DmC: Devil May Cry has been the focus of a lot of vitriol for the past three years. When Capcom revealed that they were rebooting the series and handing the reins of the project over to UK based studio, Ninja Theory, creators of Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West respectively, the rage from the established fanbase was palpable. Plenty of arguments have arisen from this change, ranging from the petty to the substantial, over whether or not this project will breathe new life in Devil May Cry or be the final nail in the coffin. It has been an hour or so after completing the game at time of writing and I can say one thing with confidence about this crazy experiment: this is a reboot done right.
You play as Dante, a young outcast who spends his nights drinking and partying. He is conscripted by an anti-establishment organization called The Order, who informs him that the world is being controlled by demons. They control everything, from the media, to food, to major financial corporations, all with the express purpose of pacifying and enslaving the human populace. Furthermore, Dante discovers that he is Nephilim, a son born of the angel Eva, and the demon Sparda, and that the Demon King himself, Mundus, was responsible for their deaths. If Dante is to exact revenge and save mankind from demon tyranny, he must embrace his Nephilim powers and take the demons’ system down.
The story, compared to past Devil May Cry games, is pretty impressive. It manages to tell a new origin story for Dante, modernizing his character so he manages to be an overconfident demon killing machine, put also humanizing him enough to give him some grounding. There are well defined support characters and the villains are deliciously scenery chewingly evil. The plot does borrow from the John Carpenter film, They Live, quite extensively, but there are enough separate elements in play that help give the story its own identity. A certain part I enjoyed was the Raptor News Network, a brutal satirization of FOX News, complete with the demon anchorman, “just doin’ God’s work.” All of these elements, which gel together into an atmosphere of supernatural schlock, are in play, and yet none of them feel contrived to leave out or squeeze in great action set pieces for the player to kick tail.
Good thing too, because the fighting system is absolutely fantastic. Dante uses his sword and twin pistols to slash, shoot, and roundhouse kick hoards of demons left and right, all without breaking a sweat. On top of these tools he also has access to angelic and demonic weapons, such as an angel scythe that does large sweeping slashes, and a demon battleaxe that unleashes massive shockwaves with each lumbering swing. Variety is encouraged, since the game keeps track of your combos, dodges, parries, and weapon usage as part of its Style grading system, not to mention the fact that every weapon in the game has a defined ideal use with nothing feeling like a reskin of Dante’s default sword. While it does take a while to get used to the fighting system, eventually being able to switch weapons on the fly for insane combos becomes second nature and satisfying. The Style score system grades you at the end of each mission, factoring in creative combos, how fast you completed the level, and how many collectibles and hidden challenges you found, and the grade determines how many extra upgrade points you get at the end. Upgrade points are necessary to buy new combos for your weapons or simply enhance the effectiveness of the ones you already have.
So far, for Devil May Cry purists, this is very standard fair, but there is a giant demon elephant in the room. DmC: Devil May Cry, for veterans of the original games, has been made more accessible, which has lead to easier initial difficulty modes. For hardcore veterans, this has been seen as making the game easier and a fault on Ninja Theory’s behalf. But, why is a reboot usually done? It is ideally used to help modernize the subject matter in question and introduce a new generation of people to that piece of media. In other words, making the slick new Devil May Cry game an experience that can make newcomers to the genre feel empowered while simultaneously giving long-time fans a novel twist on the formula was a stroke of genius. The initial lack of challenge to vets is also assuaged by the addition of extra unlockable difficulty settings, including Dante Must Die.
If there is an issue to be had with the gameplay it would have to be with some of the level design. Instead of revisiting a small group of locales with key-hunting puzzles, level progression in DmC is linear. Breaking up the occasional demon slaughterfest are platforming sections were Dante must use his angel and demon weapons to jump, glide and grapple his way to the next area as the very walls and buildings around him contort to the whims of the demon overseers to crush him into paste.. This progression isn’t a problem in the broad scheme of things. The sequences maintain gameplay momentum and it stops each level from devolving into a bunch of empty rooms pumped full of cannon fodder; on the whole a smart move. The issue comes up with the fact that one of the factors that determines Style score is finding collectibles. While these items are hidden in very clever locations, the levels have a habit of locking off previous areas once you hit a certain spot, which can lead to some frustration for completionists and fans of collectible doodads.
DmC isn’t exactly the best looking game from a pure technical point of view. While the motion capture for the character models are very impressive with a wide variety of facial expression and fluid body movement, some of the textures appear muddy. Also, as flexible as the Unreal Engine is to adapting Devil May Cry’s style, the capping of 30 frames per second does lead to subtle dips in control responsiveness. Thankfully, visual issues are counterbalanced by stunning art direction. Muddy textures will be the last thing on your mind when you are flying through an upside down neon jungle, or slashing through a nightclub that looks like something out of a techno music video. As for the framerate issue, it is a minor nitpick but the overall presentation is solid enough for it not to be a deal breaker on its own.
A Devil May Cry game just isn’t complete without an adrenaline pumping soundtrack, and DmC doesn’t disappoint. The music is a great mix of electonic, industrial, with some appropriate hard rock thrown in for good measure from the artists Noisia and Combichrist. Voice acting is solid throughout, with Tim Philipps stepping into the shoes as the new Dante and gives a solid performance.
Despite overwhelming initial negative public reception, DmC works. The core of what has made the series great is still intact. The style focused slash and shoot combat, the colorful enemies and over-the-top boss monsters, and the anarchic punk sensibilities of the protagonist are still alive, well, and ready to run a marathon. The Story mode on Normal difficulty should take about eight to ten hours to complete, but the replay value comes from the multiple difficulty levels and the aforementioned hidden challenge rooms which will really test your skills. Instead of a series crashing and burning, it has been reborn from the ashes, rejuvenated and ready to begin again. It’s good to have Dante back.
DmC makes a great first impression for 2013. With an impressive combat system, solid story length, and plenty of reason to come back, this will last you a while. If you like the fast-paced frantic fun of hack and slash games, DmC comes highly recommended.
AAG SCORE: 8.5/10
+ Fantastic Accessible Combat System
+ Well Told Story and Cast of Characters
+ Pitch Perfect Soundtrack and Art Style
– Minor Graphical Issues
– Railroading Level Design