Devil’s Hunt feels like a cross between Dante’s Inferno and RYSE: Son of Rome, but instead of fighting with scythes or swords, you fight with your fists. It is a third-person action brawler, based on the original novel by Paweł Leśniak “Równowaga” (Equilibrium), where players will take on the forces of both Heaven and Hell as Earth’s ultimate fate hangs in the balance. With a combat system most comparable to Dante’s Inferno and the classic God Of War games, along with some light puzzle-solving and exploration, Devil’s Hunt is a fun, albeit painfully short romp through a truly dark and violent portrayal of Hell.
Devil’s Hunt is a game where you complete contracts for the various lords of Hell and Satan himself. As such, there is a lot of blood, gore, and disturbing imagery all around. Satanic symbols and rituals are strewn about the environments and a lot of these factor into puzzle-solving in many ways. A major character’s suicide is featured early on in the game, though no explicit gore is shown here.
Foul language is abundant, but not enough to earn an “M” rating. Theology geeks will not appreciate the liberties this game takes with the source material. Essentially, the game declares that suicide is a one-way ticket to Hell, but in reality, this is something that is still debated among Christians today. Satan and his minions collect souls and there is a sort of hierarchy and structure to Hell. Desmond and the other executors seem to have some semblance of free will still intact to make decisions, and they never seem to stay in Hell even though they’re essentially supposed to be there for all eternity once dead. God is referenced a few times by Satan himself who is not on good terms with Heaven. The angel Gabriel is represented here as woman like in other films and games of this type (the movie Constantine, starring Keanu Reeves, comes to mind).
While it is no more or less theologically sound than Darksiders, Devil’s Hunt offers a somewhat cliched, but fun story that I wish didn’t end so abruptly. Clocking in at just around 5 hours, the game’s asking price is a bit steep; even at $35, interested players may want to wait on a sale before picking this game up. That being said, the game starts out very slow and the story seems to lack direction at the start, but once it picked up a bit, I was hooked.
Devil’s Hunt (DH) stars Desmond Pearce, a down on his luck fighter who has to resort to prizefighting in illegal underground tournaments to make ends meet after he is fired by his boss and father. Arriving home after losing his most recent fight, Desmond discovers his best friend Embry attempting to seduce his fiance Kristen. After chasing Embry out of his home and driving off in a rage, Desmond commits suicide by driving his car off a bridge. As he awakens, Desmond is attacked by demonic enemies and soon runs into Sawyer, an executor of Hell and one of Satan’s most loyal servants. He tells Desmond that he died and has awoken in Hell and takes him to literally sell his soul to Death if he agrees to work for Satan. As one of Hell’s newest servants, Desmond soon discovers that he is the Savior and Destroyer, a sort of chosen one who will determine the ultimate outcome of the war between Heaven and Hell.
I won’t go into any more detail about the story to avoid spoiling the plot, some interesting things happen and major events are foreshadowed, but then the game ends abruptly about 5 hours in. While all of the major characters are talking about choosing to side either with the forces of Heaven or the demons of Hell, Desmond only wants to save Kristen and go back to living his life in peace. He doesn’t want any part of the impending war. Major story beats are handled via cutscenes, while lore is explored through a surprisingly small number of collectibles scattered throughout each level. There are three major locations that players will visit over the course of the game: Miami, Hell, and Jerusalem. For some reason, while Satan and his executioners live and operate in Hell, the Angels (led by Gabriel) are living and operating in Miami and Desmond will fight both over the course of the game.
Combat is usually make-or- break in games of this type. In DH‘s case, the combat is simultaneously the best and worst thing about the game. At its best, it’s fast, snappy, and controls well. At its worst, it is clunky and confusing with attacks that feel like you’re punching a pillow instead of pummeling demons into dust. While Desmond has three basic schools of hand to hand combat, none of them really feel different from the other. They all seem to do the same amount of damage and the only real difference seems to be the color of magic that emanates from Desmond’s arm during combat. There is also a demon form that Desmond can become, but there is no free movement in this form. Pressing “RB” or “RT” to attack zips to the nearest enemy and unleashes a fury of blows in rapid succession which is all that players can really do in this form. While the demon form is great for taking down bosses and other tough enemies quickly, it feels like an afterthought when in the thick of battle.
At the start of the game, facing more than three enemies at a time is an exercise in frustration. Attacks don’t seem to do enough damage, and the dash/evade move doesn’t cover enough ground to help Desmond take out ranged attackers effectively. It wasn’t until I had two schools of combat unlocked and a few magic attacks (Desmond’s ONLY other method of combat), that I really began to get into the flow of chaining combos, parries, and executions together to the point where fighting flowed more like a dance than a one way ticket to a quick death. Speaking of which, a quick glance at my Steam achievements shows that I never died once during my playthrough though I did get “downed” a couple of times. While in this state, rapidly tapping the “A” button will revive Desmond to full health so he can continue the fight.
Executions can be performed by clicking in the right thumbstick when playing with a gamepad and while some of the animations are cool looking, there is only a handful available. After watching them for the one-hundredth time, I was pretty much done using them even though finishing enemies with executions usually rewards more souls (health) for defeating them.
Combat feels clunky and punches don’t really have much impact as they barely seem to connect with enemies or stagger them. There are no health bars on standard enemies either, so I basically had to wail on them until they died. Until the execution “QTE” prompt would appear above their heads or their body exploded, rewarding me with souls, I had no idea when they were close to death.
Souls are the real currency in DH and are only used for upgrading the three different skill trees in the combat schools available to Desmond. There are three total schools available, Executor (Orange) which represents Hell, Unholy (Green) which represents the forces of Heaven (and is the only combat style that damages Angels), and Void (Purple), a unique style practiced by Muriel, the only one of Satan’s executors to successfully break his contract with Hell. While the first two are acquired by normal means and upgraded with souls earned from defeating enemies, smashing Satan Mirrors, or finding them hidden away in a level, the Void school works a bit differently.
Early in the game, Desmond will come across a vision of Muriel and a note left behind with a purple vortex in the center. This is the first of three Void powers that can be found and these are tied to collectible’s hidden in the environments. The only problem with this is that I was unable to acquire my second Void power due to a glitch in the game that prevented me from being able to pick up and read the Muriel note, so I was forced to choose to either reload a checkpoint and lose about an hour of progress or press on without the upgrade. I chose to press on.
This highlights my second major problem with the game: everything outside of combat is handled by pressing the “A” button. Solving a puzzle? Walk up to it and press ‘A’. Picking up a collectible? Walk up to it and press “A.” Need to jump up to a ledge, mantle over a waist-high piece of debris, or squeeze through a tight space? You guessed it…walk up to it and press “A.” That is literally all that players can do outside of combat. This limits the puzzles to mere inconveniences as there is no real brainpower needed to solve them as you are ushered quickly from one combat sequence to the next. There is even less incentive for exploration outside of finding different notes and collectibles (which aren’t even tracked in-game) and picking up souls that are left behind. There is hardly incentive to venture off the beaten path as, while I would find an area that looked fun to explore, I would often just walk into a short combat sequence with a measly single soul point as a reward.
Much like the combat, I felt that the graphics in DH went from mediocre to average over the course of the game. At first, the character models look ed ugly and not very detailed—it didn’t help that the camera outside of combat stayed glued to Desmond’s shoulder, obscuring a good bit of what the player saw around them. Thankfully, the camera zooms out in combat, so it’s rare that this becomes a problem while fighting. Over the course of the game, I started to notice more detailed looking environments and character models while effects for portals and spells took a hit. The fire effects in this game look like they were rendered in the 90’s. I’ve seen better-looking fire in the original Fable games on Xbox, for instance. It’s hit or miss and the voice acting for much of the supporting cast is laughable. Satan can go from calm and docile to screaming at a moment’s notice. It felt like I was watching Eddie Redmayne’s character in Jupiter Ascending all over again. Desmond’s voice acting was the most well done, though, and I guess that’s all that really matters since he rarely interacts with most of the characters outside of Hell where the performances really shine.
Despite my complaints, Devil’s Hunt isn’t the worst way to spend 5 hours. I got an entertaining story that, although it felt cliche in some parts, ended up surprising me by the end, even if the abrupt conclusion came out of left field and leaving me feeling confused. At the end of the day, I would play more of this game; I wouldn’t pay full price for it, but I would play more if Layopi Games made a story DLC. Players like me who didn’t mind the repetitive nature of Ryse‘s combat and enjoy stories that adapt Christian theology and lore in interesting ways will find this to be a fun, albeit short and somewhat confusing, diversion from a lot of the micro-transaction laden multiplayer frag-fests (and sometimes single-player experiences too) that are often the norm these days.
Devil’s Hunt took me back to a time around the end of the 90’s where everything was either a single-player RPG or a DMC/GOW clone. While uninspired, these games were often short, but entertaining romps through fantastical worlds. When we really think about it, isn’t that what we play games for? To be entertained for a few hours and escape the most mundane and stressful aspects of real life. Life can sometimes feel like Hell, one that Devil’s Hunt offers a flawed, but fun, escape from. And I can’t fault it too much for that despite its other problems. The studio that made EA’s Dante’s Inferno is no more, and we won’t be getting a sequel to Ryse anytime soon, so fans of both of those games should definitely pick up Devil’s Hunt when it’s next on sale. It’s a Hell of a good time!
Review copy generously provided by 1C Entertainment.
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