Game Review: DmC – Devil May Cry
Ninja Theory takes the reigns of Capcom’s Devil May Cry series for a whole new take on Dante. In a fresh reimagining, DmC: Devil May Cry brings ass-kicking action screaming back to hell.
Revising or rethinking previously conceived work, or worlds, is always tricky territory. Unfortunately, this becomes only more glaring in a time obsessed with remakes, reboots, re-imaginings, reworkings, and revisions all across the board – movies, music, theater, and in video games: anything to make a quick buck off a previously established name, with a previously established audience.
On the bad side of this, it is shameless financial drive: why not just take something that everyone liked a certain amount of time ago, tweak it slightly for “the modern age,” and BAM! – regardless of the final outcome, it will no matter likely turn a profit just based on brand awareness, and most importantly, audience nostalgia.
Yet, on the good side of this, a well-made reboot/remake can have the opportunity to breathe life into a stale franchise, and even make its name for a whole new interpretation on a previously established work.
Which then brings us to DmC: Devil May Cry.
Appropriately enough, highlighting the angels and demons of rebooting is a perfect invitation to discussion – luckily, DmC: Devil May Cry falls with the better angels.
Intense, fast-paced, and even sharing more than its fair share of fun and humor, DmC is a perfect complement to the previous Devil May Cry series, with enough of its own take to branch out into a new, but equally exciting, direction. Helmed by Ninja Theory, previously of Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, their care and attention to DmC shows insight not only to the complex and hugely satisfying combat system that made Devil May Cry so enthralling, but in their touch of adding a genuinely investing story that improves on the bombast and anime spectacle of its predecessors.
Following the origins of its well-known protagonist, DmC: Devil May Cry is the rebirth of Dante – this time, however, as an angst-y emo dubstep scenester made demon-hunting badass. After learning his roots as a Nephilim, a half-God/half-human hybrid, capable of amazing feats and wielders of unholy might and weaponry, Dante soon becomes witness to a city filled with a great many lies and deceit, and even more secrets and murky truths. Living in the cesspool urban jungle of Limbo City, Dante learns from the mysterious Kat of “The Order,” a rogue vigilante group set out to conquer the “demons” of the city (both literally and metaphorically), and joins a battle of good vs evil, angel vs demon, and any other variation of the “light vs dark” motif you can think of. Filled with intense combat, outrageous set-pieces, and a huge variety of awesome angel and demon weapons, DmC: Devil May Cry, coming from a well-worn Devil May Cry veteran, is a hugely satisfying and great re-entry into the series. By cleansing some of the most egregious sins of its Devil May Cry predecessors, such as exhausting backtracking and countless boss battles replayed 2 or 3 times (here’s looking at you, Devil May Cry 4), thankfully DmC‘s linearity and straight-forward design make it a much breezier and more focused hack and slash experience.
After joining up with his long-lost brother, Vergil, DmC sets the stage not only for a story filled with all sorts of crazy demons, both larger-than-life and in the confines of society, but for a surprisingly touching story that arguably may be the greatest feature in Ninja Theory’s take on the series. Shredding away the often-ridiculous plot points of past Devil May Cry games, DmC‘s more intimate take on Dante and Vergil’s relationship, along with their shared history and family, makes the combat and huge set-pieces count for something – a feature often absent in most AAA ginormous super enormous blockbusters these days. Luckily, DmC may have a story featuring the darkness of humanity warring between its angels and demons, yet it never forgets that deep down inside, it does have a heart pumping crimson blood beneath it. Dante, Vergil, Kat, and everyone in between make for convincing characters, rather than poorly contrived caricatures.
That said, DmC features more than its fair share of profanity-filled silliness as well, at times even surpassing the already ridiculous antics that Devil May Cry was previously known for. Right from the very opening of the game, Dante flies midair through his trailer home in slow-mo midair as a demon viciously assaults it: all while in the nude. It’s insane, ridiculous, but totally in tone with Devil May Cry of old and appropriately well choreographed and executed. Even with some overly “emo” tendencies, New Dante is not the blasphemy that Devil May Cry fans, including myself, thought he would be when revealed a few years back. He’s just a slightly new take on an old face, but one equally glad to have around.
At the heart of it all though, Devil May Cry is defined by fast, always-evolving combat, and thankfully DmC and Dante fully deliver with a completely revamped, but immediately satisfying system full of variety and combo-ability. Using Angel and Demon abilities and weapons mapped to individual triggers on the controller, Dante can freely combo into a huge variety of weapons, switching from his trademark sword, Rebellion, and twin pistols Ebony and Ivory to 4 new weapons, even able to switch to all of them within the span of one whole combo. Granted, it’s a doozy: learning and remembering the intricacies of DmC‘s combo system is not easy and takes some getting used to. Even at the end of the game I at times had to pause or fuddle around the controller, trying to remember, “Which demon ability does what now?” Given some time through the game’s trials, though, it’s not unbeatable at all. The combat system does have a bit of a learning curve, but only in the service of making DmC: Devil May Cry deviously fun and providing a great system that can evolve over the course of the game.
Likewise, DmC features (quite literally) out of this world level design and art direction through its 20 chapter journey. Each level provides a different take on some of the Seven Deadly Sins of mankind, and of Limbo City: from Dante’s journey into the factories of Virility, the (frankly) shitty soda rotting the minds and brains of its citizens, to a truly outstanding level and boss fight deep within the virtual confines of the Raptor News Network – DmC‘s own satirical take on slanderous, fear-mongering news and media coverage: a video game take on Fox News, if you will. While more than a bit heavy-handed at times, DmC‘s fantastical settings, combined with the struggles between the demonized “Limbo” fantasy realm with the lies and corruption of the “real” Limbo City provides an interesting take on the literal and metaphorical demons plaguing Limbo City.
Taking the great combat options of Heavenly Sword and interspersed with the narrative strength of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Ninja Theory’s take on the Devil May Cry series may feature some of the cartoonishly over-the-top cut-scenes and overly obnoxious butt-rock (well…this time replaced by dubstep) of old, but DmC is the refreshing kick to the ass that the franchise needed. With great combat and a surprisingly well-woven story, thankfully DmC avoids being the spawn of corrupt business intentions and slander, that like it so feverishly comments on in the Raptor New Network or the spread of Virility sweetening and fattening its denizens.
Instead, Ninja Theory took an old formula and injected it with hard-boiled angst, and made it their own, in a stunningly beautiful and engagingly intricate new take on the Devil May Cry series.
In the war between angels and demons, luckily DmC: Devil May Cry sides more with its angels. Like it or not, DmC is here to stay: if you don’t stay along for the ride, you can go to hell.
Review based on retail Xbox 360 physical copy of the game.