DmC: Devil May Cry ReviewJanuary 19, 2013
Can Ninja Theory’s DmC: Devil May Cry reboot rise above all the fan outrage?
DmC: Devil May Cry is Ninja Theory’s reboot of Hideki Kamiya’s popular Devil May Cry third-person action series. As a fan of the original, I was one of the many who hated Dante’s new look. But I eventually put aside my bias and decided to give this new interpretation a chance. So does DmC successfully reboot the franchise, or does it run Kamiya’s once-proud series into the ground?
DmC: Devil May Cry is loosely based on the original series’ canon, but takes some significant liberties with its plot. In fact, there is a hilarious moment early on in the game (which I won’t spoil here) that is essentially a giant middle finger to diehard fans who hate Dante’s redesign. The story goes like this: the Demon Lord Mundus, under the guise of Kyle Ryder, has become the most powerful and influential man in the world, using debt and demons to control the people of Limbo City. He is using his influence to keep the people unaware of his true intentions, to gain total control over the human world. A rebel group known as The Order recruit Dante, the son of the demon Sparda and the angel Eva, to aid them in warning the people and taking down Lord Mundus, who threatens to crush humanity beneath his mighty, wicked heel. Dante must slay Mundus’ demonic legion by travelling into Limbo, a sort of in-between plane, similar to Bayonetta’s Purgatory, wherein quite literally everything is trying to kill you. Aside from Mundus’ minions, the environment itself will try and hinder you by making large sections of the floor fall away into bottomless pits; the walls close in on you in attempt to crush you; and ominous lettering will appear on the walls and floor, mocking you and commanding your death.
Like in classic Devil May Cry games, the campaign is split into 20 missions, spanning around 12 hours. It’ll take longer if you go out of your way to find all the collectibles and obtain all the different skins for Dante, which can either be bought via the PlayStation Store or unlocked by completing the game on all difficulties. However, compared to previous games in the series, DmC has more cutscenes that frequently break the flow of gameplay. Classic Devil May Cry’s missions would have one cutscene at the beginning; one at the end; one just before a boss fight, if there is one; and everything else was sweet, uninterrupted gameplay. In DmC, control is constantly taken away from you to shove exposition down your throat. Sometimes a cutscene would even trigger just to show enemies spawning! If they want to do that to introduce a new enemy, then fine, but not enemies we’ve fought fifty times in that mission alone.
Devil May Cry’s classic hack-and-slash combat makes a return, with its focus on chaining stylish combos together to rack up points. You start the game off with Dante’s iconic sword Rebellion and his dual handguns Ebony and Ivory, all of which have undergone redesigns. Additional weapons, in the form of transformations for Rebellion, are unlocked in later levels by defeating bosses. However, the abilities of these new weapons seem to have no connection to the boss you obtain them from, such as a pair of gauntlets (a cross between the hammerfists from Prototype and every gauntlet weapon from previous Devil May Cry games) which are obtained upon defeating a giant caterpillar-crone hybrid. There are two types of melee weapons Rebellion can change into: demonic weapons, which can be used by holding down R2/right trigger; and angelic weapons, which activate using L2/left trigger. Some enemies can only take damage from angelic weapons while others are only vulnerable to the demonic ones, so the game has a habit of cheekily spawning multiple enemies for gameplay variety. The difficulty of such a scenario is abated somewhat by the ability to switch between weapons mid-combo without breaking the flow of the combo. Unlike Devil May Cry 3, you do not choose your weapons at the beginning of the level. You have all your weapons with you once they’ve been unlocked. This also applies to your abilities, as the Styles of previous games are absent.
Slain enemies can drop red, green and white orbs. Red orbs can be spent on items such as vital stars, which replenish your health. However, the price of an item will increase every time you buy it, and using an item during a mission will subtract points from your final score. Green orbs replenish your health as well, but do not count as an item. White orbs act as experience points. Once enough have been collected, you are awarded an upgrade point, which can be spent in the customize menu on upgrades for Dante’s weapons or for Dante himself. As mentioned earlier, all your abilities are available upon purchase.
The iconic Style gauge is present in DmC. This gauge, with D as the lowest score and SSS as the highest, can only be increased during combat by mixing up different combos and weapons. Spamming the same attack over and over will give you a few points, but will not raise the gauge. In the original series, getting hit by an enemy attack would cause the Style gauge to reset to zero. In DmC the gauge merely drops two or three letters.
And what would a Devil May Cry game be without Devil Trigger? When the DT gauge is filled up to a certain point, Dante is able to call upon and manifest his demonic powers. While active, Dante’s strength and speed increase significantly, thus maximizing his damage output. However, Dante does not transform into a demonic form. Instead, his hair turns white and his coat turns bright red (in homage to classic Dante) and the surrounding environment turns white as time slows to a crawl, in a striking resemblance to the Quicksilver style of Devil May Cry 3. In addition, enemies (with the obvious exception of bosses) are thrown into the air and hang suspended for you to unleash your power upon. This was rather disappointing, as I was hoping for a hybrid form of angel and demon, but it was useful in turning the tide of battle, especially in boss battles. The boss battles themselves, while incredibly massive with their own unique levels, all have the same tactic: chip away at its weak points until the prompt appears for you to grapple onto its large, glowing weak point for extreme damage.
One problem I have with the combat is the auto lock-on. With the manual lock-on feature absent, there is no way of knowing which enemy you are targeting until you start attacking, as there is no icon to show which enemy you’ve locked on to. This makes attacks such as Dante’s signature Stinger, which is executed by tilting the left stick twice in the direction you wish to go, and pressing the melee button, rather unwieldy.
Aside from the combat, there are also platforming sections with jumping puzzles that allow you to take multiple routes to your destination. Many of these sections require you to utilize both of Rebellion’s grappling hook forms, usually requiring you to switch from one to the other mid jump. Fortunately, these sections have found a way to be challenging without being frustrating. When you fall off a platform into the bottomless pit below, instead of dying and being taken to a loading screen, you almost immediately respawn with a small loss in health. Thus, each attempt flows smoothly into the next.
Throughout each mission are hidden keys, each of which unlock a corresponding door that leads to a secret mission. Each secret mission will have an objective for you to complete, such as defeating all enemies in a given amount of time. Upon completion, you are awarded a Health Cross Fragment. Collecting four of these increases Dante’s health by one block. However, some keys are placed out of reach and can only be obtained using an ability that is unlocked in a later mission, so there is a lot of backtracking required if you wish to achieve 100% SSS rank completion.
DmC’s has very vivid visuals. Many of Dante’s and the enemies’ attacks involve flashing lights, and a few of the levels are filled with excessive bloom. More often than not I found myself getting a throbbing headache, especially in one level that takes place in a disco club in which the boss attacks you with strobe lights and flashing disco balls, resulting in a big, blinding mess not seen since Electric Soldier Porygon. However, when the game isn’t assaulting your eyes with bloom and trailing after-images, the visual aesthetic is amazingly detailed. I particularly enjoyed the opening cutscene.
Shawn McPherson’s rough vocals and heavy metal have been pushed to the side in favour of Norwegian aggrotech band Combichrist, with a soundtrack consisting mainly of grunge. While this suits Dante’s character, it isn’t as memorable as the soundtracks of Devil May Cry 3 and 4. The voice acting is, for the most part, above average, but Tim Phillips, who plays the new Dante, is outrageously bad! He speaks his lines with little to no emotion, which at first I just accepted as Dante’s character. However, during scenes where Dante is screaming while falling, or even when he’s being attacked, Phillips merely lets out a monotonous “aaaaaaaahh” like a child at the dentist’s office.
DmC contains a lot more cursing that the original series. While I don’t really have a problem with this, some characters seem to be vulgar for vulgarity’s sake. One boss screeched at me, and I quote, “I’m going to eat you, s**t you out and smash your tiny s**t-covered little bones”. She then proceeded to spew her projectile vomit acid at me.
Ninja Theory’s reboot of Devil May Cry exceeded my expectations. The iconic focus on style and deep combat mechanics are ever present, and the platforming puzzles have found that sweet spot of challenging the player without maddening them. That said, it isn’t as good as the original series; at best, it’s about on par with Devil May Cry 4. It’s worth a rent, as the combat and platforming are its saving grace. There is DLC in which you get to play as Dante’s twin brother Vergil, but a game should be able to stand without downloadable content. Hardcore fans of the Devil May Cry series, and action game fans should give it a look.