Capcom's notion of what's cool--a concept on which its PlayStation 2 action game Devil May Cry was built--may not find complete synergy with today's gaming audience. In fact, much of Devil May Cry's aesthetic presentation is rooted in stereotypical gothic and cheesy '80s metal imagery. But beneath that overstated surface is one of the most interesting and generally entertaining 3D action games in recent years. Perhaps for the first time in the 3D action genre, Devil May Cry has successfully captured the twitch-based, relentlessly free-flowing gameplay style of so many classic 2D action games.
In Devil May Cry, you assume the persona of Dante, the half-human, half-devil son of a legendary dark knight known as Sparda. A powerful and malevolent ruler of the underworld, whom Sparda vanquished 2,000 years ago, has awakened and, although Dante doesn't quite know it at the game's onset, he--like his father--has been chosen to defeat this evil being. At his aid, at least for portions of the game, is a beautiful woman named Trish, who invites Dante to Mallet Island, a gateway to the netherworld. The game's story, and much of its script for that matter, draws heavily from tired clichÃ©s and presents generic plot points. But as Dante descends into the grimy underworld--a great place for blasting a wide variety of demons--it becomes clear that you must accept the game's formulaic story to fully appreciate the fine-tuned gameplay that it veils.
Perhaps Devil May Cry's greatest gift, in gameplay terms, is its highly intuitive control scheme. It is one of those rare games in which simply moving the character around the screen and performing various attacks is innately entertaining. Blasting Dante's dual handguns, which are amusingly named Ebony and Ivory, in rapid succession or double-jumping through some of the game's open areas is simply a lot of fun. Throw in a variety of opponents, including everything from hovering marionettes to ruthlessly persistent, lava-spewing demon spiders, and Devil May Cry becomes one of the most entertaining action games in gameplay terms alone. In practice, the responsive controls mean that the more adept you are with the game's control scheme, the quicker you're able to dispose of the demonic enemies. Once again, like classic 2D action games, Devil May Cry rewards the skillful game player.
Devil May Cry has been cleverly designed, in harmony with the fast-paced gamplay and control scheme, to challenge the player with a steadily increasing learning curve. The gradual unlocking of a variety of weapons and moves, which are secured by bartering mystical red orbs that are collected by disposing of evil souls, means that in general, your strength increases in precise concert with the game's overall difficulty level. Dante is superquick and is able to perform a myriad of attacks, but his enemies are powerful and are generally highly skilled at disposing aspirant demon hunters like our hero. This is another essential success of Devil May Cry, as it keeps you involved in the flow of the game and is constantly challenging without becoming frustratingly so. Devil May Cry will challenge even the most capable game player, while its easy automatic mode, which is unlocked after you finish the first mission, makes the game accessible to players of varying skill levels. In either case, both the intensity and the difficulty build gradually, as the game culminates almost predictably in an epic and multitiered final battle.
The final stages, although still quite entertaining, also produce the game's few failings. Without giving away the ending, it's safe to say that the game loses its direction, branching into a variety of different genres, some quite unnecessary. The game's final sequence almost feels forced and artificial, as it strays from the game's general course. Also, despite the drawn-out conclusion, Devil May Cry's difficulty level reaches a plateau near the end and isn't nearly as challenging as it could have been.
Another issue that some may have with Devil May Cry is its fixed camera angles. As surprising as it sounds, Devil May Cry began its life as a Resident Evil game, and although it has grown out of the confined conventions of the survival-horror genre, it has retained the static cameras of Capcom's zombie-infested series. Like in Resident Evil, you'll sometimes find yourself blasting away at unseen enemies who are outside the camera's view. Also, at times--although this is relatively infrequent--you will find yourself battling the analog stick and reorienting your sense of direction after a quick camera switch.