I wasn't going to write a preview for Devil's Third, the first game from the Tomonobu Itagaki-fronted Valhalla Game Studios. Reviews hit next month ahead of the game's August 28 release, and I thought that would be enough for a fairly low-key release. But then I played it. This is a game so jarringly bad the sooner you know not to go anywhere near it, the better.
At numerous points during the campaign I felt compelled to shout out for colleagues, eager to see their reactions to sequences so horrendous or bizarre that the game's forthcoming release seemed like a cruel joke on Wii U owners. Nintendo is publishing this, but it really shouldn't be - and there remains some confusion over whether or not Nintendo of America will be releasing the game in its territories.
Given that Devil's Third has switched its game engine numerous times during development and was at one point to be published by the now-dead THQ, it's probably not a surprise to see the game near release in such a torrid state, but it's no excuse. Parts of the campaign feel like the kind of out-of-nowhere Xbox 360 releases we used to get now and again, clearly made in about 8 months with a budget that would struggle to cover a Big Mac Meal.
Worse still, when the game hits rock-bottom the shambolic mess of budget Wii games come to mind. Visually I was shocked by just how ropey it all looked. I don't expect Uncharted 4 on the Wii U, but it's not unfair to call Devil's Third an ugly game. Ninja Gaiden 2, Itagaki's previous game, wasn't exactly a technical showpiece, but it exhibited a sense of speed, style and flamboyance that is nowhere to be seen here.
All games have their supporters, and given Itagaki's involvement here there's no doubt Devil's Third will somehow manage to snag a couple. But they will be demonstrably wrong. The core idea - mixing the hack 'n' slash mechanics of Ninja Gaiden with the FPS action of Call of Duty, is admirable - but that's really the only praise the campaign deserves. In development for about five years, it's hard to see where all that time went. Each gameplay option feels so under-baked, the innards have been left to slop all over the place.
I've got the point where I'm used to the game's badness, tolerating it if not forgiving it, but still I'm repeatedly taken aback by the sheer dross that frequently presents itself - a vehicle section I recently played seemed to be from an era when quality control simply didn't exist. Charging along a snowy hilltop in a jeep fitted with a gun turret and rocket launcher, the player in charge of both aiming and driving, the sheer stupidity of taking down numerous attack choppers and ploughing through metal gates clashed with controls that occasionally seemed to stop working.
It's a mess of a sequence, made laughable by the addition of a boost button that turns the jeep into a speeding nightmare even Richard Hammond would have second thoughts about driving. Halo: Combat Evolved on the original Xbox featured better vehicle mechanics (14 years ago), and I hated that ending. You've got to laugh, especially when the main character's arm stretches to more than double its size as you rotate the turret. In other games a funny bug, here it might have been stranger had it not massively glitched.
'It's so bad, it's good' can apply to parts of Devil's Third, but not once did I think the developers were in on the joke. Yet the vehicle section is one of the more enjoyable parts. You're mostly taking out mindless guys in boring environments before battering a boss character - which more often than not are tests of endurance rather than skill.
That's all for now. I'm yet to play Devil's Third's multiplayer modes, which could, although not likely, be the game's saving grace. By all means wait until reviews, hopeful that I'm wrong or all games journalists are wrong, but by my early reckoning Devil's Third will go down in history as one of the worst games Nintendo ever published.
If you want to see it for yourself, Burns and Scammell played it earlier: