In the default ‘normal’ difficulty mode, you should be prepared to grind some teeth. Even in the easy mode, unlocked once you prove your ineptitude, Dante’s Awakening is no cakewalk. I don’t even like to think about the harder game modes that become available once you complete the game – I suspect only those with catlike reflexes or saintlike patience need apply. Luckily, Devil May Cry 3 packages its action into small, intense chunks of brilliance, meaning most levels can be overcome fairly quickly once you know what tasks must be completed and in which order. If it didn’t, the inability to save mid level, the limited number of free health power-ups and the fact that continues must be paid for would be enough to drive you insane.
Tightly-honed gameplay is only part of this game’s pleasures. Capcom has always had some of the strongest artists and level designers in the business, but with Dante’s Awakening everyone’s at the top of their game. Imagine a Capcom greatest hits, mixing Resident Evil’s strange creatures and queasy body horror with Onimusha’s beyond-weird demonic underworlds, the original Devil May Cry’s twisted, gothic architecture with the odd seedy, seventies disco or strip-club thrown in for good measure. It’s actually slicker and cooler than that sounds: as complete, immersive and distinctive a game world as you’d find in Ico, Zelda, Half-Life 2, or any other classic you might mention.
Special mention has to go to the environments. The opening urban scenes are disappointingly reminiscent of the lacklustre Devil May Cry 2, but the game kicks into high gear with a vast demonic tower and a sinister underworld full of caverns, waterfalls, theatres, temples and mysterious vaults. We’ve all seen levels that take place inside a giant creature, but Dante’s Awakening gives you one so brilliantly realised that you can practically smell the blood, bile and mucus.
And while the combination of effects and music sounds like an S&M video playing in a goth teen’s bedroom while grindcore blasts out in the background – all smacks and screams over thrashing guitars – it actually works pretty well in context. It’s too loud, too brash, and guaranteed to annoy anyone else sitting in the same room, but then that’s pretty much the story of Devil May Cry 3 as a whole.
Most of all, this is a game that bends over backwards to make sure you have fun. Sure it’s dumb, yes, it has a lunatic plot played out in cut-scenes so absurdly melodramatic that Hollyoaks suddenly looks like a work of kitchen-sink realism. Okay, it’s not really an adventure, more a straight-up, balls-to-the-wall hack-and-slasher. But really, none of this matters. The action flows too fast and too fluid to find time to grumble.
Let’s not go overboard. Devil May Cry 3 isn’t a masterpiece. It won’t reinvent genres like Half-Life 2 or Resident Evil 4. What it is, is the perfection of a thrilling gaming formula: solid Devil May Cry – 100 per cent testosterone, no real sense, but no other additives or impurities.
It’s big, it’s not very clever, but it is a lot of fun. Devil May Cry 3 has perfected the formula for demon-battling to a hard rock beat, with the gameplay stripped back to the bone and the graphics and style turned up way past eleven.
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