This third episode in Capcom's "gothic action" saga serves as a prequel to the first two releases, set before the events of the original Devil May Cry. Though fans of the series know that Dante's supernatural powers are a product of his demonic heritage, this game introduces the hero's half-brother -- another supernaturally gifted half-demon named Virgil, who is just as dedicated to advancing the forces of evil and darkness on Earth as Dante is devoted to promoting justice and good.
Building upon the fast-paced gameplay offered in earlier editions of Devil May Cry, Dante's Awakening allows players to choose from a selection of fighting styles as they take control of the hero. The "Evasive" style emphasizes Dante's speed and dodging abilities, while the "Close Combat" style allows the hero to make good use of melee skills and the "Long Range" style focuses on gunplay. A collection of new and familiar weapons are available, including quick pistols, powerful shotguns, and even a deadly guitar.
Capcom released Devil May Cry back in 2001 and blew PS2 owners away with its speed, graphics and style. After a fairly weak sequel, Capcom had the task of rescuing the reputation of the franchise in the third game, Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening. By all accounts, they succeeded. On its release in 2005 for the PS2, fans were once again blown away; the series had its style back. The speed of the game was better, the moves cooler, the characters colder. Now, over a year later and Capcom have released Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition, a final cut of the game that adds a new playable character, a new game mode and an extra level of difficulty.
If you're not familiar with Devil May Cry, I'll briefly explain the formula. The player controls Dante, a moody half-demon warrior who makes a living killing evil creatures. Controlled from a third-person viewpoint, the series plays very much like a gothic-themed Dynasty Warriors on speed, and high on the cool factor. Enemies can be slashed, blasted and juggled as you cut a bloody path through waves of foes using surprisingly sophisticated combos. As you progress through the game you earn and unlock new abilities that allow even more outlandishly crazy moves to be pulled off. While it's a fairly basic game structurally, it's pulled off with a flair and style that is lacking in many hack and slash games.
Now I've obviously played all of the series bar this special edition on the PS2, and when I found out you could play through the original story with Vergil (Dante's twin brother), I knew I had to have it and simply could not wait until the end of September for the PS2 version. Vergil is perhaps one of coolest characters in the game, but you couldn't actually play as him in Dante's Awakening. With this in mind, I picked up a copy of the PC version to both enjoy the extended edition, and to see how good a port it was.
Before I even started playing, it was obvious that controlling the PC version of the game was going to be a little bit of an issue. This game is not suited to a keyboard in any way. It was designed to work around a controller with 16 buttons (including D-pad) and 2 analogue sticks, nothing else. Bearing this in mind, I ordered myself a nice PS2 controller to USB converter, thinking the game would be controlled just like the PS2 version. Unfortunately I was disappointed. The converter did not work at all, so I had to find something else to use. I tried the trusty Xbox 360 controller - it works with everything right? Wrong. Another controller that Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition has problems with. Although it worked to an extent, it had a problem with the right trigger and the analogue sticks were swapped around, so I had to move Dante around with the right stick. Gamers experienced with this series will know this is at the very least difficult. After a day of searching Google, I finally found a modified driver for the 360 controller which allowed me to swap the sticks around - happy days. With a combination of this and another application that let me bind a button on the controller to a key on the keyboard I was finally on my way.
Ultimately, I managed to play through the whole game with both Dante and Vergil, but playing through with Vergil is the real highlight of this edition. Playing as Vergil is basically the same game as playing with Dante, except with different moves and fighting styles. Unlike his brother, Vergil only has one style of fighting - Dark Slayer. Don't worry; this can still be leveled up using experience points. Otherwise, there's a new introduction cut-scene to the game (which is actually pretty damn cool) but that's about it. Game-play is fast, furious and above all fun. Whether it's words, fists, guns or magical attacks, there's always a wealth of ways to finish off your foes. It's not often the PC plays host to hack and slash games - particularly ones as stylish as this.
Vergil himself has 3 weapons (Yamato, Beowulf and Force Edge), which are all equipped at once so they can be used to make devastatingly long combos. There are still plenty of abilities to learn as you make your way through the game with Vergil, and I'm sure you'll find his abilities fun and quite fresh. Rapid Slash, for example, sees Vergil lunge forward and slice a good chunk of the area behind him, knocking back any enemies it hits. A very nice change from Dante if you're familiar with the series.
In addition to the standard story mode, there's now a new game mode called Bloody Palace. This is basically a survival mode, and can be used with both characters after completing the game. You'll gain orbs from enemies killed, just like in the story mode, and you'll be able to use these to beef up your characters even more for the story mode. This is quite recommended actually, as playing through the story mode again and again to improve your character can become quite repetitive. Having a different mode for this is a really good feature and I'm always trying to beat my previous survival score. As well as Bloody Palace, there are plenty more goodies to unlock upon completing the game in a certain difficulty. There are plenty of reasons to replay the game with each character. This could be for new costumes, new abilities or just through sheer enjoyment of the story.
While I enjoyed hacking my way through DMC3, there were quite a few bugs I found along the way. I'll start with the sound. Devil May Cry has always had an amazing Gothic soundtrack which suits the fast game-play to a tee. This is the same with the PC version and there are even some added tracks for Vergil's story as well. I always enjoyed the music and sound effects in this game on the PS2 version, but in this PC edition I came across countless occurrences of the music completely stopping, a lot of instances of a sound effect looping at twice it's normal volume, and even some sound effects failing to play at all. Sometimes I found myself having to restart the game to get rid of some sound bugs.
The differences in quality between the PS2 and PC version also extend to the graphics. In fact, there are some lighting effects on the PS2 version that are completely missing from the PC version. You may think the game will look better on the PC as you can use higher resolutions, but you'd be wrong. The artists and designers did an amazing job with the PS2 version, and it was all made around the original resolution that the PS2 version would use. I found quite a bit of graphical issues at higher PC resolutions. Don't get excited though, the resolution only goes as high as 1024*768.
I also noticed some pretty strange frame rate problems at times. It would drop way below 30 in most of the battles, which is just unforgivable for a game that looks like this. For while DMC3 has its moments of prettiness, the visuals are ultimately bland on the PC version. Seeing a game like this drop so low in frame rate is quite soul destroying for owners of killer PC's. I experimented a little and tried disabling the music and sound - the frame rate shot straight up. It seems this game has some real serious problems with sound.
You have no idea how much I want to rate the game highly. It really is a fantastic game, but this PC port is horribly spoiled by the fact that it is just that; a port, and a rushed one at that. Finding a controller that supports it can be quite a task and playing it on a keyboard is just a crime. Putting all that aside, it is definitely one of the best action hack 'n slash games made, and the fact that it's available for PC users can only be a good thing. Once you've got around all the bugs and compatibility issues, the game is fast, addictive and above all, fun. Don't go running into it thinking it's a mindless button masher though. This is a game you'll have to become good at in order to complete. If you've played Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening already, then you know what to expect, but the new content is enough for even you to give it another going over. If you've never played it before then there's no excuse for you not to try it.
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