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ups: Well-rendered environments and graphics; great movement and fighting.
downs: Limited storyline; annoying choices for replayability; limited environmental interaction.

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Devil May Cry 2 Review (PS2)
game: Devil May Cry 2
three star
posted by: Monica Hafer
publisher: Capcom
date posted: 09:10 AM Mon Feb 17th, 2003
last revision: 06:22 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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The first installment of this series made serious waves with gamers. The mix of gothic elements and technology was intriguing, the kinetic/near-aerial combat was intense, and the beautifully rendered environments were inspiring. It promised an evolution for fixed perspective games that was a must see for the future. So here we are in the next installment, and I must say that the expected progression is absent. Although some of the well-loved elements from DMC are still here, the environments have expanded, and the fighting is still frenetic, DMC2 takes a real beating in the categories of replayability, complexity, and most importantly in my mind, storyline.

Probably the most coherent portrayal of storyline is in the manual included with the game. If you rented it without the manual, you really aren\'t missing out on much as far as how to play the game, but you definitely aren\'t going to understand much of what\'s going on from a storyline perspective through the game and its supposedly \"instructive\" cut scenes. The game is set on Dumary Island, a place where ancient pagan zealots came to live to escape persecution. The land that evolved is a mix of archaic, gothic elements and modern technological advances. An evil international corporation is infiltrating the island and hopes of acquiring the \"special ores discovered in the island\'s interior.\" In the game I got the idea that an old crone had trained a woman (named Lucia who you get to play in the second disc) to help Dante, the \"cool-as-ice\" demon hunter, defeat the corporation. Does this make any difference in the game? Does the plot take any unexpected twists? Do I end up caring about anything else but mindlessly killing demons? Not really.

Now many of you may be saying, \"Why can\'t you just enjoy a game for the action?\" My answer to that has to do with the type of game DMC2 sets itself up to be. I don\'t mind sitting back and enjoying the action when the action itself is the object of a game. Take fighting games for example. The only goal is to kick some ass...I can appreciate that. But as soon as a game widens to the point where you\'re given a larger environment to move in and things that are called \"missions\" that imply some sort of goal, my expectations rise. I expect that I will be driven to complete the mission because of some important information, booty, or if nothing else, a progression in location to move me closer to my ultimate goal. Now if we think about how people work psychologically, we know that a goal shrouded in mystery can only work up to a point. I am content not knowing specifically what I will face in the end as long as, along the way, I uncover more and more clues to intrigue me. This is the first rule of tension in storytelling. It is why we turn the page-because we want to know what happens. When you take out the element of \"what happens,\" the only other reasons to keep going are to see really cool things or to fight really cool battles. This is an \"ooohhh and aaahhhh\" factor that has a limited appeal. The games that stick in my mind years later are ones that combine this with characters I get to know through my gameplay and situations that capture my imagination. It is the adventure part of an action-adventure game that requires this sort of forward progression that is helped immensely by plot development.

DMC2 has no real character development, doesn\'t let itself build together as a story, and completing the missions becomes unsatisfying. All that is then left is the possibility of \"ooohh and aaahhh.\" This game comes through with environments that are sometimes very beautiful and always skillfully rendered. This is a definite \"ooohhh.\" The fighting is incredibly smooth, and besides gravity defying leaps, aerial kicks, flips, rolls, multi-directional firing capacity with your guns, sword-swinging combos, and wall climbing leaps, you can also endow your amulet with the ability to fly and use your demon trigger to make yourself a force to be reckoned with. How cool is that? Very-- but there are problems. The enemies on the first default setting (more on this later) don\'t require any fighting savvy on the part of the player and the weapons are more limited than the first game (and although the different characters have different weapons and special attacks, they still play very much the same). But mostly it is that the environments don\'t require the maximum use of movement options that they could. With such leaping abilities, it is disappointing to be only able to leap on roofs occasionally and then only one level up on most occasions. I remember when the old side-scrollers tried to add playing depth and so they went up (apt examples include the first Contra, Kid Icarus, or Donkey Kong). This game screams with the need for environments that optimize the movement abilities of its characters, and for a fixed perspective game with a character who has unequaled vertical, up is the best option.

Camera and perspective in this game is a difficult issue for me to talk about. I am from the school that prefers the full 360 degree/3D movement and camera (a la Tomb Raider) in action/adventure games. I think that complex environments require the ability to look around the environment and change perspective. However, I realize that many people are fonder of the Resident Evil style fixed perspective. I am pleased with this game, in a way, because I think that it shifts the camera often enough to add interest and usually allows you to see elements of the environment that you need to see to continue (I remember a game where I ended up re-playing a whole level because I missed a door the camera never would show-thank goodness this game is not that way). However, there are occasions when the enemies you are fighting are off screen (you just have to fire blindly and pray) and the times during battle when the camera pulls back a little too far to see as well as you\'d like. Probably my worst gripe with fixed perspective games is the switch in directions when you enter a new room. But to be fair to this type of game, the camera is, for the most part, handled very well.

The music swings from ethereal, orchestral pieces as you explore to \"heavy-metal mayhem\" when you get attacked. Even if you are firing at enemies off screen, you know you\'ve beaten them when the music returns to soothing and bucolic. This element is definitely a strength for the game and supports the feeling of dichotomy in the industrial/archaic world that DMC2 creates. The voice acting is interesting, although the accents are hard to place (I guess I wouldn\'t recognize a \"Dumary\" accent anyway, huh?). The sound effects for enemies and for the environment are minimal. There isn\'t any in-game dialogue or \"witty quips,\" which I can say I don\'t miss, but a lack of meaningful, plot-driven dialogue in the cut screens is sorely missing.

Probably the main thing that needs to be discussed is the way DMC2 is set up to add replayability. The game begins with a default difficulty setting that is changed by beating both discs. It is extremely easy, so much so that a friend of mine completed the first disc without dying once. The enemies are like fleas really, mostly a minor annoyance. If you finish the game, then you can replay it in a hard mode. Once you beat it that way, it gives you a \"must die\" mode, and if you beat the game in that, you unlock extra characters to play. The first go-through is really short. The question then becomes, \"Did you have enough fun playing through the environments to warrant another two go-rounds at the entire game?\" I can\'t really say that I did. Getting there was not really half the fun. But the upside is that the enemies actually pose a threat after multiple playings and become a challenge. However, the lack of complexity in the game doesn\'t really make harder enemies any more of an attraction. I keep thinking of games like Splinter Cell where there are so many ways of going through a mission that replaying a level is a joy, and I don\'t feel that way at all about DMC2. You can unlock extra missions and find hidden areas in the game, but even then, it\'s hard to work up the excitement needed to play the same limp levels over and over.

I know I\'m being really hard on this game-it\'s probably because I\'m upset at the unmet potential that I feel it has. It really does have a cool feel about it and a promising fighting/movement style. Both newcomers and fans of the first game will probably want to rent it because of the shortness, if for no other reason. If you like it well enough to go through the hoops to get extra characters, then by all means, take home a copy of your own. But I am hoping that the next installment (and I have to say I do hope they make one, which means that I\'m not totally giving up on the title) puts more complexity into the storyline and initial playing experiences rather than just \"teasing the animals\" with the promise of more coolness later.