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Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening (PlayStation 2) artwork

Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening (PlayStation 2) review


"The question is however, how hard do you like your action? Do you enjoy a game steeped in technique and loaded with style? And if so, do you want it to kick your arse seven different ways to sunset, only to come back for more once the lights have gone out? If your reply was a confident sounding affirmative then hold on, I'm about to make your day."



When you've successfully crippled a budding franchise on only its second outing, what do you do? Recent trends in game development would seem to suggest that the only way forward is backwards, back in time to the beginning of a legend and the birth of a hero. But where such non-linear thinking may have worked for Konami and their Naked Snake, Capcom's indiscretions were of a far more serious variety. You see, pride in the original Devil May Cry had made them complacent. And in their smug, self assured little world, Capcom believed themselves capable of doing no wrong. Devil May Cry's inevitable sequel however changed all that. The demon slicing, sword wielding, gun to the face, pull the trigger and blow their brains out action was still as cool as ever, the shoddy camera and shortened challenge though were not. But then again, perhaps this is one sin that Capcom could turn around with a little hard work and a lot of cool... yes, yes indeed. Redemption for Dante almost certainly lays in the past. He has family issues to deal with and we're in for one rollicking good time...

Sibling rivalry between brothers can be difficult at the best of times. When you're both the hell spawned sons of Sparda however, it can be down right murderous. Picking up one fateful night long ago, Devil May Cry 3 details an epic struggle of Good versus Evil set against the backdrop of an impending demon apocalypse. For with a little help from the dark priest Arkham, Dante's twin brother Vergil has set in motion a plan with which he hopes to re-enter the demon realm and claim the lost Power of Sparda once and for all. Of course, things aren't that simple and along for the ride is the mysterious Mary, a one woman powerhouse looking to slay the demons that now threaten her realm. And if that means putting a bullet or three in our good hero Dante... well, the world'll be all the better for it.

In a way though, it's Mary's furious anger that forms the basis of DMC 3's otherwise, simplistic plot. For while the battling brothers may have taken center stage, it's her human failings that fuel much of the story's emotional content. And it's this added character development that nicely offsets the adrenalized, high flying cinema sequences found before, during, and at the end of each stage. Delivered with all the stylized energy commonly associated with a big budget Hong Kong action flick, these set pieces do a wonderful job of priming players for the chaos that is to come. Witness Dante's free falling gun fight in all it's glory, then marvel as the camera snaps back and forth, smoothly alternating both angle and speed for maximum dramatic effect. It's John Woo meets Ang Lee, whacked up on goof-balls and fed through the Matrix. Then with the sequence coming to a close, the game hands you the controls and it's on for young and old...

The question is however, how hard do you like your action? Do you enjoy a game steeped in technique and loaded with style? And if so, do you want it to kick your arse seven different ways to sunset, only to come back for more once the lights have gone out? If your reply was a confident sounding affirmative then hold on, I'm about to make your day. You know how it works, the rules haven't changed. The only difference between DMC 3 and its predecessors is how players are now expected to fight with a deliberate eye for technique, knowing exactly which moves to employ and when. Surrounded on all sides by lesser demons, you'll need to play it cool, consider each attack, and fight like a man possessed. Cold, calculated aggression is what you'll be needing, and understanding this is half the battle.

But yeah, none of that should be too much of a problem thanks to DMC 3's intuitive controls. Smooth, responsive, tight and fluid, the usual adjectives fail me. Combo sword attacks lead into rapid fire shotgun blasts, a quick tap of the shoulder button will then swap both weapons on the fly. Meanwhile, a combo meter keeps a track of the carnage, firing off one word quips of encouragement right when you need them the most. Alright! Badass! Sweet! The twin pistols Ebony & Ivory tear into the closest demon. Blast! Amazing! Super Sexy! And your mighty sword meets with yet another skull. Taking things a step further is how players are rewarded for mixing up their attacks, earning points for style while being pushed forever onwards. And if you're looking to upgrade your weapons in time for that epic final encounter, you'll need all the points you can possibly get. Keep it sexy and you'll be the man. Wimp out and... well, you won't.

Of course, with an arsenal like this, who wouldn't want to keep it powered up and looking hot? After all, we're talking some awesome power here, and these weapons are as fresh and varied as the action is intense. From Dante's mammoth sword "Rebellion", to a variety of small arms, heavy munitions, a three pronged set of mystical nunchakus, and... an electric guitar (I kid you not), the over riding theme would appear to be charismatic cool laced with just a dash of improbability, all in the name of fun. The guitar's rock-ish power chords elicit increasingly fatal stabs of electricity while the dual swords Angi & Rudra flash fire and ice with each alternate attack. Brutal, unstoppable, and down right cool, each and every weapon is quite literally the devil unleashed. Be sure to use them well...

With power now ebbing and flowing through your body, we turn to face our biggest threat yet. DMC 3's hellacious line up of over the top boss encounters. Brimming with destructive energy and twice as scary, these mammoth beasts tower far above the player's diminutive form, dwarfing Dante and rendering our new found confidence sadly neut. A giant Reaper-esque wraith greets players within minutes of starting the game, its razor sharp scythe a reminder that failure comes with a price. The savvy player however will find the upper hand, drawing upon Dante's expanded repertoire of combat styles with much skill and grace. Selected from the main menu between each stage, the 4 stances initially available represent a specific approach to combat, and as such come complete with their own unique powers. Gunslinger and Swordsman are obvious in effect. The combo heavy Royal Guard though is all about hand to hand combat while Trickster successfully taps a more aggressive, Prince of Persia style vein. Wall running, super dash, soaked panties and all.

Before we get too excited however, please cast an appreciative eye over DMC 3's sublime presentation. The camera issues that plagued its predecessors are now mostly absent, though the occasional slippage and obscured view might be cause for concern. Petty nit-picking though is not what we're here for, rather let's praise the inventive character designs and other assorted horrors. Slick and wet would be one way to describe these locales, detailed and atmospheric would be another. Of particular note are the stages that dare to mimic MC Escher's famed works, a series of abstract, four dimensional landscapes proving to be a particular highlight. They're a spectacle that's been further garnished with the thundering rifts of a power metal soundtrack that literally screams mosh pit violence. Cutting in just as the screen begins to fill with potential targets, it provides the perfect frame from which to hang the action on. My only concern now is the limited number of enemy models, most of which appear much like the last...

Then again, do such trivialities really matter? Harping on about mere irritations at this point would be fruitless, something akin to cutting off my nose despite my face. Let it be known then that Devil May Cry 3 has taken a commendable crack at the title, and in the process succeeded where its ill-fated predecessor sadly took a tumble. The personality is back, the attitude has been refined, and believe it or not, there's a story once again. Capcom have obviously gone to great lengths in order to restore Dante to his former glory, infusing Devil May Cry 3 with a series of high points that elevate the action far above much of the competition. And while it may not be the most original of titles, what it is is fun. Cool, stylish, and for the time being at least, without equal fun. So go on now, shout it from the rooftops. Dante is back! Let the world wonder exactly what it all means, then hide out in the past where the party never ends.

Pros
----

* Devil May Cry 3 is a return to form for everyone's favorite half demon
* The simple story knows its role, providing emotion and excitement at every turn
* A wealth of cinema sequences will give players something to marvel at
* Players are sure to feel empowered by Devil May Cry 3's wickedly simple control system
* The increased difficulty level is climbable without ever appearing too easy
* True technique will be required from players
* Visually, Devil May Cry 3 is set to impress
* Power metal provides the perfect frame from which to hang the action
* The cocky, attitude soaked brilliance is certainly smile inducing, if not downright funny

Cons
----

* An increased difficulty may not be to everyone's taste
* The camera can still get a little dodgy
* A little more variety in enemy designs would have been nice

Rating: 9/10

midwinter's avatar
Staff review by Michael Scott (March 14, 2005)

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