Review – Devil’s Hunt
Devil’s Hunt is perfectly described through one of my experiences with an in-game collectible. As I walk through a run down parking garage in one of the normal looking Earth levels, I come across a flight e-ticket to Georgia. When I picked it up to examine, the lead character Desmond says to himself, “Huh, looks like someone moved to Georgia.” This took me quite a while to understand why this was even a collectible. Usually collectibles have some significance to the characters or the story or provide something to the world, but this seemed to have no relevance. That is until I talked to my wife about this and she briefly mentioned it was likely a joke about the song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”. This has to be what they were going for with this joke, but it’s the perfect summation of my thoughts on Devil’s Hunt as a whole: decent ideas that are let down by very poor execution and implementation.
In Devil’s Hunt you play as Desmond, a young man who was an awarded boxer, but has reluctantly taken off the gloves to settle down with his girlfriend. Instead of punching peoples lights out, he is now working with his unappreciated father as an investor making the firm tons of cash. However, Desmond is not happy with his normal job and his never happy father so he decides to do one last fight. Unfortunately, he loses the fight to someone who seemed unnaturally strong. Broken, beaten, and feeling like Hell, he heads home to see his now fiance and his best friend lying in his bed together. In a fit of rage and betrayal, he chases down his friend in his car, but instead drives off a bridge committing suicide.
With this act, Desmond is sent to Hell and will now have to face Lucifer for his eternal damnation. However, Lucifer see’s something special in Desmond and has him sign a blood oath to become an Executor for the Devil himself. Executor’s are the Devil’s henchman that he tasks with missions to steal the souls of the wicked on Earth. Your first mission: go kill and steal the soul of your best friend who betrayed you and slept with your fiance. When Desmond confronts his friend he tries to explain what happened, but in a blind rage Desmond doesn’t listen and he kills him. However, something that was said made him question what really happened and sends Desmond into an investigation that leads to betrayal, deception, and an epic battle against Heaven and Hell.
Keeping things spoiler-free, I will mention that the story bits and ideas here are one of the highlights of Devil’s Hunt. There are some great ideas here, I just wish they were fleshed out more and not so halfheartedly put together. A lot of these story revelations are cut short or rushed, so they don’t have the impact that they should. There is definitely potential here for an epic story at the likes of Devil May Cry or God of War, but it comes down to that poor execution of the material itself. It doesn’t help that the cutscenes themselves aren’t setup very well, the facial animations are all over the place, and the voice acting is wild. All this adds up to undermine what could have been a good story.
Visually the game ranges from some fantastic character models and environments to some really terrible character models and bad textures littered throughout. The good character models are mostly from the main cast like Desmond, Lucifer, and Agares. Side characters look noticeably worse and can really take from the scene. The use of Unreal Engine 4 provides some high quality visuals at times when the pre-baked assets and textures are used, and the lighting can be well done with some nice contrasting colors. The Hell levels have the most unique visuals with some gory imagery, while the Earth levels and office areas look like a UE4 demonstration video. The textures and particle effects of the assets the devs created themselves can look extremely pixelated and low resolution even with everything on full graphical settings and at 1440p.
The story and mixed visuals are unfortunately the only noteworthy elements to Devil’s Hunt since the sound design and gameplay are extremely lacking. The general gameplay outside of the combat is very lackluster offering very linear paths that just tunnel you to the next combat section. Very rarely will the path make a small branch off to offer a collectible or a soul to collect. Everything here is contextualized as well so even a small 2ft step will require you to find where the developer allows you to step down so you can interact with it. This ranges from a 5ft pool, to a ledge or board to shimmy across. Any action outside of running requires you to interact where they tell you. The only variety is every now and then you’ll need to interact with a Hex marker to destroy it and remove a barrier.
Once you get to the combat scenarios the gameplay gets marginally better, but still ultimately boring. The combat offers simple hack ‘n slash with a small handful of combos mixing light and heavy attacks. You can equip up to three special moves that work on a cooldown after use, as well as a dodge button that allows you to dash away from attacks, and a rage mode that turns you into a demon. There are three different fighting styles that offer their own skill tree, combos, and special moves. Once you start unlocking more moves by spending your souls, there are moments of fun to be had mixing the moves together. The Executor skill tree is mostly for max damage with powerful blasts, fire geysers, and a quick attack that bounces you between enemies. The other classes focus on healing, long range, and dark magic that can bind targets in place. Unfortunately, the combat itself has no weight or impact. It’s so light and mechanically not pleasing that it gets old quickly. It also doesn’t help there isn’t a whole lot of enemy variety.
There are couple of design decisions that really had me scratching my head, and again upset that there wasn’t more effort. Every now and then you’ll be able to do a finishing move on an enemy that puts you in a close up cinematic view of the action. Unfortunately, these finishing moves do not impress with poor animations and lack of weight and excitement. Finishing moves in God of War are in your face and brutal and you feel the weight of Kratos ripping flesh. In Devil’s Hunt it feels the exact opposite.
Also, there is no lock on mechanic which makes one of the combat schools almost pointless since it uses long range special moves that all the enemies easily dodge. The Demon rage mode also doesn’t impress since all that you do is lock on to one enemy and slash them away until they are dead. It is short lived, it’s not visually cool, and it offers no unique combat mechanics. There is also one very funny thing that happens in combat when you kill an enemy. For some crazy reason when you kill an enemy, big nondescript meat chunks come flying out of the bodies, yet there is no dismemberment or visual deformation to the models. It looks very silly and out of place.
The sound design and voice acting doesn’t help all the other shortcomings as well. The voice acting and mostly the script itself is poorly delivered and often make for laughs because of how bad it is. It doesn’t help that the lip syncing and facial animations are way off, or that the character models move awkwardly when talking. During combat the sound effects of impacts and special moves, again, just add to the lack of weight in fights. It sounds as wimpy as it looks and feels. The soundtrack has some decent rock tunes thrown in during fights and other segments that fit well during the Hell segments, but ambient noises and the rest of the soundtrack is inadequate.
I also need to mention the performance issues and bugs that help add to the level of quality. Running on a RTX 2070, i7 9700k, and 16gb of RAM I had all settings at the highest at 1440p and I would average well over 100fps. Unfortunately, it would frequently fluctuate the frame rate so much that it felt very choppy. At times I would be dropping 30-40 frames within seconds, and quite a few times it would dip down below 30fps after picking up a collectible and it wouldn’t go back up unless I toggled away from the game and back again. There were a handful of times where the voice acting would be completely mute during a cutscene or music going in and out. Luckily there were no full freezes or crashes, but it’s still far from polished.
Devil’s Hunt is a perfect example of a developer with good ideas, but just didn’t have the technical proficiency to pull off what they desired. There are good ideas here from the story to the combat, but everything is lacking in execution and polish. It’s unfortunate because I feel like it could be even a nice middle ground of DMC and GoW, even if it is a bit janky. But it goes way past jankiness and into a poorly put together hodgepodge of decent ideas.
The saving grace here is the Unreal Engine 4 assets with some okay lighting and color contrast. Textures and character models are very hit or miss.
Combat has brief moments of fun once you unlock all skills, but the lack of weight and impact drag it down. Non-combat gameplay is linear and dull.
Voice acting delivery, soundtrack, sound effects, and ambient sounds are all lackluster.
Poorly put together story and gameplay elements, along with performance issues turn Devil’s Hunt into a borefest.
Final Verdict: 4.5
Devil’s Hunt is available now on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Devil’s Hunt was provided by the publisher.