| paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Beat_em_up; loc=NA]
|I thought a fast action game with guns, swords, and style would be right up my alley, but after struggling with this one for a while I'm giving up on it. I'm not very good at it, apparently, which is one thing, but although I considered trying again on an easier difficulty level (which only opens up once you get a certain way through the game (??)), I don't think it's the difficulty exactly that I have a problem with, but rather the game's creation of difficulty through frustrating controls and intentionally unintuitive design.
Let's get the good out of the way first. The game looks gorgeous, with rich gothic locations rendered at a uniformly high framerate. These locations are divided up into bite-sized sections, usually just one room in size, but load times between them (at least on my PS3) are almost nonexistent. Character animation is incredibly smooth, and your attacks are blisteringly fast, sending enemies flipping into the air or flying to pieces with satisfying alacrity.
Now, on to the bad. Picking it apart element by element would be boring and lengthy, so I'll just stick to narrating one particularly frustrating sequence of events. Some of the parts described are visible in the attached video.
After passing a tough boss fight against a giant lava spider in a cathedral (let's not dwell on this) I began the next "mission," or stage, if you will, finding myself just outside the cathedral's side doors, a spot I'd come through on the way there. There is, in fact, quite a bit of backtracking in the game, even in the early parts I played through. An easily accessible 3-D, color-coded map makes it fairly easy to sort out where you are, where you've been, and where you need to go, but it's a little annoying to keep finding yourself at a locked door, then having to take a lengthy detour, knowing you'll just have to get some sort of key and fight your way back. Ah, you see, I should mention that enemies respawn each time you re-enter an area, no matter how thoroughly you annihilated them the last time.
Having sort of forgotten the particular track I was moving back along, I spun around and re-entered the cathedral, unwittingly stumbling across a "secret mission" there in which I could gain a powerup item by killing 100 little insects crawling around on the cathedral floor within a very strict time limit. This seems straightforward on the face of things, but the limit is so strict that you can't waste any time looking for the bugs--you have to know exactly where they are, which means that you will be repeating this mission at least once before you're able to figure out their positions and the best way to move between them: it is designed in such a way that you are meant to fail and have to re-try. Not cool.
Hunting the bugs across the cathedral, you'll come across one problem that was infuriatingly apparent during the previous boss battle here: the camera angles. The game uses pre-set camera positions for different parts of a single room, so you'll be watching the action from one angle at one moment, and then with the next step, without warning, you're suddenly watching--and controlling--from an entirely different point of view. If you keep the direction held on the analog stick while this control switch takes place, you'll keep moving in the same direction in which you were going, until you let the stick re-center to neutral. In some cases this is useful, but mostly it's terribly confusing, because all of a sudden up is no longer up, left is no longer left, and so on. Final Fantasy X (see entry 752) had this same screwy control scheme, but at least in that game you weren't actually trying to fight while navigating the areas.
Many of the camera angles the game has set for you will obscure the action, so you suddenly won't be able to see your target, or your intended destination, and in these moments of blindness and disorientation the game will often gank you mercilessly. More on that later.
Another issue came up while hunting the bugs: the aiming sometimes gets confused. To fire your selected guns, you hold down R1, locking on to..hm...well whatever target the game wants you to lock onto, and then you press the fire button. If you lose the target, or kill it, you switch to the next available target. All well and good, until the game decides not to switch to the next available target (bugs on the floor all around me), and instead just shoots straight ahead into the wall. This kept happening, and each time it did, I had to retry the challenge, because the loss of time shooting at nothing made it impossible to beat the time limit.
Finally finishing that, I saved my game. Saving in Devil May Cry does not actually save your position: it only saves your inventory, the status of optional triggers like that bug-shooting secret mission, and the powerups in the level. More on that in a bit.
Now I went back out of the cathedral and back toward a force-field I hadn't been able to pass before, but whose key I'd gained by defeating the lava spider. A simple stroll 100 feet back along a corridor...only now the lava spider is here, right behind me, shooting fireballs much more rapidly than he did during the boss battle I *just* got through against him, in which he was finally completely and utterly defeated.
Well, here he is again, spitting lava at me a split-second after I regain control of my character following the "surprise" cutscene in which he jumps out of nowhere behind me in the corridor. If you don't jump immediately, you get hit by his first fireball. You aren't given more than a split-second to react to this whole development, but still it would probably be all right, only now the camera has moved to a spot roughly somewhere in front of your shins, pointing backward, and you can't really see the spider clearly past your own body.
Jumping over the spider, which was the only way I was able to defeat him in the battle immediately prior, no longer works (I died discovering this). If you engage your devil meter thingy to kick in a power boost, and hack away it him while he rushes at you spitting lava balls, you can just barely defeat him, at the cost of all of your devil energy, and almost all of your health (apparently you can make a fool of his AI by flying around above him in devil mode, a trick I wasn't aware of at the time); this isn't really worth it, because while you can buy items to restock your vital supplies in a convenient room at the end of the hallway, it costs quite a few "red gems" to do so--maybe the amount you'd get from killing fifty normal enemies, I dunno. Then again, you do get gems from the spider, so maybe that evened it out.
Anyway, I didn't like getting almost killed, so eventually I figured out that I could run straight ahead into the screen, blindly moving down the hallway, until I came to the first side door I couldn't really see approaching, and ducked through it back to a yet earlier stage in the game; pop back into the hallway and voila, the spider has vanished. Lovely. Don't make the mistake of looping back to the cathedral door, though, because then the spider will come back when you turn back around yet again.
Now, if you pop across the hall into the aforementioned room with the item shop, you'll hit a second secret mission in this...mission: kill 100 little spiders again, but this time, without using a weapon--which means you have to trample them. You're in a small library room, and all you can do is run around like a madman: simple, right?
Not so: halfway across this tiny room, the camera switches to a nearly 180 degree opposed view, reversing your control directions. You thought you were going to move in a nice efficient circle, but now it's a straight line, and you've blundered off to the side of the room, missing the milling mass of spiders, losing critical time, and subsequently losing the secret mission. Leave the room and try, try again. This positioning of the spiders right at the camera switch point could not have been accidental; the challenge is not really to defeat the spiders, but to defeat the camera switching and control wonkiness. This was a bad decision, because it's actually very not fun.
Moving on...or back...I forget... We pass back through the hallway the spider chased us along, to the door that we for some reason weren't allowed to go through while the spider was chasing us, even though we were able to go through it before we DEFEATED the spider in the cathedral. Now we can magically go through it again, free as a daisy. Oh, I ran past the random and repeating puppet spawns in the hallway. Let me just say a brief word about them.
The main enemies, at least in the early going, are life-sized marionettes, often armed with bladed weapons. They gibber around semi-aimlessly, looking more silly than menacing, but you usually have to take some time ripping them to pieces, although this is often sort of a waste of time, because they'll just be there again each time you have to backtrack through that same spot. They wouldn't really be dangerous at all, except that due to the camera angles you often can't see what they're doing, and then they'll decide to hit you while the camera is being evasive.
Ghosts also crop up as randomish spawns sometimes here, and their schtick lets them fly through the walls of the narrow areas you fight in, so you often miss your attack, and just have to wait for them to re-emerge. And when you do hit them, they turn intangible, so you can't follow up your attack, and just have to wait for them to recover and fly around through the walls again.
So we've ran past all that nonsense and gotten through the once-again-accessible door, and are now facing the force field whose key we got from not-exactly-killing the lava spider in the previous stage. We click the button while running into the force field, hammer on the skip button until it decides to pay attention and let us skip the annoying little scene of the "lion" behind the field awakening, and then we find ourselves in the expected battle against this new creature.
Not surprisingly, the first thing it does is attack. It is surprising, though, that it is actually attacking as the game is coming out of the cut-scene: so while we see it hurl itself high into the air in the cutscene, we may not realize that it is in fact now coming straight down on us just as we regain control, of course following yet another disorienting camera switch. So if you aren't already trying to move aside as the cutscene ends, you get hit, and pretty nastily hit at that.
Well, he's got a cheap piece of us, but if we're still alive, it's on with the battle. This guy's tough, but he doesn't have a life meter, and he doesn't seem to react to being shot. I went to hit him with my electric sword, and found I got hit at the same time, by...something? I tried again, and was hit again, and died. After another death or so, I realised that you actually get hit automatically by some sort of magically-appearing purple spikes each time you whack the "lion" with your sword. So hey, you can't use your sword on it. Well, it was fun dying several times and replaying the stage to find that out.
Turns out that once you've shot it enough, although you couldn't tell this was having any effect, it will sort of dissolve into a glowy black ball for a few seconds. The first time it did this, it was across the room from me, and the camera view I had made it look like it was powering up this glowy thing to fire at me...so I made with the evasive actions. But if you don't run up immediately and thwack the glowy ball (no purple auto-counter-atack this time), the lion gets back up and comes for you again, none the worse for the wear. Rinse and repeat.
Like in the lava spider fight in the previous mission, the camera switches positions mid-room in this area, so you'll be dodging or chasing the lion, the camera will switch, and while you're trying to relearn which end is up, he'll eat you.
The joy of all this is that because saving doesn't actually save your position, you have to restart from the beginning of the stage (oh, unless you spent lots of red gems on a yellow gem, which will let you restart from the doorway--once), which means you get to play through the whole lava spider bit and all.
Once you've finally beaten the lion and his camera tricks, you get through the door to the next area, and think you've got it made. But you don't, because that wasn't the end of the mission, so you still can't save. Instead, after an irritating puzzle, you run headlong into the mission's actual boss (well, he had a life bar, so I think he was really the boss this time), who kills you with his new surprise attack (he nailed me with it while I couldn't see what was happening after climbing a ledge back up to where he was perched), and then you get to repeat the lava spider, the shadow lion, and try the boss again...
Well, at about that point I decided I'd had enough of surprise attacks, bad cameras, and annoying controls to satisfy me. I'll skip ahead to DMC 3 (didn't get 2 after its poor reviews...scary that this first one actually had amazing reviews) and see if that one's improved things any.