Few games have received as much hate, controversy, and cause an all out fan war between the optimist and the pessimistic as much as Ninja Theory’s and Capcom’s reboot of the beloved franchise Devil May Cry. 2 years since its TGS announcement the game is finally among us, but has Ninja Theory and Capcom crafted a superior Dante and friends, or was all the condemning just.
To answer that question simply, it would be yes and no. DmC: Devil May Cry is a great attempt at rebooting the franchise that is only held back by a lackluster story, presentation, and annoying game design choices. But even through its minor downfalls, DmC manages to be something that is missing from many of todays games. FUN. Right off the back the game kicks things into high gear with Dante spending a night with the ladies to be waken up, in the nude, by Kat a psychic / medium / witch / rebel with a demon hot on your trail. From there you are thrown into the new world of DmC. Limbo. Limbo is the single greatest improvement Ninja Theory has added to the franchise, and should be carried on from here forth. Limbo takes the normal boring world of DMC and throws it into a hellish playground for demons to affect the real world without their presence being known. It’s concept is typical for handling such situations, but it’s execution in-game is flawless and truly sets DmC apart from every other game in the franchise and every other hack and slash out there.
But as great as the first 10 - 20 minutes are it’s still a standard, but beautified tutorial of the games basic controls and gameplay. And upon beating the first mission, your next mission throws you right back into another 10 - 20 minute tutorial as you gain access to your demon and angel powers. So the first 20 - 40 minutes are literally tutorial for a game that’s 8 - 10 hours long.
However, after completing the first 2 missions of the 20 Mission game, things begin to really develop, as you take on the hoards of demons standing between you and the demon King Mundus. But unfortunately that’s all the story ever really develops into, which is disappointing considering Ninja Theory’s strength in storytelling in it’s previous games. DmC like it’s predecessors is a story about performing a demon hunting job and seeking revenge on demons for hurting people, or in this case breaking up Dante and Vergil’s once happy family. At times it’s interesting and clever, then it’s dumb and vulgar, but it never really gets past that which is truly unfortunate.
The cast is a mixed bag ranging from good to mediocre. The game is at it’s best when Dante, Vergil, and Kat interact with one another. Both Kat and Vergil (although Vergil is vastly different in personality from previous games) are thought out characters and from the beginning their roles are clear. To get this mess of a Dante headed down the right path towards salvation. Dante is a far cry from previous installations as well. He gives his infamous 1-liners with a hint of charm, and innuendo, but he’s also vulgar and extremely cocky which can be unappealing for a protagonist you’re planning on spending the next 8+ hours with. If I had to compare the two I would say Old-Dante is a J-Pop Rocker, while New-Dante is straight up Punk Rock and doesn’t give an explicit about it. That being said New-Dante does grow on you by the end of the game, and it’s a shame that Ninja Theory went to such extents to give the bad-boy look and fell when mowing down armies of demons like nothing was more than enough. The major villains and bosses are all forgettable. Ninja Theory did a great job at conveying how the demons have taken over the world with a contemporary twist, but the characters themselves are completely underwhelming and sometimes flatout ugly in design (Lilith).
The writing doesn’t really fair any better either. For the most part it’s standard game writing, but the vulgarity of some parts of the game seem completely out of place for the typical hack and slash. The phrase “FU” is used at least 5 times throughout the game, and its use is just pointless. One piece in particular stood out where Dante and Vergil shared a brotherly spat about who’s better at what, with Dante saying “I’m stronger”, Vergil replying “I’m smarter”, Dante replies “I’m better looking”, and you think it end there as both smirk, but then it’s ruined by Vergil saying “I have a bigger D!@#”. Its just moments like those that make the game feel dumb and vulgar instead of witty and charismatic. But for what its worth the game does a slightly above average job at telling a decent story.
While the story and writing may have not lived up to expectations, surprisingly the gameplay has. DmC is by far Ninja Theory’s best work in the gameplay department. DmC plays beautifully and is full of depth. Like previous games you start off with the trusty sword Rebellion and the twin pistols Ebony and Ivory, and can unlock new attack and abilities to improve your movepool of attacks. But unlike the previous games instead of using Red Orbs you earn upgrade points to upgrade skills. It’s a nice improvement as it allows you to freely spend those Red Orbs on much needed Health and Devil Trigger upgrades.
Angel and Demon modes are new additions to the franchise and the second greatest improvement to the game. Personally I’m a huge fan of the free combat in the originals (especially DMC 3 and DMC 4). However, the addition of Angel and Demon modes adds a layer of strategy that simply wasn’t in the originals. But not all is good regarding these new abilities. Early on it can be a bit confusing and takes a while to get use to especially coming off of previous games. You’re better off playing a few levels of Heavenly Sword to prepare for DmC’s combat. Later in the game there are also enemies who are completely unaffected by one of your new forms, or one of the new forms and Rebellion which can be annoying when fighting large groups of enemies filled with multiple immune demons. It’s one of the bad game design decisions that make DmC stumble on its way. The whole point of DMC games is to master combos and juggle multiple enemies, but with no lock-on a misplaced attack can interrupt your momentum and cause you to miss out on getting a perfect SSS score. DmC is all about fast and frantic crowd control, but hitting an immune enemy and stumbling back just breaks your rush.
Another thing that break immersion are the after mission rankings. Although rewarding and inspiring replays, they ruin the flow of the story when you end a mission. Instead of taking them out they should be implemented in the say way Bayonetta does to keep things flowing along.
Beyond combat however, DmC is also a platformer at heart. Using your Angel and Demon powers you must traverse through the stages and safely guide Dante through obstacles that are easy at their hardest.
Probably the biggest problem with DmC is the engine running the game, Unreal Engine. For the most part the game looks solid, but for such a high profile game you’d expect better (Gears of War 3 good). There are some annoying graphical errors / choices such as a weird shadow effect that sketches it’s way across the characters faces that mar the game. On top of that there are common Unreal Engine problem such as delayed texture loading, screen tearing, and frame rate issues. It’s expected seeing how Unreal Engine has struggled to run smoothly for most games on the PS3, but unfortunate considering Ninja Theory's history and experience developing for the PS3. There’s also an unforgivable lag in the upgrade menus. But not all is bad. The time in Limbo is some of the most captivating work in the game, and there are times where the game becomes so artistic and Zen-like that it feels like the game is being created by two very different minds (chalkboard).
Overall DmC is a success with some unfortunate, but fixable faults. As I said at times the game feels like it was developed by two different minds. For every great idea there’s a minor annoyance that could and should have been discussed and fixed well before the games release. The combat loading screen is pretty cool, but there’s a lot of loading and the loading screen of Dante and his mother Eva often results in quite a long waiting session. The controls are completely customizable which is great, but the lack of a lock-on button to target enemies is a step back. The weapons are some of the best in the franchise, and you get them by beating a boss like previous games, but why do each boss give you access to a weapon they don’t even use. There’s a training mode and challenge missions to test your develop and improve your skills while offering longevity, but DmC is easier than any of the previous games to begin with, and getting better allows you to blow through the game effortlessly. For those who want the series known difficulty you must play on Nephilim from the very beginning. Then there are dumb ones like the world drinking Succubus juice, and Dante and Vergil being immune to it, but somehow stepping in it burns Dante like a genital rash he may or not have contacted prior to the game... And for all the mention of Dante’s newfound Angel abilities and lineage there’s no sign of Angel’s in the game outside of paintings.
DmC is a good game. It has its share of weaknesses like most games do, but it also has some great strengths. Ninja Theory brings the world of Devil May Cry to life like Capcom never has. Limbo, Witches, Demons, Mediums, Psychics, and Spray Paint spells all sell the lore. When Dante and Vergil share a scene together it’s some of the best moments in the game, but whether that’s because of their prior history in older games is unknown. The new Dante is very rough around the edges and will be a hit or miss with most fans of the franchise. But he eventually grows on you especially when he opens up to his more heroic side, and we get to a glimpse of the old Dante we know and love. The game has a very anti-climatic ending that could have been handled so much better, but after beating it all I could think about was wanting to play more, which proved to me that through all the negatives DmC was a worthy successor to the franchise, and if Ninja Theory and Capcom can take the best of both worlds they've created and blend them together, then they will have something truly special on their hands next go-around. DmC won’t change the minds of those who have already labeled it, but it’s here, it exists, and it’s worthy of the name it has taken on.