maanantai 27. tammikuuta 2014

REVIEW - DmC - Devil May Cry | PS3 | 2013

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: January 15, 2013
DEVELOPER(S): Ninja Theory

While Devil May Cry 4 was a huge commercial success, Capcom ultimately found themselves in no position to compete, and competition was hard. So, they decided to reboot the series, and formally announced DmC in late 2010. Impressed with Ninja Theory's breakthrough hit Heavenly Sword, they chose the British developers to present a new Devil May Cry story from a Western perspective, and hired a group that had worked on the previous games - including long-time director Hideaki Itsuno - to supervise the development of combat mechanics. Everything else was pretty much up to the new developers. The public was very critical towards the game from the beginning, mostly due to the whole new character design which they felt took the greatest toll on lead protagonist Dante, who had now adapted a dirty emo look in contrast to his slick, stylish and shiny look, and through him, immersion. Although Dante's characterization still remained a pet peeve of many critics once the game came out, it was hailed by tons of positive reviews and named one of the most unique and interesting games in a genre that had grown stale, pioneered by the original Devil May Cry 12 years back. And, finally, it got the blessings of many people who had worked on the classic series, including creator Hideki Kamiya. What's there to think about? Satan goes West!

"Fuckin' demons."

Tim Phillipps : Dante
David de Lautour : Vergil
Sage Mears : Kat
Louis Herthum : Mundus / Bob Barbas
Robin Riker : Lilith
Lou Beatty Jr. : Phineas
Race Davies : Succubus
Richard Ridings : Hunter
Rebecca Blackstone : Eva
Susie Mortimer Bull : Dancer

Dante, a young man with no memory of his past tries his best to lay low in Limbo City, a metropolis largely controlled by demons in disguises. Armed with special powers himself, he defends himself when needed, and does it good. As a child, Dante was able to escape an onslaught by the demon lord Mundus and his cohorts, with the help of his father, the demon knight Sparda, who the demons know as a traitor to his kind. Now, Mundus, acting as an "honest businessman" bent on getting full control over the world economy, has set his sights on this "loose end". Mundus deploys a pack of hunters to drag Dante to their dimension - known simply as "Limbo" - and deliver his head to the demon lord. Faced with his toughest challenge yet, with no exact understanding why the hunters are after him, Dante gets unexpected help from a group of anarchists known as The Order, who have also been looking for him for quite some time.

I've never seen a game of this caliber released to so much anti-hype. I remember standing on the frontlines with my friend who absolutely loves Devil May Cry. He was willing to give a whole new story a chance, while everyone else on the net was turning their backs on the game even years before its release, just because Dante "didn't look right". This Dante was not of Japanese design, and he looked like washed up white trash, a mix between a hobo and Jared Leto. I saw an interesting story coming along, and I felt my receptors light up like wildfire for this game despite completely ignoring the series for years. I'm not too much into Japanese design, nor am I into all-American design all that much - I prefer the latter, though, but I think that when you want to make a reboot, call any British dudes you can think of. The British are fucking awesome at this stuff. Ninja Theory proved it by delivering the best Devil May Cry game ever - seriously.

Let's talk Dante. Me, I loved him from the opening cutscene. Assuming you've played any Devil May Cry game before - except for Devil May Cry 2 where characterization stands for air - your initial take on him will surely be somewhere between mixed and pure hatred. I think that's why his character development in this game is so quick, and why they do those early references to the original series, to calm people down. Yeah, the story progresses much faster in the beginning of the game than it was probably meant to. Of course players of the original series know the outlines of the plot already, but new players will probably have some difficulties to keep up with what's happening. After an hour or so into the game, we know everything worth knowing about the basics of Dante's past and character, starting out with nothing except that he's foulmouthed white trash, living in a trailer, drinking like a sponge, listening to industrial rock, and humping strippers. Sound like your Dante? Didn't think so. I love this guy!

Clashing through a commercial nightmare.
The story might be a tad too fast, but in every other way, I find everything relating to storytelling, characterization and cinematics just amazing, and particularly an amazing facelift to this franchise. Dante's character is still well over the top - but while the Japanese think it's cool to have the son of a legendary dark knight going around telling everyone who he is, how great he is and delivering a tacky punchline before shoving his pistols up a priest's ass, and dressed fine while he's at it, the British think differently. Dante - sporting a wifebeater with a dirty, worn out longcoat on top, lives in seclusion, trying his best to keep out of the spotlight, with a faint scent of fear in him; fear of the past he can't remember, and very obvious distrust in everyone and everything but himself. In short, he just wants to disappear into the crowd while his Japanese counterpart wants all attention to himself - that's why I relate to this new version of Dante much better. Fans of the old keep telling me that the immersion's gone, I'm just getting started. Besides, the punchlines are still there, it just takes a while for them to kick in - and they rock.

So, once more to make it clear: despite a different synopsis found on most sites and promotional material, DmC's plot is a rewritten version of the original Devil May Cry backstory, and it also features rewritten stuff from the first and third games. It's a collective new vision of the series' most popular plot threads, with the sibling rivalry of Dante and Vergil at the front, smacked into a whole different setting - an alternate dimension parallel to the real world. While the citizens of Limbo City go about their daily business unknowingly controlled and watched, Dante runs among them as a shadow, kicking demons' asses in a parallel dimension. Everything that happens in this dimension happens in the human world too, without a visible cause - and the authorities (the demons at the core of the Dante-killing operation) keep covering up for the sudden destruction of public areas, explaining them as cruel terrorist attacks devised by The Order, a cult actually trying their best to keep demons the hell away from humans. It's a fucked up world - a really interesting one. I knew I was going to like this game, and I knew I was going to like the new Dante, but I wasn't sure if the story and setting would hold. They do. DmC is a brilliant game, and when it comes to the two big reboots of early 2013, I think it's even better than Tomb Raider. Time to move on, I think; let's go the core of this baby boy.

The graphics are what you'd expect. Nothing more, nothing less - but the parallel dimension schtick allows the use of some heavily surreal effects that might outright stun you, as they did me. Now I'm not a huge fan of industrial music - a fact I've been painfully reminded of by the previous games in the franchise - but the soundtrack really works, it just goes with the dark, dirty and surreal atmosphere so well. The licensed songs are performed by a Norwegian group called Combichrist, whose vocalist Andy LaPlegua actually ended up supervising the whole ambient soundtrack mostly composed by a Dutch band named Noisia. Look up a Combichrist song called "Throat Full of Glass" on YouTube to get a feel of the music - it's the main theme of the game, and it works even outside its confines. There are some heavy romps throughout which I like very much. The voiceover work is very good; the story just takes some occasional dives of uncertainty, and all of the verbal exchange is not that strong.

Yep, the world's most popular newscaster is
not only a fuckin' dick, he's a fuckin' demon.
What you need to know about the contrast between this game and the old series comes down to two things: the world around you, and what Dante is. The world of Limbo is very surreal - a dark and twisted reflection of the real world, and about 1% of gameplay in this game takes place in the latter. You'll want to rush through that 1%, too, since there's nothing of interest in the real world in this game. There's not one single physically legal level in this game, and that's what bugs me the most about it, personally. I used to love the occasional LSD trips in video games, but then they became a standard for just about every adventure game ever made, and a stale and predictable attempt at diversifying gameplay. And now we have a game that IS that sort of trip. Oh well, it does explain the missing populace of the city - or that populace which appears as a group of faint shadows throughout the trip. And it allows for some exciting designs. Not always too clear cut, and not always too entertaining, but always exciting.

Hideki Kamiya's Dante was the spawn of a demon named Sparda and a human woman named Eva. The British came to the conclusion that the child of a demon and human wasn't interesting enough - so Eva was rewritten as an angel. Now think about that. The marriage of heaven and hell. Now that's awesome. Give us a child - here comes Dante, who is now indeed a nephilim, a creature blessed with tons of perks from both sides, including being able to walk between different dimensions effortlessly, and more as he goes, remembering his origins and beating the shit out of the core members of Mundus' government. How to enable the use of so many different weapons and two different fighting styles, you ask? By mixing together the weapon toggling system from God of War, and the blue/red trigger system from Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, of course. The triggers are obviously swiped off Konami's megahit, it's made even more obvious by the fact that during one single move, you might need 'em both. For example, during many jumps, you need to pull obstacles out of the way with the red trigger (Demon), then maybe boost (glide) your way to the next one with the blue trigger (Angel), and then finally, pull yourself up to the final platform with the blue trigger. You start off with your sword Rebellion and the twin handguns Ebony and Ivory as you always do, but in time, you'll gain access to a total of six extra weapons; one can be set to each trigger at a time, and you simply use the digital pad to change the setting, and as tradition goes, Ebony and Ivory can eventually be replaced with a shotgun or a kind of a grenade launcher, in this case a portable cannon that fires explosive needles. Yeouch.

Now imagine this: better, faster, stronger than ever before, and with the best controls in the whole series. A whole horde of different enemies coming your way: both weak and strong, flying bastards, and finally, huge enemies who only take damage from a certain type of weapon and maybe have one single weak spot you must try to exploit while taking it up the ass from another enemy. If this was Devil May Cry 3, for example, this would've been the waterbreaker. Not with those controls, or that old scheme, uh-uh. The controls in DmC are extremely tough to learn, and it's also tough to learn to place your fingers just right so that you would have access to every combo you can possibly think of to raise your Stylish rank, if you're interested in that sort of thing. In addition, the camera pulls some occasional pranks on you, and what also seems to be a huge problem for many is that there is no targeting system of any kind. I have had surprisingly little problems with that, only with projectile attacks actually, and I don't use 'em all that much. After all, DmC is all about contact, I think.

A footprint on that face only makes it prettier.
Anyway, back to the situation I just described; you can survive those predicaments in under a minute once you're experienced enough. Not by the laws of the game, but once you've learned the controls and grown accustomed to 'em. Once you pull off a perfect sword/axe/scythe/gauntlet/shuriken/gun combo without any breaks and with "SSS" lighting up in the corner of the screen and manage to nail a few lasso moves and perfect evasions in the between, maybe lure those bastards in for a few hails of friendly fire, you can pat yourself on the back: you've got nothing essential left to learn. Be warned, though: don't stay off the game for too long or you've most likely got to repeat the learning process all over again. Advanced control is unforgivingly hard. In a bit of good news for casual players, simply beating the game isn't. To compensate for the smooth ride of its easier difficulty levels, including Demon Hunter (Normal), there are a total of FIVE harder difficulty levels, only one of which is unlocked from the beginning; Nephilim, Son of Sparda, Dante Must Die, Heaven and Hell, and finally, what sounds like my favourite pastime in the world, Hell and Hell. You want that classic challenge and perhaps then some? Just keep playing the game - and get the Bloody Palace DLC. It's free of charge. And before I forget... welcome to hell, bitche(r)s!

On top of being so God damn good and - let me capitalize - IN EVERY GOD DAMN WAY, THE BEST GAME IN THE FRANCHISE, DmC has tons of replay value, as is custom in the genre nowadays. DmC is not only out to beat the previous installments to a pulp in this category, but also every hack 'n' slash there is. It doesn't work out quite THAT well, but it does work, and makes going at the game on a higher difficulty level that much more intriguing. Where do I start? Well, first of all the game has a lot of secrets hidden behind walls that you can break with just one single weapon in the style of Metroid, Castlevania, and most recently, Batman - the acquisition of which might easily be ten missions away. You can return to any mission at any time - it's advisable that you do it between missions so your save file stays safe, of course - and nail that secret (or those secrets) down. Then you CAN leave and go back to whatever you were doing, but that's not always the best option. See, since your equipment is now better, you have better completion stats, and you know how to get ahead, you might want to consider beating the whole mission again to get a better total rank for it. It's easy to get an A, it's not that hard to get an S, getting an SS is cool, but getting an SSS, now that's an accomplishment. A really rewarding one - introducing white orbs, which are the upgrade currency in this game, stepping in for the Proud Souls in Devil May Cry 4. Like before, you get more of those the better your rank is. Red orbs are still used for buying items - and by the way, the game is really stingy with those throughout the line. One does not simply max out his health bar, if one is not into some heavy, repetitive grinding.

To live and die in Limbo. Mostly die.
Lost souls are out there waiting to be harvested; these ugly torsos pushing out of walls. There are 80 of these howling freaks all across the game and you don't need to spot each one, you need to listen to their cries for help (?), which start echoing when you're close enough. Sometimes they're hidden really well in plain sight; you might run around in a narrow space for several minutes before you actually spot the spirit. Then, there are keys, four different kinds. And this brings us to what I've always hated about secrets in Devil May Cry - and how that problem stands fixed. The keys are used to unlock corresponding hidden doors in each level, and behind these doors, classic secret missions await. The more valuable the key, the harder the challenge, and these have an impressive range. For example, one challenge could be a deathmatch with tough stipulations, such as the enemies taking damage from just one certain combo, one could be about Dante dying from one hit, and one could be a simple run/jump/glide race through a tricky level. Now for the best part: in previous Devil May Cry games, you had to replay the main missions (if it was even an option) to get to retry a secret mission. Not anymore, that's what those keys are for. You literally unlock the missions, to compile 'em to a list outside the confines of the main game. You don't have to beat them to have them add to your completion percentage, just unlock them. You can go back to the list at any time to try to beat those missions, and any rewards you might get are saved to your story file. Yes! This is how a smooth and entertaining game works.

If I truly have to come up with a true weakness, I must say that I've had better collectives of boss fights in these types of games. There's a distinct strategy which works best for each boss and keeps you off any additional help from items or Devil Trigger, but if you don't care much for your performance and just keep mashing buttons and wasting items, that works a little too well, too. The additional downside to hack 'n' slash bosses in general is that no one can really top Kronos in God of War III - nothing impresses me anymore. Not even a huge demon baby with its mother sticking out of its crotch, and not the other way around. Since I mentioned it, the Devil Trigger is also very awkward. It's not the simple god mode it previously was, it's kind of a step into yet another chaotic dimension, in which the demons are helpless against an overpowered Dante. Regular enemies are lunged high up into the air, and bosses are slowed down. It's very hard to reach those airborne enemies, and the damage you do to bosses under the Devil Trigger's influence is not that much higher than normal damage. As a sidenote, what's funny is that during Devil Trigger, Dante looks a lot like his Japanese counterpart, and after "embracing the devil within" for the first time, Dante's black hair gets a permanent white spot to calm people down a little further. The ending of the game should please everyone.

Stuck in yet another strange dimension, tasked
with freeing a creepy but oddly familiar
statue-like dude from his shackles.
The last thing I'll mention is the difficulty of the game, which I kinda mentioned already, but I want to juggle with it a little. Let's go back in time - the original Devil May Cry started out easy, and kinda different than what the rest of the game eventually turned out. The difficulty spiked through the roof from time to time, only to be followed by easier bits that lasted for hours, a penultimate boss that was a frustrating pain in the ass 'cause you had so little space with the boss filling up the whole room and the game's lousy camera ravaging your ass, then some easy bits again, and then an overpowering final boss fight which turned casual players to sand. Devil May Cry 2 was a fart tube of a game - straightforward, immensely boring, and extremely easy. Devil May Cry 3 was pure murder from the start, it showed no mercy. Devil May Cry 4 was decently balanced in terms of difficulty, but it was a boring game. DmC is a great, exciting game with great pacing (after the fast start), and most importantly, progressive difficulty. It holds your hand through a time, tougher enemies and different weaponry come along at just the right times, and once it's made completely sure that you are aware of how the weapons and equipment work, and of the behavioral patterns of enemies, you are left on your own in a new form of classic Devil May Cry challenge, which makes you fear how it all ends. The last missions are trouble, I assure you - but you always have the chance to go back and grind. Which is good, I'd hate to restart the game at the final boss as I was forced to do in the case of the original first one.

Calm down. Keep calm and fuckin' play DmC. You're going to love it. If not as a Devil May Cry game, then as just a game. I could've never imagined getting this much kicks out of a game of this particular brand; it's not revolutionary, but it is a damn tasty pile-up of everything that's so consistently great about this genre. It has disturbingly surreal level design, the boss fights could use some imagination, and advanced control is extremely hard to learn and master - physically hard and damaging on the controller, too - but for the most part, DmC is an amazing hacker, a surprising gem, and definitely the best game in the Devil May Cry series. Capcom hasn't formally closed up on the original series, but I hope they do and carry on with what they have going on here - it's good.

+ The new Dante - you hate, I love
+ A good story with slight mudslides
+ It's hard to be audiovisually surprising in this day and age, but DmC has some impressive effects in store
+ Good (though borrowed) tactics and solutions for diverse gameplay 
+ Good progress tracking...
+ ...That comes with tons of replay value, which is good considering there are SEVEN different difficulty levels!
+ It's enough to unlock secret missions during the game, you don't have to beat them at once and you aren't bound to 'em in any way
+ Apart from the first part of the storyline which progresses uncomfortably fast, the game has great pacing and progressive difficulty

- Tough advanced controls, literally; my controller is bleeding
- The boss fights are a little unimaginative
- The consistently surreal level design is bound to get on your nerves sooner or later

< 9.1 >


Aww. So depressed.

DmC had DLC? What's a dime without a rhyme? After conquering Dante's main scenario and feeling pretty damn happy about it, I was going to do it all again to tie up some loose ends, but then I remembered that there was actually a story DLC available, one that's supposed to elaborate on the ending and extend the DmC experience. Vergil's Downfall, it was called, and it starred the broken and beaten Vergil on his path to becoming this universe's dark knight. Despite having such great potential, aggregate ratings for the 2 GB package weren't very high. I had no idea what I was heading into, how could be it be so much worse than the game? I loved the game so much that 8.95 € was a small price to find out. Or so I thought... Vergil's Downfall is basically the very same thing as the add-ons for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow were: a totally pointless gap-closer between DmC and the potential sequel, with hand-drawn concept art-like cutscenes. But, unlike the Lords of Shadow add-ons which were at least reminiscent of the main game in terms of gameplay, Vergil's Downfall is nothing of the like.

Severely wounded from the battle with his brother who "betrayed" him, Vergil makes his way to his parents' graves and apparently falls dead. He ends up wandering aimlessly in a space between heaven and hell, guided by his mother and a mysterious figure who are both offering him a second, different chance at life. As he zooms through this strange dimension, Vergil has strange hallucinations of Dante which only fuel his anger towards his twin, and his will to rise again and defeat him.

First and foremost of our problems here - Vergil himself. "SPOILER", I'll tell you where it ends. In the last 10 to 15 minutes of DmC, it is revealed that Vergil, who already has shown signs of antagonism and patronizing attitude towards mankind throughout the game, but has nonetheless faithfully stayed by his brother Dante's side on his pilgrimage to slay the demon king Mundus, never intended to free mankind through his actions as leader of The Order - but be the next "god" to control it. Perhaps not in the same way as the demons, but nonetheless control it, denying them of the complete freedom Dante thought he was fighting for. Vergil's trying to justify his actions by saying that humans are hopeless by themselves. After failing to make his brother recognize and accept his cause (go figure!), he challenges Dante to a fight to the death. Dante prevails, comes this close to killing his twin in his Devil Trigger-induced rage, until he is stopped by Vergil's abused, betrayed and heavily insulted, but still merciful protegee Kat. Vergil whines a little and teleports hell knows where... and that is where Vergil's Downfall begins. "SPOILER" ends here.

So, now he's suddenly hand-drawn, limping to his parents' gravesite, and even succumbing to his wounds and falling dead on the spot doesn't stop him from whining like a bitch. About how his family was stolen from him and how Dante betrayed him, never stopping to think of the possibility that he might simply be a selfish asshole! That's exactly what he turned out to be in the end of DmC, and here he continues being one, not in the most loveable way either. He's painful to listen to. The add-on was obviously made so that we would realize that if there will ever be a direct sequel to DmC, Vergil's going to play a very important antagonistic part in it. Well, we knew that already. We had the earlier games to tell us - and the ending of DmC spelled that out very clearly. We didn't need this add-on. Oh, well, despite the cinematic differences and a good character who however does not make for a good playable character, not in the mental state he's in, this is an add-on to DmC. That means fun times, brutal combos, great touch... right? ...Shit me a pile of ick.

The controller feels like a rock, all of the levels
are made of rock, and the ineffectiveness of
those combos makes me feel like the enemies
are made out of rock as well. Now I'm depressed.
Playing as Vergil is just as painful as listening to him speak. It's like you're trying to control a character from the previous Devil May Cry series, who has travelled through time and space to star in the latest game. Vergil's general movement is extremely stiff, his range is amazingly short, his combos are boring and ineffective, guns are replaced by that stupid and floaty "sword illusion" stunt, and his trigger moves and evasions are based on his teleporting ability, which does not translate to gameplay nearly as good as Dante's physical abilities. It's really hard to keep combo chains going, as Vergil oddly pauses after almost every combo, standing perfectly still as perfect projectile fodder. Then there's this new enemy who would've been a fun addition to the cavalcade of demons in the main game, but here they're simply not fun to fight and you'll grow to loathe them once they start appearing in packs.

And, the final cap on this poor deal - from tiringly surreal to tediously boring level design. Five out of six missions take place in identical levels, mountains of rock swirling in emptiness. Overshooting jumps and glides, and even evasions, is even likely as once again, the teleporting Vergil vanishes from sight during an evasion, making it hard to determine where he'll stop, and the levels just aren't built with thought. Falling down a pit still won't kill you, but eats away at your health extra quickly in this case. There's exactly one boss fight included in the whole pack, and it's perfectly enough 'cause by that time, any sane player who just finished the main game won't have the time and the patience to worry about strategies too much. And you don't have to if you're playing on any sane mode, he's very easy to beat.

Anyone waiting for any climaxes on the gameplay's side of the bed, you just bought the wrong DLC. Storywise, Vergil's Downfall is OK - although I would've been fine without thinking of Vergil as a COMPLETE asshole instead of a semi-asshole - but it does very little to surprise anyone who was into the original series. Some details are different and will surely poke some folks' interest, but casual players should be fine with the mere knowledge that it's got the basics of Devil May Cry 3 written all over it. I'm still anxiously waiting for a sequel to DmC, but I never want to play as Vergil again.


keskiviikko 22. tammikuuta 2014

REVIEW - Devil May Cry 4 | Xbox 360 | 2008

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: January 31, 2008

Devil May Cry's seventh-generation debut is the best-selling Devil May Cry game of all time, and one of Capcom's best-selling games in the last decade - but let's lay down the facts at this point. It was also the first multi-console release of the series, which might've had a huge effect on its sales. Devil May Cry 4 introduced a new main protagonist, actually going as far as placing previous lead man Dante as the supposed main antagonist. As a game... I'm not so sure they even tried to make anything exactly revolutionary here - just another by-product of a successful brand, with whole new technical potential to exploit. I originally saw Devil May Cry 4 as kind of an obsolete, if not completely dead, game on arrival, and having not been interested in the series since the first game, I never really took note of what the media was saying about it. As it turns out, the media was actually very receptive towards the game. So, for the first time since its release buzz, and straight after (more or less) hacking through three of the previous games, I'm taking Devil May Cry 4 for a ride. On the Xbox 360 - just in case the game truly does reek, at least I'll have Achievements for my time and money.

Devil may have cried

Johnny Bosch : Nero
Reuben Langdon : Dante
Stephanie Sheh : Kyrie
Kari Wahlgren : Lady
Terence J. Rotolo : Credo
T.J. Storm : Agnus
Danielle Burgio : Gloria / Trish
Liam O'Brien : Sanctus

Young Nero works as a demon hunter for the Order of the Sword, a holy order established to worship the legendary dark knight Sparda. During one of their gatherings, Dante crashes the party and kills their leader, prompting Nero to give chase to this mysterious assassin, not knowing his name or that he is actually Sparda's son, and despite witnessing with his own eyes that the members of the Order are actually demons. Capcom's lead men have never been very smart.

The kinda bad news is, I know exactly why I didn't like this game in the first place and why I found it utterly unattractive. The kinda good news is, I don't fully understand those decisions I made - I'm a different player now. I pay attention to different things and I don't expect miracles from any game. You know, it just might have something to do with the fact that I didn't buy a whole lot of pre-owned games back then, just brand new games with full prices - there weren't that many pre-owned games for this generation of consoles in circulation at that time. If I was prepared to pay a full price for a game, I had to be absolutely sure it would blow my mind and be something completely new and fresh, and/or a huge overhaul to an already good game. Like God of War II was to God of War - a huge overhaul to a game that was already, and still is, one of the greatest games ever made. Devil May Cry 4 hit the wrong notes and it did very little to blow my mind.

No, mentioning God of War is not a coincidence - God of War was obviously influenced by Devil May Cry. The first game came out in 2005, the second one in 2007 - only two years in between. Here we had seven years in between of Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 4, and I felt that the series hadn't evolved at all. Audiovisually, sure - some - but in terms of gameplay, it was still stuck years back. Stiff, and a bit clumsy - and as captivating as the story might occasionally be, that's where the developers' imagination ends. Dumb "puzzles", intentionally confusing level design, repetitive confrontations - these are some things that scar Devil May Cry 4. It's not a bad game, definitely not, and it's definitely far ahead the weakest link in the whole series - which is Devil May Cry 2 - but in 2008, the basic and decent Devil May Cry 4 was ironically devoured by the revolutionary and all-out amazing followers of the original Devil May Cry. It needed something completely new, and a new direction to survive the new climate which was suddenly filled with Devil May Cry derivatives, and I think that's what ultimately led to the British reboot of the series.

Most bosses in the game are literally more
bark than bite.
The game looks nice, sure, but surprising and taking full advantage of these new surroundings? Less so; it's just a click ahead of the previous installment on the PlayStation 2 when it comes to general movement and behavioral patterns. If you squint your eyes, you might not even be able to tell the difference from time to time. The environment, though, is in long-overdue full 3D (with occasional fixtures), and you can finally live with the camera. It's easy to control, and it pans just right. It does some occasional tricks which you'll certainly curse at, but it's an overhaul to the old anyway. The music is of that basic Devil May Cry fare you either hate or love, with vocals this time around which some untrained ears might dub death metal vocals, and heavy guitars which luckily cover most of that industrial zigzag. There's more dialogue than in any previous Devil May Cry game - if you've wondered why I haven't bothered to go into it that much previously - and it sounds quite all right. Audiovisually the game should still serve a fine treat to anyone really into the original franchise.

The slight evolutions in both the Devil May Cry franchise and these sorts of games in general has brought the game to the point it's not that challenging anymore, as in hard to beat - assuming you are expecting the same sort of assrape as you got from the first and third titles. For my first and foremost example: the use of yellow orbs, used for instant resurrection, is practically optional, 'cause whenever you die, you're given the choice whether or not to use one. If you choose not to, you're taken back to a moderately generous checkpoint anyway - unlike in Devil May Cry, where using one took you back to a checkpoint, and not using it took you back to the start of the mission. The generosity of those checkpoints depends on the level. So, these could just as well be called "final boss orbs" or something like that. Nero's moves and weaponry are very similar to Dante's - although I'm deathly annoyed of just one gun - but what makes beating demons up a little easier for him is his Devil Bringer gauntlet which you must upgrade in an early mission and with that upgrade, you get a kinda "lasso", which you can use to bring lesser enemies closer, so you don't have to go rushing and comboing circular hordes of enemies anymore. Green orbs flow around a-plenty, as do reds, and since there's a different currency used for abilities this time around than red orbs and nothing besides blue orbs that would really be worth your hard-earned blood money in the beginning of the game, you can max out your health bar quite quick.

Our "hero" and the damsel in distress. Whenever
they're on the screen together, prepare to be
You are ranked similarly as ever before, but this time, a better rank results in a heftier amount of Proud Souls, these spiritual trinkets used as currency to buy new abilities, ranging from sword combos to gun and gauntlet upgrades, to those same damn physical abilities used since 2001 (maybe under different names, but they're the exact same moves). Once you buy one, the price for every other ability on the list goes up a very notable notch, so a casual player shouldn't even expect to be able to buy more than one ability at a time. A casual player should also not expect to beat one single secret mission in this game. They're easy to find, as they're all marked by kind of a well-highlighted, bloody piece of paper, an ancient wanted poster if you will, but none of them are friendly to someone who's just getting familiar with the game - those people won't have fun with the quirky controls that haven't been updated for shit. Relatively sluggish and outdated controls are the game's worst problem, period. But, those secret missions... their requirements are ridiculous from the very start. There's not one secret mission, I think, that a casual player would find a fun challenge, interesting enough to really go for beyond one or two attempts, and if they've waited this long just to get a hang of this franchise, they also won't know about any rewards. I think that the best solution here would've been to allow the player to unlock these missions with progress and compile 'em up to a list outside the confines of the main game, which the player could then browse through in peace, and take part at his own leisure, not half-forced. I can't imagine myself going back on these boring main missions just to nail a few of these secrets down - especially if I've already beaten the game.

The second biggest problem after the controls is general boredom. The level design is off the mark - the game is confusing and full of backtracking, a lot of which stems from generic and completely unimaginative and out-of-place segments officially labelled "puzzles", which unsurprisingly always involve kicking the asses of a couple of dozens of enemies while you're at 'em. The same enemies, I might add, or at least very similar ones, for the longest time. The enemy design is like a collective of every Devil May Cry enemy that came before, and I must say that the boss design in particular reminds me of a certain game in the franchise I'm not too proud to call by name. The bosses look like stock material and they're very simple to beat. Despite all of this, and the fact that the protagonist is someone else than who we've grown accustomed to, there's still a lot more of that general Devil May Cry vibe than in Devil May Cry 2 - there, I said it - and we're not talking about that fashion of "boring" in any way. It's just that after a facelift like Devil May Cry 3, and especially after the transition to a new generation of platforms, everything about Devil May Cry 4 could've been a lot better. They just ran out of ideas long before they admitted it, it seems.

This bastard's about to take a flight. It's
amazing what a demonized glove can do.
Well, one thing that veteran players will be going for from the start is the chance to play as Dante (no wonder most screenshots on the net feature Dante instead of Nero). And we're not talking about an extra game mode unlocked upon completion of the game, either - we're talking about hacking through about a half of the game as the original hellspawn, in his seventh-generation incarnation. Before going for the obvious praises, here's where I think the writers hit a bit of a snag - he's the first boss of the game. No, no, no - not even a boss, a freakin' tutorial puppet for you to abuse. Simply effortless to beat. Yeah, sure, the game starts, Dante kills a wannabe-pope, everyone's shocked from the screen to the living room, and you're not playing as him but some young dude who looks like him a little too much, and Dante's actually your enemy. Yeah, shocking! ...But you know he has some noble cause, and you know he's not going to be your enemy the rest of the way. You just know. Konami already did something quite like this in Metal Gear Solid 2, that was in 2001; Capcom was a little too late with their own tricks to make believe that your great hero from years past was suddenly your enemy, and you played through most of the game as some young dude who was basically that guy's clone. And who was made to have mixed response to his credit. Wow, I never thought of this before... it just popped into my mind.

Dante is by all means an adult version of his incarnation in the previous game. As Dante, you once again have access to four different styles of combat, you don't have access to the Devil Bringer, and these things alone should tell you that Dante's missions are more challenging, and in the end, much more interesting than Nero's - Dante's what ultimately stopped me from bashing the game, it changes so surprisingly much with the introduction of this familiar lead character. He just steps in a little too late - you've seen enough awkward shit to last you a lifetime when he finally breaks out of his antagonistic mold. Die-hard fans won't care, 'cause they're blind. Newbies definitely won't care, 'cause they don't know anything about this franchise. But us, the tweeners, we have quick senses, and we're very critical towards everything about the game.

Devil May Cry 4 is a decent, cheap purchase to the less judging hack and slash audience. It's not very hard, it's not very interesting, it's not even the most audiovisually stunning game seen even at that time, and it's definitely not surprising. Not by a damn bit. It's got outdated controls and ideas. But, even despite all that I just said, long-time Devil May Cry fans will most likely love it. You wanna know why, you'll have to ask them. Me, I'll just wait for a reboot. Wait... they did that already...

+ Audiovisually sufficient
+ The story has cool bits
+ Some thrills in the genuine Devil May Cry spirit
+ Dante; comes in as a playable character a little too late, though
+ Better controls than ever...

- ...The scheme's just more than a bit outdated
- Tedious and unimaginative structural design
- Just as unimaginative visual design
- Challenge tips to beaRing the game more than beaTing the game

< 6.9 >

perjantai 17. tammikuuta 2014

REVIEW - Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening | PS2 | 2005

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: February 17, 2005

I started it, I might as well go all the way; although Devil May Cry 2 didn't give me any extra motivation to do so, I headed straight into the third game after the previous one's invisible end credits to find a remarkably better game. Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening is a prequel to the original Devil May Cry, once again directed by Hideaki Itsuno despite his previous butchery; everything that comes to its thematics and general vibe is a remarkable example of Capcom actually listening to players. The game has received many honours as one of the greatest PlayStation 2 games ever made, but it was also criticized for its tough learning curve in contrast to its ultra-high difficulty. After its initial release in February 2005, the game got a "Special Edition" (Platinum release) in early 2006, which featured revamped difficulty, the Bloody Palace survival mode from Devil May Cry 2, new optional fights, a Turbo Mode allowing for faster gameplay, and finally, the chance to play as main antagonist, Dante's twin brother Vergil. This version of the game has since become known as the "official" version of the game, despite originally being a budget release, as it was included in 2012's Devil May Cry HD Collection instead of the original game. So, because of that, and the fact I'm really not up to totally donating my ass to science, from the two choices I have, I'll take Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening - Special Edition. It's still not easy, and it's ridiculous. But it is good.

Inferno rises

Reuben Langdon : Dante
Dan Southworth : Vergil
Kari Wahlgren : Lady
Adam D. Clark : Arkham / Jester
Mary Elizabeth McGlynn : Nevan
Lani Minella : Female Spider / Reaper
Larry Leong : Monsters

Young Dante has just set up his yet unnamed agency and gets a visit from a man calling himself Arkham, who extends him an invitation by his brother Vergil, to a final confrontation between the two - the last time the twins fought, it was the latter who prevailed, but failed to get his hands on what he wants, which is Dante's half of their mother's amulet. This relic has the power of connecting the human and demon worlds. Dante heads to Vergil's tower, unaware that there is another soul seeking revenge on Vergil's associate Arkham, and she, in all her distrust and recklessness, could prove to be another problem.

Settle down, Fido.
I got the Devil May Cry HD Collection from a special Halloween sale on PSN, it was kinda one of the many early Christmas presents I got for myself - hey, there's gotta be an excuse for every purchase! It was fitting 'cause I had just bought DmC for the PS3, and after getting the collection, I decided to hack these games through before taking on DmC. Along came Bayonetta, as well; I thought that if I played and reviewed that game, why not go all the way and get this Satan Might Weep series out of my system at the same time? The first game was a surprise, after all these years it still had power. If I had any of the same respect for it ten years back, it would probably be one of my favourite games ever. The second one was a horrible disappointment. Not even a disappointment - more like an embarrassment, which I'm still sure was carved off some totally unrelated stock draft of an action game. My hopes for Devil May Cry 3 were not very high - which makes it an even better throwback to the good old days. Those good, old, hard-as-hell days, with slick punchlines and cocky demonic antics to cap the deal. It all goes to extremes, but it's enjoyable nonetheless.

In a nutshell; Devil May Cry 3 is out to clean Itsuno's slate and make people forget all about how bad Devil May Cry 2 was, but at the same time, it's out to remind of but outdo the first game in every way, and cut every remaining loose tie to Resident Evil the series might have. Now that sounds like a mess, 'cause the game's familiarity to Resident Evil fans, how it was like a mission-based, much more tense and physical Resident Evil, was one of the keys to its huge success. So what's this like, then? More of those wide open, but also extremely repetitive and completely empty areas? No. Devil May Cry 3 takes a quite linear, but also constantly action-packed, extremely challenging, in a word: TIGHT, route. Let's get that challenge bit out of the way right now: even if this Special Edition is supposed to be easier than the original pressing of Devil May Cry 3, it does not tolerate mistakes. It's totally unforgiving from the very start to the very end. If you thought Devil May Cry was hard, and saw Devil May Cry 2 as what it was - ridiculously easy - then the good news are that Devil May Cry 3 is a step back to the extreme challenge of the first game. The "bad" news are, that it's much harder than the first game. No less than one of the hardest games of the last ten years; right up there with the different editions of the 2004 reboot of Ninja Gaiden; and let me remind you once more that this is supposed to be the "easy" version, kind of like Ninja Gaiden Black and Sigma. The first battle is easy, 'cause it's full of tutorials, but since the game is basically a run from battle to battle, and the second one takes place very soon - with just a cutscene in between - don't be surprised if you get your ass handed to you as early as in that one. I did. Embarrassing, considering I had just beaten both of the previous Devil May Cry games - but only natural, since despite better controls than either one of them, the game really is that much harder.

Blowing the roof off the local nightclub.
Few puzzle-laden buildings built out of backtrack aside, Devil May Cry 3 is pretty much a straightforward run through levels scattered with secrets, including the classic secret missions, which are just as difficult from the very beginning as the rest of the game - actually moreso, very much more. Of course, the "impossible" difficulty of the secret missions is only make-believe on the game's behalf on some occasions, 'cause you can return to any mission at any point with better upgrades to seek out the secret mission and nail it down. Returning to missions is a good idea to grind for red orbs, too. You don't have to worry too much about having the currency to buy stuff - but what you do have to worry about is trying to hold on to that stuff like dear life. That's hard. Although this version of the game introduced checkpoints to the mix - very generous, surprisingly well crafted checkpoints - once again any power-up you might've used before a sudden case of death is vaporware once you respawn. If the current challenge is simply too much for you to bear without those power-ups, and you cannot cope with just maximum health heading into the confrontation once more, there are two options left, as always. You either backtrack to the nearest Watcher (I've been scolded about this, it's officially called a Divinity Statue... whatever!) to buy some of those power-ups with your hard-earned red, or reset the mission.

Resetting missions was way easier on the mind before, I tell you - some of the missions in Devil May Cry 3 might be quite damn lengthy and brutal. Just like 90% of its boss fights - my mind travels back to a certain mission on _the first half of the game_ with a huge "puzzle" (relatively speaking), a couple of regular fights against annoying enemies which lasted for ten minutes each, and finally, two major bosses, of whom the latter was extremely likely to kick your ass if you didn't go prepared, as in knowing who or what you were going to face for starters. Not a mission I'd gladly do again... but I absolutely had to. My ass cries blood. The hardest thing about Devil May Cry 3, since it's "just another" hack and slash game? Well, in no other hack and slash game has a slight bump to the head munched away at a quarter of your health. In turn, there aren't many games from that time that gave you the option of changing the difficulty level to an easier one at any time - I think God of War was the first. Devil May Cry 3 lets you do that, and "Easy Mode" has never sounded so good. Still haven't been able to fight off my pride with that issue, I'm still struggling, but I find it very likely that I'll end up beating the game on Easy, just to see how the story "ends".

A dysfunctional family.
My biggest problem with Devil May Cry 3 is a wholly personal one. Devil May Cry was totally over the top, and Devil May Cry 2 was dry as a bone. So, they had to make an even flashier game than the first one, and about triple that flash 'cause the previous game was so bad. It's like Itsuno had to prove he knew what he was doing. So here we have the most annoying version of Dante ever - young, cocky, loud (WOO! WOO! WOO! WOO-HO-HOO!), just everything that everyone always expected. Everyone, except me. I was just fine with Kamiya's original creation. I also could've breathed a little easier if Dante didn't find amusement and entertainment in absolutely everything hazardous, and I definitely could've coped without a demonic guitar being added to your basic equipment at some point. I can't really explain what kind of a main character is a good one, 'cause I know it sounds like I'm always bitching about something especially when it comes to guys like Dante. Let it be known right now that unlike everyone else - who might've liked the game but hated their beloved protagonist's wholly different being, with only his demonic flash and bling intact - I LOVED the Western Dante in the DmC reboot. But, that's a story I'll save for later.

All that being said, I always liked the outline of this story arc of brothers Dante and Vergil - I just always thought it could've been presented better, with better cinematic vision and voiceover work. But, the outline is indeed good, and seeing how Vergil became what he was in the original Devil May Cry is yet another reason to play the game. You can also play this version of the game AS Vergil. A new intro movie makes believe that it's actually a whole different scenario, but unfortunately it's not - it's the exact same game, without cutscenes, and Vergil has instant access to all core weapons and abilities. The last boss is not Dante or Vergil, but a guy stylized like Vergil and dressed like Dante. Fans call him Vante - clever.

Vergil shows how shit's done. But his mode is
actually quite boring.
The only major gameplay change I would like to address before wrapping this baby up is that you have access to four different combat styles - five, if you count Vergil's Dark Slayer. Trickster relies on fast evasion, Swordmaster on effective melee combos, Gunslinger on guns (duh), and finally, Royalguard on neutralizing and countering enemy attacks. You can change your style between missions and at each statue, but the catch to embracing just one style and holding on to it is that you level up after a certain amount of kills - that certain amount being best described as shitload - earning new abilities. This colours up the gameplay quite a bit, even if we're merely talking about a change to one single button's functions. Devil Trigger isn't activated before far along the story, so you might want to check which style suits you the best early on - you're in for some tough shit before you get your hands on godmode.

The best thing is, that you'll want to keep trying, storming through that tough shit. If this game was built like Devil May Cry 2, I'm not so sure if you would've had the interest to push on. In terms of audiovisual presentation, Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening is not my favourite game in the world, and I still prefer the level design and general structure of the very first game, but it's got an interesting plot outline, good controls - which can always be compared to another PS2 game of the same genre, but let's not do that, let's not be unfair - and it definitely does not miss out on extreme amounts of explosive action or legitimate challenge. It's not as good as the first game, but dozens of times better than Itsuno's last take.

+ Way beyond the first sequel in every possible way in terms of true Devil May Cry
+ Speed, tension, challenge
+ Checkpoints (only in the Special Edition, I gather) - gotta love 'em
+ The option to replay missions
+ Different combat styles available for different players
+ Great graphics, even today...

- ...Just the cinematics (including the music) are not to my personal liking
- A little too extreme and sudden changes in characterization; Dante, from lifeless zombie to attention deficit
- Awkward structure, switching between straight-shot linear and just confusing and disorienting - the latter feelings are mostly brought on by the STILL crappy camera
- It's still unfair when it comes to power-ups; use a health item in a boss fight, die, go back to the checkpoint, the item's gone. Though it's not that hard to stock up on red orbs in the game, a casual player still has to spend most of them on something else than useful, long-term upgrades.
- The chance to play as Vergil (exclusive to the Special Edition) is not as awesome as it sounds; it's just like Trish's extra "scenario" in the previous game 

< 8.2 >

sunnuntai 12. tammikuuta 2014

REVIEW - Devil May Cry 2 | PS2 | 2003

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: January 25, 2003

So Devil May Cry 2 is announced by Capcom during the English localization of the original game, much to creator Hideki Kamiya's surprise. He waits for the call, it never comes. Be it that he's busy making Viewtiful Joe, or that they got a "different game" planned for a "great story", nothing's for certain except that it isn't a very nice move by Capcom. Most famous for fighting games that were semi-popular in Japan, but virtually unknown in other parts of the world - such as Power Stone and Capcom vs. SNK - long-time Capcom designer Hideaki Itsuno was hired to do his very own interpretation of Devil May Cry. Only one question remains: what the hell was wrong with him?! You might've heard that it's not quite as good as its predecessor, but the truth is Devil May Cry 2 may very well be the shittiest sequel to a great game the world has ever seen.

I won't cry over it, but damn.

Matthew Kaminsky : Dante
Francoise Galewski : Lucia
Sherman Howard : Arius
Flo Di Re : Matier

Lucia, a young woman with powers similar to Dante's, has a run-in with the son of Sparda, who she invites to her home on Dumary Island. Lucia's mother tells Dante that she once fought alongside his father to keep the island safe from harm, but now Sparda is gone and a local businessman is using demonic powers to summon the demon Argosax; if he succeeds, she's pretty sure that her daughter and Dante are the only ones capable enough of taking on this ancient demon.

For a while, I truly believed I didn't give this game enough of a chance back in the day, and that it was all right after all. Well, it turns out that Devil May Cry 2 is The Heretic of video games, as in Exorcist II: The Heretic. If you haven't seen that movie, consider yourself lucky. The Exorcist is still one of the best horror movies ever made, say what you will about the effects, and I don't care if you find it funny rather than scary. Let's just go with how great it was in my opinion, and how scarily realistic and revolutionary it really was in its time - five years later, The Heretic is made. It's got a different director (John Boorman) who has a totally different vision than the guy who made the original (William Friedkin); he wants to add in some voodoo priests, insects that spread Satan (yeah, that's right: spread Satan), some totally irrelevant LSD-fueled sequences to confuse the already confused viewer just a little bit more, and finally, my favourite: a device used in hypnotism, which allows the protagonist's subconscious memories to actually pass on to and be reviewed by another person. In 1978, no less, the Animus from Assassin's Creed was a perfectly standard psychiatric tool. Expensive, I'm sure, but no one really stopped to think about such things too much in the movie. Neither did the writers when they wrote that shit.

Our designated protagonist... and some guy
that has Dante's looks and the social skills of
Claude from GTA III.
Believe it or not, all of this does have a point. Devil May Cry 2 is virtually the exact same thing as The Heretic. The first game was considered a revolutionary masterpiece, made by a true visionary. It had one of the coolest protagonists ever; he wasn't to everyone's liking, but everyone saw that this guy was probably going to be pushed as the generation's greatest hero. He had so much potential. He had a cool look, cooler moves, kick-ass weaponry that you could upgrade at will, and a tough line for every situation (if you could hear it... just saying). The game itself took Resident Evil to a whole new direction, which immediately cast such a dark shadow on the original franchise that it absolutely had to be changed sooner or later. It was all about fast, tight, tense and extremely challenging hack and slash action in kind of familiar, but way more supernatural surroundings that became more and more unique as the game progressed, all set in a medieval castle, the perfect spot for this kinda story. In comes a new director (Hideaki Itsuno) with a totally different vision than the guy who made the original (Hideki Kamiya). Suddenly there's a newyorkish metropolitan area with army vehicles possessed by demons (ehh...) and a large apartment building that is actually a demon (somebody call Ghostbusters, I'm outta here), cutting off a city that's mostly of medieval architecture and rural atmosphere, no less, a more "open world" which is actually just confusing, boring copy-pasted texture over copy-pasted texture, severely decreased level of difficulty, a shitty plot, limited and mostly automatic upgrade system, and the best part of all: Dante is a lifeless, completely emotionless puppet who hardly speaks. I could just end this here, 'cause I just listed pretty much everything that justifies a bomb rating, but I won't let this game go that easy. Disappointment is one thing, but an utter failure is another. I might just and just be able to condone Devil May Cry 2 if it was a handheld game - but it's not, it's a major sequel to a revolutionary game.

After all this, it might sound a bit ironic that the controls are basically really good. For example, shooting and especially dodging are much easier standard feats than they were in the first game. However - here we go - since you can't buy new combos, only gain new abilities and even most of those are exclusive to your Devil Trigger form, and enemies spawn absolutely all the time, you'll get tired using the same damn simple combos that are even harder to keep on piling up than in the previous game. You need to hit an enemy about a dozen times before even a D-combo is registered. By that time, you've probably been flanked by some other bastard or your target is long dead, and the time it takes to get to another target in these vast, empty and once again just as badly angled surroundings, is too long to maintain the combo. So, while Dante is really comfortable to control, he's boring as hell when it comes to combat. Same goes for Lucia, who is officially regarded the game's secondary playable character, but in truth, she's much more lively and protagonistic than Dante. I get this inevitable feeling, especially considering the time of this game's original announcement, and how Capcom treated Kamiya. I get the feeling that someone at Capcom pitched an idea of a totally unrelated game around the same time they started making Devil May Cry, and this same someone figured that hey, since that game did so good, how about we just swipe the franchise and make this draft a part of it? Even if it doesn't fit, we'll force it. It's gonna sell, it's gonna be great, everyone's happy. Well, it sold all right, extremely well at that. Everything else went to shit.

This game is far from "Show Time".
Back to Lucia. She basically has every skill Dante has, except for a special, additional Devil Trigger mode which is exclusive to Dante and activates when he's at critical health. There's nothing more to be said about her, except that the Dante and Lucia scenarios are just like any pairing of scenarios in Resident Evil. She has her very own disc, which is totally unnecessary, 'cause her scenario is virtually identical to Dante's. The story is not nearly strong enough to ease your suffering through two "different" scenarios. Not to mention the gameplay, or the hellishly boring level design. Let's reflect on that, shall we? In the first game, we had but one castle, its vast courtyard and underground tunnels to explore. Here we have a huge city (a fictional one, of course promoted as the biggest city of the world as them fictional cities always are), which sounds awesome on paper, but in actuality, 90% of it is empty, quiet space. Don't bother running down that long tunnel, it seems there's something but I tell you, there's nothing there. The first game was about a hundred times more interesting when it comes to level design. Even the "secret missions" are not anything of the kind they were in Devil May Cry, they're just your basic deathmatches against a couple of random waves of enemies just like the whole game. I'm going to add something to my statement here - Devil May Cry 2 is not just one of the worst sequels ever made, it's probably one of the most ironic bunches of video game concepts I've ever seen.

About the items... there are small versions of the Vital and Devil Stars in addition to the large ones, and the small ones are usually perfectly enough to get you out of a pinch. There's also a Holy Star, an antidote for poison, which you don't need since a standard poison effect is very brief. Untouchable has been replaced with The Smell of Fear (who farted in the bottle?) that gives you three damage-free hits instead of rendering you completely invincible for a while. Guess they heard how players went about Mundus in the last game... dum-dee-dum... last, and least, the orbs. They all do the exact same thing as before. The thing is, you get more of 'em, you do less with 'em. More irony. Well, to be honest, every upgrade - you never get told what those upgrades to your weapons actually entail - is extremely expensive, and you should keep grinding orbs for those just to make the game faster. It doesn't need to be any easier. The yellow orbs work a bit different than before, and here the game hits another snag. Actually, I think that even the checkpoint system brought on by the yellow orbs in the first game was better. How bad can this be then, exactly...?

No, we don't get to drive that thing.
Well, you can only carry one yellow orb at a time. And that's that - if you find more in the field, they just go to waste, and the game doesn't even have the courtesy to tell you that. You have just ONE extra chance. Big deal, since the game ain't difficult, you say? Well, that's true. There's a simple strategy for each and every enemy, including the bosses: BASH 'EM. But the game CAN be a real fuck sometimes. Mission 5, burning vertical hallway. I miss a jump because the camera's all fucked up. I drop down into the flames, which do not kill me instantly, but I simply cannot see where I can jump up because of the flames and the camera. I'm watching my life drain away, then I can vaguely see Dante using a yellow orb and getting up instantly... just to throw away my second chance. Back to the only checkpoint of this fucking boring drivel of a level (could be any level), many useful power-ups poorer. Might as well reset the game at that point. It's once again a very painful choice, but sometimes it makes more sense. If anything in this dickwad of a game makes any sense.

So, if you beat the Hard Mode with Dante - which makes our real main character, the one whose presence actually counts for something when it comes to the (bad) cinematics, that much more useless since everyone wants to play as (a guy that looks like) Dante - you get to play the game as Trish from the first game. Yay. I can't really measure my excitement. Perhaps if I take a dump... seriously, make a good game if you want to add an extra, almost identical play mode on top of two already almost identical scenarios.

Devil May Cry 2 is one miserable excuse for a sequel. It holds surprisingly decent averages on aggregate sites (73% on GameRankings, 68% on Metacritic), which I really do not comprehend, it's so much worse than I could've ever imagined. Don't know what game this was supposed to be before the success of Devil May Cry, but without the brand name on its back, it would be long forgotten on the piss-spilled pages of history. Play it once for your principles, it's not the unplayable sort of bad, but it is most definitely not just a disappointment, but a failure and a Devil-sized error in judgement.

+ The ability to equip different accessories was a genuinely good idea
+ Short enough
+ Better controls...

- ...Boring combos that are frustratingly hard to manage, ever-spawning enemies, do the math
- The camera. Seriously. Even worse than before.
- Confusing, extremely boring and empty levels
- I'm willing to bet that this game was a hair away from having nothing to do with the Devil May Cry franchise, it's so off the mark
- A pathetic shadow of a man for a male protagonist, and the other one's just useless
- Weak and horribly designed bosses; it seems the game lacks more and more in imagination towards the end
- Effortless to beat compared to the first game, but I guess the boring gameplay is challenge enough

< 5.2 >

REVIEW - Devil May Cry | PS2 | 2001

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: August 23, 2001

In 1999, Shinji Mikami and Hideki Kamiya began work on Resident Evil 4, which at that time was in development as a PlayStation 2-exclusive. It was to star a biologically enhanced superhuman pursuing his origins, most likely directing him to Umbrella. Kamiya's directing took the game further from Mikami's vision of Resident Evil with each passing phase - for example, Kamiya felt a fixed camera angle wouldn't do the lead character's fancy moves and cool look any justice. Finally, hearing his over-the-top ideas for enemy design and the lead protagonist's general take on the world around him, Mikami bowed out of the project, wished 'em good luck, and began producing Resident Evil Code: Veronica, in which many early ideas for "Kamiya's game" were used. Kamiya rewrote the whole story, changing the scenario from Resident Evil's fight against bioterrorism to a world of demons, consciously hanging on to some of that classic Resident Evil look. In late 2000, the name of Kamiya's radical Resident Evil spin-off was finally revealed: Devil May Cry. This game revolutionized third-person hack and slash action. Every game in the genre more or less follows its standards like a guidebook. God of War and Castlevania (starting with Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, the most blunt Devil May Cry carbon copy ever seen); through those games, Darksiders, and to not glorify the genre without recognizing its few failures too much, Dante's Inferno. Kicking infernal demons' asses left to right, conquering a bigger boss after another, upgrading your combos to the point of not even seeing much of your character anymore as he constantly flashes across the screen, and usually taking it up the ass towards the end for not upgrading your character properly, have been just some of these games' main draws for years. Indeed, it all started with a little Resident Evil "spin-off", a PlayStation 2 classic called Devil May Cry, to which the years have done wonders. In better and worse.

Why does the key have to be rusty?

Drew Coombs : Dante
Sarah Lafleur : Trish / Eva
David Keeley : Vergil
Tony Daniels : Mundus
Howard Jerome : Griffon / Phantom
Jonathan Mallen : Young Dante / Young Vergil

Dante is the son of a human woman, and Sparda, a legendary demon knight from two millenniums ago who fought and defeated Mundus, the self-proclaimed god of the underworld. Some time after Sparda's death, Dante's mother was killed by demons, and he was separated from his twin brother Vergil. In the present day, Dante runs a "cleaning agency" by the name of Devil May Cry, hoping that some day a case will come along that will lead him to the trail of those who destroyed his family. A mysterious woman named Trish comes along with extremely vague intentions, urging Dante to investigate ruins of a dark castle on Mallet Island, where she claims Mundus has settled in, and is planning his return.

This took way longer than expected. You'd think that after truly falling in love with the hack and slash style so many years ago with the arrival of God of War, I'd had taken a step back to replay Devil May Cry a lot earlier than 2014. I think it's the whole pile of bad memories I have in store when it comes to this game, and perhaps the sick fascination one of my best friends has on the franchise - yeah, the one that can't stand God of War, but still loves these types of games, especially Devil May Cry. Ironic isn't word enough. (He recently told me it's just that he finds Greek mythology so odd and uninteresting. I'll buy that, I guess.)

Our hero and heroine/villainess/heroine/
villainess/some chick.
What bad memories, exactly? Well, the game was one of the first PS2 games I ever bought. I remember seeing the game long before that, reviewed on a Finnish TV show focused on video games and technology (which sucks, I know), and it looked awesome. I was bedazzled by the graphics at that time, and anything with the word "Devil" or "Demon" in it was sure to catch my attention. When I heard that the lead character was some sort of a hellspawn with a sword that was bigger than his torso, two pistols and moves set to outdo Matrix (never liked it as a movie, though, I'll have you know), I was totally sold. "If I ever get a PS2, I'm getting that game." So I did. Loved it... most of it, from the beginning up to a few chapters. The combat and Dante himself were a little too over-the-top for my taste - even then - I couldn't stand the music, and when I got stuck on some boss for ages, I left the game altogether for a while, deciding it was ultimately not worth the time and effort. When I returned to it, I hacked the game to tiny pieces at a quick pace, only to get stuck in the final boss. And I mean, totally stuck, as in with my chances at an absolute zero. For some reason, I was still hell bent on beating the game; in any other situation, I would've thrown the game out the window. It's absurd to lead the player on into the final confrontation only to deliver this indirect, but obvious message: "You little fucker. How about saving all your power-ups next time? Thank you for playing! -Capcom."

No, I didn't throw the game out the window. I swallowed every inch of rage I had in me, every curse I had in store. For some odd reason I really can't pinpoint, I reset the game in total peace, started over, and started collecting power-ups for the final battle from the very beginning of the game. It's amazing how quickly I got through, and in one single sitting; it's like I was possessed. I used all my power-ups on that fucker - some really cheap-tactics gadgets there, but I was beyond caring at that point - and beat him in under 30 seconds. HA! Then, of course, I realized that it wasn't actually the final battle, but everything from there on out - those glorious 15 minutes - is a breeze compared to this fight. After the credits, the game urged me to try the game out on Hard. I smirked, cringed, smirked, then cringed a bit more, shut down my PS2, and literally laughed and jumped out of insane joy. I put the disc back in its box, and it never left it again; it was an exciting experience, but not a masterpiece. Devil May Cry was one of the many games I ended up selling some years later in absolutely desperate need of money (my ex-girlfriend's idea, she could've just loaned me those few euros but I guess she saw an opportunity she couldn't refuse...). Well, later I saw the game for a decent price at GameStop - might as well been my old copy for all I know - and I was generally in a better financial situation, didn't have any money on me at that moment, though. That's when I decided I wanted all my old games back, and I was going to start with Devil May Cry, 'cause even if the game was a disappointment, it was a very important piece in the construction of one of my favourite styles of action, and despite being so painful(ly difficult), it was clearly the best game out of all the PS2 games I ever sold. I went back a few days later, it was gone - all that was left on the PS2 shelf was a bunch of old EA Sports games and some ill-fated racing jamborees. Karma.

Perhaps partly in promotion of the 2013 reboot of the Devil May Cry franchise, as well as just for keeping with the recent trend, the first three Devil May Cry games were remastered for the PS3 and Xbox 360 as Devil May Cry HD Collection in early 2012. By this point, I had started to really dislike the franchise. I was not impressed by Devil May Cry 4, not at all. It's been so long that I can't really say what bugged me the most about it, but I'm guessing it had something to do with how much better a game like God of War II was from every aspect, and the latter was a God damn PS2 game! Also, back in the day, Devil May Cry 2 already felt like a really strange and off-beat game compared to the first one (that one's up next, as you might've guessed). Devil May Cry 3, that one I skipped completely (or have skipped, for now) - didn't need more than a few promo shots to determine that the game was way too over-the-top for my taste. Anyway, the Devil May Cry HD Collection seemed like a good purchase - I could get the first game back, and who knows, maybe the two other games will turn out good after all? I just couldn't make that purchase, but one night, I was browsing the PSN, and even though I'm not a fan of digital releases of retail games, they had a good offer on the collection (under 15 €), and it was then I figured that well, not even the first game's so good I'd must have it in physical form. And here we are - it's been ten years since I last played Devil May Cry. Some of my views have changed, some remain as they ever were, and the poor remastering does extremely little to hide the game's age. One thing I must say right now, though, is that I have no idea what my 20-year old version was thinking when he said the first half of the game was good while the second one sucked. It's pretty much the other way around, for reasons closely relating to atmosphere.

Sure, let's take on a giant tarantula in a narrow
corridor. Let's.
Many critics once said that Devil May Cry's intentional, superficial resemblance to Resident Evil serves the game good, but puts Resident Evil to remarkable shame - I even heard one critic say that he was more fascinated with the playable demo of Devil May Cry that came along with some versions of Resident Evil Code: Veronica X, than the main game itself - since Devil May Cry is so fast, and Resident Evil so slow. Well, it was fast. Really fast, and smooth - not today, though. Dante isn't quite as agile as time has made us remember, and surely not as much of a fast runner. But, that's besides the point, and it's not that disturbing. Neither are the dated graphics, or the poor quality of the remastering. It's the style of the game - I just played Bayonetta, and Devil May Cry is much closer to my home in terms of presentation, but the dance music drives me nuts in a game like this all the same. And all that jumping around like a (demonic) bunny on dope and being so "damn cool". A huge sword nails you from chest to floor, you just rise up like nothing's happened. This guy's half-demon, I get it, but some small semblance of pain would only be realistic considering you die in the game so damn easily. Same goes for getting impaled by three burning stakes, or my favourite, falling from space. But, the award for worst part - again - goes to the music. Which, however, changes completely for the second half of the game, to much more bearable of its kind, and some epic choirs come along too. It's like a whole different game from a certain point onwards, and it becomes much more playable. Seriously, and more of a gothic horror game than an all-out, Japanese demon bashfest. The transition is remarkable - I didn't get it when I was younger, but now that I do, I could almost call Devil May Cry a positive surprise. Although I already played it long before I even thought of doing video game reviews, or knew much about modern video games anyway.

The change in atmosphere helps a lot more than one could ever imagine. After the first couple of missions, I had decided that the game was so dated in its genre, so clumsy, so ugly and sounds so horrible that I should just leave it and review it based on my earlier takes on it. It turned out that I didn't remember half of it, and like I said, back in the day I didn't even notice how much better it gets, after just a few upgrades and when that change in atmosphere comes along. To keep up with "tradition", I ended up playing through the game in one single sitting. Quite a feat from someone who hasn't played a game as hard as Devil May Cry in ten years, I'd say. However, you have to keep in mind that I've experienced just about every Devil May Cry follower there is. I'm more than used to this sort of game now, it comes naturally. Still, I had trouble with the final boss (luckily I was wise enough to once again keep collecting those power-ups from the very start of the game) - and much more trouble with the second-to-last boss than I ever had. Now that's because of a purely technical issue, which has long since been harvested or at least worked on - every action gamer's favourite, the camera.

The camera in Devil May Cry is absolutely horrible, there's no going around that pure fact, and when it comes to the camera, it never gets any easier to cope with it unlike all the other flaws that come with age. The odd thing is that the game is drawn in full 3D, meaning the camera doesn't really have to be fixed to a certain angle as there is a whole world around Dante, so I don't see why they couldn't make the effort to improve the camera for the remastered version. Another technical issue arises in sound mixing. It's really hard to hear what the characters say amidst the noise - there are no subtitles, except for the monsters who speak in a low-frequency garble that's ironically more comprehensible than human speech - not nearly as hard as to determine these guys can't act for shit. The quality of the voice acting - if you happen to actually hear the lines from time to time - is guaranteed Capcom quality circa 2001. You be the judge. Not as bad as the first Resident Evil, not by a long shot, but in that area nonetheless; somewhere between Nemesis and Code: Veronica.

Surely inspired by Castlevania just a little, went
on to inspire Castlevania just a little bit more.
By default, Dante carries a basic sword called Force Edge, and two handguns dubbed Ebony and Ivory. Shooting the pistols happens just like in classic Resident Evil, by holding R1 to draw the gun, and another button to shoot. R1 also works as part of certain combos; the curious thing is that you only need a couple of buttons for every combo you are able to acquire in this game. Combat's really simple and easy to learn, a bit sticky nowadays, sure, but on the other hand, in these times that combat in games in totally out of control - *ahem* Bayonetta *ahem* - it's nice to have a bit of traction and solid ground beneath your feet every once in a while. In time, Dante gains a few more weapons; none of them are exactly useless, nor do you absolutely have to use a certain weapon from time to time. It's more about preference, although sometimes you might find a certain weapon has incredible effect on certain enemies. For example, I had no idea that the Ifrit (a pair of fiery gauntlets) could do so much more damage on those annoying Wolverine-lookalike pricks that come along in very late stages of the game than your sword. Or, I just didn't want to see the potential - I'm more of a sword type. Actually, come to think of it, I didn't use the Ifrit at all back in the day. Like it was to become standard, you can buy new combos for each weapon from the "Watcher of Time", who regularly shows up during missions and you're able to visit his emporium upon each mission completion.

Devil May Cry is indeed mission-based, unlike its most successful follower God of War. Unlike in just about every game that followed Devil May Cry, you may explore the castle freely as much as the plot development allows you to, on each mission. You can return to any cleared spot at any time, assuming it's not crumbled to pieces or there's not a dimensional rift or anything of the sort. If the mission complete screens weren't there to break the game into levels, the game would indeed look a damn lot like Resident Evil. Exploring often bears fruit, as enemies respawn all the time and you can grind 'em for red orbs, which are used at currency at the Watcher's place. Or find a secret mission - which became known in this genre as trials or challenges. These secret missions are often extra-hard, extra-irreverent challenges that would be out of place if they were placed in the plotline, something the developers cooked up for fun using the game's engine, like trying to lure two monsters into killing each other with their extremely damaging, reckless attack, or jumping along a stairway of laughing skulls (fffffFFFFUUUUUUU!!!) to reach a minor collectible. At much fewer times, they're really easy, to cut the player some slack and offer 'em some condolence for finding these missions in the first place.

I've said something about "shotgun to the face"
before. Not sure what it was, but it was most
certainly a compliment.
However, everything you do has a price, paid with your pride. Each mission is ranked just like Resident Evil games have given you a rank at game completion for ages (and for some mighty odd reason, mission completion since Resident Evil 4...), the two determining factors being mission time and amount of red orbs gathered. Every minute you spend exploring, doing secret missions or doing just about anything that does not directly relate to the main task, is a step towards a worse rank. That's already pretty much where we natural explorers calmly say "fuck the rank". The red orbs might need a little more explaining. In short, the more enemies you kill, the more orbs you get. The more you explore (ironically), the more orbs you get. But there's more. You get the best result in red orbs by trying to pull off the best possible combos. Which basically means that you should avoid the use of firearms as far as you can, get up, close and personal with the enemies and stick your sword (or fist) up their ass at a rapid and unbroken pace until you hit rank S for Stylish. Don't hate yourself for not getting those combos, they're extremely hard to keep running.

What makes combos easier, along with your life, is a very neat feature by the name of Devil Trigger, which you'll acquire in the second mission of the game along with a new sword. Each successful hit, be it to a smashable object or a smashable demon skull, fills a bit of your Devil Trigger meter, and when there are at least three icons lit up, you can unleash Dante's inner demon and simply let it rip. You are very tough to hit in this state, your health regenerates all the time, and your combos are at least twice or thrice as effective. Do not spare this widget. Do not underestimate it. In later genre games, these "rage modes" are pretty much used as last resorts - at least I use them as such - but in Devil May Cry, Devil Trigger is a must. You won't survive without it. If you do, stop playing games. There's simply not enough challenge in this world for you.

There are no puzzles in this game - you just fetch items and you don't have to guess where they're used as the game pretty much holds your hand when it comes to key items and their usage. I wouldn't even note this if it wasn't for the stupidities and inconsistencies carried over from Resident Evil (but since there were actual puzzles, you could see past these). These sound much stupider said out loud, though. The first door Dante sees, he says it's locked and he'll need a Rusty Key to open it. Uh, we're all out of stock when it comes to rusty keys, how about a brand new one? No? Well, here's my old car key, it's at least a bit rusty. Good enough? Has to be - the only specification for the key was that it has to be rusty. This is my actual first reaction from a decade back, when I saw that door for the first time. It doesn't hold any relevance to the review, but I figured I'd have to explain the headline. Sorry for the distraction.

A mysterious, relentless dark knight that
plays a pivotal part in the original series' storyline.
So, red orbs equal to money, green orbs to health, blue orbs increase your maximum health, purple orbs increase your Devil Trigger limit, and finally, yellow orbs allow you to return to a checkpoint whenever if and when those demons get the best of your ass. Here's another problem. Even if you are given a "second chance", often it's not much of a chance. Let's say you spent all your power-ups on a boss, simply trying to figure him out. Well, you did, and then you died, to be brought back to life. You start at the nearest checkpoint, all fired up and ready to go, but even if you just learned the boss' ways inside out, you feel you need those certain power-ups. The power-ups are still there since this is a checkpoint, so what's there to worry about? That's where you're wrong, slick; the game also saves the state of your inventory whenever you die, meaning you have to go at it without the power-ups you just had (in the case of the Vital Star health tank, you can only buy one at a time anyway, and they're not found from the field). So, either you backtrack your way to the Watcher and spend all of those orbs you've saved up for new combos to those same damn power-ups as ever (some of which get more expensive towards the end), or make the even more painful, but sometimes more practical choice, and reset the game back to the beginning of the mission. So be prepared. It's a tough game. Although at least one boss is much easier than I remembered, there are also bosses that are way harder than I remembered, and that last one is really, truly, one God damn bitch. Cheap tactics for even cheaper tactics, eye for an eye! Fuck! Yeah! ...Got a bit carried away, there.

Seems I got carried away even more, as this review turned out much longer than I would've ever expected. I would also never have expected that after clashing through dozens of Devil May Cry followers - most recently the "Devil May Evolve" game called Bayonetta - then returning to the original article ten years after I laid it to rest, that it would shine even this brightly. It's still a very good game, but it has technical issues, clearly some issues with gamers in general as it keeps fucking them up the ass, not with legitimate challenge, but unfairly difficult statements at unfair points of the game, and the literally insane audiovisual style of the game's first half, just the kind of shit that Bayonetta's presentation is all about besides sex, is just not my thing. I have to point out yet again, though, that it was the first half of the game I liked back in the day, while I disliked the second half which is clearly better in every way. That marks quite a change in opinion, or at least vision. Hell, I might've just got excited for Devil May Cry 2. Oh yeah, and when it comes to Bayonetta vs. Devil May Cry, the pitting of two of Hideki Kamiya's favourite children that led me to finally review this game, I must say that even though it's venomously bitten by the fangs of time, Devil May Cry takes the slight, ultimate win for what it started, and how genuinely addictive it still is at its absolute best.

+ Lots of legitimate challenge despite the utter unfairness of certain late stages
+ An effective dual-wielding combination of pistols and melee weapons, with the chance to upgrade both - the first one of its kind; a fucking awesome idea in terms of immersive gameplay
+ Just about a dozen other, amazing genre-defining concepts that may have been improved over time, but they originated here; secret missions, Devil Trigger, etc.
+ The presentation of the later half of the game is just what I expected from the game when I first about it...

- ...The presentation of the earlier half isn't; it's littered with horrible techno and dance music, one-dimensional over-the-top action, and even the missions are not on the same level of quality; can't believe I preferred this half of the game back in the day!
- Just as a sidenote (doesn't affect the rating of the original game), I have to say the PS3's high-definition remaster looks extremely poor in comparison to what other HD classics have looked like
- The camera is outright terrible, impossible to work with
- Bad, not to mention badly recorded voiceover work
- I have tried enough and read enough different walkthroughs to dare to claim that the final boss is nearly impossible to beat without certain power-ups and especially early knowledge of their need, so you can afford them in time and know not to use them recklessly

< 8.5 >