Category: Beat ’em Up


DmCBox

Let me start off by saying that I’m an open-minded guy.  I like new twists on old ideas and while I cherish retro and nostalgia, I also understand the march of progress, in pop culture if nothing else.  When Capcom showed the very first video of the new Devil May Cry reboot, I was genuinely excited.  And really, all throughout it’s development, I was really looking forward to this game.  Each new trailer and screenshot filled me with giddy excitement at the thought of how totally awesome it could be.  And despite all the fanboys and haters whining about it for months, it looks like I was right, suckers; DmC is a marvelous game.  The worst thing about it is it’s title.

It’s Review Time!

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Mission 15: The Trade – We jumped straight into one of the most intense hostage exchange scenes I’ve seen in a game.  Kat is thrown at us by a SWAT team, and we send Lilith back to her master… minus a few pieces.  Virgil shows a knack for dickery, and Mundus decides he’s not gonna let us get away.  He sends a shock-wave that decimates the city, and while Virgil and Kat try to escape in a car, Dante gets pulled into Limbo (again) and has to save their asses (again).  Their car keeps on heading towards large obstacles, and Dante has to move through Limbo and remove them.  It’s a fast-paced platforming obstacle course, which is the best kind of platforming for this game, and the level just bleeds cool, all near-misses and powerful hits and this unstoppable player character.  A few enemies are thrown in, but mostly as a distraction between grapple points.  In any case, after being thrown through the air, almost sliced in half by a tanker ship’s propeller, escaping 20 blocks of city being turned into a lava pit, and going through an elevated train bridge, we manage to meet up and get out of Mundus’ sight.

DmCCar

Might wanna move those boxes…

Mission 16: The Plan – Since Kat’s been in and out of Mundus’ tower, she’s able to formulate the perfect plan for us to attack him.  Dante will attack from Limbo, drawing Mundus’ armies and attention, and Virgil will attack in the real world, disabling security systems and being sneaky-like.  Basically, we got a long tower level ahead of us.  Mundus is already getting pissed and shows the tower’s true form, destroying the nearby area in Limbo.  Another platforming bit to get us to the tower, and then the fighting starts.  And we keep fighting.  And fighting.  And fighting.

The whole thing is accented by an unexpected graphical treat though, where the graphics will take on the look of a chalk drawing on a board and directions and notes will appear, mirroring the map Kat was drawing as she laid out the plan.  It makes for a nice story-telling technique, allowing Kat’s direction and voice-over to happen during a level, instead of relegating all the information to a cutscene.  Also, I really like the whole chalk-drawing look, it just pops and shows up as another great style choice from NinjaTheory.

DmCChalk

Chalk: It’s a good look for the game

Virgil keeps on opening doors, and I keep on running to new areas.  Every type of enemy you can think of is here, and that includes some new stuff, too.  Despite being a great fighting workout, though, there’s not much of note here.  A few wrong turns are made, Virgil can’t disable all of the security, and there’s a particular scene that really stands out, but beyond that it’s pretty much just kill and climb.  It’s long, though, and it makes you work for your progress, and it makes a few statements about evil corporations, and when you get to the end, you know the throwdown is just around the corner.

Mission 17: Furnace of Souls – Okay, maybe no throwdown.  We’re inside ‘the core’ now, a space in Limbo analogous to Mundus’ inner chamber in the real world.  It’s a big ‘ol space with various floating pieces, forming the most awkward staircase ever to his office.  Between huge floating pillars and stone courtyards, there are grapple points and debris, so there will probably be some fast-paced moving soon.  Oh, and just for good measure, every ten seconds or so the souls of the damned are channeled through and if you happen to be in mid-air when it happens, it’s gonna hurt.  Anyways, more enemies, more grappling, and a level design that looks more like Darksiders than DmC thus far.  But once it’s all done, bam baby, we’re at the boss!

DmCFurnace

Seriously, Darksiders…

Mission 18: Demon’s Den – Seriously, another puzzle?  We have to reboot the security system so that we can get into Mundus’ chamber, which means that Dante has to kill stuff in Limbo and grapple around, and Virgil just has to sit in the real world and wait.  Blargh.  Actually, I think this is the first real puzzle room this game has thrown at us.  Basically, we have to follow a path to a room at the end, activate an engine, then kill the demons and find our way back.  Four times.  Each of those engines lights up a pedestal with a shape on it, corresponding to one of four symbols in interconnected rings on the ground.  Once we’re activated the pedestal, we have to rotate the rings on the ground to line up the symbols with their respective pedestal.  I thought it was going to be a bit more tricky, but it’s a fairly easy version of the interconnected rings puzzle, and before long we’ve unlocked it.  I can has boss nao, plz?

Mission 19: Face of the Demon – Well, here we go.  Long cutscenes show that Mundus doesn’t believe humans deserve freedom, and he quickly casts doubt over The Order’s mission for Dante.  Luckily, Dante is a shallow asshole, and gets Mundus raged up real good.  After Mundus demolishes Dante, sending him flying out of the building and taking off after him, Virgil manages to close the Hellgate, the source of Mundus’ power.  For some reason, it looks like Limbo and Earth merge, and demons start appearing to humans everywhere.  It’s enough to take the wind out of him, and Virgil catches him offguard, stabbing him through the back, and starting the real boss fight.  Mundus, of course, opens up his demon form, and makes a towering giant to fight us on the rooftops.

You know he had to have a big 'ol demon form.

You know he had to have a big ‘ol demon form.

Most of the boss is actually trickery, following grapple points and Virgil’s cinematics to make damage, but once we hit a certain point it’s just Dante and Mundus, the way it’s supposed to be.  Definitely not the hardest boss in the game, but he mixes things up and keeps them interesting.  It’s not a boss you’re likely to die on more than once, unlike DMC 1 or 2, but if we’re going for epic in scope, it’s still pretty good.  After roughing him up, we rescue Virgil and beat Mudus once and for all.

Spoiler Alert!

Mission 10: Bad News – Phineas sends us on our way after revealing that Mundus’ greatest weakness is his unborn child, currently gestating inside his mistress, Lilith.  She’s kind of a bitch, if the cutscenes so far are to be believed, but I’m not particularly sure how I feel about going after a fetus to get to the big-bad. Maybe I see some hesitation in Dante’s eyes as well?  Well, we have to take out Bob Barbas first, and luckily, I have no qualms about doing that.

We’re rushed through a great chase sequence trying to get to the tower, as it’s defense system keeps sending energy beams out to fry us, and we keep on getting past them.  It’s a fast-paced platforming segment with lots of grappling and gliding over a massive empty pit, and really hits all the right notes to keep you moving.  Once we hit the tower and smash into the front screen, we’re treated to another platforming segment, and the level design guys get another chance to mix things up, designing a large space that looks like we’re travelling inside of a logo.  It’s the perfect combination of sharp edges and embossed platforms, with colors and names flying by as we jump from area to area.  Despite it’s short length, it’s visually striking, and really helps the area to stand out compared to most of the Limbo we’ve seen.

DmCBarbasBoss

I know we call them ‘talking heads’, but this is ridiculous

On the other side of this area is the big man himself, Bob Barbas.  He appears as a big floating head, and liberal use of static motifs and pixelation add a nice flair.  He’s not too difficult, just another boss with some pretty obvious damage patterns, but he provides an okay challenge during his invincible cycle before we crack his shields and wail on him for the interim.  Throughout the battle newscasts and interviews keep playing, spinning propaganda to make Dante and The Order look like horrible, degenerate people. It’s an interesting look at how a few lying people can be used to totally slant a news story, and a deep thread of distrust in the media is accelerated when Bob shows footage of a SWAT attack on The Order’s headquarters to throw Dante off his game.  Doesn’t stop us though, and once we kill Bob, we’re granted another new weapon, the Aquila.  Woo-hoo!  It’s a crowd-control weapon with crazy juggle and range, and low damage, so we’ll be abusing it in the future.

Mission 11: The Order – Next on agenda is to head to The Order’s headquarters and make sure they’re okay.  It looks like the SWAT team from Bob’s footage have just gotten here, so he was lying.  Phew, good.  But we don’t have much time before they blast their way in, and they’re shooting to kill everyone.  We head for the back door, but are pulled into Limbo immediately of course.

The place was a mess even before the SWAT team broke in

The place was a mess even before the SWAT team broke in

Most of the mission is just spent trying to get through the myriad tunnels that make up The Order’s headquarters.  Since we’re in Limbo, we can’t do anything to stop the SWAT team from killing all of the people inside, or even slow them down from moving deeper into the complex.  Saving Kat is paramount since Virgil and Dante can both escape through Limbo, but these demons just aren’t letting up, and we have to carve our way through endless walkways and a new super-assassin-ninja demon before we finally get to Kat.

Mission 12: Under Siege – Kat’s pretty much stuck, but she’s able to make grapple points that I can pull through Limbo in order to affect the real world.  Nice to have a witch around sometimes.  With her pointing me at walls to break down, we sneak and crash our way through the headquarters in a rare no-fighting section of the game.  Seriously, I can’t even attack.  It adds a nice touch of drama, though, highlighting that Dante is significantly more bad-ass than humans, and shows Kat in a situation where she’s terrified, but still needs to move forward.

We head to the mainframe, where Virgil is.  He’s stuck in Limbo too (but gives us a shotgun), and needs Kat to run through the self-destruct sequence to make sure the enemy doesn’t get their hands on his data.  So we got SWAT guys coming for Kat in the real world, demons warping in from Limbo, and those two are clicking around on a computer.  Typical.  They basically let me know they need to stall for time, so we open the floor up for ten minutes or so of some serious demon-destroying, and the combat is still fun enough that these long ‘challenge room’ style segments still aren’t getting old.  After they finish priming the self-destruct, Dante and Virgil escape through Limbo, and Kat gets captured (roughly) by the bad guys.

Normally I love visitors, but that's just rude.

Normally I love visitors, but that’s just rude.

Mission 13: Devil’s Dalliance – We rejoin Virgil and Dante as they’re viewing a ransom video from Mundus.  It seems like Kat’s still alive, and Mundus just knows that Virgil’s the head of The Order, not that he’s Dante’s brother or also a Nephilim.  Mundus’ proposal is to trade Kat for Dante, but Dante suggests they take down Lilith and Mundus’ child, and use them for trade instead.  After some deep brother standoff, Dante heads off to Lilith’s club to take her down.

We’re not in there long before a demon spots us and drags us into Limbo.  Lilith herself is there as well, and she throws us through a gauntlet of enemies and platforming in order for use to challenge her.  Also, her unborn baby keeps on expanding her midsection, making it look more like she’s carrying an Alien chest-burster than a baby.  Eww.  The level design is pretty awesome, awash with lights and colors and lasers and sound, totally nightclub-inspired.  It’s flashy, it’s fun,  it’s fast-paced, and it lends itself well to the obstacle course setting by throwing a few new tricks at us.  The ninja-dude shows up again at the end, as well as more new variations on old enemies before we finally make it through the course and back to Lilith.

The level design is excellent

The level design is excellent

Mission 14: Last Dance – Woo, lots has happened!  Lilith decides that killing us would make her look pretty awesome in Mundus’ eyes, but it’s not her that does the killing.  The demon-baby explodes out of her, attached by an umbilical cord that connects to her head like some kind of grotesque ponytail.  Again, I’m giving the designers credit, because this is is a visceral, gross mass of boss-meat, and it’s perfect.

Also, it’s a slightly more interesting boss, since ‘baby’ is doing all the damage and protecting mommy for most of the battle.  Only when you deal enough damage to baby does he spit out mommy, allowing you to wail on her for a precious few seconds before he absorbs her back into his protective… guts.  Baby also only has one weak point, which you have to grapple to get to, so it’s much more of a cat-and-mouse routine than previous bosses, and a few deaths at the hands of this boss reminded me that Aquila may be fast, but it’s not powerful.  Note to self: use Rebellion when you want to deal damage.

A face only a mother could love

A face only a mother could love

Once we beat them both to a pulp, she’s taken back to our hideout, and our counter-offer is mailed back to Mundus.  He’s not really happy about this, and it seems like a good high note to end on.

14-02-13

Still in Mission 7, running through the upside-down world beneath the water’s reflection, and trying to make my way to the Raptor News tower.  The game continues to throw new enemies at me, which keeps things interesting, and the addition of Eryx’s massive charge attacks are making for some fun mid-air combos.  This mission has way more floating platforms than previous levels too, so they’re really pushing the importance of using the Angle and Devil grapples as a system of movement.

DMCPhineas

Phinea-oh-my-god-whats-wrong-with-your-head!?!

After trashing our way across a bridge we arrive at a prison of the damned, where Barbas keeps his political prisoners trapped in Limbo.  Oh, and it’s upside down, like everything else in this mission.  More platforming and jumping puzzles, along with new twists on boosting out of Angel Lifts.  They’re really going for a Silent Hill aesthetic on the prison, so there’s a lot of chain link and rust to move across whilst kicking ass.  Before too long, we run into a pack of Harpies attacking an old demon, and we scatter them for him.  He says he’ll help us get to the Tower, as long as we help him first.

Mission 8: Eyeless – Phineas, the old demon, tells us that the Harpies have stolen his eye (which is also half of his head) and he’s trapped in Limbo, helpless, unless we can retrieve it.  He lures the Harpies out by playing bait, and leaves me to follow them into their lair in the subway tunnels.  It’s mostly a game of follow-the-leader, as the path leads me into rooms of enemies and slightly maze-like tunnels before giving me a glimpse of the target and repeating the same thing over again.

DmCCeling

Caution: Breakable

Finally we get to a huge room with a massive domed glass ceiling, which happens to be the floor in our topsy-turvy world.  The glass shatters and sends you to your death if you stay on it for too long, or hit it with too many attacks, so battling suddenly becomes much less brawly and a whole lot more surgical.  The Harpies don’t help either, attacking the glass and really limiting your ability to move around, so all in all it’s a pretty good battle before we slice the last one and claim Phineas’ eye.  After that, we basically just retrace our steps and head back, killing more swarms of demons along the way.  Once we return Phin’s eye (which is a steampunk dream and includes the missing half of his head), we get a formal introduction and a promise to help us get to the tower.

Mission 9: Devil Inside – Phineas gets us across a huge chasm by blasting it with his eye, putting home the point that perspective is a big deal in Limbo.  We meet up with him ahead, in front of a huge statue of a woman.  Her name was Assiel, and he informs us that she was a member of the Nephilim, whom at one time were so numerous as to constitute their own race.  Turns out they were all hunted down and killed ages ago, for fear of the power they possessed.  It looks like she’s holding a key, so we jump over there for another platforming puzzle and a new enemy, the Witch.

DmCWitch

Witches have force-fields, which is very unhelpful

The key drops us into another memory/tutorial/puzzle area, typically given before a new ability.  Once we take it down, we unlock a final message from our mother, and gain the Devil Trigger ability.  SWEET!  Also, his hair went white again, so stop complaining, internet!  After that, the level is a pretty typical run-through with a bit of an uptick on the difficulty curve, probably to encourage you to use DT and get the hang of it.  Some puzzles, some enemies, and we find out that a shock of the white hair is permanent now.  I guess we’re almost at the tower?

I dropped back into the mission I quit in the middle of last night, tearing down a few waves of enemies in the soft-drink manufacturing plant.  After getting around the environmental hazard, it wasn’t so bad, and I cleared the mission.  Typical.

Mission 6: Secret Ingredient – Looks like we have to descend into the bowels (hopefully not literally) of the plant in order to find the Succubus that’s running the place.  It turns out to be a timed run through a long tunnel full of enemies and puzzles.  The level itself is pretty short, before it opens out into a boss fight with the ugliest Succubus I’ve ever seen rendered.  Aren’t succubi sex demons?  Traditionally taking the form of unnaturally attractive women in order to seduce men?  This is no such beast.

You're supposed to be sexy!  Get out!

You’re supposed to be sexy! Get out!

Prior to the boss fight, though, I wanted to touch on a couple of things.  The first is the soundtrack which I’m really enjoying.  The series has traditionally had heavy industrial metal influences in the fight music, with some dark electronic and orchestral stuff rounding out exploration and cutscenes, and it’s nice to see that kept up to spec here.  I was terrified that it would be an dearth of dubstep and shitty bass frequencies, but they’ve kept a lot of rock guitar stuff mixed in.  To whoever selected and produced the soundtrack, thank you for keeping the spirit of the series.

The other is less a comment on DmC, and more of a general statement about game development.  I’m thrilled that we have mainstream game characters with bad American accents, which is what happens when European and Japanese studios create American game characters, and then have them voice-acted.  Ninja Theory, being a British developer, probably had a whole bunch of British actors audition with American accents for the role of Dante.  Just like Quantic Dream had French actors (at least one) do American accents for Heavy Rain.  For one thing, after subjecting the rest of the world to our crappy versions of their accents for ages, it’s nice to see the tables turned.  And also, it means that big, professional, well-produced games are coming from a global scale, not the America/Japan Big Two of gaming.

The Succubus boss is good, actually.  Still too easy on the combat, but had some puzzles and stuff to beat her properly.  Not bad for the first serious boss of the game, and more fun and interactive than a standard hack-n-slash boss.  But we overcame her, killed her ass and sent her back to hell.  Mundus also feels it when the Succubus dies, so now it seems that he’s going to be taking Dante seriously.  Oh, and we got a new weapon!  Like we don’t already have four?

Mission 7: Overturn – Now we’re headed after Mundus’ media empire, attacking it’s central headquarters in Limbo and killing the CEO (and certified douchebag) Bob Barbas, a right-wing media dictator.  The level begins with some jumping puzzles and an introduction to the new weapon Eryx, a fire-fisted punching attack straight from DMC1.  We use it to smash through a number of environmental puzzles, and learn to use it’s charge-up attacks as new ways to dispatch old foes.  We’re off for the night, though, got a life to live.

Ah, Ifrit, it's good to see you agai... oh, what?  Eryx?  Whatever.

Ah, Ifrit, it’s good to see you agai… oh, what? Eryx? Whatever.

Okay, so we’ve established characters, now onto the plot.  We kick off with Vergil explaining that we’re Nephilim, the offspring of an angel and a demon.  The Big Bad, Mundus (hooray, throwback) killed our mother, an Angel, and banished our father, Sparda.  I’m seriously digging the way they’re keeping characters and really expanding on background for the first time.  The first Devil May Cry never really felt like a personal quest, y’know?  It had personal elements, but it was pretty vague and confusing at times.  This time, as they say, it’s personal.

DmCArbiter

New weapons: Arbiter…

Dante gets sucked back to Limbo after some talking, and we throw down on some bad guys.  I’m still having a time getting the hang of chaining gracefully (been a few days) but it sure is fun.  The combat remains fast, plentiful, and stylish, which is exactly what we came here to do.  It’s still kinda easy, but that could change anytime.  And they’re still pushing new abilities on me, and I’m becoming really appreciative of the quick tutorial levels they force me through in order to understand an ability.  Lotsa a different button combinations (in terms of hold X + press X) and it all needs to  move to muscle memory sooner rather than later.

Vergil fills us in that Mundus can be killed, we basically just have to make him angry and stupid.  We’re going to attack his business operations to get him all frazzled, and then kill his ass.  And since he’s a legitimate businessman to the public, that will make us the bad guy.  Oh well.  Doesn’t seem like Dante’s too concerned about public perception anyway.  Let’s go wreck some stuff.

... and Osiris

… and Osiris

One thing that I’m genuinely enjoying is how often new enemies are brought into play.  There’s a constant stream of variations on enemies, each with a new strategy, and it really helps to keep big melee fights interesting.  And I’m TOTALLY digging the fact that I can re-spec my abilities anytime.  It’s allowed me to very quickly acquire a small, diverse subset of moves that I can rely on for general use, and can chain into easily.  Again, that might be considered ‘easy’, but it feels more fun, and that’s really the point, isn’t it?

The next mission see’s us heading out to take down a soft drink factory (how bad-ass are we?) that has a high-level Succubus in the depths.  Again, I’m totally enjoying how Limbo is being portrayed as this side-dimension where anything is possible.  It brings back fond Silent Hill reflections, and does great things for platforming sections and jumping puzzles.  And here’s another DMC2 comparison: environments.  DMC1 was in this huge castle-thing, 3 took place mostly in the tower (although the city sections in the beginning do show a resemblance), and 4 was a little more ethereal.  DMC2 had this weird industrial vibe as you prowled around factories and cities, warping into the “Demon World” at some points in the game in order to find new paths.  Just a thing I noticed. Anyways, we’ll finish this mission tomorrow, since it’s almost 3AM again.

17-01-13-3

DmCTitle

I’ll be honest, I’m terribly excited for this game.  Ninja Theory and I don’t have any relationship to speak of, besides the fact that I loved the concept for Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.  I haven’t even played their original lack-luster-buster, Heavenly Sword, so I’m all ready for them to wow me with a new take on a series I love.

I’m playing this on PS3 despite my better judgement, because of tradition (if nothing else).  DMC 1-3 were always in my PS2, and I’ve probably played through the entire series a half-dozen times, despite having a million other games to play at any given time.  I’m also a huge fan of the stylish action genre, which has more focus on chaining and combos than a straight-up action game like, say, God of War.  That’s why Platinum Games’ Bayonetta currently occupies a top spot in my “favourite games ever” list.  Anyways, I digress, DMC and Playstation go together for me like peanut butter and chocolate (even though I beat and thoroughly enjoyed DMC 4 on 360… no, stop!)

The first thing I notice about the game?  LOADING TIMES!  Dammit, PS3, I knew this was a bad idea!  Mandatory install, fine.  Wait it out.  No opening cinematic either, they just jump you straight to the Main Menu and file select screen.  I opened up a new file, and got ready to slash.

This iteration has a new focus on launching enemies

This iteration has a new focus on launching enemies

The opening cinematic is a little choppy, and we’re getting texture pop-ins happening.  Did we make the wrong choice?  Maybe 360 would’ve been a better idea?  Nah, we’ll run with it.  So, a bunch of long cutscenes, an introduction to the newly (incredibly) sexy Dante, and we’re chopping up little hell-robot things.  Woot, it’s DMC!  Combat feels a little restrictive right now, but we only have the basic moves.  They’ve also gotten rid of the target system, so flowing from target to target feels a little smoother now.  It also, however, stops you from being precise with your guns to keep your combo or stun going.  Not a huge deal, though.  It all feels pretty good, and takes me through a quick tutorial of stuff I should already be familiar with.

Most of the combat in the game takes place in Limbo, which is a purgatory-esque dimension that exists in the same space as our own, albeit on a different ‘wavelength’, if you will.  As such, beings can exist in purgatory and not interact with people on Earth, but physical changes in one can impact the other.  So all the crazy hellish environments from previous games now have a reason to exist in a more realistic setting.  We pick up Ebony and Ivory before too long, and it’s like riding a bike.  Combos leap, enemies are juggled, and I start to get the hang of the new focus on air juggling.

But some good old stabs will still do the trick

But some good old stabs will still do the trick

In the story so far, it seems like the Demons, this time, are the corporations (DMC 2 kinda touched on this, with Arius’ company).  They’re in the money, in the politics, and in the law.  It’s one of my favourite representations of evil, since it’s just a ‘harmless’ extension of human nature.  Whoever said “battles are now fought in boardrooms” was a genius.  We were introduced to the Big Bad in the opening cinematics, just as he finished blackmailing the US President.  He’s itching to kill Dante, and while we’re not exactly sure what the motivation is, chances are good it’ll be revealed before much longer.  We’ve already been introduced to Kat, a medium and witch who helps to guide us through Limbo, although the hints are up that she’s working for someone bigger.

17-01-13-2

Dante's Inferno

God of War, as told by a 14-century poet

So, initial impressions.  The very first thing that strikes me about Dante’s Inferno (besides the lunacy of using a 14-century poem from the Divine Comedy as the basis of a dark hack’n’slash) is that it ain’t no Bayonetta.  Of course, what is?  And if I let one incredible game rule how I see an entire genre for the rest of my life, I can only imagine that I’ll remain disappointed for some time.

In any case, let’s judge the game by the genre’s standards, not those of another creation.  Dante’s Inferno feels… wrong.  For some reason, I’m finding it pretty hard to stay clicked into it.  Sure, it has all the bells and whistles that we’ve come to expect from a big-budget brawler, but something about it edges me off.  Maybe that’s the whole point.

Dante’s Inferno is obviously loosely based on Inferno, the first part of a 14-century epic poem by one Dante Alighieri, who incidentally is credited as being the father of the written Italian language, with the Divine Comedy possibly being the very first book published in the colloquial tongue, as opposed to Latin.  The only way that relates to this game is that I saw a more accurate portrayal of the renowned writer in Assassin’s Creeed II, where he was shown as an Italian poet, not a British-American soldier from the Crusades.

I’ve played through the first couple sections of the game, and so far it’s pretty by-the-book.  The combat system is adequate, utilizing the same light/heavy attack, block-and-counter, right-stick-to-dodge system that we’ve all become comfortable with in the post-God of War era of action games.  The difficulty is solid, the camera is adequate, the enemies and levels are intriguing (both on a visual level, as well as a philosophical), and the storytelling is competent.  The Punish/Absolve system puts a nice spin on combat, letting you decide whether to level up your Evil or Good powers, and unlocking further sections of a fairly large tech tree.  While most of the techs in the tree are underused and/or unnecessary, it does help to relieve some of the pounding action game formula by making your upgrades more strategic than your typical brawler.

Despite my issues with cramming the Dante of history into the Dante of this game-world, Dante’s Inferno is a pretty cool look at some of the environments that Dante traverses in the original Inferno.  Despite being a thoroughly modern interpretation, the environments and levels (each representing a traditional circle of Hell like Limbo, Lust, and Gluttony) are stacked with interpretations and allegory, and make for some good viewing when you’re not ripping apart demonic hordes with the scythe of Death himself.

I’ll keep working at this one, but it might be a while before I finish it.

Yea, he looks that cool in the game, too.

Well, since I’ve finally completed all of the console Zelda games, I was looking for something else in that vein. A friend recommended this one to me, telling me that it maintained a Zelda-esque adventure feel, combined with open world exploration. I told him I was down, and that was that.

After tucking a few hours into it, I can safely say that Darksiders fills the action-adventure niche on the 360 nicely. Despite the large library available to the 360 as a console, few games provide this kind of open world, progressive, skill-based system, reminiscent of the best parts of Zelda and Metroidvania.

For starters, the battle sequences of the game have more in common with stylish action games like Devil May Cry or God of War. War, the protagonist, has a variety of combos and weapons at his disposal, and stringing together long combos and stylish finishes is all part and parcel of getting from Point A to Point B.  But also impeding your way, in the style of a good adventure game, is the lack of abilities you have.  As you quest through the game, more an more abilities are unlocked or bought, some just adding to the fighting and damage you’re dealing, but a great many of these same abilities and weapons also allow you to open new paths and get to areas that were previously inaccessible.  So, yea.  Zelda?

The game started off right in the middle of a lot of stuff happening (which is a really great way for action games to give you a taste of what’s to come, and to swing together some quick tutorial segments).  After some initial monter-destroying, and a first boss battle, War gets taken down by his “employers”, the Charred Council, who are in charge of keeping the balance of the forces of Heaven and Hell, until the Human race world can eventually step up to take it’s place among those two celestial superpowers.  Something’s gone wrong, and Heaven and Hell have declared war on each other before the proper time, and the Earth is their battleground.  War shows up, thinking that this is the apocalypse he’s been waiting for, but a few words and glances of other people involved gives him the idea that not everything is happening the way it should be.

And you think *your* boss is imposing?

So after the world is destroyed, War is re-awakened by the Charred Council, big stone dudes who put the blame for the early apocalypse and the subsequent extinction of the human race on him, and they task him with finding a way to set things right (or die trying) or to just die.  Which would you choose?  Also, they perform what I call ‘The Big Reset’, which is what happens whenever your ultra-powerful character gets all his abilities and what-not stripped from him, and set you out into the world.

The world, despite being destroyed, is pretty gorgeous.  The art as a whole from this game looks like it was ripped straight from an Image Comic, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Spawn pop out of a random corner.  Graphically, I’m getting some slowdown here and there, but the loading times seem minimal for an open-world game, and there’s lots of nooks and crannies to explore.  So far, I’m lovin’ the world of Darksiders, and I can’t wait to see what happens.