Devil Kings is the latest game to offer more or less the same style of gameplay as the strangely popular Dynasty Warriors series. Dynasty Warriors has become rather infamous over how little the series changes from one game to the next, and while Capcom had a chance to do things a little differently, they haven't. What we have is a ridiculously simple action game that doesn't really belong on a modern video game system.
The one thing Devil Kings has going for it is its rather fantastical characters and story, not that there is much of a story. While it's hard to ascertain exactly what's going on, various Devil Kings each have control over certain areas of earth. During the game your chosen Devil King (of which there are twelve, with six available from the start) takes his army and fights hundreds of mindless soldiers before taking on the Devil King in that area - although there are a few female characters, who should perhaps be called Devil Queens.
Eventually you'll gain control of the whole map, ending the game for that character. An illusion of some sort of strategic battle game is created in-between battles through a turn-based strategy-style map view, showing who controls the various areas, but it's really nothing more than a few battle results appearing on the screen. The order in which you choose to fight the Devil Kings seems totally inconsequential, to the extent that giving you a choice at all seems pointless.
Combat itself is little more than vigorous thumb exercise. You'll carry out the same set of moves throughout, and while the box claims that each Devil King has "their own unique fighting style," your input remains the same. Tapping 'Triangle' will perform a priming attack, effectively setting up the enemies for easy slaughter with your general 'Square' attack. You repeat this for the duration of the level, possibly opting to use your inner power ('Circle') if you've filled your Fury Gauge.
These inner powers are actually pretty impressive, unleashing a hugely powerful attack on the enemies around you. The actual move depends on your character, but the effect is uniformly devastating. However, unless you play on the hardest difficulty you'll hardly need to use your special power, but it's handy to have in reserve should a horde of enemies suddenly appear out of the fog of war. Sadly, it also makes boss battles ridiculously easy. Assuming you enter the boss area with a full Fury Gauge, you can effectively end the contest before it's even started, leaving you to knock off the remaining section of health with relative ease.
Playing through Conquest mode, which is pretty much all the game has to offer, can take under an hour per character, and it's questionable whether or not it's really worth playing it through with another character in the first place. There is a tiny RPG element to things, with your character gaining experience points and items as you play through. To find everything you'll have to obliterate every last enemy and scour the area for all the treasure, but it's not the most enjoyable way to extend the lifespan of a game.
It's almost become acceptable for games of this type to look poor, and Devil Kings certainly doesn't try very hard to break away from the stereotype. While enemies and environments are generally a step above the Dynasty Warriors games, the dreaded 'fog of war' makes a rather unwanted appearance. Enemies will literally appear as if by magic, turning an empty mountainside into a thirty-man battle within seconds. Gladly the frame rate holds steady, even when plenty of enemies make it into view, but this alone can't make up for the general roughness exhibited throughout. Cutscenes switch between CG and traditional animation, and while looking impressive, they rarely make sense. The voice work for each of the characters isn't great either, and some of the one-liners that the soldiers come out with are laughable.
Capcom has been responsible for some of the greatest games of the past ten years, but the company that created Resident Evil and Devil May Cry certainly isn't immune from total disasters. Dynasty Warriors fans may scrape some short-lived enjoyment from the simple gameplay, but with games like God of War showing exactly where the hack 'n' slash genre needs to be heading, Devil Kings feels shoddy and very outdated.