DMC - Vergil's Downfall

Review

posted 3/5/2013 by Nathaniel Cohen
other articles by Nathaniel Cohen
Platforms: 360
There are three things I disliked about Vergil’s Downfall, the first downloadable story content for the mostly awesome Devil May Cry reboot, called DmC Devil May Cry. What’s strange is that there is anything I disliked at all. DmC is a game with a simple concept. You kill monsters using an array of stylish and fun attacks and combos, and you hunt for goodies using a slightly smaller array of tools. Toss in interestingly directed cut scenes, and convincingly performed dialogue and you have a great action title. Vergil’s Downfall manages to mess much of that up, unfortunately.

First and foremost, clocking in at a little under four hours, Vergil’s Downfall is too short to get a feel for the combat and the combos. Yes, both of those are basically identical to the main DmC campaign. In fact, there’s not a single new control input and the move list is drastically cut down(all the cross-weapon combos are gone, for example); however, I never really felt like I had a chance to get on top of the combat and make it an expression of my own will. That’s not something I articulated in my DmC review because I wasn’t even aware it was a thing until it was gone. By the last third of DmC, the combat had transcended simple button inputs and had become an extension of my gamer soul - as melodramatic as that sounds, it’s the truth. Comparatively, right up until the abrupt and rather underwhelming ending of Vergil’s Downfall, the combat was still just a series of button inputs and their accompanying on-screen actions.



Another, similar issue, stems from the weapons themselves. In DmC, Dante, and the player through him, got a proper and properly epic introduction to each new weapons and weapon-based ability. Those sequences were tied directly into Dante’s new origin story. Also, each of the four alignment-based weapons had a specific environmental obstacle only it could defeat. None of that exists in Vergil’s Downfall. He gets one single sword that is has “angel” version and a “demon” version (they do light and heavy damage, respectively) instantly accessible, like in DmC, with the left and right trigger. Unfortunately, it’s all incredibly half-assed.

There’s no introduction sequence for either weapon. You just get a message summarizing the new functionality. They don’t even change form, rather, they just faintly glow either blue or red. They each have incredibly basic move lists, and their environmental uses amount to nothing but angel launches and demon pulls that are used during combat and on some rather difficult platforming sequences. Vergil doesn’t even get a gun. Instead, he gets ghost swords. In theory, this is fine. Vergil is different from Dante after all; however, both basic ghost sword attacks fall far on the “underwhelming” side of the scale. One of the two is tied to Vergil’s Devil Trigger which means it can’t even be used all the time. There are a few other slightly cooler ghost sword attacks, but they’re also tied into Vergil’s Devil Trigger so that when you finally unlock what passes for Vergil’s nuclear Devil Trigger option (and that comes waaaaay too late to be of any real use), you’re already way more comfortable spending DT energy on the other ghost sword attacks that you unlocked a long time ago. All in all, everything involving the weapons, their attacks, special uses, and Vergil’s Devil Trigger powers feels really under cooked compared to Dante’s adventure in DmC.



The final issue I had with Vergil’s Downfall has to do with the nature of Vergil’s titular downfall itself. By the way, spoilers abound for much of the rest of this review so if you haven’t finished DmC and don’t want it to be spoiled, you should stop reading and ask yourself why you started in the first place. Anyway, why “Vergil’s Downfall” happens boils down to nothing but “poor Vergil got beaten up by his brother and decided to throw a temper tantrum.” The story picks up right after the ending of DmC with Vergil crawling away mortally wounded. He then meets up with some idealized mirror version of himself that rips his heart out, steals his demon amulet necklace and tells him to basically man-up and get revenge not just on Dante, but other characters that had nothing to do it. He wasn’t exactly kind and altruistic before, but by the end of Vergil’s Downfall, he’s lost any depth he had and replaced it with silly “chaotic evil” villainousess. It’s disappointing to see the series go in that direction. I liked Vergil’s and Dante’s dynamic in DmC, but it’s gone now. At least I think it is, because the story isn’t exactly clear about what is actually going on.

The biggest reason is that the art direction for the cut scenes has been changed from “in-engine animation” to “quasi-hand drawn black and white motion comic.” To call it jarring would be an understatement. It’s especially jarring when the occasional cut scene begins with proper in-engine animation only to switch to quasi-hand drawn in the space of a single frame, then switch back just as abruptly for the scene’s final seconds. For me, that style change has the possibly unintended consequence of making me question whether events that happened during those cut scenes actual happened as they appeared. Vergil does some very ugly things during these hand-drawn segments and it’s unclear to me whether or not I’m supposed to accept them at face value. It also doesn’t help that during these scenes, the animation is muddled and unclear enough to even be sure exactly what you’re seeing.



I’m not saying that the in-engine cut scenes are brilliant or perfect or that hand-drawn cut scenes are garbage and should never be used; it’s just that in this one specific case it seems like an especially misguided decision because it’s jarring and so confusing to the point that it brings the events of the game into question. It’s especially unfortunate because the obvious reason for the switch is simple time and money. In other words, they changed it so they could push it out as soon as possible as cheaply as possible. Obviously, I don’t know that for a fact, but it’s the first, most obvious, and most logical explanation.

The final insult comes thanks to the utter lack of any level variety. The entire story takes place in one single location in limbo - the area in and around Vergil’s and Dante’s childhood estate. There is a lot of that cool environmental shifting Dante experienced, but the environment never changes. You never exit limbo and you’re never not surrounded by fire, brimstone, and red brick masonry. To make matters worse, there’s only one brand new enemy that you fight twice, and the two boss battles are retreads from DmC’s main story.

The word “unfortunate” has come up a lot during this review and it’s because that’s the word that kept coming to mind whenever I though about Vergil’s Downfall. It’s unfortunate that they made Vergil so unlikable. It’s unfortunate that the cut scene art style left so much to be desired, and it’s doubly unfortunate that it was accidentally confusing. It’s unfortunate that DmC strongest aspect - the combat - was pared down. Finally, it’s unfortunate that Vergil’s Downfall got so lost on the way to greatness since they had such a strong roadmap that showed the way.
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