“Let’s Rock, Baby.” With these three words, the world was introduced to Dante, the half-man, half-demon hero of Devil May Cry. Hosting supernatural foes, a heavy metal soundtrack and a wisecracking protagonist, this attitude-infused adventure was a welcome adrenaline shot to the PS2. What’s more, it revitalized the basic roots of the beat ‘em up action game with its easy to play action, and set the groundwork for numerous sequels with a high standard of quality that few companies could measure up to. However, coming from the people that made Mega Man, Resident Evil and Street Fighter raging successes, Dante should’ve been in good hands with Capcom’s recent release of Devil May Cry 2.
The action of DMC2 takes place on Dumary Island, a secluded spot of the world that was founded by a number of religious exiles. Seeking to find a place in which to practice their radically diverse beliefs without persecution, the residents of this new land established Dumary as a sanctuary for pagan religions of all kinds. As time progressed, more and more refugees came, creating new gods and sects while adding to the ever-growing pantheon. The priests of these new religions were known as guardians, and were able to harness the powers and abilities of the gods themselves to protect their worshippers from demonic possession or other spiritual attacks. However, the artifacts that these guardians have used through the centuries for safety have also attracted the attention of a man named Arius. The leader of an international corporation, Arius wants to use the relics to take over the world by demonic means, ensconcing himself as a god. Lucia, a guardian of Dumary Island, attempts to retrieve the relics before they can be taken, and runs into Dante, whose hunting of evil spirits has led him to the isle’s shores.
Players are offered the choice of exploring Dumary with Dante or Lucia in this two-disc set, one for each adventurer. DMC2 features the customary breakdown between fighters, with Dante packing more damage with his strikes, albeit somewhat slower than Lucia, who’s designed for multiple quick strikes. Each character’s hand-to-hand weapons exemplifies this – Dante wields long swords, while Lucia seems to favor shorter, curved blades. Additionally, while the son of Sparda prefers his twin handguns, he also gains access to more destructive weapons such as a shotgun or rocket launcher, while his counterpart relies more on throwing daggers or other edged projectiles. Unlike the prior game, each weapon can be upgraded with the use of collected red orbs from fallen enemies or destroyed objects. This “RPG-lite” element isn’t the only augmentation of gameplay; the acrobatic maneuvers and combo system have been overhauled, allowing both heroes to perform feats such as running on walls or performing cartwheels as they slaughter their foes.
Speaking of their enemies, one of the largest complaints within the first Devil May Cry game was the lack of variety in the opponents. Mainly comprised of possessed marionettes, Dante was able to cut through waves of the evil puppets like a hot knife through butter. Apparently being the head of an international corporation means that Arius can afford diversity within his evil armies. Ranging from animated torture cages to harpy-like creatures to tanks ripped straight from Sony’s Extermination, Dante and Lucia will have their hands full as they take on several opponents at once. Along with the boost in the number of enemies is an increase in the areas that are fought through. No longer contained to the primary castle-like setting of the first title, DMC2 ranges all over Dumary Island. Players explore cobblestone streets, power plants and burning buildings as they hunt the malevolent beings.
Graphically, a lot of tweaking has been done to each character, primarily for Dante and Lucia’s Devil Triggers. Dante’s new form appears a lot more dangerous, with twisted veins of light laid atop a rough, spike filled surface that crackles with energy. Lucia’s alternate form is much less frightening, but just as effective, transforming into an angel with large feathery wings. The animation for both fighters moves are slicker than the previous title, and it’s pretty cool to watch Dante cartwheel off a wall or see Lucia spin through mid-air behind a shower of knives. Cutscenes are decent as well, with large, facially expressive characters.
However, once you move past the veneer of DMC2’s nicer animations, you’ll run into some of the larger graphical issues. For one, the in-game camera is pretty horrendous, and allows absolutely no control or correction of some of the atrocious angles that the game often captures onscreen action from. Not only can you get attacked from these “blind” areas within the game, but you’ll also notice that it’s been zoomed out to cover up some of the reduced, jagged textures for enemies, which seems to happen when three or more attack en masse. These poor graphics also tend to extend to some of the backgrounds, which seem somewhat faded and poorly drawn in comparison to the previous game. These textures can be so generic that they mask many of the destructible items as they blend into the environment. Were it not for specific indications pointed out by BradyGames in their hintbook, I would’ve walked right past most of them.
The sound is a bit of a disappointment also, primarily because it seems like much of the spirit (pardon the unintentional pun) of the game is gone. Yes, there’s a bit of metal mixed in with some techno-inspired beats and the sound effects from weaponry generally are pretty good. Yet the ambient goth-music that sometimes plays for sections at a time can be overpowering, even to the point of drowning out other sound effects. Even worse, the vocal delivery within the game is rather poor, with Lucia and other characters delivering hackneyed lines and weak acting jobs.
But what is completely unforgivable are the sound bytes from Dante, or should I say lack thereof. In the original title, wisecracks and insults abounded as Dante shot, sliced and sprinted through the castle. Hell, it was as if he’d gotten a Warren Sapp smack-talking infusion. Easily one of the best aspects of the first game, it expressed the rebellious nature of the hero perfectly. But in DMC2, Dante remains silent and brooding throughout an overwhelming majority of the game, with the exception of a few lines during cutscenes that are weakly delivered. Why they castrated Dante’s personality, I’m not sure, but it completely saps the strength of this revolutionary character, turning him into a shadow of his former self.
This diluted hero doesn’t help the gameplay any, which is severely unbalanced in the player’s favor. Simply put, Dante and Lucia are way too strong for the game’s enemies even with their most basic attacks. The wielded weapons, even at their initial power levels, can effectively cut down most opponents that the duo will face, and at higher stages, can even eliminate bosses in quick fashion. This may be forgivable if the game in question was four or five times longer, but considering that most gamers will be able to blow through both discs in about 10 hours, this is a major disappointment. Especially because both character’s adventures are basically the same and there are minimal secrets to uncover, there isn’t much incentive to replay this game. Even the combo system, which has been tweaked substantially, is crippled because the combos aren’t as easy to pull off as the first game. Plus, if you consider that activating the Devil Trigger, which fills up way too quickly and easily, heals any damage your heroes take there’s practically no need for health items. (Oh yeah, should I also mention that the Devil Trigger unleashes super-powered attacks that can crush anything onscreen?) In short, the gameplay is, for lack of a better word, disappointing.
Overall, Devil May Cry 2 is a game that was long on anticipation, but short on delivery. While the ideas of including a secondary character to extend gameplay, more acrobatic moves and a multiple areas for demon slaying showed promise, the execution of the title is severely lacking. Fans of the title may want to rent this one before putting their money out for the game, but curiosity seekers may do better with hunting down the original.