Interestingly enough, Capcom's Devil May Cry started life as the forerunner to Resident Evil 4, which we now know was one of the most famous horror shooters of the time. Designer Hideki Kamiya wanted a more cool, stylised and action-heavy experience than had previously been seen, which led to the creation of an entirely new franchise. Furthermore, this new game was built from the ground up to showcase new character Dante’s acrobatics and sword capabilities rather than the reliance on gunplay we were used to. So how does the diversion from Resident Evil’s tried and true formula stack up?
As it turns out, rather well indeed. Devil May Cry’s story plays out over 22 linear missions, combining 3D platforming challenges and item hunting with a heavy emphasis on combat with a range of creepy and sinister enemies. Channelling the powers of legendary demon knight Sparda, you can chop and slice them limb from horrific limb using your trusty blade, or turn to one of a few ranged alternatives to take them down from a distance. Destroying your opponents will fill up your Devil Trigger gauge, which will allow you to assume a true demonic form for a brief time, wherein you can devastate your surroundings with ethereal fire and lightning.
"You’ll also collect a variety of orbs along the way, including red orbs which can be used to
purchase helpful items or new skills"
Dante’s extensive acrobatic abilities come to the fore during these confrontations, and chaining hits or juggling foes increases your score multiplier, which will serve to increase your rank obtained at the end of each mission. You’ll also collect a variety of orbs along the way, including red orbs which can be used to purchase helpful items or new skills, green to restore your precious vitality, or even more elusive blues and yellows which increase your life bar capacity or allow you to retry a failed mission, respectively.
I mentioned previously that the developers sought a much more stylish appearance than usual and in my opinion they definitely succeeded. Dante, his enemies and the settings you’ll experience could have been ripped straight from any comic or action movie, and the story supports this theming exceptionally well. Dark entity Mundus threatens to destroy the world and Dante must do his utmost to hunt him down and stop him, although many powerful subordinates stand in the way.
No action title is complete without a pumping soundtrack and Devil May Cry does not disappoint - while arguably not as rich or varied as we’ve seen in similar games, the resultant offering is driving and heavy, and complements the relentless high-intensity combat scenes, occasionally backing off during a rare moment of respite. An excellent example of textural scaling, to be sure.
In terms of an actual gameplay experience, Devil May Cry represents one of the few titles I have ever played where I have remarked on how much I am enjoying it during a session. Some combination of the relatively short missions and extremely fluid combat had me entering the harder difficulties immediately upon finishing my initial run without a moment’s hesitation, and in this case having a reduced completion time (about four hours in my case) was a huge plus in offering replay value.
"...having a reduced completion time (about four hours in my case)
was a huge plus in offering replay value"
Of course it’s not perfect, and there were a few instances where the laggy camera made platforming sections tricky, particularly with regards to determining a landing spot. Fixed camera angles have made it in as a hallmark from the Resident Evil development days, which while certainly not executed badly, are a questionable choice in a third person platformer like this one. Furthermore, the auto-lockon system that the game uses is rather erratic, and you may notice this most in crowded areas, where Dante will turn around to fight something elsewhere instead of what you’re actually trying to hit.
However, on the whole I found Devil May Cry to be an intensely enjoyable experience. The super-cliche and campy action hero storyline required little thought on the part on the player, and although simplicity is often unfairly frowned upon, when I want to relax this actually becomes beneficial. I vastly prefer the segmenting of titles like this into discrete missions rather than an open world approach, and this one stands as a perfect pick-up-and-play standard.
Do be forewarned that if you’re planning on purchasing this one as part of an HD re-release, the only aspect that appears to have changed is in-game rendering has become 16:9 widescreen standard. The actual assets show little if any improvement from the original game, and menus and some cutscenes are still shown in their native 4:3 format, which look decidedly antiquated in the midst of full HD gameplay. This does not significantly spoil the experience in any meaningful fashion, but just be informed.
There’s little excuse not to go out and try it 15 years after its debut - for me it’s landed well amongst the plethora of action titles available, and I have zero hesitation in recommending it. Perfect for any hack ‘n’ slash fan, or Capcom lovers in general, and the aforementioned HD collections available for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 are a ludicrously cheap way to experience the series at its finest.