Devil’s Third – Not Half Bad

I’ve heard a lot of bad things about this game, but I know better than to believe game journalists these days. I avoided Devil’s Third mainly because I couldn’t justify a $90 game where you shoot with the analog stick. With the game inevitably bombing I was able to do a deal with the devil and get a cheap copy. Sad but that’s life sometimes. With Switch replacing the Wii U it’s a great time to pick up some cheap games you missed. The unique design of Devil’s Third stood out to me, and even if it was bad, at this point I didn’t care. I had to try it, when a game gets such a polarising reception there is usually something special about it. I popped the disc in today and I’m blown away. The game is not polarising at all, and quite simply fun to play.

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The first hour is masterfully done. You start off in a prison using your hands to fight guards to learn the basic combat, Y for a fast hit and X for a slow one. In the next fight you get to pick up a melee weapon. In the next fight, you learn to block and evade with the L button. The game shows you the mechanics one-by-one which makes it easy to start playing right away without doubting yourself. There is no real pause to the action besides entering the next area. It then has you sprint, crawl, and roll through certain hazards. Asking for ONE thing to be done right is something I’ve surprisingly never seen (or noticed) before, a great way to start the game. Smart, simple and fun.

I love how the L button acts as BOTH block and roll. It becomes the “reaction” button when you brace for combat from surprise enemy attacks. You press L to protect yourself then figure out what to do next with the analog stick.

The gameplay engine is surprisingly functional and fast. Movement feels robust and the camera rotation is one of the best I’ve ever controlled, it just feels right and I would rank it above a lot of high-profile games. That was before I even adjusted the settings.

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Options, how beautiful. Another thing this game does right is giving you a lot of customisation. You can set camera sensitivity, change buttons, shift the screen position, change individual sound levels, change the difficulty and toggle assists. All in the middle of gameplay. It takes the experience seriously and has something for everyone (except gyro aiming). I can’t imagine anyone struggling with this game on Casual difficulty. I’ve put Aim Assist on just to get over the weakness of analog stick aiming, and Cover Assist just means you automatically hug walls you run into, instead of pressing a button to activate it. It’s done so naturally that I like it.

The story is even interesting. Ivan is a badass dude who gives no fucks, playing the drums and guitar in equal measure. He’s not a brooding criminal, he’s just accepted his fate and tries to make the most of his ridiculous 850 year prison sentence. I’m slowly learning why he was in prison and it’s interesting enough to keep me playing for that reason. You get released for a certain mission, to track down people you know. The dialogue is rather generic but the characters themselves are interesting with very wild designs and ideals.

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After you learn the combat, the other half of the gameplay opens up when you get a gun and start entering mini-battlefields with tanks and lots of soldiers. I normally hate scenarios like this, where you’re just running out taking shots hoping for the best. I stopped playing the FPS genre entirely because it’s become so awkward and forced, like a documentary you’re taking part in. This game however feels different because it has good movement, it feels like a videogame. If you wait for enemies to pop their heads out, sometimes they will NOT come out of their cover, ever. You can wait minutes and they won’t budge, so you have to either throw a grenade behind them or find a way to approach yourself. It’s bold game design and quite funny at first. The amusement quickly changes to nerves, as you hope your approach doesn’t get you killed when they all pop out at once.

The biggest thing that separates this from other shooters is your agility. Instead of feeling like an overweight soldier with ten layers on, Ivan is very strong and fit, and as a result you can roll, jump, and pull out guns instantly. Holding ZL is essential for gun combat and it happens instantly, so there’s no excuse for flopping about with the normal cursor. This doesn’t stop the gameplay from being realistic, as you will certainly die by running out into enemy fire. Some enemy attacks have killed me in one hit. This is part of the game’s design as it forces you to think up different approaches. When you can run and jump across rooftops and roll past enemies, it’s FUN to approach enemies. Melee attacks are still effective too, even though you have a gun. If you fall on an enemy and press Y you can execute an instant kill, and some enemies are too fast for gunfire and must be blocked.

I can’t comment too much on the difficulty as I’m only about halfway (four hours?) through the campaign playing on Standard. I’ve died about 30 times but wouldn’t call it hard outside one boss fight. Most of the times I died in normal combat had me reacting with “oh, so I should use melee here instead” instead of frustration. The game is really forgiving with checkpoints and health regeneration as well. Just find a safe place and everything will be fine.

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Look at the difference sizes of those chunks of shrapnel. There’s one shaped like a fish. You’ve gotta appreciate the little things in this game, or you won’t notice an enemy about to kill you.

I’ve heard Itagaki (the game’s famous Director) criticise the reviewers of this game, but from a distance it just made him look like a lunatic farmer defending his bad crops. It was a bad look. After playing the game though, I am on his side. It must be so frustrating as a game developer to have to deal with such low-quality efforts from game reviewers who DO NOTHING for a living. They will praise stuff like Bloodborne for being “deep” and then not apply the same patience to this game. It should not be treated differently. If you are a gamer and not a weasel reviewer, it’s very easy to find the depth in this game and it shouldn’t go under the radar. It’s well-designed and spells out the controls for you in an obvious way.

I don’t see anything bad about this game from a presentation perspective either. You can zoom in on a background texture that hasn’t loaded properly and criticise the graphics all you want, but that is not a realistic view of the experience. It’s funny the way textures load. I spent 20 seconds staring at a blurry picture frame on the wall, just trying to figure out what it was. I was about to enter the Miiverse to ask, but then the picture finally loaded with the full detail of a gorgeous mansion. Hilarious delay for such an insignificant object.

There must be a lot of streaming going on because the game rarely stops the action to load. When you walk into a new area you can see the framerate slow down for a few seconds as it transitions, it’s awkward but I’d take this over another loading screen. It’s a compromise but the right one for this game. Unfortunately it opens the door to very easy criticism. I can imagine someone pointing at a bad texture going “HURP DURP! SEE! GAME IS SHIT! THERE’S PROOF!”, and calling it a day. Job done, you saw a bad texture and saved yourself some more Witcher 3 time. Professional gamer right there.

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There are some cool sights in this game, and lots of unique geometry that you wouldn’t normally expect to interact with in an action game. The graphics certainly have flaws but none of them are a big deal and the presentation of the gameplay is great. I haven’t witnessed a single flaw that affects gameplay, so I’m left baffled by the reception this game got. It’s a head-scratcher but I don’t really care, I’m just happy that I got this great game for so cheap. I don’t know how the end of the game will fare, but I just wanted to write these impressions to confirm it’s not a bad game. I love the way it’s designed for all the same reasons I enjoyed Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. If you see it cheap, pick it up. Devil’s Third is more than decent and will certainly become a cult classic.

8 thoughts on “Devil’s Third – Not Half Bad”

  1. I’m a Devil’s Third fan myself, and this game really is 2015’s Star Fox Zero. Game journos were desperate to find SOMETHING wrong with the Wii U’s lineup for that year, and singled out this game. I remember back when it first came out, and people insisted that the game was COMPLETELY broken and unplayable.

    Needless to say, that isn’t the case. People who played it generally liked it. The singleplayer is good, but the multiplayer, in my opinion, was fantastic. I’ll be honest. I personally preferred this game over Splatoon, even though I understand that makes me a filthy hipster.

    http://www.polygon.com/features/2016/11/16/13596478/the-ups-downs-and-future-of-tomonobu-itagakis-devils-third

    Definitely an interesting article going over the development of the game. Interestingly, the game was made because Nintendo wanted to learn how to put out online multiplayer games. This game is why Splatoon exists.

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  2. This was a game I wanted to get… But didn’t.
    At first, I hesitated in getting it because of the bare bones presentation it was first given (at E3 I think?), But the multiplayer fascinated me.

    When it’s release date slowly crawled closer, the reviews kicked in and everyone was saying it was ****. Normally I’d ignore those things if I really wanted a game… But I didn’t have money I could spend willy nilly at the time. I had to be smart with what I bought next.
    If it had gotten 60/100s, I would have still pulled my wallet out.

    But the horribly low ratings… Then on its release, all the trash talking from supposed players… And the few players who defended it were often poor in their argument-skills…

    I just skipped it.

    … Now I kinda really regret it.
    I can only imagine just how fun the online mode was… Just missing that alone makes me not want to purchase the game now (always seeing a great option that I no longer have access to).

    But, in a way, I’m kinda glad(?) I didn’t pick it up.
    Because if I had, I would’ve definitely been in articles, reviews, and forums, arguing HARD for its case – probably frothing at the mouth.
    It was A VERY stressful time for me around that game’s release, so that definitely wouldn’t have helped my stress levels…

    Well, maybe I’ll pick it up sometime… I dunno. It’d be nice to fill out my Wii U library with more “”hidden”” classics.

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  3. The nice thing about finally playing this game is that it has a very light-hearted “cool” atmosphere that sort of washes away any of the negativity. Really wish I got to try the multiplayer, looks like it had a lot of creative modes. Even the leaderboards are down now, sadly.

    Really interesting read, heroes. The game was a lot more important than I realised, and sort of explains the reception when reviewers wanted to “build their credibility” by shitting on another mature Nintendo exclusive. There was some bitterness that Nintendo was taking their audience. Saying this is why Splatoon exists is a huge leap though, it filled a hole in their lineup and Nintendo wanted to test the online waters further, that’s about it. I love Itagaki’s conviction though and hope he finds a way to make Devil’s Third 2. I love that quote about making games for gamers, and not reviewers. That’s exactly what I was trying to say in this writeup, and I’m really thankful the game was made that way.

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  4. I passed on it, partly because of the bad reviews, and partly because, well, I’m not all that big into shooters. The cartoony antics of Splatoon is more my jam. But you’ve intrigued me with this article, and I may pick this up if I come across it cheap.

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  5. Would you say the single-player is worth a thirty?
    Also, what happened to your previous article (your Switch Impressions one)?

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    1. Meh, I’ve decided to stop writing so there won’t be anything from me about the Switch. I can’t justify the time at the moment. It sucks and I’m sorry.

      The value of Devil’s Third depends on how you view action games and entertainment. Multiplayer was obviously a big part of the game, but even without it, I didn’t feel like I missed out on the core game experience. The mechanics are all there, and presented very well. It’s not worth a thirty, but a Devil’s Thirty, definitely.

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