Way back in the day, somewhere on the internet, I came across a list of things that made someone “badass.” It was filled with mostly ridiculous, hyper-masculine achievements—stuff like “fought a grizzly bear” would get you more points than “can change a tire.” The thing that’s stuck with me about that list, is the feat that garnered the most points—and therefore the most badass thing someone could do—is fight their way out of hell. I just love the concept: become damned, but you’re so tough Lucifer himself can’t stop you from breaking down the gates of hell to make your escape. Devil’s Hunt tries to capture that “badass” spirit, but it manages to fall so flat on its face as to be ridiculous—and not in an amusing over-the-top way.
Devil’s Hunt is a third person action game in the vein of Devil May Cry, God of War, etc. In it, you play as a demonic executor named Desmond—wielding powers that allow him to brutally take down demonic and angelic opponents while unleashing a monstrous demon form. Desmond, when his power is fully realized, has access to three different schools of demonic skills, can teleport long distances, and otherwise wield impressive power. I mean, that sounds pretty badass, right?
Unfortunately, to start, Devil’s Hunt feels stiff, and barely responsive. Fighting just doesn’t feel fun. Running, dodging, and movement in general feels like something from an older game. There are no combos to chain together, though there are executions you can perform when enemies reach low life—yet none of these are ever particularly interesting. Most of the game’s animations feel stiff. Enemies aren’t exciting to fight, and some barely even move when getting struck, except to flinch a tiny bit. I found no joy in Devil’s Hunt’s mediocre combat.
Desmond never really feels that powerful, despite his array of powers. The three skill trees each have their own variations of projectile and ground effects. Skills are increased by collecting souls of enemies you defeat, or by finding them lying around. They aren’t too scarce, however. By the end of Devil’s Hunt I managed to unlock everything.
There is a teleportation mechanic, but instead of it being used for something clever, is merely a way of traversing from one part of a level to another and it is only able to be activated at set locations. This is a real missed opportunity, as Desmond doesn’t have any great movement options besides sprinting and a dash—both of which leave him feeling a bit sluggish.
I would love to say that it’s all worth it to experience Devil’s Hunt’s great story, but Devil’s Hunt is unfortunately bad in almost every aspect, and the gameplay is just the tip of the disaster.
Devil’s Hunt is very narrative driven. It has a wide cast of characters, intrigue, betrayal, etc. It takes its source material from the Polish novel Równowaga by Paweł Leśniak. There have been some great Polish stories turned into games—most notably the Witcher series—but sadly, Devil’s Hunt just doesn’t have a good story.
The protagonist Desmond, a 25 year old executive of some sort (who is also a boxer) is just horribly unlikable. I appreciate his ability to stare a demon in the face and decide to punch it, but his reactions are downright silly when faced with some of the things he does. Desmond’s reactions sometimes fall so flat, or feel so awkwardly out of place (yet earnest) it reminds me of Tommy Wisseau’s The Room in its clumsy execution.
Desmond lives in a super fancy apartment in Miami, and has a gorgeous college-aged girlfriend, who he proposes to at the start of the game. Of course, when a protagonist in an action game/movie starts to plan a happy future with someone, something goes wrong. In this case, it’s betrayal and infidelity—but potrayed with ham-fisted, juvenile writing.
After killing himself when he sees his girlfriend and best friend together, he arrives in hell only to incredulously say, “a burning forest, really?” as if what he’s experiencing is some elaborate prank—one of many awkwardly delivered lines of dialogue.
Desmond, when tasked to take souls doesn’t really question this role. He does so almost gleefully. He doesn’t really “lose his humanity” when he’s tasked by Satan to take souls—he almost gleefully jumps at the chance. But then, when he finds out he’s being mad a fool of, he decides that they’re the bad guys—just not because of any moral quandaries.
The characters don’t help the story that much either. They’re a series of cardboard cut outs and stereotypes, including a manic demonic dream girl, and others who pop up, and disappear. There is a reference to an incredibly powerful character that never even makes a cameo appearance. Something they’re saving for the sequels, I guess.
If there is thing Devil’s Hunt has going for it is the art—it’s mostly great. Character models are iffy at times, but the environments look fantastic. Desmond’s apartment is stylish, and hell looks amazing. Sometimes I found myself looking at the world around me, wishing there was an equally compelling game to experience within it.
As great looking as the environments are, unfortunately, the level design is boring. Most of the time you will be advancing down narrow paths, from a starting point to an end point. In fact, most of the time you can’t even back track if you want to.
The levels don’t really have secrets to be found, either. Besides the ocassional cluster of souls to gather up, there is hardly a reason to deviate from the main path—if there is even chance for such deviation. Besides souls, there isn’t much to explore for anyways. There are items you can examine to get more lore information, but it’s all pretty standard stuff, and smack dab in the linear pathway.
It’s not just the mechanics and the story that don’t come together. Devil’s Hunt is missing some of the large set pieces that make third person action games such a draw. There are really only a few “true” bosses, and one of the major boss encounters—a fight with Lucifer’s brother, who happens to be a giant snake-like creature—is a gauntlet wherein the final confrontation is resolved through a non-interactive cut scene. It’s that moment, and a few others that almost had me thinking, “damn, this is pretty good” only for my enthusiasm to be snuffed out.
Technically, Devil’s Hunt isn’t that great, either. Sometimes it would run well, but other times it seems like it is missing optimizations. It certainly was not a uniform experience. I had a couple of crashes, and other graphical glitches, too. The biggest problem was using the controller in the menus. I played the Steam version, and I was forced to use my mouse in the skill menus because the controller inexplicably didn’t work.
This is one of those rare pieces of art where you can see that there are creators who earnestly put all these pieces together. But this is The Room level tone deaf in its execution of the story, and downright incompetent when it comes to the actual game mechanics. Devil’s Hunt can be damned pretty though, especially in the hell levels—I just don’t recommend actually playing it.
Devil’s Hunt is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows.
If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more. Patreon.com/3CR