Devil's Third is the first game to emerge from Valhalla Studios, spearheaded by the perpetually leather-bound and bespectacled Tomonobu Itagaki, famed developer of the likes of Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden and... ahem, Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball. Since vacating Tecmo a year ago, in the wake of legal controversy and corporate upheaval, Itagaki's departure prompted a mass exodus from his former stable, Team Ninja, who now comprise the majority of Valhalla Studios. Devil's Third, for fans of Ninja Gaiden or Itagaki's bloated ego, is a game to keep your eye on, lest it be sliced in half.
The Kessler Syndrome
Set in the near future, Devil's Third's plot is loosely based on the Kessler Syndrome, which theorises orbital debris, like decommissioned satellites and space wreckage, might collide and result in space-travel being far too dangerous to execute. If you're shuffling in your seat, expecting a tense, narrative-driven experience where orbital drones carve the debris with fine lasers, fret not. Devil's Third is an action game, and recently released concept art suggests a global catastrophe, either of man-made or natural origins, reducing American, Asian and European empires to smoldering rubble.
It's here where we lose the plot. Literally. Little else is known about Devil's Third's story, and Valhalla and publishing partner THQ seem intent on shrouding the title in mystery until the time is right. What we can expect, I imagine, is Itagaki's trademark blend of silent, steely-eyed protagonists aided by well-endowed female companions dressed in not entirely functional attire, with plenty of swords, guns and severed arms spewing blood for good measure.
Slice, Dice and... Shoot?
Judging by the trailer, we can expect a slight diversion from Itagaki's usual formula. No samurai or ninjas or demons. Instead, we see a rugged male sporting facial scars and a shotgun, accompanied by a katana-wielding female friend. Swordplay is in evidence, as our new heroine dispatches a platoon of soldiers with balletic grace and brutal efficiency. Limbs fly, blood decorates the scene. But then we see the scarred man heft a machine-gun turret and splatter an acrobatic ninja type, before in the final scenes hoisting an RPG to his shoulder and ending the trailer on an explosive note.
It's not what I expected, but I'm pumped, nonetheless. The urban environment is suitably gritty and dense, as we see our hero and heroine leap from girder to girder across the skeleton of a building site. The action, even in such an early stage, appears polished and stylish. It's difficult to judge how it might play, but considering the team's credentials, I've no doubt it'll be as smooth as the trailer suggests.
Kill Your Friends
In an interview with Eurogamer, it's revealed Valhalla persuaded THQ to partner up by demoing a multiplayer prototype from Devil's Third. It's yet another surprising feature from the game, and if, at the 10% stage Itagaki admits the game is at, it's enough for a major publisher like THQ to sign the team to an exclusive deal, it piques my interest.
I'm, as a matter of habit, wary of multiplayer in games which ostensibly don't warrant such a mode. Bioshock 2, for example. But the footage in the trailer, the ruthlessly competitive nature of Itagaki's previous games and the man's fierce belief in his own ability has me hooked. Imagine, if Ryu Hayabusa and Marcus Fenix met, at the annual videogame protagonist convention, sipped sake and eventually copulated, resulting in the mangled offspring of Devil's Third. The promise of rattling clips at each other from afar, before finally charging headlong into danger and engaging in a good old-fashioned sword fight, is the sort of thing I slap forty pounds onto the counter for.