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Devil May Cry (PlayStation 2) artwork

Devil May Cry (PlayStation 2) review

"Whoo! Rock and roll and eat lots of pizza, baby! "

Whoo! Rock and roll and eat lots of pizza, baby!

Or not. Ole Dante doesn’t scarf any pie on his debut outing, but never fear. You’ll busting too many demon skulls with flashy gunplay and high flying sword moves to worry about what’s for dinner.

Nope, the only thing on Dante’s plate for Devil May Cry is big heaping justice. Brought to Mallet (the T is silent) Island by a leather-clad blonde, he’s sworn to bring down all the overwhelming BAD that permeates the castle there.

And that’s…pretty much our story. Devil May Cry decides to take that all-too unfortunate route of skimping on the plotline in favor of all-out action. On the bright side, it does this all-out action very well. With naught but a weak sword and twin pistols to keep the monsters at bay, Dante was dive into his athletic arsenal of insane jumping, flipping, dodging, shooting, and slicing abilities. Even that may not be enough to save him.

Make no mistake; Devil May Cry is a game that may make you cry. It is at times mercilessly difficult, with a bountiful variety of evil fiends all thirsting for your hero’s blood, you’ll need every ounce of Mt. Dew-granted reaction speed you can get.

To aid Dante in his harrowing quest are curious statues that hoist an hourglass upon their shoulders. You’ll come to love these edifices, as they are the Gods of Time. This means nothing within the game’s bargain-bin storyline, but your level of frustration--large or small--will come to depend heavily on them. At these statues, you will be able to use the red orbs you’ve collected as currency to purchase new skills for any weapons you can, or to buy upgrades for Dante’s health, Devil Trigger meter (a series of runes that dictates how long he can remain in an amped up Devil form), or other useful items of restorative, offensive, and defensive fields.

It is your choices on how to spend your orbs that will shape the flow of your game. Devil May Cry offers full freedom in this; any skill for a weapon can be purchased as soon as you have it--Level 2 skills exempted--which means every player can utilize a different Dante, one that suits your own playing style. Do you purchase the cheap Stinger sword attack, or save up for a skill that lets you hurl lightning bolts from the skies? Do you forego learning weapon skills at all to pump up Dante’s maximum health instead? The choice is entirely yours.

The same can be said of weapon selection. As an action game, it’s only too critical that the tools you’ll be using to banish the demon spawn back to Hell get special mention. Devil May Cry prides itself on being all about swords and guns--though Dante comes across a pair of flaming gauntlets as well, for those who feel to need to punch a giant bird in the face.

While Dante begins the game with the aforementioned Force Edge sword and his personal pistols, Ebony and Ivory, he can find a number of other weapons both melee and ranged over the course of the game. And there’s no right or wrong way of selecting a weapons kit. With the sole exception of the Force Edge, which will be collecting dust as soon as you get something new and never be touched again, every weapon in Devil May Cry serves its own purposes; has its own pros and cons. All of the weapons you’ll find have their own function and uses that can be adapted to your playing style.

Prefer power over speed? Let loose with the Ifrit flame gauntlets, or maybe a grenade launcher. Is the inverse true for you? Then get cozy with Ebony and Ivory. That’s the best thing about the weapons in Devil May Cry--there’s no one right way to do things, there’s no weapon that’s all-out better or the best. Even the final sword you receive comes with an important downside that makes the other weapons still very much in play.

The controls that carry Dante through this pulse-pounding, but perilous mission with style and skill respond smoothly and intuitively. It must also be noted that Devil May Cry sports a rarely used system to save it from button-mashing boredom: the rhythm at which you press the attack button determines which combo in Dante’s repertoire comes to the forefront. While tap-tap-tap will get you a ho-hum 3-hit combo as expected, being a bit more skilled and offering up a tap-tap-long pause-tap will have Dante launch into a multi-stab rush after the two initial strikes. There are a number of techniques to be found this way, all within a single button; why more games don’t utilize ideas like this is baffling. The rhythmic combos may feel foreign at first largely due to their rare usage, but within a few stages’ time it’ll become second nature.

You’ll never get killed because of poor controls because they won’t be found here. If Dante bites it, by and large it’s only your own fault. However, occasionally it may be the camera’s doing. Devil May Cry’s camera does not follow Dante, and as a result going off-screen will force a new angle to be needed. This can create problems in an action game such as this; sometimes you won’t be able to see your aggressor’s position, due to them being “in front of” the camera, or too far off the sides. It makes being able to target them and dodge their efforts to kill you bothersome at times. This is even more problematic during the game’s numerous boss battles, where the increased difficulty makes any mistakes bring severe consequences.

Also, when the angle changes your controls have to shift to compensate for the new viewpoint. Say Dante is running towards the screen and the camera changes. Now he’s running left, so since you’re still jamming down on the analog naturally, he’s going to eventually start to turn. However, this is a problem with the camera, not the controls. In fact, the controls even give you some leeway on your response time to a camera shift--down will still move Dante in the same direction he’d been going for a moment or so, giving you a chance to quickly react and keep him doing what you want him to without getting disoriented. Pretty handy, though the option for a character-oriented camera (much like MGS3 Subsistence offers) would have been handier.

For all its excellent gameplay, Devil May Cry carries a few flaws that keep it from getting that coveted perfect score. Other than the camera issue (which is admittedly minor), there are also problems with the game’s story. As previously mentioned, it is exceedingly barebones. It’s a real shame too, because there’s a lot of cool potential here; as of the first entry in the series, it’s sorely wasted. Expect to go through a half-dozen missions or more at a time before getting even a morsel of plot to gnaw on. Sadly, that morsel will be tiny, digested within a minute or less. It leaves one hungry for more; you’ll get more plot in the intro alone than you will until about the halfway mark in the game.

As said, much of Devil May Cry’s fighting system involves you making the best use of the skills you have and can purchase for your weapons; the series-familiar Stinger sword thrust, double jumps, shooting fireballs and so on. While it definitely helps spice up the fighting, there is a massive lack of variety. All of the sword-type weapons borrow from the same skill pool, and even the gauntlets have a few techniques that are just dopplegangers of the same moves you do with the swords. With each weapon having only five skills to them apiece, one would think that they could come up with unique abilities for each one. It would have helped the diversity that otherwise only resides in attacking style and elemental properties.

Sounds and music are fine for the most part. Nothing to write home about; nothing ear-wracking, either, for the most part. There’s a distinct lack of variety; while the game sports some awesome tracks in boss battles, it uses mostly the same few pieces elsewhere. Dante himself only offers a sparse smattering of grunts and shouts as he battles, and effects are mostly standard-fare: sword clangs, explosions, electrical discharges. Everything you’d expect, just as you’d expect it to sound. Whether that’s a plus or a minus is your call.

The voice acting that will bring those story scraps to you is equally murky in judging. It’s almost always cheeseball in delivery, but it’s typically more smile-and-shrug cheesy than cringeworthy. Though Dante in particular has a couple of lines that are delivered with side-splitting goofiness in scenes which his trademark nonchalance and good humor is supposed to take a backseat to heroic conviction; such delivery can be jarring and inappropriate.

On a final note, Dante himself sports accursed white hair that this reviewer personally disliked enough to mention. I’m far too tired of seeing white/gray/silver haired prettyboys in video games. That means you, Lloyd, Sephiroth, Rikimaru, and Gray Fox v2.0. Still, it’s a small gripe; for those who share this dislike, don’t pass this game up because of it. You’ll get used to the hair.


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Community review by turducken (February 21, 2007)

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