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Devil May Cry 2 (PlayStation 2) artwork

Devil May Cry 2 (PlayStation 2) review

"If you were unaware that Devil May Cry 2 was crafted by a different development team than that of its predecessor, you could only conclude that Capcom was trying to flush its newly conceived Devil May Cry series down the proverbial toilet. Only one thing about Devil May Cry 2 is impressive: how it has been so successfully stripped of the original’s personality, depth, and challenge – these being virtually everything that made Devil May Cry the unique, stellar title that it was. Actually, that’s ..."

If you were unaware that Devil May Cry 2 was crafted by a different development team than that of its predecessor, you could only conclude that Capcom was trying to flush its newly conceived Devil May Cry series down the proverbial toilet. Only one thing about Devil May Cry 2 is impressive: how it has been so successfully stripped of the original’s personality, depth, and challenge – these being virtually everything that made Devil May Cry the unique, stellar title that it was. Actually, that’s a baffling phenomenon with or without the knowledge of the development team switch. The fruits of Capcom’s “labor” have resulted in a textbook case of the “disappointing sequel” affair. It’s almost impossible to view Devil May Cry 2 as anything but massive disappointment, and even on its own terms, it’s nothing more than a functional, but flaccid, excuse for an action game.

No time is wasted in the revelation of Devil May Cry 2’s disappointing nature. The introduction certainly attempts to be stylish – Dante dives headfirst through a skylight, saving an endangered woman by effortlessly shooting generic, demonic birds – and yet it carries an ineffable, forced air about it that encompasses the entire game. Dante’s subsequent utterance of “You called?” is one of the game’s few lines of dialogue, and it sounds less like the arrogant, reckless son-of-a-demon from the original, and more like an underpaid, somnolent voice actor phoning in his lines – probably because that’s what it really is.

I present this terse bit of insipid dialogue to highlight one of Devil May Cry 2’s most grievous stylistic failings: this can’t be the same cocky yet personable demon hunter that fans of the original knew and loved. Though it’s never explicitly stated, a considerable amount of time must have passed between the epic events of the first game and the anticlimactic events of the second. Something incredibly traumatic – more so than losing a mother or dealing with the teenage identity crisis of being half-human and half-demon – must have happened to him. Whatever the personality-robbing experience may have been, Dante’s negative personality transformation serves as a microcosm for the devolution of the Devil May Cry series: as much as the two don’t look much different from before, they are dejected, lifeless shells of what they once were.

Initially the combat system of the original certainly seems intact. But, in keeping with the theme of looks vaguely obscuring startling deficiency, the soundly constructed battle system ultimately can’t hide its own enervated nature. The original Devil May Cry relied on the synergy of its various gameplay elements to create one brilliant, coherent whole. Devil May Cry 2 fails because it makes concessions in some areas that violently disrupt this chemistry.

The dual weapon system returns – besides being a phenomenal swordsman, Dante is proficient in the use of various firearms – but a number of alterations renders it depthless and unbalanced. The original employed a system where guns served a purely supplemental purpose, being strong enough to only slowly chip away at an enemy’s vitality until it was safe to lunge in for a melee attack to deal some meaningful damage. It required you to skillfully juggle the two modes of destruction. Devil May Cry 2 dispenses with this by making both swords and guns powerful enough to be primary weapons, which ultimately means that virtually every encounter, even boss battles, involves little more than Dante standing at a safe distance, unloading pistol round after pistol round because that is always the most practical and effective strategy. It’s an oversimplification that sucks away the potential excitement.

And it’s far from being the only one. Rather than having a lightning-enhanced broadsword and a pair of fiery gauntlets to cleave demons in twain with, Dante’s melee arsenal now consists of three functionally identical swords, all of which have the exact same set of moves and absolutely no special powers. There are supposed to be subtle differences in range and power between the three, but they’re negligible enough to be nonexistent. Dante begins with one of these swords; it’s probably worth mentioning that it’s entirely possible never to discover the other two, and doing so would have no effect on the gameplay experience at all. Most grievously, the new weapons now have no connection to Dante’s special devil form, and upgrading them affords you nothing more than a barely noticeable power increase instead of completely new moves to fight evil with.

Besides those things engendered within the game’s mechanics, the enemies you’ll face also keep Devil May Cry 2 from ever becoming too intense. To be fair, the enemy variety is greater than the original’s, but this is a trivial merit considering many of them have attack patterns that are non-threatening enough to be nonexistent. The standard strategy of standing at a safe distance and pummeling them with gunfire works on just about every enemy, and in the rare case when that doesn’t quite suffice, repeatedly jumping and firing is the only alternative you’ll ever really need. The enemy design is also very frequently unmemorable – one particular enemy looks like nothing more than a black blob – and the few enemies that leave any visual impression at all do so for distinctly ridiculous reasons. Zombie tanks and helicopters don’t intimidate you; they just leave you wondering what the hell the development team was thinking, something you’ll probably already be doing.

All of this just results in a ridiculous lack of challenge. There’s no rulebook – or even an unwritten rule – that says action games must be difficult, but Devil May Cry’s challenge was part of what made it so compelling. Now there’s no need to time your melee strikes with focused exactness, dodge at absolutely crucial moments, or make sure you're causing the most damage you possibly can. There’s no balance between sword and gun to lend depth to the experience. There’s no tension or intense satisfaction from a long, drawn-out, difficult boss battle, mainly because there are no difficult boss battles – long and drawn-out, yes, but difficult, no. And most of all, there’s none of what the original Devil May Cry embodied so charismatically: the motivation to play your heart out and fight like there’s no tomorrow. None.

A slightly more forgiving camera, a separate button for dodging, and the ability to change guns on the fly round out the entire list of improvements Devil May Cry 2 has made on its predecessor. In the grand scheme of things, none of them even slightly compensate. The separate dodging button would have been a godsend if enemies didn’t attack so lackadaisically, never requiring you to dodge. In Devil May Cry, when you dodged or jumped, you did so because you absolutely needed to. Now it feels as if you use it just to make sure the feature doesn’t go completely unused. Switching guns on the fly would have also been infinitely convenient if there were times when the ability to cause massive damage in a single shot (as provided by the shotgun or rocket launcher) actually came in handy, but there’s no need for damage optimization; from a practical standpoint, it’s best to just stick with Dante’s default pistols for the entire game.

The astounding modesty of these improvements speaks volumes for Devil May Cry 2’s deficiencies. Other novel features such as running up walls and shooting in multiple directions will only exasperate players trying to find any practical use for them at all. Frankly, playing Devil May Cry 2 is an exasperating affair for any fan of the original; it’ll likely just make them cry, and they certainly won’t be shedding tears of joy.

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Community review by radicaldreamer (July 23, 2005)

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