March 7, 2013
While Dante's mind trip involved unlocking memories and powers that encouraged him to become a hero, Vergil's is an inverted spiritual journey tasked with "cleansing" himself of the last remaining vistas of his humanity; his failed friendship with Kat, his newly lit hatred for Dante, and casting aside his mother's hopes and expectations . As Vergil accepts that's he's actually okay with each, he draws closer to the familiar grounds of his original Japanese counterpart.
This is obviously a premise that holds a lot of potential, but it isn't truly realized in large part to a rushed narrative told through rough sketch art animation. The validity of its utilization is often questionable as in-game cinematics pick up immediately where they end, while certain sections primarily consist of traditional CG. This makes for a lopsided presentation. Toss in a droning musical score and audio bugs that cuts sound in and out during score report intermissions and any solid connection towards the game stagnates.
Further wearing on it is the traverse of the levitated terrain. If you weren't a fan of the platforming elements, Downfall is an adventure fraught in such treachery. An early portion has you left wondering where to go next as you stand on a dying structure with no feasible next step in sight. In contrast to the main game, the stages designed for Downfall are recycled and lacking in felt interactivity. Instead of using angelic and demonic whips, Vergil flings swords that either teleport him towards ledges or vice versa. Sounds cool, but doesn't even look nearly as such.
Although Dante is considered the wild child of the demonic duo, there is a juxtaposition in gameplay as opposed to each brothers' conceived respective styles. Dante plays more with degrees of control and versatility, but despite being always conveyed as having refined finesse, Vergil plays stiff, with fewer fixed reps of slashes breeding a constrained default damage output.
Signature moves such as Rapid Slash, Judgment Cut, Helm Breaker, and Killer Bee make their return. Compared to Dante however, Vergil's prowess in pulling off stylish combos is a bit taxing as many of these attacks are linear in form. But as a gent who says no to guns, Vergil uses Summon Sword projectiles that can be called out at any time, even in the middle of attacks, which does pepper in some variety. Interestingly enough, while Vergil may fight in a rigid manner, he somehow has an easier time against the more annoying adversaries in Dante's tale.
Many of the special moves tend to have Vergil covering a lot of distance, which in the case of the tripped out, platforming setting, is not entirely a good thing. Often times, its unintentionally falling off ledges that is the crux of damage taken and accumulates in frustration, thus the stages suffocates the opportunity to go all out with little consequence. No, you can't play as Vergil in Bloody Palace.
In hindsight, the choice of having Vergil carbon copy Dante's angel/demon mechanics is about as pointless as it is uncreative. An Xmas present trove of varied weapons was bestowed on Dante but nothing was left under the tree for Vergil who instead uses the dual system for accessing certain special moves. The angel side provides the most useful attacks whereas the devil half is only useful to break enemy shields.
Unlike Dante's Devil Trigger, Vergil's doesn't cause him to transform into a higher being. Rather, the Devil Trigger meter is akin to that of a fighting game super gauge that grants the powerful signature specials of Spiral Swords and Blistering Swords. Each consumes a different amount of meter. Combining the use of both "supers" coupled with constant Rapid Slashes makes for effortless SSS rank combos.
By the time you start getting the hang of Vergil's abilities and unlock his ultimate technique, Doppelganger, you're already at the end of the game. Instead of an epic last boss fight, Downfall goes for the standard go-for-broke coliseum challenge of fighting your way through every enemy in sight. Come the final drawn cutscene and credits, that feeling of ambivalence for having spent money on a 1-2 hour hot mess begins setting in and any memory of DmC being a joy is suddenly challenged.
To say that Vergil's Downfall is a disappointment in just about every way is an understatement. Poor stage designs, lackluster choice in cutscene art, and ketchup packet length - there's nothing about it that really expands on DmC's lore other than a dull illustration of the obvious to come in the life of Dante and Vergil. Reasons that justify why any self-respecting individual should spend a burger and fries worth on this DLC are difficult to come by.
DmC: Devil May Cry - Vergil's Downfall was reviewed on the PS3.