Review by Siegfried

"Dante Must Die!"

You know Resident Evil 2.

You know Onimusha 2.

Two great titles that impressed with their depth and the incredible experience they provided to millions of gamers around the world.

Imagine these same two games tweaked and polished to a heightening degree, these same two games evolved into something truly formidable.

Yet, they remain two different titles, each with its own stellar game engine.

Now, imagine a single game that would take every pro of these two games and combine them to produce an unrelenting game engine amidst a *****-hardening atmosphere.

You have Devil May Cry, possibly the greatest PlayStation 2 game ever released (look at the date below, this review was posted well after a certain Grand Theft Auto: Vice City came out!). Of course, I am aware this is a bold statement, given how handfuls of hyped games come out each week on the console, but Devil May Cry is not a title I would classify as one of those.

Devil May Cry remains an impressive try that perfectly recreates a medieval atmosphere of fear, excitement and enticement. A medieval atmosphere in which you get to use a shotgun to blow to shreds marionettes and other kinds of horrendous freaks obsessed with the idea of scarring Dante, the game's protagonist, for life.

If anything else, the cut-scene introduction itself will tell you how polished this game is. Dante and Trish, who at least has some characterization (although you will probably need to let your imagination loose on this one) by the way, first meet. Dante takes pride in his job, which consists of killing zombies and other monsters while remaining cool (a la Lorenzo Lamas) all the time. Trish, who mysteriously appears a la Tetsuo (Akira), seeks Dante's help to clear a huge castle of fiends that just won't quit. Having nothing else to do, Dante accepts, the weird thing being that Trish first had to attack him for the bum to get off his lazy ass.

So, the two go to the castle although Trish, like any self-respecting babe, decides to let Dante handle the task alone. That's right, folks; fighting off hordes of enemies with a sword, a pair of fiery gloves, and a bunch of weapons isn't something everybody can do. However, as Dante does what he is supposed to do, he finds out that things are more complicated that they seem.

Actually, they're still crystal clear, but it just happens Dante is the one everybody wants to kill and there's a big baddie called Mundus behind all this. Of course, this doesn't quite deter Dante from accomplishing his mission. Knowing that something evil is lurking somewhere is not enough to shake Dante's impassive attitude.

If the lack of information in this story resume isn't indication enough that DMC's plot sucks, well here's the blunt statement: Don't expect an interesting plot in this game. Sure, there's a vague story about a war that took place in the past and how Dante is related to the guy who first defeated Mundus, but to call this a solid story is ludicrous. There is no characterization in the game; aside from a few facts (which can obviously be seen coming as soon as the game starts), you learn nothing substantial about Dante.

There is also something that should probably be a twist in any other plot, but let's just say Capcom did what it always does: Gameplay first, story last (or not at all!).

As a matter of fact, I expect most of you will not buy this game for the story, the Capcom logo on the cover clearly indicating that you shouldn't expect anything of the sort in this game. As lame as DMC may be in the story department, you will instantly forget about this Capcom habit as soon as you get to really control Dante though.

Why?

Because this game holds the most fantastic game play I have ever had the opportunity to enjoy.

Since Dante is so cool, he prefers to fight with both guns and swords. Read that again: both guns and swords. When I said that DMC could be considered a blend between the features of Resident Evil and Onimusha, I was not exaggerating. DMC has the most amazing fighting system ever seen. Wielding both swords (of which one is actually a living entity) and a variety of weapons, which include a shotgun and a bizarre laser-beam modulator, Dante is able to use both without ever stopping…

…And to pull Combos. With the appropriate sequence of button-tapping, you can actually racket up hits, which reward you with a 'Cool', 'Stylish' remark, or whatever else the game has to offer, and many red orbs, which are used to buy moves. Yes, moves! Depending on which sword he is using (Alastor and a pair of fire gloves mysteriously called Ifrit), Dante can also perform various moves which should aid in allowing him to destroy those monsters.

There's nothing more exciting than performing a swift 4-hit attack with your sword, sending the fiend up, unloading a couple of shotgun rounds in it, and finishing with an uber powerful Devil Trigger move. Throughout the course of your quest, you will find out that Dante's legacy actually allows him to transform into a unique kind of demon, complete with stunning light and matrix effects. By entering into this so-called Devil Trigger mode, Dante becomes more powerful and his arsenal of moves also increases.

Unleash your powerful and awe-inspiring moves such as the Inferno will instantly take care of a pack of enemies.

Of course, slicing enemies is not all you are asked to do during the game. You also need to do some exploration (actually, loads of it as the castle is so big!) and solve some puzzles (Resident Evil heritage?). However, DMC's puzzles require almost no thinking from your part and it truthfully seems these have been included to prevent you from reaching S-ranks throughout every mission. Secret missions can also be completed to earn blue orbs, which contribute to making your life gauge longer once you manage to get four of those.

Devil May Cry is also quite a hard game, but it provides an Extra Easy Mode for those who play Mario games most of the time. On the other hand, hardcore gamers will enjoy the self-respecting Hard mode and an additional Dante Must Die! mode which is Metal Gear Solid's Extreme difficulty setting on dope. Defeat it without cheating and you can then shamelessly declare yourself a skilled, dedicated gamer.

Visually, Devil May Cry stands as one of the finest games on the PlayStation 2. The animation is crisp and the character designs are memorable although some may find Dante's appearance slightly stereotyped. Devil May Cry is also the game that hosts brilliant monsters. Where most games would just give you generic monsters, DMC takes the time to come up with monsters that all look unique and that brim with personality.

More noticeably, the bosses look lively with a giant spider even chasing you across the castle in an attempt to crush you. The castle itself abounds with details such as decrepit statues, table that can be destroyed, and all those nifty small designs, which really make the setting artsy. Moreover, although you are actually set to begin in a castle, the game allows you to explore gardens, caves and doesn't quite limit itself to an inner environment, which is particularly enticing (otherwise, I'd become claustrophobic after barely one hour of the game).

Given how the game play is so marvelous, it is also almost necessary for DMC to enjoy a silky animation. In a sense, this is achieved, as there is no slow-down even when you are busy fending off a crowd of enemies with a dozen attacks of your sword. However, the big flaw here concerns the camera, which can be very annoying as it always seeks to come behind you. In a game with such intense action, this is totally unforgivable, as with time, you will start thinking that even the camera wants to kill you.

Of course, this can be remedied by moving around until you feel everything's fine, but finding the time to do so can be critical, specially when half a dozen reapers are busy stuffing their huge scissors up your throat.

Turn round, camera behind you, enemy to the left, game over!

This may contribute to irritate you even more, specially when one considers how the game itself is relatively tough on the higher difficulty settings (and I won't even start nitpicking on Dante Must Die! mode).

The music itself remains upbeat at all time and suits the atmosphere of the game although it would have been wise to include more variety. Most of the time, there really is no music as the only onomatopoeia you will hear is that usually associated with the surroundings. The music flows in when you need to fight and thus grants you with a single theme, which goes to sleep when you're in dire need of encouragement.

The rather low usage of music is actually a good idea as it conveys the full drama (figuratively) across. Besides, the sound effects, I'll admit it, are all excellent with ominous clangs being heard as a stray enemy sharpens its scimitar in the darkness, or just your footsteps echoing through the corridor to warn some monster of your presence. DMC is probably one of the best examples as to how sound effects, particularly those of weapons, should be done. When you use your pistols, it actually feels as it you are using the real thing.

It also helps that you don't need to reload your guns and that such ammunition is infinite in the game. After all, I don't think Mundus would be nice enough to leave bullets lying around for you to use against his fearsome army.

Where other games of this caliber would just implement some generic voice acting in the hope that the game engine will overweigh it, Devil May Cry actually takes the time to do the complete opposite. Of course, it perhaps help that there isn't really much dialogue in the game, but even this doesn't suffice to hide how DMC enjoys an excellent dubbing. It's just a pity the dialogues are so worthless. However, Dante's voice definitely rings out as one of the best acting; it's up there with Revolver Ocelot and Solid Snake from the highly influential Metal Gear Solid.

I'll admit that Devil May Cry is a quite short game and the mission-based scheme can contribute to make it even shorter as one suddenly find himself trotting through the fifteenth mission when he barely started. On the other hand, the difficulty factor does contribute in a way to give the game substantial value, and certain options that can be unlocked only by beating the game on the highest difficulty setting conveys to this game a certain replay value.

This replay value noticeable loses its charm after a while, as Devil May Cry remains more the 'I-need-to-master-it' type instead of the typical 'Unlock-more-goodies', more common attitude. Or one could simply wonder what kind of so-called goodies could have been indeed in this weird game, in addition to what is already in there. From beginning to end, DMC is more about being able to beat everybody while taking minimum damage, and doing so as quickly as possible. The way the mission rankings are assessed are indication enough of how seriously the game takes itself.

And the unrelenting atmosphere is yet another factor that makes Devil May Cry so different from other titles, even surpassing its 'parents'. With every step you take and as you get closer to Mundus, the surroundings get darker, more eerie noises are heard, and yet Dante remains his old self, running around in his distinct fashion. I like to think there's no need to delve into how this game's atmosphere will truly suffocate you as this can be deduced as soon as the game itself. In the castle, there's practically no light; the only thing that allows you to see where you are heading to is the sun. As you progress, night falls and when it isn't simply a matter of time, it has to do with Mundus's doings.

Imagine how it is by the end of the game, where you have to remain alert all the time. This is certainly what makes Devil May Cry such a great game and the only titles (within the same genre - survival horror; with emphasis being put on 'Survival' in this case) that have this same gripping atmosphere are the Silent Hill games. The shock of stumbling into a group of marionette having a picnic while a crow laughs its tiny head off in a tree really has an effect on your adrenaline, which is why DMC is so excellent.

In spite of its atrocious camera angles that you may want to kill, Devil May Cry remains a stunning action game that easily ranks among one of the best PlayStation 2 titles. The game play is one of the most exciting and challenging schemes ever conceived. While the story is the most insipid pile of events ever put together, I don't think anybody cares about this.

Do you care about stories when you can slice off enemies with a sword and shoot them in the guns with a shotgun within seconds?

If the answer is 'No', get Devil May Cry.

Now.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/23/02, Updated 12/27/02


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