Title  : Devil May Cry
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation 2
Publisher  : Capcom
ESRB Rating  : Mature
Game Rating  : 6.0
Review by  : Ken Gagne

Leading worldwide publishers occasionally take a "devil may care" attitude to developing games. They think a few hang-ups in the critical departments of control and gameplay will be ignored as long as the game looks good. 

Devil May Cry, a PlayStation 2 game from Capcom, is a less-than-divine example. 

Two thousand years ago, a demon fought to protect humanity from the devil. Now it is the responsibility of the demon's half-human son, Dante, to prevent the devil's return. He does so in a mix of Final Fight action and Resident Evil puzzles. By exploring a castle and procuring obscure items, Dante can unlock doors and acquire artifacts necessary to wage his war against the stronghold's inhabitants. 

Dante fights his demons as though possessed, wielding sword and pistols to punish his enemies in diverse ways. Malicious marionettes and spectral souls can be pounded into the ground, or tossed into the air and Swiss-cheesed by Dante's marksmanship. Such performances are fun in a Mortal Kombat way: they're impressive to execute, but add little to the overall gameplay. 

These moves are made possible by an inexplicable control scheme which makes simpler things difficult. There are two buttons with identical functions, yet Dante's pistols require two simultaneous button presses. The "jump" button is also located atypically. Players cannot customize the controls to surmount these slip-ups. 

Yet the most critical failing is in simple locomotion. As with Silent Hill, the camera is dynamic, moving and panning to follow Dante's movements. It can also suddenly switch to a different perspective, as when entering rooms or corridors. But unlike Silent Hill and Resident Evil, the control scheme is from the player's point of view, not the character's. Pushing "Left" to move to the left side of the screen means nothing if the camera can instantly redefine the perspective. Players will be reorienting themselves about the controls regularly to maintain a constant momentum. 

If this sounds like an inconvenience while wandering about, imagine contending with this "feature" while battling a gargantuan scorpion with apparent nuclear capabilities in close quarters. 

If Dante could channel the player's frustration, he'd be unstoppable. 

Get past the insect and there are plenty of other difficult bosses to occupy Dante's attention, separated by legions of mindless minions who fall easily. It's one extreme or the other. But don't ever let your guard down, as any evil doll with a pair of scissors can send Dante a whole lot closer to hell. 

What Devil May Cry lacks in execution, it makes up in presentation. The game is set in a heavenly slice of hell that's nearly unmatched by other PlayStation 2 games. The camera follows the action in a cinematic fashion, as if our devil hunter knows he's putting on a show. From the scrolling to the lighting effects, if such hell could exist on Earth, it'd look like this. 

Superior presentation does not extend to storytelling, however. In the opening movie, we see our protagonist skewered on a sword, only to effortlessly pull himself free. In one of the early level's cinematic moments, he is again skewered; should be thus be surprised when this attack fails to harm Dante in any way? 

Devil May Cry exemplifies what happens when genres collide. It is a developer's attempt at merging action and survival-horror; sadly, the only part that survived was the horror. If the devil may cry, he'll at least have the company of many a gamer.


This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 22-Oct-01