Mad Devils feels like someone wanted to make a game that smashed Wolfenstein and Doom together. It revolves around the age-old tale of Nazis wanting to use occult magic to conquer the world and unleash the power of Hell itself. Now I know what you might be thinking. A game about Nazis and Hell? Boy does that sound like well-worn territory. Well dear reader, if you think the premise of Mad Devils sounds dull, just wait until you attempt to play it...Actually, don't bother. Because all you're going to find here is a barely functioning top-down shooter that'll have you wishing damnation on those who made it.

The story of Mad Devils stars a good ol' fashioned American soldier named Jack Asher who leads a brigade of Nazi-crushing troops called the Mad Devils (hey, that's the name of the game!) While tracking down the evil Major Strauss, the dastardly Nazi manages to open the gates of Hell. During the fracas, Asher is killed and winds up in Hell with a burning skull for a head. But just because he's dead doesn't mean he's going to give up on the mission, so he sets out to gather up his fellow hellbound squadmates and continue the fight from within the underworld.

As much as I enjoy watching World War II commandos fight the forces of Hell, this a fairly ho-hum plot that doesn't go anywhere particularly exciting. The voice-acting ranges from passable to cringeworthy. The dialogue is full of tropes, melodrama, and drab one-liners. The characters are either self-righteous soldier types or stereotypical Nazi villains. According to the Steam page, this tale was penned by someone named Dr. Greg Buchanan who's worked on Metro Exodus and No Man's Sky. Something tells me that this isn't his best work.

Visually, Mad Devils isn't the ugliest game I've played, but it's not much to look at. Enemy designs feature plenty of generic ghouls, unimpressive hellspawn, and what I think are supposed to be demonic Nazis. It's hard to tell since the camera is pulled out pretty far and everything is so muddy. The textures look unfinished and unappealing. The levels are linear paths with sandbags, crates, and skeletons strewn about without much care or intention. There is a decent variety of locations as you go along, but there's never a point at which this game ever looks better than an Xbox 360 launch title. On the plus side, Asher's guns look like he's firing bullets out of two horseshoes, which is an hilarious image.

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The sound design of this game deserves some special recognition as it's truly abysmal. The noises for firing your gun are somehow both too loud and too weak. Every fight is a monotonous cacophony of grunts, gunfire and deafening explosions. The audio balance is all over the place as the howling wind will overpower the music or the quiet dialogue of the main characters. Not that any of that is worth listening to, but if you're going to have voice-acting or music at least let us hear it properly.

And now it's time to talk about the gameplay, which...Man, there's not a lot here. Mad Devils is a top-down shooter, although not a twin-stick shooter. You do use your thumbsticks - or mouse and keyboard if you're super cool - to move and aim, but firing your weapon is done with the right bumper. You have to reload every so often and there seems to be a Gears Of War-esque active reload mechanic (although I'm not sure if it really does anything.) There's also a cover system, but since most of the enemies are morons you can probably survive by running around in circles.

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You also have some magic powers which can be activated with the control pad. Some of the powers can be helpful, but the ones you have access to early on don't seem to do much. You can upgrade your character's stats and powers to make them slightly less useless and unlock additional powers. Unfortunately, acquiring new spells or leveling up your stats doesn't make the game any more fun.

If the combat was good I would fine with Mad Devils' straightforward progression, but firing these guns feels so unsatisfying. The bullets barely seem to have any impact. They just disappear into enemies creating a practically indiscernible blood spurt. They also leave smoke trails making it hard to tell if your shots have even connected since enemy bullets leave trails too. Moving your character feels like you're wading through waist-high water. It's almost as if something is actively holding you back as you try to trudge forward. The final nail in the gameplay coffin is the terrible A.I. for both the enemies and your co-op partner (oh yeah, this game has offline and online co-op, although good luck finding anyone to play with.) They all either stand around and let you shoot them or run about shooting at each other while getting stuck on parts of the scenery. Thus, most battles consist of bullets flying all over the screen while you wonder if you're doing any damage until you or the baddies keel over. Oh, and enemies can spawn in off-screen and shoot you before you even see them. That's neat.

The most enjoyable part of Mad Devils was discovering a new bug or basic technical issue. Parts of the level will flicker in and out of existence. When you reach the portal to go to a new zone, the game will stutter for a moment as it brings up the loading screen. That loading screen will then cause the game to freeze or outright crash. I also seem to have lost my save data during an update, which required me to restart the whole campaign all over again. This means I have played more of this game than any person should ever have to.

I may have been a bit harsh in my assessment of this game. Had this been a student project, a free game on Itch.io, or even if it had cost less than $5, I probably wouldn't be as bothered about it. But this is a fully released title that currently retails for around $20. To charge that much for something that's this boring, broken, and buggy is ridiculous. You can buy either Wolfenstein: The New Order or 2016's Doom for around the same price to satisfy your Nazi or demon-killing desires. Or if you want to play a better top-down shooter, you could pick up something like Enter The Gungeon, Door Kickers, or Helldivers. Regardless of what you choose, there are far better games to spend $20 on.

This is the first major game from the developers at Itzy Interactive Inc., so hopefully, they learn from the mistakes made here and deliver something better in the future. But Mad Devils is what they have right now and it's a hell of a bad way to waste your time and money.

A PC copy of Mad Devils was provided to TheGamer for this review. Mad Devils is available on PC.

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