Amidst the blizzard of hysteria and hate that has surrounded the release of the newly rebooted Devil May Cry you may have missed something. Something that I, myself, overlooked; back in 2001 DMC was nothing but a spot on the massive gaming radar. A newly born, scrambling for affection, crawling between the legs of titans.
In the same year that saw Silent Hill 2 turn people into a quivering wrecks and witnessed Rockstar change the gaming landscape with Grand Theft Auto 3, Devil May Cry was not just a face in the crowd. Its hero was a white haired, demon slayer called Dante… and he turned the rest of the crowd into ashes, without ever breaking a sweat.
The following words are going to chart my journey through all of Dante’s adventures. This first part will take a look at not only the sensational first instalment but also at the controversial Devil May Cry 2.
DEVIL MAY CRY 1 (2001)
This game, as I am sure some of you know, started life as what Capcom hoped to be a fresh take on the Resident Evil series. During development however, it became clear that the game was far too different from the source and was becoming its own beast entirely.
Hence, DMC1 was born and the gaming world was never the same, with many modern games borrowing liberally from its smooth, hack and slash gameplay and tricky puzzle solving; just take one look at either God of War or Bayonetta and it is all too clear to see.
But those humble origins, based in the horrible depths of Resident Evil’s dark underbelly are exactly what sets it apart. There is a constant sense of never exactly knowing what is coming next and a palpable feeling that there really is something determined to see you to your grave. Where it differs though is what matters most; here you have the tools to determine your own fate, you don’t need to be scared if you don’t want to be…why? Well say hello to the wonderful world of wall jumping, dual gun wielding, electric-sword slicing mayhem, because it makes for one HELL of a game (no pun intended, honest).
Of course, all of this acrobatic, fighting wizardry wouldn’t mean much if the controls didn’t allow you the freedom to make the most of it; thankfully, they do. The control scheme is clear, simple and fluid, allowing the player to feel fully in control of Dante’s wide arsenal of crazy manoeuvres. From ducking and diving to jumping, slicing and shooting, it never feels out of your grasp to conquer your foes (as long as you keep your reflexes sharp).
This is what gives the title its sublime difficulty level; the game sits just shy of frustration and just on the right side of challenging. If you die, (which you will) 99% of the time it is your fault…unless of course…you couldn’t see what you were doing… unless, of course, all you could see was a dusty bookshelf, whilst the minions of hell gobbled on your intestines.
Which brings me to the one thing that hasn’t aged so well; the camera angles. Unfortunately the camera is entirely static.. not going anywhere…not a single, demonic inch. It has those classic 90s “director’s choice” angles that show a delightful view of the castle grounds and its shrubbery, but sometimes forgets to show you the wretched hell spawn trying to make fillet steak out of your face.
It is something that whilst giving the game a very lavish, epic style, really shows its age. The graphic design here, though, is phenomenal; it is of such quality I would hold it up there with the best today has to offer. Gothic and haunting, twisted and beautiful; with art direction like this, I think it’s worth a few misplaced viewpoints.
Right from the B-Movie opening sequence to the japanese techno that plays in the many stunning boss fights, all the way through the maze-like corridors and down the winding staircases; this game was a bolt of lightning from a clear, blue sky.
Capcom defined itself through its pioneering choices right from the start; from the crushing difficulty of Ghosts and Goblins to the genre defining Street Fighter 2. But with this, Capcom did much more than write the words ‘Devil May Cry’ and and put a line under them; they took a chisel and hammer to the stone wall of gaming history and wrote a whole new chapter.
With my expectations soaring through the stratosphere I booted up the next instalment and so my heart began to break.
Devil May Cry 2 (2003)
As the game begins I am sat waiting in great anticipation; what will this have in store for me? After the last game I could barely wait for the treats this one would have up its satanic sleeves. But right from the get go, the game just lacks that special ‘something’; the very thing that the first game oozed from every orifice. That something is ‘style’, and where as DMC1 was cooler than a snowman in Alaska, this couldn’t even keep your drink cold.
For a start, the graphics are actually WORSE than the original; textures are bland, the buildings are copy and paste huts, the animation is twice as stiff and the art design looks like it has been ripped from a game with a third of the budget.
The same can be said for the controls; the swift dodging and sharp movements of the first game replaced with sluggish jumps and awkward combat. The slick combos seen in DMC1 are turned into stunted, broken, button mashing.
The difficulty level has also been toned way down; I killed the first boss by standing perfectly still and holding down the ‘shoot’ button. I never once felt like I was anywhere near death and the sloppy set pieces just don’t trigger that zen-like state of focus, where every move can set your fate. The beauty of DMC1 was in its smallest manoeuvres; I felt like a hell bound assassin, striking with surgical precision. Here, I felt nothing but hollow victory, again and again.
Then there’s the utterly useless camera; half the time I don’t even know what I am shooting at because the camera is floating above my head, STARING INTO THE ABYSS.
If DMC1 was a shining star in a sea of darkness, then this is the black hole to drain away its light. As with so many sequels down the years, sometimes the essence of what makes something great is lost amongst the pressure of making lightning strike in the same place twice.
It is lucky then that we move on to the 3rd leg of our journey, where lightning not only strikes, but sparks up a storm that would set the gaming world alight.