I’m not too sure what I was expecting out of the new Devil May Cry. It was a drastic departure from everything about the old series (short of the intense combo based combat) and really rubbed certain people the wrong way. Of course, what doesn’t anymore? In truth, DmC does a lot of things right. It was a reboot no one was expecting, but in many ways it manages to do better than its source material.
The first thing I have to give props to is the combat. Ninja Theory managed to make an incredibly exciting and fast paced combat system for this one. Over the course of the game, you’ll find yourself with so many options and combos to dispatch demons with, that you’ll constantly surprise yourself with a new combo chain out of nowhere. If you pay attention to the loading screens, you’ll notice a silhouette of Dante dispensing pain in the way of nonstop combos and you’ll begin to wonder how you’ll manage to do anything close to that. Let me tell you, I’m not exactly the most deft of hand and I was able to bust out satisfyingly gruesome combos left and right. Boss battles grant you new “attachments” (for lack of a better term) for your weapons. At first, you have Rebellion (Dante’s classic sword) that can dish out a great deal of pain. From there, however, you begin to unlock new weapons. Angelic weapons, like the scythe Osiris, are designed to be lightning fast and incredibly effective. Demonic weapons like Eryx, the super awesome flaming death fists, are meant for high damage and high impact. Then you have your three different choices of guns that offer mildly low damage, but are great for continuing combos.
If this seems like a lot to take in, it’s OK. Where DmC shines is its ease and simplicity in picking up the catalog of weapons and combining them in useful ways. With a tap of the D-Pad (up, left, or right), you can switch the weapon you’re using on any side of the equation. Holding down the left trigger lets you use your angelic weapons, holding down your right trigger lets you use demonic weapons, and holding nothing let’s you use Rebellion. As simple as that is, chaining together heavy attacks and light attacks by swapping weapons and weapon types on the fly comes second nature to you as you rack up your score. Afraid you’re going to lose your combo? Ninja Theory even threw in grappling hooks to either pull enemies towards you or pull yourself towards enemies to continue the fun. It’s fast paced, easy to learn, and incredibly satisfying. I will admit that I had to fight with the camera during several encounters, especially ones taking place in hallways and small spaces. That is usually one of my pet peeves, but sometimes you ignore pet peeves for the greater good. The combat is indeed the greatest good of this game.
The one thing to say about this, however, is that fans of the original series might lament at the drop in challenge. I will admit, for someone who got frustrated at the originals without fail, I had no problem racking up my scores and getting the various S-Rank combos. For people like me who find deep satisfaction in dominating and not having to deal with super frustrating nonsense, this is absolutely OK. For everyone else, the increasing difficulty levels you unlock as you beat the game offer sufficient challenge. Culminating in the absolutely ridiculous Hell and Hell mode (Dante dies in one hit, but enemies have their regular health), you’ll still be able to get your masochistic jollies off with this one.
Of course, the story has to be the biggest departure in this one. Taking place in Limbo City, a New York inspired metropolis under the control of Demon King Mundus, the setting and tone of this game are truly new for the series. Mundus takes the form of banker Kyle Ryder, who controls the world through media and financial debt. Spreading his own propaganda through world-wide news, operating cameras to monitor his “subjects”, and poisoning the most popular soda in order to make humans lazy and docile, Mundus has a tight grip on the world until Dante decides to take interest. The plot, I’ll save for you to experience, offers a more serious and political tone than the campy past of the series.
This isn’t to say that the game is without cheese. You’ll mostly find this in new Dante, whose nonchalant attitude make him slightly less jerk-y than old Dante and a heap more likable. His snap backs and constant use of the F-Word in random moments really make you remember you’re playing a Devil May Cry game. Unfortunately, the story sometimes falls flat and a lot of the elements introduced fall to the wayside once they stop being an immediate problem, something a bit unexpected from Ninja Theory (who made two of the best stories this generation in Heavenly Sword and Enslaved). At certain points, it seems to be trying to take itself too seriously, but then it mellows out to a comfortable level. The concept of “control” seeds itself throughout the story, however, and it’s easy to get engrossed in it while you’re playing. I even found myself laughing at some of the most basic stuff (I mean…dick jokes? Really?) It’s just that darn hindsight that gets you in the end.
(I should give credit to the voice acting, though. When I think Capcom, I don’t think great voice acting…historically, at least. But this game has some really good voice acting no matter which way you slice the story.)
The story does lend itself to the level design. The missions all take place within Limbo, a twisted version of the real world that bends itself backwards to impede your progress. It offers some really unique level design and does a lot of really creative things with its world. It’s actually one of the coolest game worlds I’ve been in. As you traverse through platforming segments, you’ll find yourself using the two different grappling hooks to pull terrain and fly through the radically altered reality. Sometimes they even make you switch grappling hooks on the fly, offering a fast fingered challenge. They do offer some nice twists to this on occasion. A level later in a game that takes place in a Limbo version of a “hot” night club makes for an interesting place to traverse. A certain level that sees you trapped in Limbo but traversing through the real world offers little in the way of things to do, but adds a flipped sense of helplessness. There’s even a level where you’re attempting to reach a boss encounter by running around avoiding a giant spotlight laser. It’s a truly unique world to go through. If you happen to fall, the game really doesn’t punish you too badly. You get a small piece of your life bar taken away and reset on the platform you were jumping from. If you altered any terrain mid-jump and fell, it even stays in place. It’s not designed to be too big of a hindrance, but more like demonic busy work as you jump between combat and story segments.
(I should also, quickly, make mention of the soundtrack. The crazy rock music and the pumping dubstep really do add to the world. It’s, essentially, a bunch of music I’d never listen to that makes sense accompanied by Limbo and the fast paced combat.)
If you’re big on collectibles, fear not. The platforming and world also lends itself to hidden collectibles in the way of keys, doors, and lost souls. You might simply stumble across a few of these as you traverse, but thinking and exploring every nook and cranny is necessary if you want to get everything. You’ll even need to go back and replay levels with new toys to get a few of them. The keys and doors, especially, work in conjunction to offer secret missions that challenge your abilities. The replayability is there, as you need to collect everything and complete levels in a competent amount of time to get an SSS rank on all of them. Between these and the ramping difficulty selections, you’ll have a lot of reason to go back to this one.
The new characters and new imaginings of old characters are good, the story is good (despite its tonal wobbliness and its blatant sequel-bait ending), the platforming is good, and the replayability is good. What really should get you excited about this are the spectacular mind-bending world and the superb combat.
As it stands now, DmC as a total package is good enough to get an 8/10 from me. Ninja Theory, bring your stunning storytelling and character development for numero dos and we’ll talk about that 10.