Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening

It's the best game of the series and one the best action titles on the PS2.


The Lowdown

Pros: Fluid controls, different styles and a bunch of moves makes this a top notch action title.

Cons: The preset camera angles often leave players blind in tense moments.

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Capcom's Devil May Cry series made a big splash on the PS2. The first game reinvented the whole action genre. The excellent combo system and fluid mechanics made gamers feel like they were in an action movie. The first title also included RPG character customization elements mixed with a tiny bit of puzzle solving. Add in a cool character and you've got a winner. With such a good formula many wonder how Capcom could have messed up so badly with Devil May Cry 2. Granted it wasn't the worse game of the year, it just wasn't even close to as good as the first game. Gamers were expecting more and they got less. Instead of scrapping the entire Devil May Cry franchise Capcom is giving it another chance with Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening. This time around they went back to the basics of what people loved about the first game, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. The net result is a product that isn't as groundbreaking, but is still a blast to play.

Even though the game is the third title, it's actually a prequel to the series. Players will be in control of a younger Dante, who isn't in tune with his demon powers. The story starts out with Dante setting up his demon hunting office when he's delivered an invitation from his brother Vergil. Dante and his katana wielding brother aren't on friendly terms. It's really Dante's necklace, that contains an artifact from their father that Vergil wants. While Dante is on his way to meeting Vergil he meets a nameless woman who gracefully shoots Dante in the face. This, Lady as Dante calls her, has something out for demons. The gun blazing Lady has a piece of the puzzle too, but what is she exactly doing in this tower? There are a few mysteries that will unfold as you play through the twenty missions.

Like the other two titles Devil May Cry 3 is broken up into different missions. There are twenty in game missions to complete and a bunch of hidden secret missions within the levels. Completing missions means heading to a certain area or beating a boss. The boss fights in Devil May Cry 3 are one of the many memorable features. In an early boss fight you'll face Cerberus, the three headed dog from hell that spits... ice. The first thing you'll notice is that the boss is huge. His large size means he can attack a wide area of the screen, which means players need to maneuver Dante well. On top of that Cerberus has a wide range of attacks like a linear ice breath that can freeze Dante and he can call down a rain of ice crystals. All of these different attacks require players to remember specific counterattack strategies, but just when you think you've learned everything a boss can do it shifts gears. Midway through a fight, sometimes more than once, a boss will completely change it's strategy. Maybe it will use new moves or switch the timing on old ones. In either case this keeps players on their toes. A good example of this is in the fight against a succubus named Nevan. She'll start the battle with a simple spin attack and throwing a few balls of lightning at you. After a few hit's she will begin teleporting a lot more and have a new lightning attack that can hit anything standing on the ground. After losing more life she'll gain another set of attacks to shoot large balls of lightning at you. Once you think it's over she'll completely change her pattern again and start charging towards Dante. Constantly changing patterns keep boss fights intense and Devil May Cry 3 is one intense action game.

The Devil May Cry series made it's mark with stylish combat, so you'd expect flashy Hollywood style moves in DMC 3. It doesn't disappoint in this department. Throw realism out the door because Dante can launch an enemy in the air with his Rebellion sword, juggle them with his two pistols, switch to a guitar to blast them with sound and switch to a shotgun to finish a guy off. All you have to do is lock on to an enemy by pressing R1 and let the moves fly. Some of the longer combos are set up with pauses in the between button presses. This makes the combo system more skill based then just button mashing. At any time Dante can have two hand to hand weapons and two firearms at his disposal. A quick press of the L2 button will change Dante's gun and R2 will alter Dante's equipped weapon. The fast switching weapon system really gives players a chance to do some crazy combos. Couple this with tight responding controls and you have a great combo system.

Each different weapon and gun has a different set of moves to go with them. Dante's basic sword, the Rebellion starts out with the ability to launch an enemy in the air for an aerial rave. The two swords Agni and Rudra are good for close range combat, the built in jet stream move allows Dante to run through a group of enemies slashing his way through. An interesting addition to Dante's arsenal is the electric guitar, Nevan. This guitar can shoot long range blasts of energy and Dante can also hit close enemies with it. If close range combat isn't your forte Dante can get a bunch of firearms too. He starts out with his custom two rapid firing guns, Ebony and Ivory. Found in the game is a close range favorite, the shotgun and a lock on weapon known as the Artemis.

One good move Capcom made is giving players plenty of options to customize their fighting style. By defeating groups of reapers Dante will collect red orbs. He can use these to purchase new moves such as the Stinger and Air Raid from Devil May Cry 1. He can also learn moves like the Windmill, which whips around the Cerberus right in front of him to stop on coming reapers from approaching. Red orbs can also be used to increase the power of Dante's firearms by increasing damage in the case of Ebony & Ivory or by increasing the blast radius for the shotgun. To further customize Dante players are given the choice between four different styles. Each different style changes what action the circle button does. For instance the Swordmaster style gives Dante new moves for each melee weapon. When Dante has the Swordmaster style and the Rebellion equipped he will perform the Prop Shredder, a quick sword spin that can launch enemies in midair. The Gunslinger style is for players who like long range combat. This gives players the ability to do charge shots by holding square and the awesome mid air Rain Storm attack. Trickster is an evasive show off style. Having this equipped allows Dante to run on walls and do a quick dash by tapping circle. Not revealed in the demo version is Royal Guard. This style gives Dante the ability to block by pressing circle. After blocking Dante can release the energy absorbed with a powerful counterattack. Styles can be leveled up with use, unlocking even more powerful moves. Although the way the styles level up doesn't favor switching between them. It takes a lot of time to level up a style because you won't get many style points. In fact the game gives less points if you keep engaging in fights in the same locale. On top of that, bringing a style to level two makes it significantly more powerful and by the time you get a level three style you won't want to change. Most players will be better off focusing on one or two styles than playing around with all four of them.

Mastering a certain style of gameplay is essential for even normal enemy encounters. Basic enemies include grim reapers cleverly named after the deadly sins. Most of these guys are pretty sharp. They will attempt to block bullets by spinning their scythes around and will relentlessly attack Dante. In normal mode they'll know how to surround you and attack in tandem. Even the best action gamers will be kept on their toes in normal mode. Some of the fight sequences are just plain hard and the designers leave no way out for Dante by locking all the doors. For the most part the combat is the hallmark of the game. What really interferes in a between battles is the static camera. Most of the camera angles give good view of action, but in narrow situations the camera doesn't work out. Dante won't know what he's up against. You'll have to attack blindly or not attack at all. Around close corners the game has a similar problem. When the camera angle switches you won't be able to see what's around the corner. You can still blast away with your guns or slash your sword, but you can't see what you're against. This problem could have been solved with a player controlled camera, which Capcom didn't include.

One thing DMC3 downplays is the Devil Trigger. Seen in the first game activating the Devil Trigger changes Dante into a powerful devil. In this form his life will slowly regenerate, his moves will give more damage and most importantly Dante will have a new set of moves. While you'll still get a health upgrade plus a power boost Dante doesn't have demon specific combos like in the first game. It's understandable since Dante is not supposed to be in touch with his demon side. Yet it also makes the Devil Trigger feel incomplete.

Devil May Cry 3 isn't all fighting. There is a fair amount of exploring and item fetching to be done. You'll have to find your way through the levels just to get items to move to the next area. Sometimes this does include a little backtracking, but its not much. There is the occasional puzzle to solve, but these aren't a major part of gameplay. One puzzle has gamers destroy mirrors to make a light beam hit a certain spot. Puzzles and a little bit of item fetching keep the game from being all straightforward action. Exploring can lead to getting treasures like vital stars to recover life and even blue orb fragments that can permanently increase Dante's life. Devil May Cry 3 rewards exploring, but if you're not into that you can ignore exploring all together. It's really up to the player.

Devil May Cry 3 does it's best with the Playstation 2 hardware, while minimizing slowdown. The pre rendered environments look awesome. Plenty of detail and depth is found with a good use of light. Dante has the some of the best flowing movements seen in an action game to date. His animations can switch mid frame from blasting with his guns to slashing with his sword. What will really make your jaw drop are the prerendered fighting scenes. Brilliant choreography is used in this game. Seeing Dante perfectly time a gun shot to hit a cue ball in midair, which ricochets and hits a bunch of other balls directly to a group of ghouls is excellent. There are plenty of action sequences littered through the game. Players can also do their own ridiculous combos, which makes Devil May Cry 3 top notch. On the other hand the game is full of jagged edges and it just doesn't match the graphic prowess of other titles on other systems. Few people would say that Devil May Cry 3 looks better than Resident Evil 4 or Ninja Gaiden. Although, this could be more of a problem with the PS2's age than the game.

The soundtrack in Devil May Cry 3 is sort of mixed. Keeping with the gothic influence Capcom sticks with hard Goth rock songs during battles. The problem is that the same song plays over and over without switching them up. Since you'll be spending most of your time fighting you'll hear the same track constantly. A little more music variety could have helped out. Another thing some gamers may not like are the constant one liners that Dante has before action. Before Dante leaps into action he has to say stuff like "Let's get this party started!" or "Want a kiss from my pistol?". Once in while is OK, but Capcom is trying too hard to make Dante see "cool". Sometimes this comments are just laughable. What the audio does have going for it is full use of Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound. If you have a 5.1 system you'll hear good use of all the channels, which puts you in the action.

Devil May Cry 3 will entertain most gamers for 15-20 hours for a first play through. If you come back for more you can unlock art galleries, new difficulties and a couple of costumes. The different gameplay styles add some replay value, too. If you've played the game through with Trickster, a second run in Royal Guard mode will be a change of pace.

Rest your fears aside if you pre-ordered Devil May Cry 2 and were left disappointed. Devil May Cry 3 rocks. It's a solid action title that will challenge an adult audience. The style system is a definite plus. It allows players to fine tune how they want to play the title. Having plenty of moves, some of which players can purchase makes combat even more rewarding. While not the most innovative game, Devil May Cry 3 has all of the slick combat you would expect out of the title.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1

By default the voices are in English and the subtitles are in Japanese. You can alter the subtitles and voices in the option menu between English, Japanese and Korean. Puzzle hints will still be in Japanese, but they're pretty easy to figure out in any language.

US Bound?

Devil May Cry 3 is scheduled for a March 1st release.

Overall

Devil May Cry 3 is easily the best action game on the PS2 even though it is a little inaccessible due to the extreme difficulty of the title.