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» DH Gaming Article - PlayStation 2
Introduction

It’s been almost ten whole years since Final Fantasy VII debuted, and it’s amazing to believe the story is still being unfolded. Last year we saw the release of Advent Children, which took place two years after the end of the game. This time around, gamers can uncover the mystery behind the cryptic Vincent Valentine. Surprisingly enough, Dirge of Cerberus does contain a few sparse RPG elements, but for the most part is a first and third person shooter that brings a whole new style of gameplay to the Final Fantasy series.

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Helicopter Boss 16.4MB
No Way Out 8.7 MB
Turret 7.8MB

Cinematic Excellence

As you should’ve expected, this game looks much better than the original FFVII simply because technology has progressed a lot in the last decade. Although the game has some rough aliasing issues (like most PS2 games suffer from), the character models have that same lovable art style that Square Enix is well known for. The level designs vary significantly from each chapter, but the environments have a tendency to repeat far too much, which can make it very easy to get lost if you aren’t fond of using the map system. The special effects look great, but this game really shines during the cinematic sequences. The cutscenes look just as great as Advent Children, and it’s really easy to believe you’re watching a movie during the more intense sequences.

Likewise, the sound is on par with other Final Fantasy releases. The voice actors are a little melodramatic at times, but they certainly get the job done. Whether it’s the soft-spoken Vincent saying a few heroic words or if the cute little Cait Sith is bobbling up and down, the developers did a great job at giving each character a distinct personality. Some familiar tracks are mixed in with new instrumental pieces, and if you played any of the previous titles you should remember a few tunes.

Heading Back to Midgar

To say the least, it was surprising to see that a video game sequel to Final Fantasy VII wouldn’t fall into the same genre as the original, but regardless of this Dirge of Cerberus was created with action lusting gamers in mind. Spending most of the game as the gun-wielding Vincent Valentine, the skill here involved precise aiming and stealth tactics instead of waiting for you turn in battle.

Dirge of Cerberus utilizes a control scheme similar to practically every other shooter. The left control sick is used for movement while the right stick will move the camera. Vincent has the ability to jump, roll, and even perform melee attacks if necessary. Pressing R1 will wield a firearm, and clicking the right stick will let you zoom in on your target. Luckily, the game supports quick weapon switching that can be performed at the press of a button, and even better is the new quick inventory system. Instead of having to trifle through menus, the D-pad can be used to seamlessly browse your inventory so you can access Potions, Phoenix Downs, and other goodies without wasting any time.

A unique feature in this release is the new weapon customization feature. While a basic gun body such as a pistol or machine gun can function by itself, special upgrades can be attached to make your weapon even more powerful. Each gun is measured in attributes such as range, strength, and rate of fire, and mixing and matching your components. For instance, having a short barrel will let you fire off quick shots, while having a long barrel will project more damaging bullets. Other attachments can be found or purchased in shops, including sniper scopes and Materia pieces.

Materia is essentially the magical currency in the Final Fantasy world. Instead of allowing the owner to cast various spells like they could in the past, these orbs can be embedded into weapons to offer a secondary attack. By pressing L1 for a magic attack instead of R1 for a regular shot, some of your MP will be drained in order to unleash some elemental disaster. The three main branches of Materia are Fire, Ice, and Lightning. Fire does splash damage, Ice focuses in one on specific target, and Lightning will clear out anything standing in its path. All of the Materia attacks are significantly more powerful than standard attacks, but sadly you can only cast them two or three times before you need to recharge. You can gain MP back by standing on a Mako station, but it would’ve been nice if they offered a little more juice.

The Limit Break system also makes a comeback, but again it is slightly different than it was in the original FFVII. Before, a character would slowly build up the Limit meter after every hit, and eventually they’d be able to unleash a special attack that could deal massive damage. Now, Limit Break is an item in your inventory that can be used at any time. When Vincent uses it, he turns into some type of werewolf creature that does a considerably great deal of melee damage. He can stay in this mode for about 30 seconds, and then he simply returns back to his former self.

Dirge of Cerberus can be a bit tricky to control, especially during close-quarters situations. In third person mode, the camera is a safe distance behind Vincent, so when maneuvering around corners and such it tends to move randomly. Clicking the left stick will center the camera behind the main character just in case these situations occur, but often this leads to the view zooming in on the back of his head. There is a way to toggle into first person mode, which is especially handy when sniping, but performing jumps or melee attacks will send you right back to the third person view.

As far as the actual combat goes, the gameplay does have its peak moments of adrenaline pumping shootouts, but there are also many factors that prevent it from being in the same tier as other Final Fantasy games. For starters, the aiming system is a little on the lame side. The auto-target option in third person mode makes it easy to mow down targets as long as you’re looking in the right direction, and unless there’s a distant sniper there isn’t a whole lot of user-end skill required here. The computer AI follows the same set of scripted events in every level, and they don’t put up much of a fight. For the most part, small groups of baddies will charge in your direction, and a few bullets is usually enough to wipe out the whole squad. Occasionally a sniper will be hiding on a rooftop or a mechanical dog will chase you down, but this game follows the same run-and-gun tactics that leads to a rather linear gameplay experience.

Things really start to get intense during the occasional boss battles. Trying to gun down a helicopter with tons of soldiers blasting you from all directions can turn into a hectic scramble, and at times like these much more skill is required to survive. By quickly switching weapons, you can take out clusters of enemies with a quick Fire Materia blast and hopefully you’ll have some time to send a bolt of Lightning at the boss before more attacks are unleashed. There are event moments during the regular game that require you to use some finesse. In one of the earlier levels, you need to wipe out the enemy threat while also ensuring the safety of civilians, so you have to act fast before your potential allies can be gunned down.

One major gripe with this game is the constantly interrupting cinematics. Having a trailer in-between each of the twelve chapters is a nice inclusion, but there are also a plethora of cutscenes created using real-time graphics that take away from the game’s otherwise fast pace. Aside from looking less impressive than the other movies, these frequent disturbances slow down what could’ve been a fast paced action title. Towards the latter part of the game less of these scenes occur because most of the story has already been presented, but it was slightly annoying to see this one get off to a slow start.

Dirge of Cerberus in the Long Run

The story mode of the game contains twelve chapters that account for roughly ten hours of gameplay, which is amazingly short compared to the countless hours you can spend on any other Final Fantasy title. While the Japanese release of this game features a multiplayer segment, the US release features over forty side missions that more than make up for the short campaign. Each mission comes with its own goal, such as killing 100 enemies using just magic or wiping out a seemingly endless wave of enemies in a limited amount of time, and there is plenty of diversity between each level. Although you do have to complete the entire game to unlock all of the side missions, once you make your way through the game it’s nice to know there’s still plenty left to do.

Conclusion

Obviously any game bearing the Final Fantasy name is expected to meet a high set of expectations, but unfortunately Dirge of Cerberus isn’t quite up there with the rest of the series. Although the campaign does have a few sparse moments of intense action, the stupid computer AI, linear level designs, and overall bland attack controls make this game filled with too many unexciting moments. However, the story mode does in fact deliver a great story, and the boss fights offer a nice break from some of the monotony. With plenty of side missions to keep you coming back as well, Dirge of Cerberus is a decent action title that Final Fantasy fans will surely want to try out.

Gameplay       14/20
Graphics         16/20
Sound             16/20
Value              15/20
Preference      15/20
Overall          76/100

 

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