DMC 2 was absolutely grilled when it was brand new. Okay, so maybe grilled is too strong of a word – the shills at Gamepro still manage to slip it a 7+ review as is their fashion. Still, most reviewers were not at all thrilled, and made it very clear that this sequel was a severe downgrade from its predecessor.
Yet despite all the bashing, the bad words, and the obvious warning signs, I felt compelled to check this game out. Part of it was the completionist in me wanting to finish the entire trilogy. Part of it was the fact that many of those same reviews were filled with glaring errors (complaining about moves that debuted in the first game) and more smarmy jokes than actual criticism. Plus there was the fact that DMC 1 and 3 are just so damn good. There was no possible way that 2 could be as poor as they said.
God was I wrong. Wrong by leagues. Devil May Cry 2 is a cold, stale serving of suck. It is a terribly poor imitation of its two brethren, and one of the few games I’ve played this generation in which my decision to continue was fueled solely by my obligation to write a review. It really is that bad folks, and it isn’t hard to see why.
If all the “facts” and speculation of the internet are true, then DMC 2 was not made by the original team. Another group was making a standalone action game staring Lucia (DMC 2’s second playable character), until someone on the corporate ladder decided it would be a smart idea to throw in Dante and use an established brand to ride the money train fueled by PS2 gamers who didn’t know any better. Maybe it worked from a financial standpoint, but it makes for a terrible game.
As I stated in its review, the original DMC was a great game because of how well it blended the strong challenge and strategy of a good 2d game with controls that were very precise and accurate for a 3d world. It wasn’t perfect, but it had a lot of good ideas that were very well executed. With this sequel, I’m not sure if the developers didn’t understand the original, or just didn’t care, but they decided to throw away just about all of those good ideas.
No longer can you buy new attacks and abilities. Gone is the simple combo system in favor of a “deeper” move list requiring more complex inputs. The two very unique weapons from the first game are now replaced by three swords that all behave the same way (but hey, three is bigger than two, right?). Enemies no longer deplete a quarter of your lifebar, or even attack very much. Anything that added another layer of depth to DMC 1 has been gutted or neglected.
So what did they focus on instead? Apparently someone decided that the most important aspect of this series is the cool factor. Dante now sports even more stylish maneuvers, such as a wall run, a three hit aerial chain, and the ability to fire guns at two targets, as well as switch between guns on the fly. It’s a shame that none of these things are actually necessary for victory. In fact they get in the way more than they help. These kind of changes make it so that formerly great moves like High Time are rendered useless (since it involves that three-hitter that never completely connects), and that the only sword attack worth using is the basic four hit combo (since everything else requires imprecise joystick inputs to pull off). The entire game, including boss fights, boils down to abusing this default sword combo and firing your pistols in the corner of a room.
And you know what? This works just fine, because Dante is ridiculously strong. His swords have great damage, range, and often interrupt enemy attacks. His pistols are almost as strong, and even have the ability to lift enemies off the ground all by themselves, even if you’re firing from above. Physics be dammed, we’re playing with magic bullets here. This monotonous, button mashing approach is a perfectly feasible way to play through the game, and unlike the original, you’ll never be punished for doing so. I only died twice during my playtime, and that was because I chose not to dodge any attacks during two boss fights.
The entire affair boils down to a Kingdom Hearts level of boredom and tedium, though perhaps that’s being unfair to KH. At least in that game your moves will connect with the enemy, something that cannot be said of Lucia, who dances around like a hyperactive child until she’s no longer facing her foe and half of her canned combo can miss entirely.
It is obvious that this was not originally meant to be a Devil May Cry game. The environments are much larger in size, and far more modern (read: generic) looking than the cramped, Gothic castle of DMC 1. Enemy patterns and tactics are nothing like the fast strikes and brutal counters we saw before. The fact that most of Dante and Lucia’s missions take place in the same levels shows that these developers didn’t have enough ideas to split between two characters (this is strengthened by the fact that most of Lucia’s original stages are water levels, AKA the most boring of generic game environments).
This is a hack job, plain and simple. They threw Dante into a generic action game, gave it his old control scheme, and tossed in some more Matrix-esque moves in hopes that someone might be fooled into thinking this was an improvement. Fat chance on that. To be fair, it is very much possible that time constraints and orders from corporate kept the development team from really studying the first game and creating a worthy sequel, though if that was the case I don’t believe we would see any sort of new moves or techniques. I have the feeling that someone on the team really did want to mix things up, but completely missed the point in the process. That, or they fully well knew what they were doing, and believed that a “cool” but shallow game would be good enough to garner more mass market support.
It makes no difference to me. Devil May Cry 2 is a piss poor game no matter how you slice it. Feel free to skip out on this one, knowing that you won’t be missing out on any important story tidbits or interesting gameplay mechanics. A permanent mark on a great series, and a perfect example of the dark side of Capcom.
Next time: Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition (or Dante Takes Back his genre).