I am officially going to publicly put my reputation on the line and call it now - Devil's Third is going to be a good game!
This isn't going to be an extremely detailed blog, but the content is still important enough to get out there now so that it's public and everyone interested in the game who reads these blogs knows. I sat and watched 4 Japanese gamers play this live today for hours, all day long. I saw a large portion of single player, 4 bosses, and hours of multi-player, and I literally see no evidence at all to support the hyperbolic narrative in the media right now claiming this is one of the worst games ever made. I am confronted with two options: 1) I can trust what these people wrote, or 2) I can trust my own eyesight ...
I'm going with option #2!
1) The melee looks great so far. It looks like a simplified version of Ninja Gaiden to me, and I've beaten Ninja Gaiden over the years over 30x, literally. The melee alternates between light attacks and heavy attacks with two buttons, exactly like Ninja Gaiden. From what I can tell, the main difference is that there are simply less combo string variations between those buttons than in Ninja Gaiden. But I have yet to play this personally and peruse the command list in full. You can also still block melee strikes, just like Ninja Gaiden, and you can sidestep in much the same way. You can even block melee strikes with a gun equipped! I also saw a fair variety of melee weapons that looked pretty interesting: a) hand to hand, b) katanas, c) machetes, d) sledge hammers, e) twin tomahawks, f) knife, g) metal pipe. In addition, melee weapons can be thrown at enemies for an instant kill.
There is even a lock on jumping move that is a one hit kill on my enemies that is performed in the exact same way as the famous Flying Swallow slash in Ninja Gaiden, and functions in almost the exact same way. It doesn't move quite as fast, or cover as much ground laterally, instead moving slightly slower and jumping higher vertically into the air. Devil's Third's version has more use jumping down on enemies from up high on rooftops onto enemies below you, and for closing the distance on enemies with guns when you want to use melee.
2) The levels have an impressive amount of verticality, especially the multiplayer levels. One multiplayer map in particular is a military base set on a series of cliffs, with 5 or 6 successive vertical climbs progressing upward! It really stood out to me as an exciting playground for battles and unique gameplay opportunities.
3) The game has fantastic mobility. In some ways, the movement is even more impressive than Ninja Gaiden. You have a sprint function that feels crisp and speedy, something that wasn't ever in Ninja Gaiden. This is activated by pressing L3. You also can vertically wall run up any walls in an extremely similar manner to Ninja Gaiden, but at the end of it, your character can reach up and climb as well, pulling themselves up a larger vertical distance than Ninja Gaiden allowed. Don't get me wrong, I'm not delusional. Ninja Gaiden as a whole is faster, crisper, and has more responsive movement. But compared to most shooters not named Vanquish or Resident Evil 6, this feels like one of the most mobile, speedy shooters ever made. The game also has a slide move that feels reminiscent of both Vanquish and Resident Evil 6, opening up more opportunities to slide into cover, slide around corners, or slide directly into enemies with a melee strike.
Fun little anecdote, but ITAGAKI himself was playing today on two of the streams and he was 1st, 2nd or 3rd in most matches. I saw someone take him out by using the slide around a corner while blasting the flamethrower, which is particularly lethal.
In particular, the vertical level design combined with the speedy movement, platforming and vertical climb really opens up some interesting gameplay opportunities. Having a sniper rifle is okay, but having a sniper rifle when you can speedily climb up on top of any building and then take cover is even better!
4) I didn't notice any lag in multiplayer in any of the streams I watched for hours today. Granted, it appeared to all be Japanese players, but it's not even clear if the servers are region free, so that may not even matter. I didn't see any disconnects, or any lag honestly, at all.
5) The multiplayer looks like the best part of the game. Characters can be customized with gender, hair, skin, face, voice, and lots of different gear. there's a lot of different weapons. The maps are very vertical and have pretty interesting geometry. There are 10 modes, only 3 of which I saw unlocked today in the streams I watched.
And eventually you can customize entire maps! If thought thought the standard multiplayer maps were a bit interesting, imagine what all the players will come up with their own custom bases? And supposedly you can join entire clans with leaders and diplomacy, go on stealth reconnaisance missions to scout out the layout of other bases before an invasion, and even make customized propaganda posters and drop them on the opposing team.
6) The bosses aren't the best, but they're not that bad either! I saw Ivan take on the dude in the cowboy hat, the kukri-wielding mercenary, the lingerie-clad female ninja, and a helicopter reminiscent of Ninja Gaiden's helicopter battle.
I mean ... it's not the most polished thing ever, but this is pretty much a Ninja Gaiden 2 level boss fight! He has attack patterns and is interesting to play against. Who is saying that the game is literally the worst thing ever made, or ever published by Nintendo? Watch for yourself. That is a god damned lie! It's fine. It's rough around the edges a bit, but seriously guys ... the game looks fine!
6) The music was pretty good actually, so I'll be checking out the OST. I don't have any samples for you but you can listen to it when watching any of the streams out there. Some parts reminded me of Ninja Gaiden or Tenchu. Some parts reminded me of Splinter Cell or Call of Duty. But it's a normal high tier console OST with good production values.
1) I'm a little worried about the aiming. Most of the players I saw in multiplayer seemed to struggle a bit with precision aiming. As a giant fan of gyroscope aiming in Splatoon, Wind Waker HD, Majora's Mask 3D, and Gravity Rush, I am dreading going back to twin sticks. I haven't tried it yet, or played with any options settings so I can't really say anything. I saw most players struggle a bit and lean on shotgun, flamethrower and melee to compensate. I did see one Japanese player stream about 4 hours of the single player though, and he was 100% fine with the aiming and was regularly landing fast sniper headshots. So I guess we'll see how it goes?
2) The game isn't the best graphically. That said, it really isn't the worst either. Some parts in the single player look ... pretty damn awesome honestly. There's a level where you try and prevent the destruction of the Panama Canal, and it shows several large scale boats colliding into each other ... and it looks awesome! The explosions look busted, and the game is certainly not going to win any awards for graphics. Make no mistake, it's rough around the edges. But it's REALLY not unplayable, or bad all the time! Some parts have noticable nice lighting and look pretty awesome. The Japan pleasure district level in particular looks like it got the most time spent on it and it looks mostly on par with Ninja Gaiden 2 graphically. In fact, the entire level seems like a throwback to Ninja Gaiden 2's opening. There are even specific elements of level geometry that seem like a throwback reference, like bridges over a shallow watery sewer area.
That's really it as far as the direct PROS and CONS that I saw. I can't comment on the story since I don't speak Japanese, but some of the briefing sequences were left with English text in tact, and I liked what I read. It is an interesting military scenario! The Kepler Effect creates a planet-wide EMT field that destroys all long-range military and satellite capability and destroys most electronic devices.
What you get is a regression to World War II level military skirmishes. Planes are out there flying blind and have to get visual contact with their eyeballs before manually dropping bombs. Satellite reconnaisane before invading something is not possible, so most invasions are going into areas with limited or no intel beforehand. Think Normandy. It's relatively low tech to just sail up some boats to the shore and throw bodies at a beach compared to how most conflicts unfold today. Itagaki is known for being a huge military enthusiast; particularly with military vehicles. You can see traces of that hobbiest enthusiasm in the cutscenes with planes flying by at low altitudes, boats crashing and getting destroyed, and tanks becoming more powerful.
So why in the world is this game being slammed so god damned harshly? I honestly am just going to take that leap and venture into pure guessing, because we simply will never know what is inside the minds of these early access reviewers.
1) I honestly think that a lot of people suck too much to play this game, and don't understand how to juggle between two entirely different gameplay sets with shooting and melee systems both fully represented and available to switch to at any time.
2) I think a lot of modern gamers have it out for any Japanese game that emulates any aspect of western design. I've seen this over and over. Dragon's Dogma got slammed into the ground by most reviewers for not being as good as Skyrim, and was just relentlessly compared to any open world game instead of judged as its own thing. With Itagaki's tribute to Call of Duty here, we are seeing almost the exact same thing. If any of these reviewers have ever played a AAA shooter they feel is better in any way, they will slam this game into the dust. It's honestly borderline racist in how often and how predictably this happens. The narrative has to be maintained that Japanese games are weird, and they aren't allowed to encroach on western game design sensibilities without being punished.
And that of course is the Catch 22 with these people. Japanese games get slammed for not emulating the western sensibilities. Then when they do, they get slammed for being western copies that don't live up to it.
3) Gaming journalists have a problem with 3D games that aren't AAA in every way. You can ask any of these early access journalists, and the biggest gripe they have with this game is that it supposedly looks like a PS2 game (it really looks a lot better than that!). But think about this ... these are the same journalists that are entirely fine with a game like Shovel Knight, and with jundreds of other graphically inferior, and antiquated games ... so long as they are indies! If they're indie games, then they are the darling product of an idealistic young white guy in their garage. It's special, even if it looks worse than games I played on the NES 30 years ago.
But if it's a game from a brand new Japanese studio that ran into significant development hurdles, publisher implosions, and a multitidue of delays but still manage to put out a game that looks on par with most XBOX 360 and PS3 games .. that game MUST be slammed as the ugliest piece of shit ever made. If Devil's Third was an 8 Bit tribute with massively shittier graphics in every way made by a team of 8 people living in California or Canada, then it would be a media darling. But it's not indie. It doesn't look like a game from 1985, or 1990, or 1995, or even 2000. It looks like a game from 2008. Is that really so fucking bad? I don't know how everyone can handle this massive double standard in how we condemn graphics in some products but completely ignore it in others. How can everyone stomach this level of hypocrisy?
Anyway, the only way to really make up your mind is to just watch the game being played. I saw about 4 hours of each mode today, and it looks rough around the edges, but extremely fun. The multiplayer looks super deep and I like that main character is Russian! After Russians being the bad guys in every game ever made, I'll gladly play a game staring Ivan for once. Some of his dialogue lines in English are really cheesy and made me laugh. And he's playing drum solos in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in the deepest cell in their basement while they're getting bombed. That's pretty fucking metal.
This guy has a stream archived in Twitch you can watch, and I found several others today on Twitch and other Japanese streaming sites.