DmC: Devil May Cry may be one of the most polarizing games I’ve ever encountered for as long as I’ve been tracking this industry. Not because of a drastic change in gameplay or a disappointing ending. No, it’s all because Dante changed his hair, looks more gaunt and skinny, and he’s younger. I guess I missed it when gamers on the internet turned into Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. Ninja Theory, make it work.
And let me tell you, they did. Ninja Theory has always been a talented studio that made great games that unfortunately have not managed to translate into financial successes. However, this is their best work to date as the gameplay, presentation, and level design is so good, so polished and so imaginative, to miss out on this game just because of a preference in character design is to do a disservice to yourself as a gamer.
Dante doesn’t know what he is yet as the story starts but when a mysterious girl named Kat comes looking for him, it isn’t long until he’s introduced to his long lost brother Vergil and he discovers he’s not Human but Nephilim, half-angel, half-demon. Dante, Vergil and Kat then work together in an underground organization known as The Order to take down Mundus, an all powerful demon who rules the world by manipulating humanity in secret.
The plot is much more involved and serious than in previous games in the series in both subject matter and substance, but still manages to have light moments of crude humor and stupid but awesome action scenes without being crass in its more serious moments. This doesn’t mean Dante has gone Emo, as many feared. Dante actually resembles a punk with his brash, bratty attitude. His new design may not be the most creative but it ultimately comes down to preference.
Virgil and Kat are also well developed with their own character arcs and Kat in particular is a great character that we’ll probably see more of if a sequel is made, something the satisfying ending hints at. The story moves at a quick pace, clocking in at eight to nine hours, and although some meat in the plot would’ve been appreciated, it’s a good sign when the only problem with a narrative is a desire for more. It’s a well paced plot that isn’t bogged down with drawn out exposition and is gratifying and well told.
The star of DmC is really the world the game takes place in, the real world and Limbo. I played this game on the PC at max settings and the graphics were really good. Character models and environments are crisp and detailed and there are few blurry or pop-in textures. Everything manage to run at a steady frame rate that goes over 60 FPS. The soundtrack consists of heavy metal and dubstep tracks and it fits the game well. However it doesn’t really manage to leave an impression either way.
DmC is great graphically from a technical standpoint but its strength lie in the art design. The developers included numerous news network, energy drink, and conspiracy comparisons in the game’s plot and world. The lead news channel Raptor News Network resembles Fox News, the Virility soft drink mirror various energy drinks such as SoBe, and the group Vergil and Kat are a part of, The Order, echo the hacktivist group Anonymous.
All of this make the world look like a modern metropolis like New York City but the religious tones and gothic architecture from the previous games are also incorporated. Flashback cut-scenes are done in the style of Renaissance religious imagery such as Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. The juxtaposition of 21st and 15th century imagery really works to set a bizarre yet natural tone. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
DmC has some of the best level design in an action title. In Limbo, the demons can constantly shift the landscape around in an attempt to impede your progress and this makes for impressive moments. Carnivals are turned into apocalyptic piers, warehouses become platforming gauntlets, inner cities become claustrophobic corridors. What’s more is each level is different from the last, with no two levels looking alike. It’s simply a joy just to go to the next level to see what’s next.
DmC utilizes a combat system that is based around variety and it is one of the most diverse systems in any action title. Dante has a sword and firearms to attack enemies. As the game progresses, Dante will acquire more guns and Devil and Angel weapons, as well as two different whip attacks and power-up mode called the Devil Trigger. The backbone of the gameplay is all of this can be accessed on the fly with no pausing to equip anything.
Dominating a crowd of enemies by constantly switching between weapons or juggling enemies in the air while utilizing your whips to stay in the air is always satisfying. Controls are fluid and responsive and every fight no matter how big or small is extremely exciting. To which, the big encounters are some of the most memorable boss fights in any action game with the one with the news anchor from the Raptor News Network being especially inspired.
Two minor complaints: targeting enemies with your guns can sometimes be troublesome as there’s no manual targeting system and switching between targets doesn’t work well. Also, some enemy types in later levels can only be harmed by using a specific kind of weapon. It doesn’t happen often enough to be intrusive but it’s always stifling when it does.
To break up the action, the puzzles and back tracking from the previous games have been replaced by platforming sections that are very well done thanks to solid physics and tight controls. The combat is also kept from being repetitive thanks to a ranking system that encourages creativity and rewards you with upgrade points for unlocking new moves as well as red orbs used to buy items that can be used in-game. The ranking system is more lenient than in past games but getting that coveted SSS ranking still isn’t easy.
For replayability, each level has keys to find, doors to unlock and Lost Souls to release, which will increase your rating at the end of the level. They are design to not all be accessible the first time around so you will have to go back once you have obtain later weapons. Hidden challenges are also available and completing them will give you fragments that will extend your health or Devil Trigger meter when four are collected. Some of these can also be bought with red orbs.
DmC has three different difficulties from the beginning. Human is easy, Devil Hunter normal and Nephilim hard. I played through on Devil Hunter and found the game to be challenging but not difficult. For those who want a tougher challenge, there’s four other difficulties that unlock after completing the game including one where all the enemies are much harder and you die with one hit.
DmC: Devil May Cry is a great example of a reboot done well. The fast paced action, engaging storyline, and outstanding design make for an outstanding experience and you’ll immediately want to jump back into the game to find all the extra stuff and complete the game at a harder difficulty. This is an early contender for game of the year and Ninja Theory should be applauded as they have won Project Dante (see what I did there?)