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Dante returns in this prequel to the original DMC, but does it dispel the disappointment of DMC2...
Way back in May 2002, anticipation was building up to the release of Devil May Cry 2, sequel to the gun-slinging sword-swinging goth action game that was Devil May Cry. Todd Thorson, Director of Marketing at Capcom Entertainment, publisher of DMC2, said at the time that, "â?¦ Devil May Cry 2 furthers the experience with more environments, new character skills, new enemies and stunning visuals that gamers come to expect from Capcom."
On most of those counts Thorson was correct; DMC2 included some huge levels and a range of features protagonist Dante had at his disposal. Sadly, the game overlooked some of the key features that made the original title so damn good â?“ gone were the fiendishly difficult levels, instead they were replaced with huge levels that were fairly straightforward to complete. The changes werenâ??t exclusive to the gameplay either - Dante was much more of a dark and brooding character in the sequel, with much of his attitude left behind in Devil May Cry. Overall the changes to the game left it being marked down in the press and it pretty much disappointed and disillusioned the Dante fans.
So nearly two years after the release of that disappointingly weak sequel, the DMC fans once again wait in anticipation for the next instalment of the franchise, but does it correct the mistakes of itâ??s predecessor? Are the Devil May Cry wheels back on track? Or is it just a case of the past repeating itself?
First off, Devil May Cry 3, or to give it itâ??s full title, Devil May Cry 3: Danteâ??s Awakening, is actually a prequel to the original title, and takes place a number of years before DMC1. As an narrative overview the clue is in the very title of the game; it tells the story of Danteâ??s awakening, including his demon side, as well as describing the fall of his brother Vergil, who goes on to become Nelo Angelo, the main boss of DMC1. The twin brothers are very much at the opposite ends of the spectrum with Dante becoming the highly skilled demon-hunter, whilst his brother sided with the demons themselves in a bid to re-open the portal closed by their demonic father, Sparda two thousand years previously.
Placing the action before the events of DMC1 gives the developers two distinct advantages over a sequel to Devil May Cry 2; the most obvious advantage is that it fills in the narrative gaps by explaining the downfall of Vergil and the rise of Dante. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it enables the developers to create a game that to some extent is relieved of most of the baggage built up from DMC2. Most of the action takes place in a demon built tower called Temen-Ni-Gru that has been called up from the demon world, and whilst this may not seem like the most inspiring of choices at first glance, it does mean that the developers have been able to integrate all kinds of weird floor layouts and puzzles, which will be discussed later on.
One of the most striking points to be made about Devil May Cry 3 is its sheer level of difficulty. Never has a game taken a learning curve and set it so steeply, which means that whilst youâ??ll complete the first mission with relative ease, from there on itâ??s like rolling up a steep hill in a grease covered barrel; youâ??ll find yourself barraged by a host of demons who seem to attack you at pretty much the same time, the effect of which can sometimes cause you to scream â??Iâ??m a Demon-Hunter, get me out of here!â? The reason behind the relative ease that players will find themselves dieing isnâ??t only because of the swathes of enemies or the half-hearted health bar; the fact that Dante has unlimited ammo and melee weapons means that you engage with the mindset of just running straight into the middle of demon groups and try to take them down in one fell swoop â?“ hereâ??s the bad newsâ?¦you just canâ??t do that in the first few missions of the game because youâ??ll die quickly.
Thankfully for those not satisfied with the opportunity of using guns will limitless ammo and a broadsword given to you by your demonic dad, help is at hand in Devil May Cry 3 in the form of the â??stylesâ??. The integration of these various fighting styles, which include Gunslinger, Swordmaster, Trickster, and Royal Guard, into the game really opens up the playing style of gamers; for instance the ability to dodge attacks at the most split of split-seconds thanks to the Trickster style, or being able to shoot at two different enemies at once thanks to the Gunslinger style is more than a welcome addition. Each of the styles brings with it a few of itâ??s own combos at first, but in true RPG style they get â??levelled upâ?? the more you use them, which in turn unlocks more combos that you can add to further by purchasing more combos and strengths for your long range and melee arsenals. Players are able to change their fighting style at the beginning of every mission and also when they use a Divinity Statue, which can be found scattered across the various 20 missions.
The integration of these styles into the game means that Danteâ??s trademark over the top aggression can manifest in several different forms, and since there are six styles in total to learn and master (there are a further two styles that are unlockable) it means that players will be winding their way through the darkened candle-lit corridors of Temen-Ni-Gru for quite some time. The sheer number of combos and dodges all help to rack up the points, and that the developers have made it so incredibly easy to switch weapons by just using the shoulder buttons is a joy. Not only do you have access to more attacks and moves as your style level increases, but you also have the ability to purchase more moves, which means by the end of the 20 mission game youâ??ll be pretty much be able to side-step, tornado-slash, or just shoot holes through most demons with relative ease.
Donâ??t be fooled into thinking that Devil May Cry 3 is all about violence and bloodshed (which admittedly it is most of the time), as the developers have also integrated some puzzles throughout the game. It has to be said that some of the puzzles, most notably perhaps the Trial of Wisdom, are quite challenging and there are times when youâ??re left with a dampened confidence wondering whether youâ??re just being stupid. Overall though it just takes a bit of time to solve them, and with a lot of the puzzles requiring you to search for a particular item Resident Evil style, itâ??s just a matter of destroying everything in your path in every room that you come across, and investigate every white shining light to find it.
Graphically the game is nice enough although it is far from being groundbreaking, but the atmosphere created by the developers certainly captures quite successfully the requisite tone laid down by the original title. The tower of Temen-Ni-Gru is dark and foreboding with candles lighting the paths in the game, and the gothic look to the place makes it wholly believable that it is a demonically built structure. The various demons are quite plentiful as too are their variants â?“ you will kill more scythe wielding creatures in this game than ever before but at least youâ??ll come across at least a dozen different groups of bad-guys to keep the variety going. All of the level end bosses are rightfully huge whether in stature of in strength, and itâ??s not uncommon to beat them on the second attempt since they have their own little moves that youâ??ll be unaccustomed to on the first go.
Both real-time and pre-rendered cut-scenes are quite prevalent in the game, especially at the beginning and end of each chapter. More often than not they are there to push forward the narrative and they also help to build up the mysteries behind the various characters in the game: Dante, Vergil, Arkham, and Lady. The thing is that after seeing Capcom do so well in dealing with the cut-scenes in Resident Evil 4, seeing the more traditional non-interactive FMVs in Devil May Cry 3 just adds that little bit of age to the game â?“ it almost feels like a bit of a backward step for the publisher, especially since the two franchises are the gaming equivalents of cousins â?“ also the FMVs include far too much Bullet-Time style slow-mo and includes the â??woooomâ?? sound effect; itâ??s just a step too far.
Sadly for all the special effects and good graphics, the visuals of DMC3 are pretty much let down by a camera system that at times can get stupidly in the way. Playing a game like Devil May Cry should be an experience where you concentrate on the action and not the poor choice of camera angles in certain places. At times it means that you canâ??t see enemies until the they are right upon you, although using the R1 shoulder button pressed means that at least youâ??ll be able to hit one of them, and also judging the distances of ledges can also be quite frustrating too. As with the games non-interactive cut-scenes this mostly adequate camera system feels old-school now, especially in light of the quite frankly brilliant Resident Evil 4. Yes of course Dante is much quicker than any of the Resident Evil characters so the point of view taken in the title wouldnâ??t necessarily suit Devil May Cry, however, having also recently played Legend of Kay (which has probably the best camera system in a third-person action title) the camera system in DMC3 at times just feels archaic in comparison.
Of course the action sequences in Devil May Cry are built up and enhanced by the chill out collection of Marilyn Mason, in other words heavy sounding rock metal, which works brilliantly to create a â??take no prisonersâ?? attitude. The voice acting is surprisingly good, with Dante sounding exactly as he should: arrogant with a full belief in his abilities, even some of the secondary characters sound as they should.
The 20 missions wonâ??t last forever although with the increasing strength of enemies and the brain pounding puzzles working against you, Devil May Cry 3 is certainly no walk in the park, and it definitely steps out of itâ??s predecessorâ??s shadow. The depth of the game, even though at itâ??s core itâ??s just an action game with puzzles, is enlarged thanks to the dozens of combos and styles that players can utilise in the battles, and itâ??s almost certain that once you complete it youâ??ll restart the game on a more difficult level.