an old cold war era terrorist has destroyed satellites. This has resulted in much of the world’s economies wiped out, as the decimation of the satellites has caused an EMP-like situation. Many computer systems are out, modern vehicles don’t work. Everything is in ruin.
A US Official goes to Guantanamo Bay to release one old prisoner named Ivan who was involved with this old threat in a past life. So as Ivan you have to escape the prison (where your cell is a lavish apartment replete with guitars, and a drum kit for some reason), meet up with an old war hero, and fight your former allies for revenge. You go to all different kinds of locales in the campaign. Panama, Japan, a shipyard, are but a handful of them.
The game plays like a combination of Itagaki’s Ninja Gaiden games from Tecmo, Call Of Duty, and a hint of Max Payne for good measure. You can go into firefights using both melee weapons, as well as an assortment of guns, grenades, rockets, and other projectile weapons. You can actually do some pretty cool things with the system. Like Ninja Gaiden, enemies can be dismembered in various violent ways. Some of the projectile weapons cause them to explode into giblets. Swords, axes, knives, and pipes will often crush skulls, and chop off limbs. There are even a lot of cool canned animations for the melee attacks that make it feel even more like a fun Dolph Lundgren B-movie.
Using the melee attacks will eventually fill a meter. Once full, you can activate a melee buff, that makes your attacks much more potent while your tattoos flash. There are some sections where you’ll have no choice but to use this mechanic as the game throws you up against mini bosses that can withstand a lot of gunfire. The unfortunate thing if you come into this as a fan of modern hack n’ slash titles is that there isn’t much of a combo system.
Devil’s Third has two melee attacks. You can do light, or hard swings. Light swings do less damage, but you can get a few of them in in a short amount of time. Hard swings do a ton of damage, but have cool down periods between swings. These are only around a second, but in many situations that can feel like too long. You can also block incoming melee attacks. After you get two or three swings in, the aforementioned canned animations occur, usually killing an enemy. The problem is that there aren’t any of the intricate challenging combos you’re probably used to. Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, and God Of War, all let you do some pretty deep combos. Many of which could even help you those times where you found yourself completely surrounded. Not so, here. You can get a few light swings in, maybe combine them with a hard swing, and that’s about it. You do have the ability to throw your melee weapon as well, which can sometimes be beneficial.
There’s also a pretty good dodge system in place, so you can dive out of the way of firepower, peek out behind cover, and toggle a run command. The run command can also be used to parkour on certain surfaces to get to higher ground. You can also combine the movement commands with melee to perform an instant takedown that can be really handy in certain situations. Finally, you can slide to cover while running which is cool.
The shooting mechanics fare considerably better. Most of the guns, have a nice punch to them, and work the way you’d expect. Machine guns, sub machine guns, being best at medium range, shotguns being great at point blank, and everything being decent at a range. Explosives also have splash damage, so you have to be careful about shooting them too close. Devil’s Third also tries to keep itself from becoming monotonous by adding some turret sections, and a few sections where you use your X-Ray glasses to find traps, or to lock onto targets for air strikes. Some of these succeed in what they’re trying to do, others feel like busywork. None of them go on too long though.
If there are any complaints to be had with the shooting, it’s that the right thumb stick’s responsiveness isn’t quite as smooth as in other games. It takes a little while to get used to. But while you’re acclimating yourself you can expect to miss a few shots, and get beat up by an enemy that probably seemed like easy pickings.
Speaking of enemies, there is a surprisingly large variety here. You’ll see your usual video game mercenaries. But there are Predator stand-ins, Resident Evil monster stand-ins, mech like super soldiers, enemy vehicles, and many more. Again, there is an issue that rears its head here, and that is the inconsistent A.I.. Sometimes you will find enemies have the most dead on aim in the game, or the best possible blocking times when you go to swing that emergency fire axe. But then you’ll get to the next section of the level to find the next run of henchmen are complete idiots. They will stand in the open practically asking you to shoot them in the face. Even when there may be a ton of optional scenery to duck behind.
This can even affect the bosses sometimes. You could fight a boss in ten long battles, all of which you narrowly lose, only for them to become a pushover in fight eleven. It takes you out of the moment, especially after having to pull out all of the stops so many times. It’s almost as if the game just decides to randomly put you over for no apparent reason. But the inconsistent A.I. really isn’t the biggest problem with the game.
Those would be the technical issues. The game will randomly suffer from frame drops, and micro stuttering. Make no mistake, it’s infrequent. It isn’t a constant problem while you play through the campaign. But it can happen at the worst possible time, and get you killed. Even on the easiest difficulty setting. It doesn’t matter if there are 2 enemies, 60 enemies, or even no enemies. Your frame rate will go from an acceptable 30 frames per second down to 5 frames per second for around fifteen seconds. The conditions are arbitrary. It isn’t something where it happens when too much is going on for the Wii U to handle. It will randomly drop. In my play through I had it happen around ten times during the campaign. The campaign will get you between six to eight hours of play time depending on how fast you pick up the nuances. Difficulty settings honestly don’t impact the game much. In my case going from the easiest setting to the hardest one, I only noticed that enemies did more damage. The A.I. didn’t improve much, and they seemed to take only slightly more damage when I hit them.
Some have really given the game’s graphics a hard time. To their credit, it does look like some of the earliest textures, and models were carried over from older builds to the final build on Unreal 3 Engine. You can probably notice it in the screen shots in this article. I won’t sugarcoat it. The visuals are pretty inconsistent. Ivan looks pretty amazing. There are a lot of little details on the model, and in some parts of the game you’d be forgiven for thinking you were looking at an Xbox One game. But then you have structures, and other models that have the complexity of a very early Xbox 360 game. Some of the textures aren’t as good as other textures. That is until you realize that the game has another technical issue. It seems like there is an issue loading textures. Go into one of these bland areas, and hold still for a moment. Eventually, things begin to look considerably better as details begin to show up on brick walls, marble floors, or painted surfaces.
While I don’t think it looks as bad, or plays as bad as some of the criticism would have you believe, you can’t entirely dismiss it. Devil’s Third does have some issues that really bring it down a lot. Having said that, I still had a pretty fair amount of fun playing through the campaign. It has a lot of problems yes, but they aren’t so bad that they make the game completely unplayable. It’s very simplistic fun, and that’s okay. If you can forgive the inconsistent graphics, and occasional frame drop, you can honestly find a fair amount of enjoyment in the campaign. Even if the A.I. goes from Einstein to dumbass out of nowhere.
You can also find enjoyment in the multiplayer portion of the game. It has the typical modes you’ve likely come to expect. There’s a standard death match, and team death match mode. There is also a capture the flag mode, a bomb mode similar to the one found in Counter-Strike, as well as a fruit mode. This makes teams compete to capture fruit, and put it in a device for points. Finally, there is a Siege mode. This reminds me a lot of Sanctum, where you defend or attack structures in a map depending on your team. Moreover, Siege actually encourages players to form clans, as you can place structures in maps, and compete for territory.
Siege will give you the option to join a clan, or be a mercenary. If you join a clan you get the perks of having your base placements effect matches, as well as having a neat little icon next to your name. If you would rather play with your friends, you can also form your own clan, and invite them into it. When people ask you to join their clan, you’ll get an in-game email notification that you can accept or deny. If you opt out of being in a clan, and play lone wolf, you can still play Siege. But you will mainly be there to help whichever team you’re assigned to. You will get rewards for playing the mode however.
Before you can play Siege you’ll have to get set up with gear, take a brief tutorial, and then fight through the other modes of your choosing until you reach level 5. But of course, this is where once again, there has to be a problem getting in the way of what could have been an excellent game. Microtransactions. I hesitate to say that the ones in Devil’s Third are as nefarious as the ones in a lot of free to play games. They aren’t. But by God are they still pretty dubious. The game has two forms of currency. In game cash you can use, and golden eggs. Golden eggs can be used to buy some items, while the cash is for others. You can also convert the eggs into cash. Beating the campaign gives you a lot of eggs, and winning or placing in matches gives you one to a few. Finding all of the trophies in the campaign adds more. Thankfully, the weapons in multiplayer are all purchased with in game cash. So beating the game will essentially give you enough eggs to turn to credits to unlock every gun in the multiplayer.
However, some things like multiple load outs for you to preset weapon combinations with, and costume pieces need to be purchased with eggs. Many of them require fifty eggs to unlock. The costume pieces also have negligible buffs, and nerfs on them. One shirt might take one less damage point from bullets while reducing you one speed point. The differences are so miniscule they rarely have any impact in combat whatsoever. They seem pointless to even be there. Really, they serve a mainly cosmetic purpose. But it doesn’t feel any better. Especially since you can pay real world money for eggs if you don’t want to grind out battles for eons. Siege mode also gives you a finite number of ammunition, so you’ll use the in game currency to replenish it. Again, another example of microtransactions running amok. Thankfully, you’re still given plenty, and the rewards you get for playing generally cover you well enough. So you really shouldn’t have to buy any eggs to convert to cash to resupply with.
Prices for eggs will make you laugh your ass off, and ask the game if it’s serious. One hundred eggs will cost you $20. Go back to what I said a moment ago about how many eggs you need for a costume part. This means if you don’t want to grind your way to costumes you can easily spend a few hundred dollars. On nonsense. This is almost as bad as the technical issues, and for some players it might actually be worse.
This is all disappointing because the underlying multiplayer game play is actually quite good. It makes effective use of the mechanics from the campaign, allowing you to use the same melee, movement, and gunplay. The maps are well designed for the different playable modes. I’ll go out on a limb, and say if not for the microtransactions this could have given some other online shooters on the Wii U some competition. It feels a lot like the multiplayer from Max Payne 3, minus the bullet time. In place of that are super weapons you can use for a short period of time after filling a meter. These do feel pretty beefy, and will have you cheering when you take people down with them. But they’re not win buttons either. You can still be taken out pretty easily when using them. Be it a shot from afar, or a sword from behind.
The technical issues from the main game do sometimes crop up here. Sometimes just before a round starts there might be a hiccup, and you’ll notice texture pop in. But outside of that, the death matches run really well. Interestingly, you can also plug in a USB keyboard to use in the chat room before matches. You cannot play the game with it though, so don’t expect to have a PC experience here. The game doesn’t support headsets or microphones though. Peculiar seeing how they went to the trouble of adding keyboard support. Anyway, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter much since the most played mode is death match. The goal of which is to be a loner who racks up the most frags.
Overall, I wouldn’t call Devil’s Third a completely terrible game. There are many issues that keep it from being an exceptional single player game. The microtransactions really hinder the online experience much more than help it. In spite of all of these problems though, I can say there is fun to be had here. The story, while full of plot holes, and clichés does live up the B-movie vibe it goes for. It’s still a riot to cut down waves of low level grunts with a shotgun, or an iron pipe. You’ll still feel an enjoyably surprising shock when a boss knocks a weapon out of your hands. The 75% of the time that the A.I. is smarter than a box of rocks it can be an exciting challenge. Especially when there are new tools given to you to try out. None of this is going to blow you away, but you’ll likely enjoy playing through it over a weekend.
Multiplayer actually is a blast though, which is why it is so disappointing to see it marred by a microtransaction system. The weapons, and mechanics are so enjoyable. Some of the extra costumes you can customize your character with do look cool. But they’re nothing anybody should spend real world money on. It’s the type of thing that should have been a DLC pack you would find in a Call Of Duty game. If it had to be sold as an extra at all. The system here just nickel, and dimes you. It isn’t quite the level of a free to start game, since again, you can at least get all of the weapons by playing the campaign. But man, does it come ever so close to it. Beat the game, use the credits on the weapons, and enjoy the multiplayer that way.
If after all of that you want to jump in, you can try to hunt down a copy like I did. But you can also buy it on the Nintendo eshop. In the end though, you’re getting into an average game. Nothing revolutionary. Nothing you haven’t seen elsewhere. But you’ve also played far worse. Although being average isn’t bad, there are many better games to choose from. If you do decide to play it anyway, you’ll have some fun. If you temper your expectations.
Final Score: 5 out of 10