Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Dante’s adventure in the slick, flashy, and downright gorgeous DmC Devil May Cry was an experience that completely reinvigorated the entire franchise. As awesome as Dante is, he is only half of the Nephilim lineage. Like Devil May Cry 3, we got to see glimpses of his twin brother Vergil but never got to play the other Son of Sparda until the expected re-release hit store shelves. DmC has a similar plan, but with much less waiting. Vergil’s Downfall comes to downloadable services for an odd price of $9 and even though Vergil isn’t as flexible as Dante, the blue-tinted brother is still a blast to play as.
Talking around the ending of DmC is hard, but suffice to say that Vergil is left in a tough spot when the credits roll. Downfall picks up right after the ending scene with Vergil accidentally getting trapped within Limbo’s hellish confines. Vergil aims to regain his power and be born anew.
Epilogue stories like this are a tough cookie because it can all too easy for gamers to say that it “should have been included.” However, make it too irrelevant and its petty matters won’t compel anyone to actually pick it up. Vergil’s Downfall combines the best of each by giving us a short interesting story while setting up the inevitable sequel. The narrative here isn’t dire, but the obvious nods to what Ninja Theory has in mind will be worth for players to experience.
Content-wise, it shows an interesting internal and external struggle in Vergil, but the flaws come in presentation. Cutscenes aren’t as beautifully animated as they were in the main game. In fact, they are pretty hideous. Presumably to save money and time, instead of real-time scenes, story beats are conveyed through a comic book-like animated style. Jerky and stilted animation coupled with ugly drawings make actually looking at the cutscenes rather unpleasant, even if the dialogue is well-written. Time and budget are crushing factors within the realm of DLC so its understandable why it happened the way it did, it just doesn’t excuse its execution.
Dante had a nearly overwhelming amount of options while slaying demons and, even if Vergil can’t quite keep up, he still has plenty of depth. Being twins, both brothers have enough in common to have combat feel familiar but Vergil has enough new tricks to make himself compelling. Grappling and dashing, while visually different, are nearly identical, but the true nuance comes from the swords and Devil Trigger abilities.
Instead of guns, Vergil hurls summoned swords a la DMC3 at his opponents. Once embedded, the target becomes available to be instantly pulled. Some upgrades can auto-plant swords, giving fast players the ability to stay suspended and move from enemy to enemy with ease. Devil Trigger is also no longer the “win button.” Certain special moves take up chunks of the appropriate bar, but don’t feel too overpowered when used. It recharges so quickly and can easily become a strategy placed within every fight instead of just being a panic button.
Most enemies return with two new additions. The Wisp is a crowmaster-like foe that can only be attacked when a sword is fired at him, making him a thoughtful opponent. The other, the Imprisoner, is actually a pain to fight. Large and hulking like the Titans, the Imprisoner can’t be manipulated by grabs, but is far more annoying because of his attack patterns. Mines gets scattered around the play field, making each fight a careful, tedious bout of tiptoeing around and getting hit every which way. It kills the flow that the other parts of the DLC nail quite nicely. The Imprisoner doesn’t show up often, but he can still put a damper on otherwise brilliantly set up combat.
Other than the previous mentions, Vergil has demon and angel modes, even if each feels anemic when compared to Dante (although totally competent). He also shares a long upgrade tree (with a few typos for good measure), all of the difficulty modes, solid pacing, slick visuals, awesome music, and the shifting (although more narrow) environments from the main game, showing that most strengths made a somewhat smooth transition to this piece of DLC. The inability to play through the main campaign and the Bloody Palace as Vergil is disappointing, but aren’t aspects that should deter your attention from Vergil’s Downfall.
Vergil’s Downfall should be an easy purchase for all DmC Devil May Cry owners. The fair price, chunk of replayability, new character, and engaging epilogue story all make Vergil’s Downfall an attractive proposition for those willing to experience everything DmC related. The quality of this DLC almost makes you forget about Vergil’s fedora. Almost.
Son of Sparda:
+Vergil’s swordplay is different from Dante, but still deep and accessible
+Whets the appetite and plants seeds for an inevitable sequel
+Retains the great pacing, visuals, replay value, music, and dynamic environments from the core game
-Level design can be too narrow
-No Bloody Palace or regular campaign play for Vergil
-Animated cutscenes are rather ugly