After finishing games made by Ninja Theory, I find myself thinking ‘that was so, damn … close … to being perfect’. They completely nail so many aspects of their games that even small imperfections start to unbalance the whole. Despite the fact I’ve just played something amazing that doesn’t deserve undue detraction, I’m left with the almost rabid disappointment which comes with being denied a masterpiece.
Vergil’s Downfall is almost, almost a masterpiece.
You can tell immediately that Ninja Theory actually read reviews of DmC. Vergil’s air-dash is an improved version of Dante’s, making travel much easier, and except for one small part of the game, the platforming has vastly improved. Coupled with an expansive looking levels and some amazing set-pieces (maybe not God of War tier, but still), navigating the fairly linear game was a sheer pleasure.
Following their seemingly tireless pursuit of style, cut-scenes introducing and finishing off levels are animated beautifully, characters drawn with dark, thick outlines, the black and white stark contrasting magnificently against other colours representing mood. The use of light and dark in these scenes powerfully illuminates Vergil’s experiences, and is easily some of the best artwork I’ve seen in this generation of games.
Vergil’s combat system is undeniably superb; despite Vergil not having access to the level of easily interchangeable combos as his brother, when fighting, I actually, felt like Vergil. In place of Dante’s ‘Get over here!’ and ‘I’m coming to you!’ sword/whip technique, Vergil uses the swords he conjures to teleport enemies to him or to teleport to enemies. For fans of the series who remember fighting Vergil and his combat style, watching him as he slowly walked, teleported and generally moved as little yet as confidently as possible, this truly feels like how Vergil should handle.
Instead of acquiring different weapons, Vergil’s moveset is basically light, medium and heavy attacks, the light attributed to his angelic side and the heavy being demonic. But really, who cares? What you’re going to want to do is play the game and try to learn how to fight without really moving around. Seriously. I’ve played through combat scenarios several times to see if I can literally not move outside of teleporting and using his blink/dodge move. It feels incredible.
Where the game lacks, once again, is in the story. Vergil, mortally wounded by his brother, returns to his family home and collapses on his mothers grave to die. He then descends into hell/limbo, splitting with a part of himself who then goes on to tell him that he’s weak and that he needs power. Sound familiar? It’s almost as if Ninja Theory read my critique of Vergil, which stated that Vergil didn’t really have much rhyme or reason to his ultimate decision to rule humanity. Power, on the other hand, power is something you can gain and grow and doesn’t necessarily need intense administration to obtain.
However, the actions that Vergil undertakes to get this power are pretty confusing. At a casual glance, you sort of just accept it, but when you really think about it, it makes no god damn sense at all. Ninja Theory always have great concepts, but just not the right amount of finesse to see it through. Saying anything about what takes place is likely to spoil the DLC in its entirety, but let’s just say it does confusing cliche very well.
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