After the disappointment of the second game in the series the Devil May Cry franchise had slipped somewhat from the forefront of the publics mind. With Capcom now aiming at the more hard core demographic of the gaming sector Devil May Cry 3 comes with a somewhat re-designed style than its predecessor, this is a good thing.
The story is set before the first Devil May Cry game and shows us the battle between a young trigger happy Dante and his more controlled, swordsman-like, Brother Virgil. Along the way you will encounter a range of strange characters from a demonic jester to a young Demon Hunter looking for revenge. The plot is ridiculous- but in the best possible way.
This third instalment of the series takes the action back to the more confined spaces of the original game- this allows combat to be faster and more focused. The move away from the more open environments means you cannot just wander around shooting at things off screen. This makes for some of the most intense action set pieces playable on this generation of consoles. Trying to describe the combat ‘in-flow’ is impossible, the words have not been created to accurately describe just how fast and hectic the action is.
With the action full on from the start you need a character capable of the task and Dante is a joy to control. The speed at which our hero can be manoeuvred is breath taking, while in other games such as Ninja Gaiden or Castlevania players need to control there movements so they don’t get ahead of themselves here that is not the case. With Dante being lightning quick you can guarantee as soon as you press the button he will carry out the command, even if he’s in the middle of doing something else at the time, this allows you a ridiculous amount of scope for launching attacks against ever increasing hordes of enemies.
Along with the majestic control system Dante is highly customisable, allowing for the players taste. Players have the choice of (initially) four styles which focus on guns, swords, movement or blocking. Each style can be levelled up unlocking more moves as you go. There are also a wide range or firearms and close combat weapons available, any four of which can be equipped and cycled through during a level. This allows for huge combos as you strike with your sword, then mid combo switch to another close combat weapon, before switching to a firearm and so on. It is truly sublime how everything fits together so effortlessly, it seems there should be a pause or break in the action or flow, but it never gives up. try as you might there is nothing the player can do with the control pad that will break Dante’s whirlwind of destruction as he cuts through the enemy (aside from not moving quickly enough).
The flow of action does cause a problem however and sometimes Devil May Cry 3 can be a painful game. With the continuous hammering of buttons as you jump, shoot, strike, jump, doge shoot, roll, jump strike etc, the game does cause very real physical pain. Be warned the title is best enjoyed in short bursts and prolonged play may well cause you a nasty injury, this is the first game we have played which manages to actually damage the player so much. Combo heavy titles such as Tony Hawk have nothing on this?
There are other issues that may niggle at players as well. While not ‘overly’ difficult on the normal setting for most of the game, Devil May Cry 3 is certainly challenging and the fact that when you die you go back to the beginning of the level can become frustrating. It's not a major issue however as levels can be completed in around ten to fifteen minutes but some foresight in terms of boss battles would have been welcome. Making each boss battle a level in itself would have completely removed the problem for example, as there is nothing worse than fighting through a horde of demons only to be stomped by some huge monster at the end and have to restart.
The only other fault that can be levelled is the fact the camera can be in the wrong place at times due to the fixed angles. Again, as rooms tend to be small, enemies giving audible sounds before they attack, the fact you will be moving around so quickly anyway and Dante always aiming towards an enemy when he fires means it is not normally a problem. But if you are low on health battling a boss it is something that makes it just that little bit more difficult.
What makes the title even more adrenaline fuelled are the stunningly choreographed cut scenes. The graphical power of the PS2 may be surpassed by other consoles but the action contained in some of the cut scenes is awsome. Indeed, one concerning the demon hunter is unbelievable. Fighting your way through the challenging levels is definitely worth it to be rewarded with such visual delights, whoever directed the action in these sequences is a genius, it’s as simple as that.
Players will probably manage to get through the game in around eight to ten hours, but there are huge amounts of reasons to replay it. There are extra difficult settings, unlockable costumes and characters, hidden weapons and many moves to be discovered. You can also replay earlier levels allowing you to level up your styles and gain more orbs to buy items, so anyone who invests enough time in the game will get through it.
Overall, Devil May Cry 3 is a very welcome return to form for Dante. The graphics may be beginning to show their age but the fluidity of the action is something unique for the PS2. A reason to buy a PS2? For adrenaline junkies and combo addicts it just might be.