The recent reboot to Capcom’s Devil May Cry franchise developed by Ninja Theory has been an ongoing topic of controversy ever since it was announced. Some fans of the originals have been crying foul at the redesign of Dante and anything else that didn’t mimic the older titles. Gameplay footage and the demo release swayed some, but others remained certain that the game was an abomination doomed to fail. Who is right?
As a bit of a preface, I myself have been a pretty big fan of the franchise from the beginning. I remember getting incredibly excited for the first game in high school and getting it the day it came out. I’ve played all of the original four and enjoyed them all to varying degrees, including two which everyone likes to pretend never happened. The first is still my favorite though. That being said, I don’t know that I was ever that fond of the storyline or Dante as a character. The gameplay was always satisfying but for the most part Capcom fell flat on making a coherent story that I really cared about.
I, for one, was looking forward to seeing what Ninja Theory would do with the franchise because story has been something they’ve been pretty big on with their games up till now. I also see value in giving a new perspective to a character or a franchise.
DmC is set up to be an origin story, explaining how Dante became a Demon Hunter. The game opens and right away you can see a stark difference in the story that’s being told here. Mundus in this game is actually a felt presence, controlling the world through propaganda and chemical mind control as opposed to an awakening demon on an island nobody seems to know about.
Ninja Theory decided to play the world in this game as a satire of our own with not so subtle parodies of Fox News, American consumerism and the “1%” being the controlling arms of Hell. It is an interesting direction that leads to some cool concepts throughout the game.
The plot of the game basically revolves around Vergil, Dante’s twin brother, recruiting him in an underground war against Mundus’ control over the world. Dante being sent on missions to hit important parts of the demon’s empire to weaken and ultimately destroy him.
The portrayal of Dante in this game is focused on trying to give him a raw starting point, this ultimately being the character before he becomes more like the one in the original games. I actually found it interesting since they handed us a self destructive, “doesn’t give a f***” character planted into a world he doesn’t fully understand. He turns to partying and violence as a means to cope with the reality of the hellish world around him.
Now I guarantee that this is where some of the most devoted of the old school fans will probably abandon the game, disliking the angsty yet more realistic character who is so unlike the aloof bad ass caricature who’s more or less just having a good time in other titles. I personally enjoy the new take but I don’t expect everyone will.
Throughout the story we see a growing of the character as he begins to learn his past and the truth of what’s going on in the world. We see glimpses of his future personality but definitely in a more western variation with more cursing and some rather painful puns. We also get to see the relationship of the brothers explained in a far more in depth way than any of the other games ever cared to explore.
Despite the changes there are some beats that are constant. Mundus is still responsible for the destruction of Dante’s family which is part of the reason why Dante hates Demons. However, instead of being half human, he and Vergil are half angel as well as demon. While not Shakespeare by any means, the story and world this new game creates is interesting. The ending has a bit of a twist that veterans and newcomers to the series will probably see coming, but is still satisfying in how it plays out.
The game’s presentation is probably the most interesting feature. Much of Dante’s exploits take place in Limbo, essentially a neighboring dimension of our world where the reality of Mundus’ control is prevalent. There is a lot of nightmare imagery as the world around you breaks apart or actively moves like a living being trying to impede your progress. Platforms of earth hang over a pits of oblivion. Subliminal messages are revealed in this limbo promoting ignorance, consumerism, and obedience which is a neat touch. I also appreciate that the Limbo explanation is a nice way to lampshade what never made sense about Dante fighting through seemingly abandoned cities in the original games.
The game does take a little while to start showing any real variety though, the first few hours see many similar enemies showing up within mostly urban settings. Once you start actually attacking Mundus’s operations things start getting more interesting though. Hideous boss creatures, bizarre news network arenas, a psychedelic dance club and other striking environments appear to help keep things fresh.
Speaking of hideous creatures, there is a lot of grotesque imagery in this game. Some of the demon creatures will inspire some rather disgusted reactions from most people. There’s one boss fight against Mundus’ mistress where I had to pause the game after the intro into the fight because of the contorted look of horror on my face. I literally needed a second to shake that off before going back into the fight.
The graphics tend to be hit and miss, sometimes the models look really good, at other times not so much. There is a bit of texture popping here and there and other issues. The shadows on the Playstation 3 version are the biggest problem in my opinion. As good as the textures on the characters are, the shadows were bad enough to actually significantly hurt some of the scenes, at least for me.
The music is great with many of the tracks composed by the band Combichrist – they suit the tone of the game really well. The voice acting is decent for the most part, but some of the dialogue is definitely hammy or stilted. I did have some issues with the sound going out of sync with certain cutscenes.
Gameplay remains true to Devil May Cry name with many of the attacks from the old games coming back. Launching enemies into the air and keeping them afloat with a flurry of bullets is still as satisfying as ever. As you progress you can unlock more attacks through upgrades, giving more variety.
You also gain more weapons which can seamlessly be switched between in the midst of combat. Dante’s mixed blood is utilized as a feature in combat. Outside of his main sword, Rebellion, Dante has angel weaponry and devil weaponry, each used either by holding L2 or R2 while fighting. By the end of the game you get 2 melee weapons of each kind as well as the main weapon and 3 flavors of guns. If you get a good enough handle on the system it is entirely possible to jump between all 8 weapons in an endless wave of death and getting a ridiculously high score for your combat ranking.
DmC also has sections which are much more devoted to platforming than any of the other games in the past have been. The implementation of this as well as the unique usage of 2 different grappling abilities and an air dash lead to some great moments. I definitely appreciated it considering that in the past whenever the other games flirted with platforming Dante’s stiff jumping and immovable camera made those sections utterly asinine.
There are items you can buy from statues or in between levels, however the only things really worth investing in are the upgrades to health and the devil trigger. This will probably be another point of contention for most fans as the game is actually quite a bit easier than most of its predecessors, at least on the standard difficulties, so items like vital stars and yellow orbs are far from necessary. I might have used one small vital star the entire game. There are additionally difficulty settings unlockable by playing multiple times for people looking for more of a challenge though, including the return of the infamous “Dante Must Die” difficulty.
Two things that did disappoint me a bit, though, was the sparse number of boss battles and the relative shortness of the game. The first game did have just have a few bosses that kept showing up repeatedly, but at least in the later games you had a fairly high number of epic bosses to handle. Here there’s really only 6 boss fights in total. Not that they aren’t fun, but there definitely was room for more, especially considering the games length.
I managed to complete this game in roughly 7 hours, not including breaks. On the one hand, it makes the game much more reasonable to play over and over again to master, but for those who will only play through once to get the experience it’s pushing it a bit as far as value for a full priced game.
I did really enjoy this game and hope it does well enough to continue the story, however there are some flaws. There is a lack of polish in some of the graphics and sound syncing. Also the 7 hour game length could be a turnoff if you’re not the kind of person who plays a game repeatedly to get a better score or beat the game on the highest difficulty.
Despite this, it’s still a lot of fun and feels like Devil May Cry despite the difference in approach. I hope that if we do get a sequel that they spend more time polishing the game and make it a more expansive story. In the meantime, I am looking forward to the DLC that is planned where you play as Vergil, exploring more of his characters story. I recommend giving the game a chance, it isn’t the exact same as the old games but it is a worthwhile twist on the concept.