Aside from that missed opportunity, Vergil's Downfall plays like a disowned, disgraced brother of Dante should. It resembles the main game and pulls directly from Dante's move list, copying his style and button mapping, but there's something inherently lackluster about the gameplay. Handling Vergil simply can't compare to the thrill of controlling Dante, and Vergil's pared-down weapons pale in comparison (as does his hair).
I'm not saying the addition of a fedora would have helped Vergil's Downfall, but it definitely couldn't have hurt. On its own, Vergil's Downfall truly is an engaging, fast-paced action experience set in a neon Limbo world, spinning the tale of a villain's pain and rise to power. Vergil has a solid lineup of weapons and abilities, including his traditional Yamato sword, telekinetic dagger projectiles, teleportation, a doppelganger special, and Angel- and Demon-inspired attacks.
When Vergil dodges, he teleports, and his "grappling hook" abilities are variations of the mind-sword weapon, either flinging Vergil to enemies or pulling foes to his position. Vergil's telekinetic powers offer a satisfying answer to his lack of firearms, acting as long-range attacks and combo breakers.
Vergil's Angel moves are rapid-fire, broad strikes that often act as dodges as they dole out damage, and this combination makes it extremely easy to rely heavily on the left trigger – even more so than in DMC. The Demon moves, by contrast, are sluggish and unnatural to break out in a battle against more than two enemies. I accidentally discovered entire battles could be won with Angel moves alone, disappointing in a series that prides itself on style.
The Demon moves are all about timing, gauging the seconds between enemy attacks and taking a chance to deal a severely damaging blow, but Vergil's Downfall doesn't force players to use his entire arsenal. Considering this is something that DMC achieves brilliantly with Dante's weapons, it's sorely missed in the DLC.
Still, what Vergil's Downfall repeats is a solid foundation in swordplay, wrapped around super-human abilities and topped off with plenty of demons to slaughter. These are the mechanics that make DMC such an enjoyable experience, and they are still present in Vergil's Downfall, if slightly watered down.
Again, taken by itself, Vergil's Downfall is a treat. It's an intense showdown through a highly stylized, demon-infested world, starring Vergil as he transforms into an unfeeling and powerful antagonist. When compared with DMC, however, the combat falls short. Vergil's breadth of weapons and combos is a poor substitute for Dante's, and the DLC feels incomplete. It does, however, improve at higher difficulty levels – if you've completed any level of DMC, definitely start Vergil's Downfall on Nephilim.
With the opportunity to unlock harder difficulties, each level offering disparate variations of enemies, Vergil's Downfall is easily worth $9. However, DMC itself offers playthroughs on harder difficulties, and those are longer, more polished and absolutely free – so make sure you've had your fill of Dante before rushing to Vergil's side.
This review is based on a retail download provided by Capcom. "Vergil's Downfall" is available on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and PC for $9.
Note: Joystiq does not provide star ratings for downloadable content reviews with the understanding that the quality of the core game's experience is unchanged from the retail release to DLC add-ons; see DMC: Devil May Cry review.