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DMC: Devil May Cry review

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If you’re going to reboot a well-loved long-running franchise that’s never been developed outside of its home country, then make damn sure you get it right.

I think Cambridge-based Ninja Theory did actually.

The game has a strong opening with a boss battle that erupts across a pier and hell within the first 10 minutes with tons of destructible scenery and kick-ass, debonair attitude from Dante – the main player character.

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This excellent character design extends to the rest of the production. Ninja have done a good job on Dante – his character itself is one of the cornerstones of the franchise and whilst they’ve made some changes to him psychologically and physically (most pertinently, where’s his white hair?!) he still exude the cocky swagger and blasé attitude that we’ve come to know and love. The visual design and variety of the demons (another cornerstone of what makes Devil May Cry what it is) that Dante has to fight is of excellent quality, although this is something you can come to count on Ninja Theory for. You can always depend on solid animation, art and digital acting in cutscenes, and this does nothing to buck the trend.

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The action is the final pillar of the franchise, and I’m impressed with that they’ve done here. The combat and in particular the combo system is one of the main pleasures of the franchise and they’ve retained the core elements of sword and gunplay but then provided extra potential for variety and lengthening combos in the form of the demon/angel weapons systems. Here you use the L2/R2 or trigger buttons to hot-switch to a different weapon mid-combo, meaning that you can wield 4 weapons at once – one angel, one demon, one gun and your trusty mainstay sword Rebellion. The number of combos is mind-boggling and, crucially, fun to play with.

There’s never much exploration to be had as such in DMC, but your navigation around the environment feels tight and there’s the occasional environmental puzzle to solve as you work out how to use your new air dash (available from the outset rather than an un-lockable) and whip grapple manoeuvres. The level design however has some great moments where it deviates from the standard (and slightly samey at points) setting in limbo (a hellish tinged version of our world). For me, the sudden change to a neon-electro nightclub and a virtual reality inspired theme from within a TV station left a strong impression.

DMC: Devil May Cry keeps the core features of DMC and iterates on them well. The debonair Dante, complex combat and over the top action are present and correct and better. Considering that this is first time the series has been developed outside of Japan it’s a fantastic achievement that they captured so much about that Japanese original that made it special, and is a very entertaining experience.

Velocity 2X

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Recently I’ve been playing Velocity 2X – one of the more recent games from Brighton-based Futurlab, who also made the excellent Velocity Ultra. In fact, this game is a direct sequel to Velocity Ultra, but with more features and mechanics. In summary, this is a tough, twitch-arcade game that takes place across two main gameplay phases during each level, with each level being connected to the next via a storyline about your character (Captain Kai Tana) attempting to escape some strange alien incarceration and find her way back to her home planet.

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First there are sections where you must pilot a ship through a 2D vertically scrolling level. However, in addition to the usual 2D shoot’em up staples of obstacles to destroy, weapons and energy to collect and aliens to destroy, your ship is also capable of transporting short distances and throwing bombs forward, backwards and to the sides. It’s the quick transport and bombs that lead to the enhanced complexity of Velocity Ultra, since the former can be used to travel across walls and into otherwise unreachable spaces, and the latter can be used to not only destroy aliens but to also hit switches (in order) to disable shields that block your path through the level. You also have the ability to drop a pod in certain locations so you can teleport back there from a long-distance away in the level. This also means that the levels can sometimes become complex and branching, meaning you follow through certain parts of the level and then return to a branching point to explore other branches.

Secondly, there are sections where you must disembark from your ship to run through 2D side-scrolling levels which use many of the same mechanics that you do with your ship – directional lasers, short-distance transport, plus the pod dropping at key intersections/branch points.

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The level design is absolutely outstanding. It begins with well-crafted tutorials that always give you the information that you need but are never heavy-handed. Many of the new features are pre-empted by the short but well-written dialogue in the still frames that give the narrative between each level, with brief messages popping up to tell you how to use those features. Beyond this the levels are well-crafted to train you how to use the new features, but it won’t be long until Futurlab are throwing ever more crafty and taxing situations at you where you have to combine several of your ship and avatars abilities together to proceed.

It’s not often that I feel compelled to replay levels in order to maximise my performance, but I do when playing Velocity 2X. Each level has several ratings to give you and an overall score for how well you performed on the level. After you’ve completed it once it’s difficult to not have another go straight away to see how much better you could do…and another….and another. For someone who tends to just blast through games to finish them and move onto the next one, that’s quite an achievement!

Velocity 2X keeps this up across a variety of levels which never become old. There’s always just enough variety to keep you interested and just enough extra challenge through new combinations of the mechanics to keep you going. Controls are smooth and responsive in both ship and flight sections and you get great satisfaction from solving the puzzles that they present to you; even though you’ll rarely need much cognitive effort to solve them, you get that kind of satisfaction from all the parts ‘falling into place’ regardless.

Finally, the accompanying soundtrack is excellent with fast paced drum and bass grooves underscoring the speedier sections and more beating electronica helping you focus through the rest of it.

A well-rounded, well-designed game that every Vita owner should experience!