By Terris Harned (NWOrpheus)
I usually like to start a review with an anecdote, or some clever remark or story, something to sort of warm the audience up. In the case of the game Devil’s Hunt, the only thing I can think of is, “It’s just so bad.”
Devil’s Hunt, published by 1C Entertainment and developed by Polish studio Layopi Games, is a third-person action game along the vein of titles such as Devil May Cry and God of War. Unlike other titles in the genre, the combat is severely under-developed, as is most everything else in the game. The story itself is based on the novel Equilibrium, by Polish author Pawel Lesniak, and in some ways it feels like Layopi Games’ ambitions were to be the next CD Projekt Red. Ambitions which they fall far short on.
Revolving around one Desmond Pearce, an apparent trust fund wanker with a penchant for fighting in underground boxing matches, Devil’s Hunt’s story is cliche at best and virtually plagiarism at worst. Desmond, who claims to have the “best pool and best view” in what appears to be Miami, Florida, is the son of a highly successful real estate mogul. You find this out because Desmond has a postcard about his dad in his home. Which is just weird.
These are some of the many “clues” you find in the game. I find it funny that all of the clues are nearly the exact same size and shape. It feels lazy on the part of the developers, like they just copy/pasted an object template into different scenes for Desmond to pick up.
Desmond visits his father’s office and receives a scolding for messing up a deal. Whatever the deal was is left conspicuously blank, as is Desmond’s role in the company. Desmond is basically portrayed as a fairly pathetic loser, at least in his dad’s eyes. Despite this, Desmond lives in a very expensive home, and drives a very expensive car.
As things progress, Desmond ends up losing an important fight, then returns home to find his fiancee laying in bed with his best friend. Desmond chases his buddy out of his house, gets knocked out by him, and then gets in his car where he decides to drive off a bridge. Since suicide is a mortal sin, Desmond goes to hell. Here we find out that Desmond is some prophesied “Savior and Destroyer” and Lucifer offers to give him a job as an Executor in exchange for getting vengeance on the guy who he believes cheated on him with his girlfriend.
Here we see Desmond’s true best friend: his jacket. He does everything in this jacket; he practices boxing in his house in the jacket; he fights demons in this jacket; he even gets buried in this jacket, apparently. At least the jacket is dirty? But why was he buried in the damn jacket?! This bothers me so much.
The story doesn’t get any better from here, so let’s move onto the gameplay. Desmond walks around punching people, as you would expect of a boxer turned demon, I guess. There are two attacks: light attack and soft attack. You also are able to unlock a number of skills from three different fighting styles.
Each of the fighting styles has its own tree, and you can equip up to three skills from said trees, plus unlock some passives. The three styles also have their own set of combos that can be unlocked. Unfortunately, the combos have such badly timed animations that you tend to get interrupted when trying to use them, and you’re honestly just better spamming light attack through the entire game, and maybe occasionally throwing out a skill.
It’s cool once or twice, but with most foes only having one camera kill, and seeing the same foes quite often, they just become a waste of time. Punching your foes out gets the job done faster and has the same rewards.
The basic attacks don’t seem to have any difference in how many hits it takes to kill an enemy, so the choice ends up being overall an aesthetic one. I essentially just switched back and forth based on what skills were on cooldown. Combat was just boring, easy, and unfulfilling. There were no aerial combos or juggles of any sort. Even the camera kills tended to be pretty boring until about half way through the game, but they felt arbitrary and repetitive at the best of times.
Skills and combos are unlocked in their respective trees by using souls. Harvesting souls is actually the primary job you’re sent to do by Lucifer. You get a soul when defeating most enemies, and by picking them up on the ground. Which… what in the actual fuck? Souls are supposed to be this amazing power source, and they’re just laying all over the place willy nilly. Just one more piece of a very mind boggling puzzle that just doesn’t sit well with me.
Seriously, what is this crap? When people die their souls just get sort of tossed into the air and land somewhere for you to find? There’s no explanation as to why you find souls laying all over the place, and it really boggles the mind.
The out of combat gameplay is no better. It’s basically a walking simulator. Sometimes you can run, but it’s almost cringey when you do, as this, along with most of the other animations in the game, is just bad. Maybe Desmond’s dry cleaner uses too much starch when he cleans his jacket. Or maybe he never gets the jacket cleaned and that’s why it’s so stiff? I don’t know.
Unfortunately there’s something stiffer than the animations though: the game’s dialogue. It’s horrible. The voice acting and the lip movement don’t match up, most of the time. Sometimes they do, though, which just makes it worse. If they never matched up I might assume that they were animating for Polish language, and it was the English voice acting that didn’t line up. No, it’s just the game’s quality shining through.
At this point I feel like I’m just ranting. If I had to say the game had one redeeming factor, it would be the scenery. The level design of Devil’s Hunt is at least aesthetically pleasing in most places, if not terribly original. The frame drops of the game unfortunately make even this aspect less than enjoyable.
Devil’s Hunt feels terribly unoptimized, and there were some bugs that crashed the game, usually having to do with the notes left around the game that grant abilities. All told in the five hours or so I played the game, it crashed three times. There were other minor bugs as well; for example, every time I opened the skill tree I had to switch tabs before I could actually interact with the tree. Sure that’s a relatively minor bug, but it was pretty annoying, and I’m not sure how it made it past QA.
I fully acknowledge that Devil’s Hunt is produced by a niche studio, but they’re attempting to make a game with mass market appeal, and they just fall so short in so many ways. I’m not sure if additional funding could have fixed anything, or if the whole thing was just poorly managed. I’m certain that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into making Devil’s Hunt, and I almost feel bad for tearing it down so hard, but the fact is it really is just that bad.
With a $34.99 price tag and a 4-5 hour storyline, with absolutely nothing to encourage replay, I feel like Devil’s Hunt is just overpriced shovelware made by someone that got their hands on Unreal 4 and thought they could make a hit video game. I seriously don’t anticipate seeing a sequel, which is fine, because I really don’t care enough about the story to want to find out where the attempted cliffhanger leads next.
I give Devil’s Hunt 1.5 out of 5 boxing gloves for being a poorly executed and bug ridden mess of an overpriced game with outdated graphics despite being on a modern engine.
Note: A game key was provided for review purposes.