Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII Import Hands-On

Final Fantasy VII's coolest customer stars in this hybrid first-person shooter/action adventure. Read our firsthand account of the Japanese import and check out lots of new screens and video.

We were really surprised when Square Enix first unveiled Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII back in 2004. After all, this action adventure side story to the beloved 1997 role-playing classic was going to be all about one of Final Fantasy VII's least likely heroes. Vincent Valentine, with his perpetual scowl, flowing red cloak, multibarreled pistol, and clawed gauntlet, certainly was a memorable character. But you could also finish the entire game without ever encountering him.

At any rate, now he's getting his due in what seems like an interesting and visually impressive action adventure game with first-person shooter elements and some role-playing twists. The surprises didn't stop as we delved into this game, which packs some unpredictable cameo appearances and features solid mouse-and-keyboard support for that precise PC-style shooter feel if you want it. There's also online multiplayer action to be had via Square Enix's somewhat convoluted PlayOnline service, but we couldn't resist diving headlong into the single-player story mode.

Well, actually, we tried out the tutorial first, which features an uncharacteristically well-kempt, suit-and-tie-wearing Vincent going through some training exercises. The tutorial teaches you the basics of running around, fighting hand-to-hand, and shooting at close, medium, and long ranges. You can also move from a crouched position, perform evasive tumbles, and easily use potions to restore health. You can also fire explosive shells that can damage multiple enemies at once and use various other special abilities, including Vincent's power to temporarily transform into an invincible, fire-spitting beast. Tough luck for the bad guys whenever you use this particular trick.

Vincent when he's happy.

While the visual style of Dirge of Cerberus is reminiscent of the Devil May Cry series, the gameplay itself is really quite different. The game can be played either from the default third-person viewpoint or like a first-person shooter, and you can seamlessly switch between the two perspectives. When you raise your weapon to attack by pressing R1, the third-person viewpoint changes to an over-the-shoulder angle that lets you aim pretty easily. Interestingly, the game also integrates an autoaim feature into the gameplay--you can ready your guns with a special scope that effectively widens your aim, allowing you to hit foes as long as they're anywhere near your targeting reticle. Overall, the game seems to control well, though we needed to adjust the default settings in the options menu to get comfortable.

The first-person-style controls work fine, but since you don't get to see your weapon onscreen that way, we opted for the more-visceral experience of seeing Vincent firing away as we fought. We also eagerly tested the mouse-and-keyboard support and were impressed to find that it worked very well. The default settings map movement to the WASD keys as is conventional in PC shooters, and the mouse buttons let you easily aim, fire, and pull off melee combos. Though this control scheme worked nicely, we went back to the gamepad for convenience's sake, since the standard controls are fine once you fiddle with the settings (by default, horizontal aiming is inverted for some reason, such that when you move the analog stick to the left, you look to the right).

Dirge of Cerberus features the stunning cinematic cutscenes you've come to expect from Square Enix. In the introductory cutscene, Vincent is on a mission with Final Fantasy VII's ninja girl Yuffie, and they're communicating by walkie-talkie. Vincent seems on the verge of assassinating a target of opportunity, but something goes wrong, and he's forced to flee--the mission apparently is a failure. Several years later, Vincent seems as sullen as ever, all alone in a room while the town outside is celebrating some sort of festival.

Vincent when he's sad.

Suddenly some sort of paramilitary group swoops in and opens fire on the helpless citizens, then proceeds to capture whoever's still breathing. Vincent, a seasoned gunman, doesn't hesitate to fight back, which is where the action begins. You get to run around blasting enemy grunts and their weird robot dogs. Your foes don't put up a particularly good fight at first, but they have strength in numbers. You can take them out much more quickly if you aim for the head, and we appreciated how the shooter-style combat nevertheless had a role-playing feel to it, since damage numbers fly out whenever you blast a foe--red numbers if you score a critical hit.

Vincent's melee attacks are quite strong, but since most foes are armed, it's better to hang back and fire away. His gun emits a satisfying bang whenever you fire, and you can also customize it with different accessories and barrels that you'll find along the way. In practice, you end up with quite a variety of weapons, from a rapid-firing submachine gun to a powerful long-range rifle. And just when we started feeling a little smug about the difficulty level, the game threw a fairly tough boss fight at us in the form of a military chopper armed with a battery of rockets and heavy machine guns. There's not much cover to use against the withering hail of bullets, and the chopper doesn't have many weak points, so this fight definitely kept us on our toes.

Vincent when he's angry.

Though Dirge of Cerberus is an action game, it's got plenty of story sequences, and the story seems full of surprises. Early on, we met yet another familiar face from Final Fantasy VII (an animal face that doesn't belong to Red XIII, if you want a big hint), and the game also features an appearance by Japanese pop star Gackt (who incidentally was the inspiration for FFVIII's main character, Squall). We're curious to see if Gackt makes the cut for the US version of Dirge of Cerberus, which is coming this summer. The whole game looks good, so far. Cutscenes rendered using the game engine are frequent and impressively choreographed, offering up lots of shots of Vincent looking sullen or Vincent looking cool.

We're just starting to hit our stride with Dirge of Cerberus, so stay tuned for more info, without spoiling anything. For now, be sure to check out our new screens and videos showing off how Dirge of Cerberus finally shaped up. While it may sound like a strange spin-off of Final Fantasy VII, it does seem to recapture the same quasi-sci-fi feel that gave Square's role-playing classic its distinct identity and fantastic presentation.

Dirge of Cerberus features the stunning cinematic cutscenes you've come to expect from Square Enix. In the introductory cutscene, Vincent is on a mission with Final Fantasy VII's ninja girl Yuffie, and they're communicating by walkie talkie. Vincent seems on the verge of assassinating a target of opportunity, but something goes wrong and he's forced to flee--the mission apparently is a failure. Several years later, Vincent seems as sullen as ever all alone in a room while the town outside is celebrating some sort of festival.

Vincent when he's sad.

Suddenly some sort of paramilitary group swoops in and opens fire on the helpless citizens, then proceeds to capture whoever's still breathing. Vincent, a seasoned gunman, doesn't hesitate to fight back, which is where the action begins. You get to run around blasting enemy grunts and their weird robot dogs. Your foes don't put up a particularly good fight at first, but they have strength in numbers. You can take them out much more quickly if you aim for the head, and we appreciated how the shooter-style combat nevertheless had a role-playing feel to it, since damage numbers fly out whenever you blast a foe--red numbers if you score a critical hit.

Vincent's melee attacks are quite strong, but since most foes are armed, it's better to hang back and fire away. His gun emits a satisfying bang whenever you fire, and you can also customize it with different accessories and barrels that you'll find along the way. In practice, you end up with quite a variety of weapons, from a rapid-firing submachine gun to a powerful long-range rifle. And just when we started feeling a little smug about the difficulty level, the game threw a fairly tough boss fight at us in the form of a military chopper armed with a battery of rockets and heavy machine guns. There's not much cover to use against the withering hail of bullets, and the chopper doesn't have many weak points, so this fight definitely kept us on our feet.

Vincent when he's angry.

Though Dirge of Cerberus is an action game, it's got plenty of story sequences, and the story seems full of surprises. Early on, we met yet another familiar face from Final Fantasy VII (an animal face that doesn't belong to Red XIII, if you want a big hint), and the game also features an appearance by Japanese pop star Gackt (who incidentally was the inspiration for FFVIII's main character, Squall). We'll be curious to see if Gackt makes the cut for the US version of Dirge of Cerberus, which is coming this summer. The whole game looks good, so far. Cutscenes rendered using the game engine are frequent and impressively choreographed, offering up lots of shots of Vincent looking sullen or Vincent looking cool.

We're just starting to hit our stride with Dirge of Cerberus, so stay tuned for more info, without spoiling anything. For now, be sure to check out our new screens and videos showing off how Dirge of Cerberus finally shaped up. While it may sound like a strange spin-off of Final Fantasy VII, it does seem to recapture the same quasi-sci-fi feel that gave Square's role-playing classic its distinct identity and fantastic presentation.

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6 comments
aileron2
aileron2

Hi there I already complete the japanese varsion of this game and want to say that this is one of the best games that I played don't want to wait more it's awesome this game the cinemas, gameplay all it's awesome and don't matter if i play it again. The bad thing is that is no to long but it doesn't matter

lord-azrael
lord-azrael

no gackt isnt the model for Squall,the character designer said he based Squall on a American actor(cant remember the name)man you'd think a supposedly informed company would know these things instead of talking internet rumour as if it fact.No wonder the internet so full of sh!t if even big companys talk so much lies

gtarulz
gtarulz

I hope Gackt appears in the NA and EU versions. I need a release date for the UK. :(

cloudstrife75
cloudstrife75

Im excited for this to come out to North America! Hopefully it will live up to the FFVII name and do well