“Vergil’s Downfall,” the first story expansion for Ninja Theory’s “Devil May Cry” reboot explicitly closes the loop between itself and the PS2-era series. Which is kind of a shame, because instead of the complicated, hero-turned villain of “DmC,” Vergil is brought back around to the maniacal, unknowable villain of “Devil May Cry 3″ by the time the credits roll on “Vergil’s Downfall.”
And while “Vergil’s Downfall” offers some satisfying combat for its protagonist, the changes wrought for Vergil in this half-baked story are far less satisfying.
“Vergil’s Downfall” takes place after the end of the main “Devil May Cry” campaign, our dapper would-be ruler of the world grievously wounded and caught between life and death in limbo. Vergil is literally haunted by the specters of his recent failure to seize control of the world from his brother Dante, and he’s carrying a little bit of a grudge about it as we learn through 2D partially black and white cutscenes. So Vergil wanders the ruins of his wrecked family home, chasing shadows and following the advice of soulless version of himself in order to gain more power to do… something? I missed it in the credits, but I don’t think writer Alex Garland (“Dredd,” “28 Days Later”) was associated with “Vergil’s Downfall” the way he was the main story.
The angry (almost pleasurably juvenile) excesses of “DmC” are traded in here for a wrote side story which files Vergil down so he’ll fit into the characterization of the original games. By the end of “Vergil’s Downfall,” he’s even rocking the spiked bangs of his previous incarnation, strutting like a supervillain into the camera. It’s not all that exciting and really throws an interesting character under the bus.
Thankfully, Vergil is a hoot to play as.
While the platforming doesn’t offer any of the elaborate and diverse setpieces of the main story, Vergil comes equipped with some of his brother’s moves including his ability to dash, glide, and swing to platforms. Additionally, he’s able to make ephemeral platforms solid briefly, making ghostly chunks of rock one of the biggest (and most interesting) additions to traversing the environments here.
Ninja Theory has made Vergil just distinct enough from his twin that he never feels like a simple palette swap with new weapons. While the fair-haired Son of Sparda’s basic attacks appear to pack less punch than Dante’s, his katana Yamamoto builds up a healthy move list by the time the two-hour(ish) expansion is complete. What he lacks in impact, he makes up for in speed, flitting around the screen, his Angel grab move teleporting him to an enemy’s location instead of using Dante’s whip attack–Vergil’s move set is more explicitly anime-inspired with doppelganger attacks, screen-spanning slashes, and a dramatic flourish to finish the whole thing off. His move list has fewer unlocks, but again, it’s short and what did you expect?
That speed does come at a cost: the “DmC” camera has trouble keeping up with Vergil’s lighting speed sometimes, and a player may find themselves vertical slashing their way out of view of the camera and into an enemy’s wind-up attack.
“Vergil’s Downfall” also comes with the same upgrade system of as the campaign as well as the stacking difficulties which can only be unlocked through successive playthroughs. But the two hour or so play time should make beating it on the most punishing, single-hit kill difficulty doable over the course of a day or two.
If you can get over the characterization, Ninja Theory has expanding the “DmC” universe in a mechanically-compelling way. In a perfect universe, a subsequent sequel to their reboot would see players offered campaigns for both Sons of Sparda, allowing us to go nuts with two separate but very interesting badasses.
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