Capcom's Devil May Cry was an excellent action title that began as a more action-oriented spin-off from Resident Evil, but had a wickedly cool and much more active protagonist than any of the cardboard RE characters. Unfortunately, the high degree of difficulty and some awkward camera placement left many players frustrated. Despite the praise DMC received, Capcom decided to give the sequel to a new development team. This appears to be an odd move on the surface, but the new team seems to have addressed many of the complaints that gamers had about the original game. This results in a streamlined title that's easier to play yet keeps the essence of the original intact. Devil May Cry 2 is more accessible than its predecessor was. However, the overall attitude that made the original title so appealing hasn't been touched.
DMC2 feels slightly different but the essence is still there. DMC's improved presentation and viewpoints make the action easier to follow. DMC 2's simplified level designs go a long way to alleviate those problems. However, bleak environments, awesome character and enemy design, breakneck action and mystical storyline that made the original so memorable return unblemished. As in the first game, DMC2 implements static pre-rendered backdrops, which allow you to move around freely without worrying about the camera. Mixing action and strategy, the balance of the game seems to mirror the original formula. The controls will feel immediately familiar to veterans and uses many of the same techniques. DMC2 allows you to perform awe-inspiring moves and punish enemies effortlessly. The action is fast and brutal, but you can have the famous double guns and swords that you can use to slice through enemies like butter. Both of these standard weapons can be upgraded to machine guns and incredibly powerful swords. In addition to standard moves, you can implement special attacks and devastating combos. Performing the special moves is relatively simple, requiring you to press a shift button and make simple motions. These are quite powerful, and make quick work of intransient foes. Dante can also target specific foes for attack by using the lock-on. While this function sounds good in theory, it tends to get in the way when multiple enemies have you cornered. Another key difference is Dante's wall-walking abilities. You can now run up the side of walls and jump off which allows you to evade enemies when you're cornered.
When you defeat an enemy, you receive a ranking based on the attacks used. Instead of reflecting your technique as in the first game, DMC2 rewards players when they chain combos through multiple foes without pausing. This is a significant change that makes the achieving the best rankings a little bit harder. Performing the special moves gives you significantly higher ranking and will increase your grade at the end of each level. When the words describing your moves appear on-screen, the foes drop more orbs and items. This lends a high degree of strategy to the battles. In addition to collecting Red Orbs, defeated enemies increase your Devil Trigger Gauge. Once this reaches a threshold, Dante can call up the Devil Trigger, which makes gives him special abilities such as increased speed and attacks that are more powerful. Before you call up the Devil Trigger, you can place collected Orbs in the Trigger Inventory. Once placed, these special orbs give the character even faster speeds and flying abilities when in Devil Trigger mode.During the game, you can purchase upgrades using the collected red orbs, which allows you to purchase new swords and guns. You can either buy these upgrades between levels or at the Time God statues. In addition to Red Orbs, the game contains other colored orbs that you can collect. These can be used for a variety of functions. For example, you can use the Gold Orbs to restore health, while the Purple ones will increase the length of your Devil Trigger meter. Others can be equipped in the inventory screen to give you additional abilities.
DMC2's structure emphasizes action and the enemies come at the player relentlessly, there are also more types of enemies this time out which makes the gameplay more interesting, and you may face different types of enemies in the same level. They attack in waves and groups, which makes them harder to defeat. The levels seem a little larger, but there are also more demons in each area which makes the action more intense. While the action is unrelenting, you'll also need to solve numerous puzzles during the game. Some of these are quite simple, requiring only a few switch pulls while others are more elaborate where you have to do multiple things in different parts of the level in order to proceed. These are integrated seamlessly into the game for the most part and while some of them seem oblique, they really aren't that difficult. Dante can also find numerous secret rooms and areas where he can gain extra orbs and even occaisionally, a Devil Stars. Finding these requires a lot of searching and a little luck, but the effort is generally worth it.
Capcom has borrowed a trick from the Resident Evil series and Devil May Cry 2 features two separate adventures, one for each characters. While the adventures for Dante and Lucia roughly parallel each other, each path takes you through what appears to be similar areas, though in a different order, with unique puzzles and enemies for each mission. Each character mission also features unique levels, such as Lucia's amazing underwater sequence. What's interesting about this approach is that while both players control similarly, there are subtle differences that make controlling them more interesting. This is quite cool and makes playing through both quests worthwhile. Even though each quest is relatively short, completing both of these missions fully and achieving a high ranking will take some time. While playing through what is, essentially the same game twice may not appeal to all players, this is clever method to extend DMC2's longevity.
Playing through the game isn't as difficult this time around, and the enemies and foes seem to put up less resistance. Devil May Cry's boss confrontations started off at incredibly difficult, but the later levels were next to impossible. The sequel has definitely made an adjustment to this, and while there is still plenty of challenge in the game, it's much easier and far less frustrating. You can usually make significant progress through the game each time you play it and most gamers should have little problem defeating it. While the bosses become much harder as you progress through the game, your abilities and skills increase at a similar rate, making the challenge more one of endurance than skill. The game rewards players with numerous extra modes and there are hidden areas, game modes and secrets to unlock such as extra levels and costumes that will motivate hardcore players.
DMC's amazing visuals were a key part of the game's appeal and this installment carries on that tradition, with some key improvements. While DMC2 retains the cinematic flair of the original, the camera blocking is far less intrusive this time around, making for a smoother playing experience. The backdrops are still pre-rendered, but this technique still allows for some absolutely breathtaking areas. The game gives you adequate freedom of movement, thanks to the large levels. Some of the transitions between angles are awkward thanks to the abrupt change in perspective. What's immediately apparent about this sequel are the expansive levels which are much larger and take place in more realistic environments. Some of these include deserted city streets and an imposing castle with a distinctly gothic flair have been rendered in a great amount of detail, while other take place below ground in dark chasms and creepy tombs. While the initial levels are a little plain, the adventure becomes more spectacular visually as you get closer to the end. The levels feature a great attention to detail with excellent texture mapping creating believable levels, and even the smallest objects look great. The character design is impressive throughout and the enemies display a lot more creativity this time out. The boss creatures are particularly impressive with their massive size. The game's flow is excellent with a smooth appearance throughout. Animation of the characters and enemies is silky smooth with the special attacks especially impressive. As good as the visuals are, the music also plays a large role in the gameplay. DMC's dark, orchestral score creating a sober, imposing mood that's broken by frenetic guitar wailing when you battle opponents. Devil May Cry 2's production values are impressive creating an evocative experience that's one of the most engaging on PS2.
Devil May Cry 2 is a solid sequel that improves on the problematic areas from the first game without losing the essential elements of the first game. It's noticeably easier this time around, which will undoubtedly upset purists, but the new installment is far less frustrating than the original game. The fun-factor is still evident and the greater variety of enemies makes the experience less monotonous. Using two characters is a cool idea, but the two-disc approach isn't implemented as well as it could have been because the missions overlap far two much. However, the subtle differences between the characters means you'll probably want to play each mission for at least a little while. So, while it may not match the immediacy and coolness of the original, Devil May Cry has many pleasing elements that make it a worthwhile purchase.
Book Review: BradyGames Signature Series: Devil May Cry 2
Devil May Cry 2 isn't the most difficult game ever made, but there are still some vexing areas where even veteran gamers might become stuck. For this, you may want to use a strategy guide, and Brady has once again published an essential book. Completely official and written by Dan Birlew, the extensive walkthroughs in the book can help you find many areas and secrets and solve those frustrating puzzles. Even if you don't really need the guide to help you through the game, the excellent production values, classy easy-to-follow layout and artwork are packaged together beautifully with a cool poster, making this "Signature Series" edition an essential purchase for all DMC fans.