|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC|
|Dev: Valhalla Game Studios|
|Release: Q1 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Shelby Reiches
When gamers hear the name Tomonobu Itagaki, the first things that spring to mind are generally fast-paced melee action and women with generous endowments duking it out hand-to-hand and blade-to-blade. Fast-paced third-person shooting? Not so much. Yet that's exactly what players can expect from Itagaki's latest project, Devil's Third, when it hits next year.
Known for his formative work in Team Ninja, Tomonobu Itagaki effectively manifested the studio's reputation for polished, gorgeous action games and fighters with the Dead or Alive series and Ninja Gaiden games. In fact, other than some brief detours into the world of beach volleyball and skimpy swimsuits with the Dead or Alive Xtreme "games," the man's entire oeuvre is composed of these frenetic action titles.
Now, though, the man is on his own, having parted ways with Team Ninja and Tecmo, which has since churned out the less-than-stellar Ninja Gaiden 3. The studio's also working on the next Dead or Alive game, perhaps relying overmuch on gimmicks.
Itagaki, in the meantime, has formed Valhalla Game Studios and is hard at work on the aforementioned Devil's Third, a title that aims to take advantage of its creator's fighting game chops, yes, but to center it around a core of bloody, stylish, third-person shooting. Can it work? A fighting-game-depth melee action game mixed in with a third-person shooter? Recent release Neverdead, as well as the older title Wet, come to mind, but both lacked the refinement and complexity in their melee action that Itagaki titles bring to the table. Perhaps it's best compared to Capcom's Devil May Cry series, then, except that the shooting in those takes a firm backseat to the melee action, serving more as a way to preserve a combo than as a focal means of taking out enemies. Devil's Third looks to be its own beast, tackling both of these options, ranged and melee, at once in a seamless and satisfying manner.
After all, it features not only swords and hand-to-hand combat, but an array of ranged weapons from shotguns and assault rifles all the way on up to Gatling guns and rocket launchers. This variety appears to be necessary, since enemies are not limited to pacing around the area and occasionally diving behind cover, but can engage in the same acrobatics as the player, diving from ledges and running along walls as proves necessary. It's a Hong Kong action flick of a game, with high-flying warriors ripping through faceless goons as they rush through urban environments, vivisecting them on the move with bloody, flair, viscera flying off in multiple directions. Ah, yes, there will be blood and there will be body parts or chunks as the action demands. It looks good, too, providing a sense of weight to the proceedings. That's the intention, though, to provide, in Itagaki's words, a "direct feel of killing." It sounds a lot like what Ninja Gaiden 3 attempted to do with its "Steel on Bone" mechanic, but without that game's reluctance to separate enemies from their appendages. Or, online, other players.
Completely new to an Itagaki title is the game's large-scale multiplayer, aiming to feature up to 32 players at once in frenetic combat in what appear to be large levels with open spaces as well as serpentine alleys and clustered rooftops to run down and climb across. It was, in fact, the multiplayer portion of the game that caused Western publisher THQ to sign the studio, ostensibly within ten minutes of seeing the game in action. The publisher has brought much to the table, including assets from its other games (a tank seen in game drawn from Homefront, for example), but the biggest contribution has to be the Darksiders II engine, out of Vigil Games. That is the core upon which Devil's Third is being built, though it appears they may have drawn more out of it than even its creators have thus far managed. This multiplayer, though, doesn't mean that the game will lack a story mode.
Devil's Third's story is almost a complete enigma. There has been talk of the Kessler effect, in which the density of objects in low Earth orbit reaches such a point that collisions become inevitable, resulting in a cascade effect that results in debris completely filling low Earth orbit, making it wholly impassable. There has also been much made of the game's connection to music, "Devil's Third" being a reference to tritones, the dissonance of which saw them dubbed as the diabolus in musica during the classical era, and grew to be associated with the idea of evil when they did appear. One of the game's characters apparently has a relationship to this music. There are also supposed to be three factions, but nothing is truly known about them.
There is some concern about the game's future, given the beleaguered state of THQ's finances and the recent closure of their Japanese branch, but there has, as of yet, been no word regarding Devil's Third's future. Hopefully, even if THQ proves incapable of supporting the release, Itagaki will find another publisher for his 2013 epic.
Date: May 17, 2012