This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Devil's Third.
Well I hope we all had some nice holidays. I didn't, because I spent part of them playing Devil's Third, at least I think I did. I also locked myself in a bathroom and ate an entire pound of brandy butter, so it's possible I hallucinated it. It's one of those games I have difficulty believing was made as part of somebody's conscious decisions. It seems like the sort of thing that is spontaneously generated when enough shitty games rub together, like how the brewing process spontaneously generates Marmite.
Anyway, it's a Wii U exclusive, which I'm not sure is the right word to use; it implies that this was something so enticing that Nintendo wanted it all to itself, when one suspects it was more of a "letting an orphaned puppy in out of the rain and letting it chuck up all over the half-rug" scenario. One suspects the only reason it's on the WiiU is because it's too last-gen to hack it on any other console. It's certainly not a natural fit for the Wii audience, since it's sweary and violent and probably won't get any of its characters into Smash Bros. I know I've been wrong before about that, but this time it's not about tone, it's about sucking shit harder than a colonic irrigation.
The quickest possible description for it would be "poor man's Metal Gear Solid". And I mean really poor. Like the kind of Metal Gear Solid that was brewed from ketchup packets in a prison toilet. You know how Hideo Kojima's approach to including real-world politics and history in his games is to read the first line of the Wikipedia page and then get bored and set a whale on fire? Devil's Third somehow does even less! It seems to have gotten its understanding of the world from what could be barked at it through the door hatch as it was passed its morning bowl of gruel.
How's this for let's-charitably-call-it "misguided"? The main character is an inmate in Guantanamo Bay, which in this reality is an underground prison by way of Beyond Thunderdome populated exclusively by white American Metallica enthusiasts. The protagonist is a stock musclebound stoic called Ivan; who's Russian, because of course he is; who is enlisted by the American military after a terrorist group sets off an atmospheric EMP blast that shorts out all the world's electrics, except for all the lights, and basically everything else. But it throws the entire world into chaos, no really! We'd be happy to show you some of that chaos, but there's just no time! There's an inexplicably never-ending supply of terrorists that need murdering!
The terrorists are part of an organization called - seriously? - SOD. Ivan himself was once a SOD, but switched sides, having made it through training and induction without realizing that terrorist groups kill people. I guess he was sick that day. He must slaughter his way through a parade of former comrades, including the biggest SODs of all, the boss fights with poorly-explained superpowers.
Someone clearly put a lot of thought into the backstory of these lads and Ivan's prior relationship with them, but in their frothing excitement, absentmindedly forgot to actually tell us most of it. Some of the loading screens try to pick up the slack, though. "Did you know that Pancake Dave gets his powers from the legendary martial art named Raymond Strawberry-trousers?" Thank you for letting me know, Loading Screen, but since I killed Pancake Dave three missions ago, so I'm not sure why you've brought it up.
Anyway, I should probably tell you what genre of game Devil's Third is. Well, you can't pin it down as simply as that, and it drunkenly meanders between several different rooms of the gameplay house like it just got in from a bender and can't remember where it left its kebab. It's a hack-and-slash-shooter-military-horror-character-drama-bad-fashion-sense simulator, making the classic mistake that a bit of everything creates some kind of sumptuous buffet. When here in the real world, one does not put Kola Kubes, live bait, and mini Babybels in the same pick-and-mix bag.
Clearly not enough of us gave our lives in the trenches of Ride to Hell: Retribution for everyone to learn that a brawler and a shooter don't get along in the same space. Both sides of the conflict swiftly discover that attempting to sprint across open ground screaming, with sword upraised, isn't doing much more than letting armed enemies use your jiggling uvula for target practice. One might reasonably ask why you would ever not use a gun, when the auto-target snaps like a hungry shark as long as you aim roughly at the suburb your enemy is located in. The game does have big tough melee dudes that can soak up a lot of bullets, and I have fond memories of standing on top of things they couldn't climb, my gunshots forming the gay ribbons of my throbbing maypole as they danced joyously around, impotently menacing the walls of my unmoving plinth.
Incidentally, you can climb up some of the walls in Devil's Third, but not all of them, and the best way to figure out which is which is to kidnap one of the developers and hold a gun to their head. Failing that, there's only the scientific method of hurling yourself at every wall you come across, like you have fundamentally failed to grasp the concept of a glory hole.
But I digress. Why not just use guns, when you can mow down an entire column of advancing sword-wielding enemies before they can even begin to regret their choice of villainous specialization? Well, for one thing, ammo's hard to get. Not that it's uncommon, it's lying around all over the fucking place, it's just hard to get, because the collision physics are so wonky you have to do a little Mexican Hat Dance around it before the game wakes up and registers you're trying to pick it up.
And the other thing is that only melee attacks increase your power gauge, which lets you activate your "Rage of the Gods" mode, which presumably, in some way, helps. It doesn't seem to increase your survival chances if you get caught in a brisk shower of enemy lead, so I'm guessing it ups your damage a bit. Which I might have appreciated if most enemies didn't die in one quick volley to the head region (what a bunch of pussies), and also if the game had better AI than a Tamagotchi on low battery mode. The NPCs are still mastering the difference between "empty space" and "large, immovable, heavy objects".
So the gameplay in Devil's Turd feels like space filler; a linear string of combat arenas where the enemies seem to have been placed with all the planning and careful thought with which a custard pie is placed in the vicinity of somebody's face, never evolving because health regenerates and the best weapons are available from the word 'go', so all you can do is slop around for five hours like a fat prick in second-hand bath water. But I think what ultimately condemns Devil's Turd- I said it again in case you missed that incredibly hilarious joke the first time - is that it's complete nonsense!
First you're some Duke Nukem-esque lone hero in sunglasses, and only missing the singlet 'cause it burst off you in your last flexing session, then suddenly the game is pretending to be a modern military shooter and you're in a unit of American soldiers you're apparently supposed to care about, but whose members come and go like the Megadeth lineup. Then mutant monsters show up for a bit and things turn Resident Evil-y, before the soldiers all piss off and the game turns into a World War II shooter for like five minutes before the monsters show up again... "All over the place" doesn't do it justice. That implies there was any one place for it to be all over. This is the bukkake shoot that got cut short after the participants drowned!
- A traitor to the free world: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- And there was something very patronising about the way Ivan never killed female bosses; a true feminist would have ripped their guts out as well
- Now looking forward to reviewing non-Wii U games at some point