This is a Guest review from Zipp based on the Amercian release of the game.
Square Enix had this long standing policy about sequels and remakes... they didnít make them. This has obviously become more of a guideline these days, with several remakes having come out in the last year, and some sequels, one of which is Dirge of Cerberus. I canít say Iím unhappy with this change of events, sometimes itís hard to play a whole game, fall in love with the characters, and then have to end it knowing youíll never see them again. Dirge of Cerberus puts you in the role of one of those characters, the formidable and way cool Vincent Valentine from Final Fantasy 7. I donít know what it was about FF7ís characters that made them so cool, but most of them were undeniably awesome, and Vincent was high in the running for biggest badass. So a game based solely around him should be sweet, right? Well, sortíve. Yes and no. Okay, not really. But it does have itís highlights.Story
Like their last Final Fantasy sequels, Final Fantasy X-2 and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Dirge of Cerberus fails to deliver as rich a story as its predecessor. And that may be an understatement.
Dirge of Cerberus takes place three years after FF7 and Meteor Fall. The game starts you out in the peaceful town of Kalm, which is suddenly attacked by soldiers and their creepy metallic dogs. People start dying in droves as the soldiers either kill them or load them into crates and fly them away to an unknown fate. Fortunately, Vincent Valentine is on call and heís ready to kick some ass. Soon he teams up with old faces Yuffie and Cait Sith/Reeves to get to the bottom of the attack. This leads him to some of the key locations in the FF7 world, eventually ending with Midgar.
The game tries to further two storylines. Part of the time, youíll be trying to figure out who the mysterious soldiers are and why theyíre taking people away. The rest of the time, youíll be watching flashbacks which delve into the past of Vincent Valentine and his connections to Hojo and Lucrecia, the parents of Sephiroth. There ends up being a connection between the two plots at the end of the game, and itís interesting and startling, but only for fans of FF7. Otherwise, itís just confusing. Thatís probably the first thing gamers should be aware of. This game is for those who know FF7. If you donít, donít expect to understand the story at all.
As far as a story goes, itís not too bad, but the presentation ruined what value it could have held for me. The game completely failed to get me interested in the characters and their depressing situations. It tried. Some of the characters spend the whole game whining to try to get you to feel for them. Others are cold and distant (which accomplishes little). And still others are thrown in simply to look cool and distract you from a plot thatís going nowhere. Now, the whole depressed and introspective thing worked in FF7. But the reason it worked was because it wasnít forced on us. It let us realize the pain the characters were in on our own. Most of the characters spent FF7 trying to hide that pain they were in from the world, and from the gamer. The game was about them confronting their inner fears and darkness and overcoming it. It was all very inspiring for us angsty teenagers, and it still works (or maybe Iím still angsty). Dirge of Cerberus tries to rehash elements of this story in a game with a fifth of the playing time and a hundredth of the dialogue. The result is sloppy, rushed, and ruinous to any good thing they had going.
Dirge of Cerberus is an action RPG that uses a third and first person shooter interface. Yeah. That confusion youíre experiencing is perfectly normal. But donít worry. It handles well, despite the many genres. You can customize the controls however you want, as well as the aim sensitivity. The camera angles are even good, never trapping you in corners or getting stuck behind walls. But despite this, Dirge of Cerberus fails to deliver a satisfying gaming experience. Why? Because they tried to do much, and ended up doing too little.
I mentioned that it is an action game. Well, it tries to be. At least, thereís the ability to perform melee attacks and to double jump. But thatís about where the similarities end. The Super Mario Brothers is more of an action title than Dirge of Cerberus. Sure, you can kill things with your hands. But the majority of the fights are against large groups of enemies with lots of guns, making this a good way to get shot to hell. The main benefit of melee attacks is that they get powered up after using a specific item to send you into a limit break. At this point, youíll transform into a hulking brute of a beast and gain the ability to pummel the ever loving snot out of your enemies. Aside from this, youíll still use your melee attacks, but they are definitely there to supplement the shooting.
Shooting things is the name of the game, and it doesnít perform too poorly. It basically works like any other shooter, except that you can freely switch between first person and third person mode, both of which are useful in different situations. You can also shoot while jumping, allowing you to Ďfloatí while mid air. You have three guns, which start the game as the exact same weapon. Throughout the game, you can customize these guns to become radically different. The three types of weapon you can create are shotgun, rifle, and sub machine gun. While that doesnít sound like much, the options for customization are fairly broad, and you can really tune your guns to fit your every shooting desire. Itís a much better system then having to carry around seventeen different weapons, ten of which you never use. You can also add magic to your guns, which basically gives it a secondary fire grenade launcher. You get EXP at the end of a level which you can convert into levels for Vincent, or gil to modify your weapons. Balancing your firepower with your raw abilities is a fun endeavor that adds a lot to the game.
So, thatís the good. The bad? SqaureEnix has obviously never made a shooter before. Some of the most basic elements of a good shooter are missing. Thereís no good way to dodge bullets, and rarely any cover to duck behind, making fights contests of Ďwho has the most life.í The damage indicator, which tells you which direction bullets are hitting you from, is very small and hard to read, meaning that when you get hit from a distance, youíll be running around in circles desperately trying to locate the sniper. The enemy AI is poor, as well. Their tactics consist solely of standing in one spot and shooting until one of you goes down. This makes most of the game play like one of those target tests in a police academy, with you running around an environment and waiting for the bad guys to Ďpop up.í
But I think my biggest disappointment were the bosses. In appearance the villains are bad asses. Each has their own unique way of slaughtering countless of the troops on your side and they show off their abilities many times in the cutscenes. And yet, when you actually fight them it comes down to using potions while shooting at them a lot. Thereís no weak spots and very little strategy for the majority of the bosses. Just aim, shoot, and keep your distance. Iíd never thought people that looked so impressive could be so boring to fight.