Review: Devil's Hunt

18 Sep 2019

What do you get when cross Devil May Cry and God of War and far less of a budget? That answer is Devil’s Hunt. Also, by crossing those games I just mean their ideas, not their scope nor their execution. It’s hard to blame them for using those games as inspiration. They are two of the most beloved and acclaimed action/adventure games of the last 20 years, but when your inspiration is as obvious as it is here, I really think you need to hit the mark better.

Devil’s Hunt is developed by Layopi Games and published by 1C Entertainment, and was released on PC via Steam on September 17, 2019. It has upcoming releases on PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One sometime next year.

Hellish Storytelling

It can be too much sometimes to expect a lot out of the story of an action game. Frequently it doesn’t bother me at all if I even pay attention to it. I just need my action game to have just enough to give me a reason to kill more bad guys. It is quite rare indeed a game has such a disjointed and poorly written tale that I am distracted from demon killing, but that’s where I find myself with Devil’s Hunt.

For starters, our protagonist’s name is Desmond Pierce (I know), who looks just like you’d expect. He’s basically Dante only without the white hair and, you know, personality. One day, poor old Desmond gets yelled at by his dad and thinks that maybe his fiance is cheating on him so he kills himself, wakes up in hell, and gets to be a demon….I guess.

Throughout the game I constantly found myself confused as to why things were happening or even where I was. For a game that is only four hours long, it is impressive how much it confused me. I was shocked when the credits rolled to discover it was based on a book, which I don’t know if I want to read or not.

As I said before, I don’t need much reason to kill hellspawn, but the plot holes and odd character choices in this game were distracting. Characters become friends, become enemies, and become friends again, and there is absolutely no discernible reason for any of it to be happening.

The only time Devil’s Hunt’s world was enjoyable was when it was being silly. Littered throughout the game are little pieces of paper with little tidbits written on them. On Earth these are just boring newspaper clippings that don’t really matter, but the ones in hell gave me a giggle or two. They were often written like benign memos you would find written by your coworkers around the office, complaining about elevator maintenance and gates not being locked. It’s a shame Devil’s Hunt didn’t lean into this quirkiness more because it really added something. Its abrupt ending doesn’t do it any favors either. Just as it seems like the final act is about to start, the credits start rolling. It certainly suggests they are hopeful for a sequel, but somehow I doubt that will happen.

Half-Cooked Demon

Fortunately, playing the game isn’t exactly a chore, but it’s not reinventing the wheel either. I could really see the God of War influence in the combat. It has a certain “punchiness” as you deal death to Hell’s minions. Attacks are rapid and hard-hitting, and it really feels like Desmond’s punches are connecting with a physical object. Too often in melee action games I feel like I’m just sort of swiping at air that happens to be populated by an enemy who has no real physical presence. In Devil’s Hunt, my momentum comes to a halt with each landing blow, and the screen shakes just enough to give it a sense of power. If I’m lucky, I will be prompted to press ‘E’ for a brutal finishing blow that is typically satisfying.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of depth in the gameplay loop. There are three combat trees to spend my harvested souls on, but they don’t really change combat at all and I just picked the one I liked. Since Desmond can switch between skill trees on the fly via the ‘1’, ‘2’, and ‘3’ keys, I was hopeful switching would become necessary depending on my enemy, but that wasn’t the case. Within an hour it was apparent I could just left click every enemy, even bosses, until they died.

Devil’s Hunt is also guilty of being absurdly linear and repetitive. The entire game is just walking between combat arenas. You run along a narrow pathway until you reach an open area where enemies spawn and then you do it again….for four hours. There were two or three moments where the game wanted me to think I had a puzzle to solve, but I really just believe it was trying to slow me down to load in the next area. It’s not possible to get these puzzles wrong and there is no mystery to them. It’s just pressing a button to make things move, find the next button that isn’t even slightly hidden, and just keep hitting buttons until the path to continue opens up.

Less Frames In Hell?

Graphically the game is, again, just okay. There are some pretty cool particle effects on display and the creature design is generally pretty good. Animations, however, are half-baked with some of the worst mouth movement I have seen since 2006. When characters speak, their mouths only move enough to tell who the one talking is. Mixed with their dead looking eyes, it just ends up stealing away any personality they might have had.

The real offenders, however, are the audio and just the overall performance. The voice acting is serviceable, and I wonder how much better they would have been if they were given more to work with. The music is even decently produced, if not entirely original.

During cinematics the game just falls to pieces. Frames drop constantly and, with it, the audio. I started just muting my headphones and reading the subtitles because it became so annoying. During combat, particularly in the Hell segments, the framerate completely tanks. At its worst, I would be trying to fight a horde of enemies at only 19 frames per second. While Devil’s Hunt’s Steam page doesn’t list recommended hardware, it does suggest a 2GB graphics card at the bare minimum. When I’m running an 8GB 1070, I found this level of performance inexcusable.

Beware Ye Who Enter

I don’t want to go so far as to call Devil’s Hunt a bad game, it just isn’t very good. There are so many little sparks of potential scattered throughout the game, but they just stop short of truly shining. Its lack of originality story-wise doesn’t help either, and is only hampered further by its poor ability to tell that story.

If they can sort the performance issues out, this might be a decent game to play on Switch, but only if you really enjoy button-mashing action/adventure. I just can’t see a reason to pick it up on PC or traditional home consoles when there are so many better alternatives.

~ Final Score: 5/10 ~

Review copy provided by 1C Entertainment for PC. Screenshots provided by reviewer. Header image courtesy of 1C Entertainment.