To my mind, the best kind of downloadable content expands on the experience that you've grown familiar with while also offering an alternative point-of-view. The add-ons for Mass Effect 2 are exemplars, letting you take Shepard on a snarky James Bond/heist adventure or a chilling experience tinged with sci-fi horror flavour. And Undead Nightmare did something similar with Red Dead Redemption, throwing John Marston into a grindhouse zombie freakshow. And now the newly rebooted DmC follows suit with Vergil's Downfall, a new chunk of a game that lets you control Dante's twin brother. What's that other side like?
Downfall picks up right after finale of DmC and you might want to stop reading now if you haven't beaten the game as spoilers follow.
You start controlling Vergil right after his brother's plunged a sword into his chest, so as to stop the other half-demon, half-angel nephilim from trying to rule over humanity. The black-clad sibling winds up a trippy, dementedly beautiful afterlife that focuses on Vergil's resentment towards Dante.
DmC: Vergil's Downfall
Developer: Ninja Theory
Platforms: PS3, PC, Xbox 360 (version played)
Released: March 5, 2013 for PSN and Windows PC, and March 6 on Xbox Live
Type of game: Action/adventure add-on with occult heavy metal overtones shot through with "Mommy always loved you more" psychological issues.
What I played: Played through all of DLC campaign's six missions in about 4-5 hours.
Two Things I Loved
- I enjoyed the fact that this felt like a crafty reconfiguration of the mainline experience. You can tell that Dante and Vergil are twins but also that they're wildly different than each other.
- Downfall maintains the same divine sense of flow in combat while adding devilishly fun new skills to the mix.
My Two Things I Hated
- The hand-drawn cutscenes feel like rough animatics sketches or quickly animated storyboards slotted in to advance the plot, as if they were rushed for lack of time.
- I wanted more of Downfall's mirror-reflection sensibility but the whole thing was over too soon.
- "If you thought Dante was a jerk before, wait until you see what Vergil thinks of him!" -- Evan Narcisse, Kotaku.com
- "Short as it is, Downfall is more like a trip down a flight of stairs." -- Evan Narcisse, Kotaku.com
Vergil also comes into pursuit of what seems to be the soul of the nephilim brothers' dead mum, reliving pivotal moments with Dante and sidekick Kat and avenging perceived betrayals against him. The DLC's theme is one of perception, both in how Vergil sees himself and others and in the abilities that make him different than the game's main star.
From the very beginning, Vergil's combat style feels almost totally different than his brother's. He doesn't wield firearms and instead has a ranged attack that lances magical sword illusions at enemies. His heavy attacks don't quite back as much punch as Dante but he had trickier, vertical evades that his brother doesn't.
Vergil gets around differently, too, with a pair of teleporting abilities replacing Dante's grappling weapon skills. He can stab an enemy and teleport himself to them or vice versa. A few new enemy types show up andhey're geared towards negating Vergil's rapid mobility. One generates thorny barriers to hem Vergil in and the other phases in and out of reality to make himself a harder target.
Some environments draw inspiration from the main campaign but you're forced to get around them differently. Certain platforms need to be teleported to Vergil while others have anchor points that you'll be able to blink to.
A very cool doppelganger ability is adds a walking, thrashing multiplier to an already frantic combo system. It costs one slot of Devil Trigger energy to spawn a ghostly double and it'll drain the supernatural meter until you make the doppelganger vanish. You can also switch up the doppelganger's behaviour on the fly so that it acts more independently from you and doesn't shadow your every move.
Where Vergil seemed benevolently wrong-headed in the main campaign, the DLC seems to set him up on the path to pure evil, as well as a possible plotline for a sequel. Vergil doesn't feel quite as much as a bad-ass as his brother and Downfall begs the question of just how exactly he kicked your arse so much in the boss fight where you face him. But he does feel craftier, as his more limited moveset and slower evasive moves demand more precision.
But the thing that's most conspicuous in its absence is all the subtext that's bubbling in the main campaign of the franchise reboot. You don't get any of class warfare, media manipulation and punk-outsider posturing of Dante's longer story.
For that reason, the extra content can't help but feel a little shallow. Vergil's Downfall also doesn't have any of the bonus Secret Missions that you unlock in the main campaign and doesn't offer as robust an arsenal of weapons for Vergil either. The Purgatory setting Vergil finds himself in is more one-note than the Limbo Dante battles his way through. The setting seems to exist mostly in Vergil's head and doesn't riff on the idea of a demon-controlled reflection of our own world.
Maybe the lack of depth is to be expected for a post-release add-on entered on a guy who deals in subterfuge and selective truth-tellling. Given the amount of work that obviously went into crafting Downfall, it doesn't really feel like a craven money grab. Its biggest sin is in feeling good enough to have you wanting more and not having anything else to tempt you with.