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Devil's Third (Wii U) artwork

Devil's Third (Wii U) review

"Unless you have a penchant for bad games, you can safely ignore it. "

Ninja Gaiden Black is arguably the finest action game ever made. Itís certainly my favorite, and in my mind cemented Tomonobu Itagaki as a designer to follow. After his departure from Tecmo, I was excited to learn he would be making another action game called Devilís Third. Itís been over five years since that project was first announced and now itís finally here as a Wii U exclusive, after Nintendo saved it from THQís sudden bankruptcy. Unfortunately, the lengthy development period and Nintendoís involvement arenít enough to save a game that once showed a ton of promise.

The Devilís Third campaign focuses on Ivan, a prisoner being held at a high-security prison. Weíre introduced to the bald Russian covered in tattoos as heís rocking out on some drums in a room furnished with amps, a mini-fridge and other conveniences one wouldnít expect to find in a prison. Ivan is special, though, in a Snake Pliskin kind of way. Heís a former terrorist thatís called in to beat the bad guys in times of need. On this occasion, the group to which he once belonged is threatening to trigger World War III.

If this story sounds familiar to Metal Gear Solid fans, thatís no coincidence. Devilís Third wants badly to tell a story that's on the level of Metal Gear Solid, but it lacks any of the character or narrative that makes Kojimaís epic so good. Instead, Ivan is a Russian stereotype that speaks in bad one-liners. All of the villains, while interesting in concept, spout vague allusions to the Cold War and rant about the difference between murder and sacrifice.

Devilís Third is an action game, though, and such shortcomings can perhaps be forgiven. After all, Ninja Gaidenís story was similarly forgettable. It was the gameplay that truly mattered. I wish I could say the same for Devilís Third, but the game may be even more of a mess than the story that attempts to hold it together. The problems start with a noble endeavor of East-meets-West design that marries the shooting of Call of Duty and its ilk with the swordplay of Ninja Gaiden. Itís an excellent idea thatís proven successful with the likes of Shadow Warrior. Devilís Third, however, isnít very good at either style.

The gunplay is easily the worst of the two, because the Wii U gamepadís analog sticks are easily the least accurate sticks available on any major controller. If it wasnít for the auto-aiming thatís turned on by default, I donít think Iíd be able to accurately target any of the enemies in the game. I never could train my sights on an adversary and follow them for a shot. I just had to wait until they stopped moving and let the auto-aim do the rest.

The melee combat is a bit better, but itís certainly no Ninja Gaiden. There are weak and strong attacks, but brawling more or less boils down to the former being used for simple three-hit combos and the latter being used to break guards. The system lacks any of the variety thatís found in most other action games. In its defense, though, Devilís Third has some pretty satisfying execution animations, so sticking to melee at least provides some visceral thrills.

Even worse than the gunplay and melee combat, however, is the obsession with first-person shooting. Almost every other level in the game feels like it was ripped straight out of some AAA Western shooter. As an example, Ivan at one point hops onto a vehicle thatís as close as one can get to a Warthog without getting sued, and must reach the end of a valley before a bombing run commences. The entire sequence apes the escape levels from Halo, but it lacks all of the tension and spectacle that made those sequences so memorable. In short, Devilís Third is the little kid that looks up to and acts like the big kids, but lacks the maturity to convincingly pull off the act.

I would be remiss if I didnít also talk about the multiplayer, since the game began its life focused on this core aspect. It promises a unique system in which players join a clan, build a base and then protect that base from invading teams. It also has humorous play modes that feature chicken and fruit collecting.

The multiplayer sounds pretty cool, but I didn't get to experience any of it. On three separate occasions, I tried to play multiplayer after creating a custom character and outfitting her with some basic weaponry. With the servers being region locked to North America and Nintendo printing so few copies, I only ever found lobbies with one other occupant. A multiplayer match requires at least four people before it will commence, so I was never able to proceed. Thatís not the gameís fault, but rather a symptom of Nintendo of America sending it off to die. The only hope this game has is if Nintendo opens the servers to worldwide players like it did with Splatoon, but even that might not help given that the game has already been out in Europe and Japan--and likely forgotten--since August. I find it hard to believe that players in those regions would keep coming back when Splatoon is still providing the de facto Wii U multiplayer experience.

Despite all of this, I had some fun with Devilís Third. The campaign is a mess and the multiplayer is barren, but I found value in how it tried so earnestly to marry Call of Duty and Ninja Gaiden gameplay. Should you buy Devilís Third, though? Nintendo certainly doesnít think so, and neither do I. Unless you have a penchant for weird, bad games like I do or just want to own whatís likely to become one of the rarest Wii U games in North America, you can safely ignore it.


Phazonmasher's avatar
Freelance review by Zachary Walton (December 14, 2015)

Zach Walton likes JRPGs, visual novels, horror games and anything that gives him an excuse to drink.

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