solidsnake35's Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening (PlayStation 2) review

More than a simple hack and slash

Devil May Cry 3 is an action adventure game, with the focus clearly being on the action. From the start you’ll realise that this is no ordinary ‘hack and slash’ game, but an inspiring experience that will certainly leave you desperate for more.

The developers of Devil May Cry successfully began the series in 2001. The original Devil May Cry was one of the first essential games for the Playstation 2, combining free-flowing gameplay and excellent graphics. Despite the initial euphoria, the series quickly found itself on the decline with the second instalment the following year. Devil May Cry 2 was not what fans of the series had anticipated, and left many very disappointed. However, Capcom quickly realised what had made the original game so popular, and went straight to work on Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening.

You play as Dante, the half human, half-devil, son of the legendary Sparda. His arrogance when fighting off the hoards of hell makes it look easy in the first cut-scene, but when you first take control everything changes. Initially the game is rather forgiving, for the first five minutes at least. The first level allows players to grasp the basic controls, and get a feel for the whole DMC experience. The second level will hit most gamers like a brick wall. The game expects that you have become a veteran over the course of mere moments, and soon has Dante confronted by a large, and vicious looking demon; the game’s first boss fight. Dante taunts the beast and you have a fleeting moment of confidence, but after a quick death you’ll probably be wishing Dante had been a little nicer. Most gamers will be glad to know that an easy mode is available once Dante has been killed more than three time. This makes the game much more manageable, and for most, a more enjoyable experience.

After the boss fight, the game’s difficulty increases at an alarming rate, even for those who opted to play on easy. The game is split into missions; twenty in total, not including the short secret ones. Even though the option to save after each mission is most welcome, it just doesn’t quite seem enough, especially with the exclusion of checkpoints. It’s especially infuriating when confronted by a fiendishly difficult boss fight at the very end of a mission. If defeated, Dante must begin at the very start of the level, which does become monotonous after a while. However, this is one of few issues that the game has, and to those who enjoy a challenge, it might be a good thing. The mission sections do seem like a good feature once the game has been completed, as it allows certain parts of the game to be enjoyed again, without having to start over.

The missions throughout DMC3 are all very similar, and usually involve a simple puzzle and a lot of breathtaking action. The game focuses on its strengths, and keeps the action flowing. Although there is some aspect of getting from point A to point B, the game presents you with very simple objectives, making it clear which path to take. The gameplay, although appearing basic at first, is in fact, very deep. There are a large variety of combos, that Dante can perform using the various different weapons. Each combo can be linked together in a way that is fast, frantic, and ultimately satisfying.

If Dante is to complete his task then he’s going to need some help to do so. This help come in the form of weapons, both long range and his sword. Dante begins with only his two pistols and a single sword, but later on he will accumulate quite an arsenal. Despite being restricted to carrying only two weapons of each type, it is possible to switch instantly between them, allowing for impressive combos with multiple weapons. This greatly helps the gameplay to continue at such a fast pace, by keeping the need to pause to a minimum, since a single press of L2 or R2 will suffice. At the beginning of each mission you may select two weapons of each type, meaning Dante cannot carry all his weapons at once. This does create a sense of realism, but in a game where this is not the focus, it seems more restrictive and unnecessary. All weapons can be upgraded at the same time they are selected, but this comes at a price. Dante will inevitably collect red orbs throughout missions, and these can be used to pay for new moves and gun upgrades. Every weapon differs slightly, but they all have the same basic abilities until they are upgraded.

To add further variety to the way Dante can cleave through demons, there are numerous fighting styles to select. Most of these are available from the start, but additional ones can be unlocked later in the game Each style offers unique abilities which he can utilise to his advantage. Set by default, Trickster is the speed option, with the primary aim of keeping Dante out of harms way. Even though most gamers will be opting straight away for the more powerful styles, such as Swordsmaster, keeping the default style would be a wise decision. With no way of blocking enemy attacks, having the ability to dash quickly to the side is a blessing. Each style improves over time using a level system and for every level that is completed, new skills are learned, so persistence with one style is very important.

The success of DMC must certainly be, in part, due to the excellent graphics. Everything from the character design to the environments show the true power of the Playstation 2. The level of detail is especially noticeable in the environments, but they do lack a little variety. The character are also very impressive, and the three dimensional modelling is almost faultless. Every demon has its own unique appearance, but the most important character is Dante, and thankfully he looks just as polished. The other supporting characters look similar to Dante in terms of detail, and the developers have spent a lot of time making them all look so realistic. It is because of the graphics that the developers could include cut-scenes that look so amazing, and they really do add so much to the game; much like the cut-scenes did in the Metal Gear Solid series.

The sound, in general, is just as impressive as the rest of the game, and the voice acting compliments the well presented cutscenes perfectly. The voice acting is striking enough to give each character a memorable personality, and very rarely are there any imperfections. As with most action games, the characters perform the usual moans and groans when swinging their swords, but somehow DMC3 manages to make it all a little less embarrassing. One small aspect that does hinder the game, is the rather repetitive shouts from Dante. At the end of every combo the same words are used, but this does give you a reason to vary your attacks. The soundtrack is very good, and even if many may not like the heavy rock theme, there’s no denying that it works. The constant change in pace throughout is matched by the music, drawing you into the game.

After completing the game you’ll definitely wish it was longer; but this is always a sign of a good game. If you played through the game on easy the first time, then you’ll probably find the once impossible normal mode much more manageable. You even have the option of starting with every weapon and upgrade accumulated during your first play through, which makes certain aspects a lot easier. Like most games there is a hard mode, and for the true masters, the infamous ‘Dante must die’ mode. The exclusion of a two player mode does shorten the life span a little, but with such a brilliant single player mode, this shouldn’t be missed too much. Devil May Cry 3 is surely one of the growing collection of must buy games for the Playstation 2, and for those who were disappointed with the last release, this should renew their love of the series.

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