By Scott Ramage / January 7th, 2020
|Release Date||September 17th, 2019|
|Age Rating||M for Mature|
Shaking hands with the Devil rarely (read: never) goes well. Still, Polish developer Layopi Games set out to make a game where that very thing happens, based on the Polish novel Equilibrium. Coincidentally, said novel is written by Pawel Lesniak, a former footballer and founder of Layopi Games. I haven’t read it, but I have played the game resulting from it: Devil’s Hunt, an action title where there are few problems too big and bad to be punched into submission.
Devil’s Hunt revolves around Desmond Pearce, a guy who’s got it made. He has a cushy job in his dad’s corporation, a massive house, a nice car, a beautiful girlfriend he’s going to propose to, and looks like a jacked, taller version of Little Mac in a motorcycle jacket. Appropriately he’s also an underground boxer, racking up several victories. On the day he proposes (and she accepts), everything falls apart. His father blames the company’s shortcomings on Desmond and fires him. He loses his fight to a guy who seems to have otherwordly strength. Then he gets home and finds his girlfriend in bed with Embry, his best friend. While chasing Embry in his car, Desmond deliberately drives off a bridge to his death, only to be awakened in Hell by Lucifer. Desmond agrees to act as an executioner of evil people so he can return to Earth, but realizes he wants no part in it as he gets caught up in the endless war between angels and demons.
Describing the gameplay of Devil’s Hunt feels like trying to describe two different games at once. The first is a 3D beat ‘em up, and the second is a walking simulator. The former is far more prominent than the latter, but there are still several points where Desmond either has to walk around between point A and point B, or can do nothing except walk forward. Not run forward, not walk to the left or right, not turn around, just walk forward. This bleeds over into the beat ‘em up sections by acting as a bridge between each fight. Desmond will climb a foot-high ledge, assuming the prompt that’s picky about your positioning works properly, then be unable to go back down it. He’ll cross over a pit on a narrow plank of wood, but there’s no drama since it’s impossible to fall off. It’s a means to an end that quickly wears out its welcome.
As for the beat ‘em up sections, Devil’s Hunt’s main character is a boxer, all the attacks are light or heavy punches, save for special moves attached to skill trees. Desmond can access three different trees over the course of the game (Executor, Unholy and Void), though one is tied entirely to finding notes for certain abilities. Each ability is unlocked by collecting and spending souls on them, like those from defeated enemies or found around the level maps. (As an aside, Desmond strolling around town and picking up a soul like it’s a quarter someone dropped is unintentionally funny.) Also, a few extra combos between the light and heavy attacks can be unlocked, though the same combos need to be unlocked separately for each tree. Even so, I unlocked just about every ability and combo in every tree by the time the game was over, so it didn’t seem to matter. Also, several of the combos have huge delays between certain attacks that leave Desmond wide open. I wound up just spamming the light attack combo most of the game and progressed just fine.
There aren’t many abilities in each skill tree, but they at least serve somewhat different functions. This unfortunately doesn’t help the combat in Devil’s Hunt from becoming stale fairly quickly. Desmond can switch which skill tree he uses mid-battle, but not between battles. This changes how his regular attacks look, be they red flaming fists, a green sword or big purple Hulk hands. Often enemies will have a button prompt—the same button every time—for an immediate counterattack, which registers even if Desmond isn’t facing them and busy punching something else. Another prompt is to absorb the soul of an enemy early, but this takes so long Desmond inevitably gets hit by other enemies before it’s even half-finished. There are finisher prompts as well, the bulk of which are just as or slightly less impressive than his regular punches. Lastly, Desmond can build up a bar to go into a stronger demon-like form, in which he punches things faster. If it sounds like I’m oversimplifying things, I’m actually trying not to. It’s just that Desmond’s attacks have a rather limited scope to them.
What helps even less is that there’s not much in the way of enemy variety in Devil’s Hunt. New enemy types tend to appear slowly, to the point that they get as stale as the generic grunts. Then another enemy type appears and the cycle repeats three or four times. Of course, these are limited in large part by Desmond’s abilities, which consist of punching, dodging, and sometimes throwing a short-range projectile in a straight line at chest level. Even the boss monsters suffer as a result, with one of the more unique bosses being something Desmond never directly fights or defeats, but instead beats up the same old low-level lackies until it goes away.
While visually impressive at times, particularly in Hell, it’s apparent what you are and aren’t supposed to look at in Devil’s Hunt. Desmond, enemies and things within about eight feet usually look fine. Otherwise I’d notice things like texture pop-in on a regular basis, sometimes happening as close as right below Desmond’s feet. That or I’d swing the camera around and see that Desmond’s lips don’t move when he’s talking. Actually, it’s not just the lips; his face has the same blank expression almost all the time, even in combat. This extends to other characters too, as they will have the same bored expressions when angry, happy or mildly annoyed by each other. The same background NPC with a suit and crew cut shows up over and over, sometimes talking to one of its many clones. Cutscenes do generally look better, but they also might include backgrounds that don’t load right away or black squares appearing on people’s faces. They also can’t escape the screen tearing that plagues the whole game. At times it’s bad enough to make everyone look like holograms.
The visuals may do Devil’s Hunt no favors at times, but the audio doesn’t either. Audio balance in general is a bit off as sometimes the music or voices will be unusually quiet. This didn’t help me for this review when I realized I couldn’t remember a single music track from the game. It’s a mix of genres, namely industrial and metal, but other times seemingly inappropriate music will play given what’s happening onscreen. Then there’s the voice acting, which I’d describe as “there.” I think most characters are trying to be brooding, but it ends up coming off as slightly bored. Desmond seems like he’s trying at least, even if he spends most of the game as either angry or a smart aleck. Others sound like they’re trying not to wake the neighbors in what should be high-tension moments. The general quality of the audio is there on a technical level, but a bit lacking otherwise.
Those aren’t the only performance issues in Devil’s Hunt. A couple parts of the game, namely those slightly off the main path, have collision detection problems. On the plus side, being able to fall through the floor sent me back to the door I was supposed to go through. Less forgivable are the fatal errors that caused my game to crash so hard I had to restart my PC. Sometimes these happened in the middle of fights, but mostly they happened in cutscenes. One was preceeded by Desmond T-posing his way into a fight, but the other happened right after a major boss fight and forced me to do it over again. Twice. I eventually skipped those cutscenes, missing a couple story beats in the process. Note: spoilers follow in the next paragraph.
I’m not sure if I missed much from skipping those cutscenes, but the way Devil’s Hunt approaches storytelling feels rushed and scattershot. Desmond confronts his dad, who he discovers planned his death years ago on top of firing him, and isn’t any more upset with him than Lucifer. Kristen, Desmond’s former fiancée, ends up being protected by an angel even though their leader said they wouldn’t because Desmond killed several of them. Desmond becomes stubborn about not being involved with the war between angels and demons and ends up fighting both at various points, then thinks he can bargain with either side. Lucifer can’t just strip Desmond of his powers because reasons. Oh, did I mention that the angels are all in a random skyscraper in Miami? I can only assume that the game took heavy liberties with the source material, because the story ends up being a jumbled mess which ends with sequel baiting. Don’t put the satanic cart before the angelic horse, guys.
Devil’s Hunt is a game that knows the look of a high-quality video game, but stumbles on most other fronts. It has the skeleton of the game in place, but struggles to flesh things out beyond that. Clocking in at about six hours, it’s a mostly functional package that takes a grandiose story as its base and delivers something less bombastic. Hopefully Desmond can get his act together should another installment come to fruition.
Review copy provided by publisher.
1C EntertainmentDevil's HuntLayopi GamesPCSteam