Review: DmC: Devil May Cry
They said the new Dante is a Twilight-inspired douchebag, complained that the game is too easy now, called the series dead and buried. The so-called 'fans' of the Devil May Cry series have not been happy about this game at all. Has Ninja Theory answered criticisms and silenced the haters with this reboot? Well... to put it simply... you can bet your sweet ass they have.
- Worth The Time?Only if you don't mind multiple playthroughs, and even then yes just for the combat.
- Things LovedThe smooth, sleeker, streamlined combat system that is just a joy to behold. The psychedelic, Suda51-inspired level design. There is so much to do, above and beyond playing for story. The new Dante grows on you. Some of the enemy types are well thought out and varied enough that it never gets boring. The game is more accessible now, without sacrificing too much.
- Things HatedThe story is not bad but nothing to write home about either. A fan of the series will predict the entire story by the second mission. Sometimes the colours and designs get a bit much. The lack of a proper lock-on system makes focusing enemies tricky. Character progression is just not a thing, here.
- RecommendationPlayed the previous Devil May Cry games? You will enjoy this. It might feel easy, but wait till the higher difficulties. Everyone else? If you're into hack-n-slash then go ahead. If not, maybe wait for a sale.
- Name: DmC: Devil May Cry
- Genre: Hack-n-slash, beat 'em up, action
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: None
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Ninja Theory
- Publisher: Capcom
- Price: R 525
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
I have to admit that in no other medium of entertainment will you see as much furore escalate as quickly, as when a gaming series which is adored by millions decides to reboot itself in a way the fans do not appreciate. It quite honestly blows my mind to witness the reaction of these fans, sometimes. What’s amazing is that prior to this point, there were complaints that the series had begun to stagnate and that it was more of the same and more. Now with a change, it’s too radically different for you? Stuff off, will you?
Truth be told, DmC actually remains extremely faithful to its source material and Ninja Theory have done an excellent job of rebooting the series without sacrificing entirely on its core tenets. I prefer to look at the changes as streamlining rather than outright alienating. We’ll get into all of these eventually but for now, just know that what Ninja Theory have accomplished with DmC: Devil May Cry, is a game that is both action-heavy and cinematic, without feeling lacklustre on either front.
With that out of the way, we may then proceed to actually talking about the game and understanding why I feel it is such an overwhelming success, especially given how rare such a thing is when an otherwise Eastern title is brought to a Western developer. Granted Devil May Cry has always had a large Western following but with this game, that following is going to grow exponentially, and today we will talk about exactly why. As such, do expect copious amounts of comparison to prior titles; the game is, after all, a reboot.
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room straight away, and getting past the whole new Dante thing. Yes, there is a new Dante in town. He is younger and edgier and seems to brood a little more than the old Dante did. He also has the physique and look of what you might call a ‘Twilight-inspired douchebag’ and you would be mostly correct in saying so. The thing is, he kind of grows on you. I don’t know, maybe it’s because we share the same hairstyle, I really can’t dislike this new Dante. He’s just as cocky and sure of himself as the previous Dante except here instead of smiling and saying witty one-liners, he is irritated and dismissive a lot of the time. Nonetheless, he is still as eccentric as ever, as the opening scenes of the game will show you, where he jumps naked through a caravan flying into the air, gliding into different articles of clothing until decent, then doing the same later on when he discovers his coat hanging off a Ferris wheel. Over the game his attitude changes drastically until by the end of it, he seems like quite the decent guy, give or take his obscene gestures and snarky remarks.
Really, the only difference between this Dante and the older one is that whereas the old Dante would see an enemy, walk up to it, slash it a few times with his sword before throwing it up into the air and shooting at it with his pistols, taking a moment to admire the scenery on the horizon, jumping up to that enemy now helplessly crying for its mother and swinging at it some more with his sword, calling up a pizza delivery service because when he lands he’s going to be hungry, and finally planting that enemy on the floor with one final boot to the face, then stepping off that enemy and eating that slice of pizza, before taking a bow, the new Dante leaves all of that up to you instead. And you know what? I appreciate that.
Dante isn’t the only character featuring in the game, but we’ll get back to the other characters later on. Final verdict on the newer Dante, then? Being pretty much the only character who shows a proper form of development through the story, I would say that Ninja Theory focused him greatly. And it shows nicely. Approved.
With previous Devil May Cry games, saying that they had stories would be like saying that Hitler had good intentions. Sure there were stories in each game, in fact some of them quite interesting, but good luck keeping up with them as they were about as Japanese as it got, and as such never held much appeal to the Western crowd. For the most part, this crowd just ignored the story and stuck around for the awesome combat.
It’s good then to note that DmC: Devil May Cry, obviously developed by a British developer, has some semblance of an actual story, with each mission being presented to you in a similar style to previous games, having a select screen and so forth. Unfortunately if you know anything about the Devil May Cry series, leading up to this reboot, then you’re going to see every major story event (salute) and plot twist long before it happens. However if you’re new to the story, it takes a turn away from predictability and becomes a genuinely decent tale of one man and one other man, and their enemy, also a man, as well as some girl who helps out that one time.
Without getting too spoiler heavy, supporting Dante throughout his adventure are Kat, a witch who uses spray-cans to cast spells (seriously) and Vergil, Dante’s twin brother, separated from him when they were very young, after their parents (Sparda, the demon and Eva, the angel) were attacked by demons who could not tolerate such a union. Vergil himself is actually the one character who seems completely unchanged in being brought over from previous games. Where Dante had a rough childhood, growing up on the streets as an orphan, Vergil was brought up by a wealthy foster family, getting the silver spoon all through his life and growing up to be quite the nobleman compared to the rough and rugged Dante. As expected, this also affects their beliefs and personalities, but I won’t say more on that.
The big bad enemy of this game is a demon king called Mundus, who has risen to power and taken over the world, enslaving the population using a combination of a spiked energy drink called Virility and a news network which the demons use to spread propaganda. Since only a nephilim (the spawn of a demon and an angel) can kill a demon king, and Dante is the only nephilim known to Mundus, an attempt is made on Dante’s life. Why they waited that many years was never explained in the story, however Mundus has no knowledge of Virgil’s existence, leading to an interesting power-play between the two as Virgil hides in the shadows while training Dante to reach his full potential, while Mundus spreads his forces thin trying to stop Dante.
Following on from the source material upon which the entire Devil May Cry series is based, the game takes place in two specific areas which are basically the normal human world and Limbo, a gateway world to the demonic realm. This is nothing new to anyone who’s read The Divine Comedy, penned by a certain Dante Alighieri. Congratulations on making the connection. Anyway, as such, you will spend time in both the human world and Limbo, but the majority of your experience of the game is tied to Limbo, where you are basically all-powerful, having access to a myriad weapons which I will detail shortly.
Limbo itself is a world that is alive and aware of your existence and will constantly throw demons at you in an attempt to stop you or even manipulate the world itself to thwart your progress. This leads to some interesting platforming segments and also creates a realistic tie-in to why the demons couldn’t just bulldoze their way through the human population — they’re stuck in Limbo and cannot permeate through to the human world. Dante can, because he is nephilim. And so can Kat because her witch powers allow her to phase into Limbo. As such, she acts as your guide through some levels, telling you where to go and what to do without ever actually holding your hand through it.
In Limbo, you have access to a vast array of weaponry and really, this is where the game comes to the fore and shows its true-to-roots Devil May Cry ties. You have returning favourites such as your sword, Rebellion; your pistols, Ebony & Ivory; your shotgun, here called Revenant; and your explosive weapon, here called Kablooey. Then you also have new additions based off angelic and demonic powers, where the former offers crowd control and the latter offers pure power. These weapons include the Arbiter (a demonic halberd) and the Osiris (an angelic scythe — and everything I want to be in life). I won’t spoil the other two weapons but needless to say, they are freaking amazing creations that have provided me with so many crazy moments of pure “squeeeee” upon trying them out. Essentially, you hold down either trigger to toggle the mode of choice, be it angelic or demonic, and it allows you to use your regular attacks with these alternative weapons. The result is the most streamlined and quick-to-pick-up system of combat that I have ever seen in a game, ever, let alone in a Devil May Cry title.
Tying into the new focus on angelic and demonic weaponry are chains, each offering their own benefit. The angelic chain allows you to move towards something, be it an object or opponent, while the demonic chain has the inverse effect, pulling that object or opponent towards you. This makes for some truly amazing combat as well as some interesting platforming that really trumps anything that DMC4 threw at you.
Added to that, Dante can still dodge enemy attacks, which when mixed with angelic or demonic modes, offers its own benefit to you if done perfectly. Unfortunately because of the new control system, both bumpers are required for evading which effectively removes the lock-on button. This leads to a few frustrations here and there as you clumsily attempt to focus a specific enemy, fixable only by continuously centring your camera on the enemy you wish to focus, so that Dante will do what you want him to do instead of spazzing the fuck out.
The final new addition to Dante’s arsenal, although used primarily for exploration and platforming, is an angelic thrust of sorts (not like that) which allows you to glide further distances and feels really awesome in practice. This, combined with the chains and your usual double jumps makes for entire sections of platforming that no longer feel as frustrating or annoying as previous games. And what’s better is that you have full control of the camera at all times, practically eliminating the frustration that comes with walking in and out of an area over and over again, because the camera is being a dick to you. For that alone, Ninja Theory deserve your money.
Making a return in the reboot is the always-adored Devil Trigger mode, which you could consider the ‘super’ mode of the game, rendering you stronger and granting you health regeneration while simultaneously stunning enemies and leaving them vulnerable to attack. In DmC what happens is the world fades to white while Dante fades to… well, old Dante, as all enemies are kicked up into the air, where they remain frozen for as long as Devil Trigger is active. Dante may then dispatch of these enemies at will.
Truth be told, you will be spending a lot of your time in the air. Dante’s combat style has been modified slightly where you could spend a lot of your time on the ground, attacking enemies with regular ground attacks until they die, but you can really rack up the points if you take it to the air and attempt to air-juggle enemies. As such, many weapons are focused around this, where you can get along just fine by using regular attacks but it makes it look worlds more amazing when you’ve got an enemy helplessly in the air, being assaulted by sword, scythe and finally halberd.
A lot of Dante’s older moves make a return, including my favourite, the sexy-as-all-fuck guns-spiralling-upwards Rain Storm ability. The usual Styles that the older Dante could employ, however, have been removed. As such, while new Dante can evade and use various Gunslinger and Swordmaster abilities at will, he does not benefit from the Royal Guard style and so, cannot block. But that’s alright for me, because it means more dodging attacks while dishing out my own, leading to more fluid and frantic combat.
DmC is every bit as over-the-top as previous titles in terms of the combat, where it borders on verbose, the amount of ways you can kill an enemy, but what Ninja Theory have done is taken inspiration from their previous title, Heavenly Sword, in producing what is a feat of genius for this series, in introducing enemies that are vulnerable only to specific weapon types. At times, you will face an enemy that is only damaged by angelic weaponry, or an enemy that is only damaged by demonic weaponry, or both at once. It then adds some strategy and planning to your fights, or you will die a horrible death. Many, many times. There are also enemies that become enraged, meaning you cannot stop their attacks and must dodge out of the way.
Let’s take a moment to address the complaints about the difficulty. Yes, DmC is easier. But you need to understand why it’s easier: this game needs to attract a wider audience. This is not possible by making the game absolutely tough-as-steel-nails difficult. For those new to the series, the new streamlined combat system is both attractive and accessible without becoming overwhelming. For those old to the series, you are not left entirely in the dust either, as there is a total of seven difficulty levels for you to play through. One of them involves enemies being able to kill you with one hit while you do normal damage to them. Trust me when I say, this game still tests your frustration levels.
Further to that, each level contains collectibles including keys, secret rooms and lost souls, as well as leaderboards, further adding to replayability. Then there are the upgrades for each weapon and for Dante’s health and Devil Trigger bars, the former which can only be acquired by gaining upgrade points through stylish battles and the latter which are acquirable through completing secret missions and purchasing further upgrades from the store using souls, which you accrue throughout your playthroughs. Then there is still concept art for you to unlock, which has a whole host of requirements.
If you play this game once through, you will be doing it a huge disservice as it almost begs you to play it again. That is true to the style of previous Devil May Cry titles and again, kudos to Ninja Theory for accomplishing what very few non-Japanese games can, in making a game that only really starts properly after the first playthrough. That said, you could breeze through the story in around eight hours or so, but doing everything and playing through all of the difficulties will take you closer to fifty hours plus, and will require a certain level of skill. So yes it’s easier, but that doesn’t mean it’s too easy, or that there’s nothing to keep you occupied throughout your experience.
Surprisingly, all of what I’ve said taken into consideration, I still feel that the best improvement made to this series is not the combat, which is in its own rights extremely impressive, or the characters, but rather the level design. Without spoiling anything, some of the levels that you will experience in this game have never been witnessed before in gaming. They are as psychedelic and downright bonkers as Suda51’s finest, at times even making me wonder if this game took inspiration from Lollipop Chainsaw for its design. While it might start off relatively calm and peaceful, it takes a turn for the absolute weird at times and as a result, yields some of the most memorable levels that I have ever played in a game.
There is one particular level which I have never seen before in a game, which is based around a news network and live coverage.
This also results in some interesting boss battles, however I feel that this is where Ninja Theory dropped the ball a bit. My criticism comes in that most boss battles do attempt to get you to do different things, fair enough, however the difficulty curve is all over the place, at times throwing you into a ridiculously tricky boss battle but later giving you a walk-in-the-park boss that by all rights, should have been even trickier. This also ties into the story and how I feel that Ninja Theory played it very close to the chest. I don’t understand why they, after taking so many risks with everything else, decided to keep the story relatively safe, not risking any radical developments. Again, it’s predictable to anyone who has played the series before and saying more than that would spoil it for everyone, so I won’t.
One last thing that I want to rant about for a few lines is the fucking Unreal Engine. I have begun to seriously hate it now. I get that it’s scalable and to their credit, Ninja Theory did a good job of creating a game that has no texture pop-in, which is the signature of this damn engine, but it gets so annoying watching the jarring transitions between pre-rendered cutscenes and in-game footage, compounded further by the change in Dante’s appearance if you have a skin equipped. But I digress. The engine maketh not, the game.
DmC is every bit the Devil May Cry you remember, but better. The same Vital Stars, the same Devil Trigger, the same over-the-top moves, but now we have a coherent story and an endearing main character to boot. This game is not a step back but ten steps forward for the franchise, and I see a long and fruitful future ahead of it. You can only really hate this game if you were a die-hard DMC fan before, who enjoyed being superior to everyone else. You still can be here, but how about instead you just fuck off so the rest of us can have our fun? DmC is an outstanding offering from Ninja Theory and proves that the developers are more than worthy of making this series a household name.