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REVIEW: Retrospective – Devil May Cry 2 (PS2)

If there’s one thing that the world of videogames is not short of, its sequels. And constantly they are derided by some quarters, with sometimes good reason. On PS1, the Tomb Raider series became notoriously stale and increasingly yawn inducing as successors with few innovations were churned out year after year between 1996 and 2000. Grand Theft Auto 2 was nowhere near as cool as its nifty predecessor, and Jedi Knight 2 just sucked. Despite the tarnished reputation of the sequel, many have been excellent. Grand Theft Auto 3, GTA Vice City, Metal Gear Solid 2, WipEout Fusion, Red Faction 2, and Time Crisis 2 are examples on PS2 that spring to mind. Luckily, Devil May Cry 2 can fit into this category. While Capcom’s second instalment of its devil slashing escapades cannot quite match the majesty of the divine first, it is still a high quality release packed with fun. While DMC2 is slightly disappointing considering the high hopes derived from prequels and pre-launch hype, it is still a grand piece of software in its own right.

The game again casts you as devil killing bounty hunter Dante, the human superhero who derives his extraordinary powers from the demonic blood inherited from his father (who was a demon who rebelled against the demon world in defence of humanity). Now he’s got a playable female friend called Lucia to join his new adventure. Dante and Lucia must prevent the lunatic demonic forces of the underworld from succeeding at another attempt at gaining world domination. The two must fight with the spawn of hell across futurism styled cities, gothic-esque villages, an oilrig, the underworld, caves, churches, and many other fantastically varied locales.

Graphically, things are in pristine order, very much like in the original. Character detail has been boosted, so that on the major characters, things such as individual hairs can be identified, and clothing and facial expressions look amazing. Yet again, the bosses encountered are visual masterpieces (if monstrosities to nature!). Lighting effects have been implemented well, and the game runs extremely smoothly, as no slowdown, pop-up, or any other mischievous speed hiccups were found as I played through the game. The game environments look particularly suiting and atmospheric. For example, the archaic villages appear very rusty and grim, while the advanced cities are gorgeously stylish (at least until the buildings start being destroyed by underworld minions), while the oilrig is quite fittingly industrial looking. A huge improvement for us PAL players is that the game has a 50Hz/60Hz option; something the prequel did not have, which restricted PAL gamers to 50Hz, thus damning the player to borers and speed losses. That is no more as those with 60Hz televisions (i.e. most of you) can enjoy DMC2 at full speed with no obtruding bits of black on the screen.

Aurally, the game is solid, with a very decent techno/industrial/rock music score to accompany proceedings, and there are no notable flaws in the sound effects.

In terms of gameplay, DMC2 has in some ways been improved over the first, but in other areas has slightly regressed. In essence, the player still has to hack, slash, and shoot their way through each level while also having to crack a few puzzles and/or defeat a boss character in order to facilitate progress. The combat is just as awesome as before, with it feeling extremely fluid, fast and brilliantly executed. The superb controls help a lot too. The Devil Trigger, which is a charged up special weapon both Dante and Lucia possess that boosts their speed, power, vitality and fighting skills while it is activated, has been significantly enhanced as our hero and heroine can now accumulate several types of the weapon which each favour a certain attribute. For example, one allows Dante/Lucia to fly, while one lets them sprint at rapid velocities.

The enemies, both the regular satanic minions and the evil bosses are generally well varied and interesting. My favourite enemies are the mutated tanks and helicopter. The epic battle with the assault chopper is one of the best parts of the game. I do have a gripe with the main foe in the game though that I will mention later.

There’s a great deal of weaponry again as well, with Dante having a good collection of swords and shooters to wreak havoc with, while Lucia gets to massacre the bad guys with a collection of knives and daggers. Personally, I feel that Dante’s swords were a tad better in DMC, but those available here do suffice, and are made up for by the inclusion of Uzi’s and a Rocket launcher! Sure, it may look out of place for Dante to hold a shoulder mounted RPG, but it is a real laugh, both to look at and to use. As before, players can use their red orbs to improve their arsenal.

Both playable characters are very acrobatic in this game, and it’s definitely affirmative true that Date has been doing some gym lessons since the last time we saw him. Both Lucia and Dante can run up and across walls in a ‘The Matrix’ style to either escape enemies or start attacks from, can do forward and backward rolls, as well as cartwheels, and can do double jumps right from the beginning at all times now. This helps further to establish the Devil May Cry series as a more action adventure game of an arcade nature as opposed to the more rigid and restrictive survival horror games Capcom make.

The presence of two playable devil hunters means that there are two sets of missions. Lucia’s campaign comprises of thirteen levels, and is the easier of the two, while Dante has to make his way through eighteen missions that are generally more exigent. There is some crossover at times, but for the most part, the level sets are different and enough to make it worthwhile to play through both. This does make DMC2 a slightly longer game than its forerunner. To help with lasting appeal, upon completion of both characters’ games players are rewarded with a special mode known as ‘Bloody Palace’, which is a set of lots of little battles. It’s nothing amazing, but it is good fun for a while, and of course, the main games are worth replaying as well.

Therefore, its been established that Dante’s second quest is brilliant in many ways and plays wonderfully. However, it isn’t as perfect game and there are flaws evident, and these are why DMC2 cannot match its behemoth prequel. Although there are puzzles in the game, there seems to be fewer than in the original. Now, although I prefer the more action-orientation of this game than the puzzle heavy ethos of Resident Evil, one somehow feels Capcom have slightly lost the balance as the puzzles do provide more variation to heed off repetitiveness. Therefore, a few more brainteasers would have been welcome. Secondly, remember the fantastic sections in the first game where Dante was underwater in first-person view, or where Dante engaged Mundus in flight in a Space Harrier type way, or where he and Trish escaped via plane? Well, there aren’t any similar happenings in DMC2, which is a big shame, as those sections in the first were, despite being short, just loveable.

Thirdly, Dante seems like he’s lost some of his attitude now. Granted, he still wears his gorgeously stylish red trenchcoat, black boots and has cool long silver hair, but he doesn’t have as much dialogue as he did in the original. This is a disappointment, as one just couldn’t help but really enjoy the confident trash-talking ego Dante displayed on lots of occasions previously, and it is a bit of a letdown that he doesn’t do it as often in number two. Never mind though Dante I still think you rock. Just make sure you’re cooler on Devil May Cry 3 please. There are problems with Lucia too. There is no doubt that she is one hell of a babe when it comes down to kicking demon ass, but her character as a whole seems a bit dull until towards the end when it is discovered that she is a more complex person than she first appears. Also, despite the fact that most of the bosses are impeccably designed and convincingly wicked bastards, it has to be admitted that the main villain, Arius, is nowhere near as compelling as Mundus, the behemoth underworld God who played the role of being the big boss in the first game, as Arius much of the time acts like a ponce high on helium. It was only on the last encounter with him that I felt he was a SOB really. Luckily, the game’s final boss, Argosax of Chaos, is a delightfully magnificent bastard to have to fight.

Despite these valid criticisms, Devil May Cry 2 is largely a treat to play though, and it is a worthy PS2 game. Although hopes that the sequel could bring the series to new heights have been dashed, this doesn’t mean Capcom have made a poor game at all, as it is hugely enjoyable and I rate it very highly and deem it worthy of purchase. But please, Capcom, if you do give Dante another adventure (and you better damn well do!), take some more time with it, retain everything that made Devil May Cry breathtaking as well as the neat innovations made in this game, while also introducing some new improvements as well, so that the series will then fully jump forward.

Price: £5-10 second-hand.
Score: 5> out of 5.

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