Devil May Cry 2 - PS2 - Review
I don’t know how to say this. Maybe I could start with a little background on the first Devil May Cry, or talk about the legacy that the original game created over a year ago – but the fact of the matter is that those things would just prolong the inevitable of having to say that DMC2 is something of a disappointment. Ok, a major disappointment. One of the most anxiously anticipated titles of the year, Devil May Cry 2 had nearly already reached classic status before it had even hit store shelves. Unfortunately, this game feels like a bite-sized continuation of the original family-sized title that wowed and wooed PS2 gamers across the globe not long ago, a Devil May Cry-lite if you will. The difficulty has been dropped down to toddler-friendly status, game time has been severely reduced to a scant six or seven hour experience, and the storyline is even more befuddling and slapdash than the original.
This isn’t to say that Devil May Cry 2 is a bad game, it isn’t. It has a lot of good action sequences, lots of stuff blowing up, absurdly huge boss battles, and even a few trademark Dante quips to get your blood pumping. Even without the original’s level of satisfyingly difficult stages it still manages to keep you playing till the end, even if the end comes far sooner than one might expect. Besides, no one can blame Capcom for not listening to their fans; they’ve addressed a few different complaints about the original. Namely, the lack of a second playable character. This time around you’ll have the option of playing as either the O.G. demon-slayer Dante or a new character named Lucia who is essentially identical to Dante in regards to conventional maneuvers but is unique enough in terms of style and aesthetics.
The story seems like it is composed of a handful of unrelated dialogue exchanges with the obligatory action sequences thrown in for good measure. It’s hard to find the correct words to communicate the plot since, well, it doesn’t really make much sense, at all. The game begins as Lucia and Dante meet up in a abandoned structure of some sort, tying together the reason behind the strange encounter with Dante saying “you called?”, then suddenly you are supposed to believe that the two are some sort of duo without any explanation whatsoever. As the plot thickens you come to realize that the big bad-guy in the game is a publishing tycoon, of all things, who is attempting to overrun the world with a army of demons and turn himself into a god, or something. Plus there is an old lady who is somehow related to the events of the story that seems to know something about Dante’s father but never really makes good with goods.
But Devil May Cry 2 is fire and foremost an action game whose strongpoint lies not within its ability to tell a cohesive story but rather to purport excitement, so the fact that there is very little consistent story to speak of can be forgiven. But it would have been nice if the developers tied everything together a bit better in the name of improvement. Anyway, the cut-scenes that are interspersed through the experience are pretty action-packed, the coolest ones being of the pre-rendered variety – though the in-game cinematics are also rather impressive. (Especially the character model for Dante, which looks nearly as good rendered in real-time as it does in the pre-rendered cut-scenes).
Regardless of how fleshed out the storyline is, what’s really important is how the game plays. And in this regard DMC2 totally delivers. You are able to aerial dive head-first, guns blazing into a horde of monsters, run across walls Matrix-style, propel yourself into the air and use your firepower to keep you lingering about, cap two baddies simultaneously with behind the back aiming, and slice up demons via hand-to-hand combat. The control style feels completely natural and empowering. When Dante gets smacked to the ground he'll perform a twirling air spin to get back on his feet, just like Neo in the subway showdown scene, the developers pulled it off so flawlessly that the Wachowski brothers would be proud.
By stringing together continuous attacks you'll invoke progressively larger orbs to drop from your fallen enemies. The combo system is actually rather disappointing, as you hack and slash your way to bigger orbs different words will appear on the screen starting with the lackadaisical "don't worry" until eventually "showtime!!", the longer you string together attacks the bigger the orb reward will be when you've finished them off. But since there isn’t really any logic or skill to this system it will be quickly disregarded.
As you make your way through the game you’ll fight one action-packed, multi-tiered boss fight after another. Running around is kept to an agreeable minimum. There are stages that require you to navigate through large environments, plugging away at endless packs of blood goats, pyromancers and other misshapen intestine-dangling creatures as you move about but nearly half of the time you’ll be fighting boss battles. It's like a cake that is comprised almost entirely of icing, and while that may turn some people off - me likey the icing. However, it can be a bit much, especially after disposing of a poisonous-gas spewing, tentacle flailing, laser-emitting boss character for the umpteenth time. Mind you, none of these battles will put your skills to the test, rather you’ll continually hold down the shoot button while making half-hearted efforts at dodging until their health gauge is depleted. The fact that either character can easily transform into their nearly invincible, health-replenishing demon form at will only makes the bosses seem even more like a stroll through the park.
Plus, the missions that require you to run around are very generic and straight-forward, offering almost no innovation or originality. “Oh, no electric supply to power the door you need to go through, better activate bizarre-looking power beacons and flip some switches while I’m at it”. Not to mention that the speed Dante moves can be frustrating in wide-open areas, you'll often find yourself continually jamming on the circle button since his strafing and rolling maneuvers push him along a little quicker.
At times, you'll get the impression that the developers went a little too far with the "demon" theme, I mean, sure Dante is a “demon-slayer” but demon-tanks, demon-buildings, demonic helicopters? c'mon. I don't have anything against demons per se' but this is ridiculous. The aforementioned helicopter fight is pretty cool though as it spans five expansive environments and starts out as it chases you IN TO a building, up a long flight of stairs, continuing on the roof, then on a neighboring building's helipad. All the while shooting large homing missiles and unleashing enormous amounts of artillery, it’s actually probably the coolest part in the game.
As expected, Devil May Cry 2 features a wide assortment of artillery weaponry and melee blades to keep your thumbs busy, though most of the really cool weapons from the original are MIA. Some of the more notable weapons include a missile launcher, a shotgun that has varying degrees of devastation depending on how close your target is, dual sub-machine guns, and of course Dante’s trusty sidekicks Ebony and Ivory. Lucia’s suite of weapons are more exotic and include such things as arm-swords similar to the weapons used in Bloodrayne, silver throwing daggers, and grenades called cranky bombs.
After four or five hours of playing through the game as Dante you can pop in the Lucia disc and play the game as a different character. But instead of a completely new adventure with different cinemas, bosses, and areas you’ll basically replay the same game with a slightly different protagonist. Which is only mildly entertaining thanks to the fact that the stages that you'll play through and their structure are almost entirely identical, with the notable exception of underwater stages, a couple bosses, and tweaked mission objectives.
But even so, it’s hard not to like this game after taking in all the visual splendor that the developers were somehow able to produce on the technologically-limited PS2. The original game was quite a tremendous accomplishment over a year ago and the sequel is no different in terms of graphical presentation. The new sprawling outside environments are bustling with tons of little nuances and unprecedented attention to detail, sporting astounding architectural originality and amazing texture quality. The same goes for the character models, Dante’s new outfit is a little too red satin-y for my tastes but Lucia looks phenomenally stylish, simple, elegant, and undoubtedly badass.
As you progress through the dozens of stages you’ll notice that each area is completely unique in regards to physical dimensions, artistic style, and overall design. The demon world in particular is one of the more visually exciting areas with its warped perspective and lots of what-the-hell-is-that-thing decorations strewn about, this stage looks eerily familiar to the style used in Silicon Knight’s excellent Eternal Darkness on the GameCube. The art style used for the menu graphics are also Eternal Darkness-ish, coincidence? Probably.
There are a few graphical issues to take note of though, aside from minor character costume clipping, Dante's shadow will pass right through the bridge he is standing on appearing on the ground beneath the overpass, invisible walls often block your way into areas that look perfectly explorable, and camera angles sometimes prevent you from seeing that crucial door which leads you to the next area.
The voice acting is pretty good for the most part, though occasionally the contrived accents tend to sound a little fakey. Most of the dialogue will come from characters other than Dante and Lucia, Dante hardly talks throughout the entire game come to think of it. Which is unfortunate since that means trademark Dante quips are kept to a disappointing minimum, although his retort about giving the king his crown in one of the later boss fights does hearken back to the days when Dante could spit out one-liners with the best of’em.
The aural representations for the on-screen action include a large assortment of gunfire, clanging swords, slippery globs of demon membrane, and other DMC-style niceties. The music changes rhythm and tempo depending on different situations, sporting ultra fast tempo techno-ey rock-ish tunes when you are in the heat of a battle or dramatic orchestrations when during exploration.
Sure, the game is ridiculously easy, and you'll probably beat both discs in around 6 hours -- but you'll have fun the entire time, and if “fun” is something that you consider to be important in a game then I'd highly advise you check out Devil May Cry 2. There are a few unlockable goodies that open up once you’ve beaten the game, so the lasting appeal of Devil May Cry 2 extends a little further beyond the base story-driven mode. One of which is an additional playable character, I won’t tell you who it is but she is Trish-tastic, Trish-tacular, and Trish-alicious .. it’s Trish.
Insane acrobatics are pulled off with the greatest of ease, diving headfirst into a group of swarming demons has never been this much fun. Some of the new maneuvers, like the wall flips, look plenty cool but sadly don’t offer much practical use. Not to worry though, it’s all good.
How Capcom was able to stuff so many high quality textures into this game is beyond me. The original has nothing on this game in terms of visual grandeur.
The voice acting seems a little forced here and there, and Dante is all but devoid of witty one-liners. But the various orchestrations and sound effects are great.
You won’t have any trouble hacking and slashing your way through this game in a single day, the bottomless pit of enemies mode that opens up after you’ve beaten the game does pose a more challenging task, however.
Brutally stylish gameplay is what DMC2 is all about, it’s just too bad that the sequel doesn’t live up to the original in terms of innovation and originality.
The inclusion of additional playable characters sweetens the deal a bit, but the fact remains that DMC2 is too easy, too short, and too inconsistent in terms of storyline to be considered a worthy successor to the original game. But it is great fun while it lasts.