Devil May Cry


   Though Shinji Mikami's infamous Resident Evil series still enjoys a good degree of popularity, he wisely decided that it was time to take a break from the formula that he's exploited for over five years now. The result of this shift in design goals is Devil May Cry, which very nearly escapes the gravitational pull of the Resident Evil series to become a great game ... but not quite.

 All the majesty of a castle landscape
Thru these architect's eyes

   To be sure, Devil May Cry has many, many excellent qualities. The graphics and atmosphere, for example, are another example of how much potential the PlayStation 2 has; Dante moves smoothly and fluidly, and the body language in cutscenes is well-handled. Fantastic lighting effects abound, and the Gaudi-inspired locales are both well-designed and beautifully implemented. It's simply a good-looking game all around, and is as much a pleasure to watch as it can be to play.

   The sound is a bit silly, but perfectly in line with Mikami's intentions for the game. The music is low-key, brooding, and quiet, except when it's broken by the driving guitar rock of battle scenes. The voice acting is a step above that seen in the Resident Evil series, but it's still only competent and not what you'd call good.

The sort of game where people wear sunglasses indoors, at night
Cause everybody knows she's a femme fatale

   Of course, it's not helped by some frightfully uninspiring writing. It's difficult to say whether Devil May Cry is so cool it's silly or so silly it's cool, especially when you take into account some of the dreadful things that come out of the characters' mouths. Lines like "Flock off, feather face!" and "I should have been the one to fill your dark soul WITH LIGHT!" are so unintentionally hilarious that one wonders about the "unintentional" part--surely dialogue that awful wasn't meant to be taken seriously, right? A cast of characters that includes Dante, Sparda, Vergil, Mundus, and ... Trish suggests otherwise.

   Story aside, the gameplay is wonderful in parts. Taking a page from rhythm action titles, strangely enough, each kill is rated for style. Do nothing but shoot huge, lumbering rockets at your enemies from a standstill and you'll earn a Dull, while executing a multi-weapon combo involving Dante's guns, sword, and devilish powers can net you as high as an Stylish. In this way, standard enemy encounters are saved from becoming tedious by the impetus to try something new on each baddie and see how much flair you can bring to blowing the undead hordes apart.

 The prettiest screenshot in the bunch
Death from above

   There are certainly lots of possible combinations, with all the choices in armament: Dante's melee attacks include swords and martial arts, and he can also pull out a variety of long-range guns which start at a simple pair of pistols and go all the way to an exotic cannon whose shots richochet up and down the corridors. All of the melee weapons can be upgraded by spending red orbs that you win from enemies, opening up an array of special moves specific to each weapon, such as a lunging attack, an ability to rain electricity down on opponents, or the awe-inspiring Inferno power.

   Some of the special moves require Dante to be in a Devil Trigger state. Defeating enemies gradually fills up the DT meter; once it's full, Dante can change form briefly, making his normal attacks do more damage and giving him access to a few of the aforementioned special moves. Dante's health also recharges while in Devil Trigger form, so judicious use of it is necessary to survive some of the more difficult stages.

   With such a robust, engaging battle engine, one may be wondering where the game could possibly go wrong. The answer lies in a couple of frustrating holdovers from Mikami's other series that frankly have no place in an a slick action game whose main goal is to move fast and look good. The game is broken into 23 separate missions, which makes it sound more linear than it really is. The castle is a single explorable space, and many of the missions require you to search the whole area to find some key or other object that allows you to move on.

This type of gameplay is also rusted, and doesn't work
The first sign that something is amiss

   What this means is that the game features quite a lot of backtracking through empty rooms, searching for the requisite item necessary to progress--why the developers felt the need to break up an excellent action game with tedious exploration and puzzle-solving is inexplicable. It's not a demand seen often in reviews, but if anything, Devil May Cry ought to be more linear, not less. Constantly moving forward to uncover new and interesting locations would have been a considerable improvement over scratching one's head over the nearly useless map, trying to figure out how to get to the glowing dot that marks the location of the latest Rusty Key.

   The other glaring fault is the "cinematic" camera style, which makes a few of the boss fights much more difficult than they ought to be. Particularly bad is the occasional bout with the magma spider, in which it's frequently impossible to see your enemy even when he's within striking distance with his claw. A dramatic camera is perfectly acceptable in dramatic cutscenes; when trying to jump on an enemy's back or gauge the distance to the boss, a boring but functional camera would be vastly preferable.

   Devil May Cry is still a good game, but one hampered by its creator's inability to curb some of his more inappropriate tendencies. With a little bit more work, it could have been a classic action game; as it stands, it's an unfortunate half-breed between two gameplay styles that don't mesh well. If games were dating prospects, Devil May Cry would be a beautiful woman with unfortunate multiple personalities--you desperately want to to like her, but her contradictory other self keeps getting in the way.

Review by Nich Maragos, GIA.
Devil May Cry
Developer Capcom
Publisher Capcom
Genre Adventure
Medium DVD (1)
Platform PlayStation 2
Release Date  08.23.01
Devil May Cry, Resident Evil Code: Veronica X delayed
332 screenshots
5 scenes
Japanese box art