Devil May Cry is the seventh title in Capcoms "Survival Horror" catalogue of games which from Biohazard to Dino Crisis have received huge critical and commercial success. Many believe the series reached its peak with the arrival of the awesome Biohazard: Code Veronica on the Dreamcast, a fact accentuated by the last game in the series Onimusha, which has been viewed as something of a missed opportunity and ultimately a disappointment. Have Capcom got the series back on track? Or are they merely content to rehash the same old formula?
Devil May Cry opens with an impressive, if somewhat short, three-part introduction, and unlike every other game in the series Capcom have opted against CGI in favour of the in-game engine. The first part introduces the "Legendary Dark Knight Sparda" a mythical hero credited with single handily saving the underworld from evil. The action cuts to Trish, the female lead in the game, swooping down from the skies to modern-day underworld and landing gracefully outside a small shop, curiously named "Devil May Cry". The intro proceeds to introduce the owner, none other than the games hero Dante, before Trish enters in a somewhat unorthodox manner and some action worthy of John Woo kicks off.
Finally the plot is revealed, and Capcoms writing staff haven't exactly gone to town. Dante, the son of the aforementioned "Legendary Dark Knight Sparda" lost his mother and brother to 'Evil' 20 years ago, and in order to seek his revenge he started what can only be referred to as a demon rent-a-kill service, in the hope that he will eventually come face to face with the killer and finally avenge the death of his family. Something a little more intricate would have been appreciated, but the story has never been the strength of the genre and thus it's a minor gripe.
Trish offers her help and leads Dante to a remote Island which houses a huge gothic castle, upon your arrival Trish leaps to the top of the castle leaving you to make your own way up, and the game-proper finally begins.
Those familiar with the Devil May Cry Trial will feel instantly at home as the game starts out in exactly the same way, with Dante making his way up the to the castle and entering a huge hallway filled with red orbs, these red-orbs have two uses throughout the game. Initially they are used 'unlock' certain doors when a set amount have been collected, later they are also used as the games currency which can be used in the games many 'shops' to purchase items, and interestingly new attributes as well, which will be discussed in due course. The first part of the game continues to follow the general flow of the Trial edition but with one major change, the inclusion of a mission based structure similar to that seen in Dino Crisis. The missions do appear to be fairly random in terms of length, with some lasting 5 minutes whilst others can drag on for up to 30. This can make the game feel a little disjointed at times but isn't hugely detrimental to the overall feel of the game and can be overlooked.
When you are finally confronted with the games first adversaries, the ubiquitous knife-wielding marionettes, you will be armed with you standard Devil Arms (sword) and a pair of pistols. The combat can seem very basic at first, as you clumsily hack'n'slash your way through the first batch of enemies, a subtle change of tempo in your button presses results in a number of combos opening up, which when combined with the firepower on offer make rather pleasant viewing and you'll soon be supplying the hoards with an intravenous supply of hot lead. In an interesting addition, the 'cooler' the means by which you dispose of the enemy the more orbs you are granted in return, this promotes a far more inventive approach to the proceedings and is very effective. The action is helped along further by a new control system, with Capcom finally scrapping the horrendous digital control system shared by all the previous games in the series with a much improved analogue system.
As you progress you will add new equipment to your arsenal. New firepower, such as the shotgun, and new devil arms like the Ifrit gauntlets. Every time a new devil arm is acquired a new set of attributes can be 'bought' from the shop. These attributes include the ability to temporarily turn into a winged-devil and unleash an air raid of lightning bolts on your unfortunate foe or perform huge fiery uppercuts. These attributes are the main departure from classic Biohazard game play, and perform the task of taking the series further admirably.
Graphically the game is magnificent, whether inside the castle or wondering the ruins outside, the backgrounds are wonderfully solid and beautifully detailed. All the characters are well modelled and animate as fluidly as you'd expect. There are so many nice touches throughout the game and they just add that feel of polish that's omnipresent in all Capcoms games.
The sound is of an equally high standard. Eerie background noise, faint wails and screams fill the air when there is peace, although the when the action hots up the music follows suit. The weapons produce very satisfactory booms and metal upon metal has never sounded so good.
As with all games Devil May Cry is not perfect. The main problem is the camera, although for the majority of the game it follows the action very well but a sudden change of angle in conjunction with a quick turn can result in Dante pirouetting whilst being shredded by a scythe-wielding spectre. The puzzles are a little bland as well, with most consisting of find the 'key' then find the door affairs, a little more invention would have been a welcome addition. The game also suffers from being short, just like Onimusha. However the gameplay is longer with the average completion time being nearer 10 hours, rather than the 5 hours of Onimusha. There are a number of secret missions, which are akin to mini-games, hidden throughout the game and upon completion of the quest there are harder modes to conquer, which goes someway to fleshing out the experience.
Although not without its shortcomings, Devil May Cry is probably the best game in the survival horror series and Capcom have done an admirable job living up to the hype. Highly recommended to any PS2 owner, whether you're a survival horror veteran or a newcomer to the genre, it's a must-have.