Devil May Cry. That name means something to someone out there. Though I probably wouldn’t say I was sharing in those feelings until I picked up Ninja Theory’s reboot of the old(ish?) hack ‘n’ slasher from the distant days of the PlayStation 2. So, take this review with a grain of salt and understand that it’s not coming from a seasoned veteran of the series, and I’m not a huge fan of old Dante. I did play Devil May Cry 1 and 2 and I did enjoy them for what they were, but I’m going into this latest franchise entry with a bit of a fresh start. On the surface, without actually playing the game, it hasn’t garnered itself a very good reputation with fans of the series due to the fact that it’s not Devil May Cry 3. But if you didn’t care much for the older games, or you just want something new to kick around, DmC might be your fix.
Someone who actually enjoyed the older games in the series might view this reboot as a bit of a slap in the face. Ninja Theory made the decision that the reboot was going to focus entirely on retelling the tale of ‘Dante the Demon Killer’ and not waste any time with nostalgic fluff passed the fact that they’re using names like Dante, Virgil and Mundus with their roles in the game only just vaguely representing the series’ past.
Dante himself is probably the most enjoyable character that I came across. Say what you will about Dante’s redesign but I found a sort of endearing quality to the smug, angsty attitude of the punk protagonist when the story didn’t try to take itself too seriously. The less serious and more outrageous the events and reactions get, the more DmC shines. The first few acts of the game are a gloriously immoderate example of just how crazy it can get. There are demons wielding giant grappling guns turning a carnival into an anti-gravity M.C. Escher painting. You also get a demon-infested factory that conjures up Earth’s favorite energy drinks in a plot device that Futurama fans are sure to recognize immediately. The entire game doesn’t keep up the non-stop excitement, but the boring moments for the most part are thankfully few and far between.
Perfectly Preposterous Presentation
I’m gonna come out and say it: DmC: Devil May Cry is possibly the most artistically beautiful game I’ve ever seen. The majority of the game takes place in Limbo, a demonic parallel dimension that stands alongside normal, depressing Earth, except with more scary demons to rack up your score. The fact that the main environment of the game doesn’t have to adhere to things like gravity and physics and anything else you learned in science class allowed Ninja Theory’s art department to go hog-wild in crafting up one of the most visually thrilling game worlds I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.
Chapters can take you anywhere from night clubs to old mansions to upside-down cities where you have to avoid falling into the sky. The locales are as inventive as they are batshit crazy. The level design and artistic flare of Devil may Cry’s world does wonders in separating the fights by giving you something interesting to look at. This beats wandering around until you find that tucked-away door you’ve been running from room to room looking for for twenty minutes. All of this style is pulled together perfectly by the game’s stellar electronic soundtrack by Norwegian aggrotech band Combichrist and the Dutch electronica trio Noisia.
The main meat of Devil may Cry is obviously going to be the combat and the sheer amount of stuff that you can do with the standard-angel-demon weapon mechanic is enough to keep it all interesting. There are even seven difficulty levels and bosses get more abililties with each new playthrough. There are new spins on the enemy waves and the super-challenging mechanic of Dante instantly dying if he takes a hit. Mechanics like insta-death might seem like a cop-out form of artificial difficulty, but the game supports it. It’s completely possible with the right reaction times and use of dodge rolls and other abilities to keep yourself from taking damage for as long as you can keep up with the nail-biting action. The excitement of combat is kept up with the constant rating system that looms over you on the side of the screen, judging you if you let yourself take a hit by cutting your amazing SSS rank to a C.
The arsenal of DmC: Devil May Cry has classic Dante weapons like his iconic sword, Rebellion, and his two stylized pistols, Ebony and Ivory. But you also have access to eight other weapons along with a hookshot that all behave differently depending on your angel or demon state, which is changed by pulling the left or right trigger. The hookshot can be used to efficiently move around the battlefield, pull your enemies to you, or to accomplish most of the game’s surprisingly enjoyable platforming. This usually involves manipulating platforms with the demon hookshot or pulling yourself around from specific points using the angelic hookshot. Not only do you have numerous weapons to use, but each weapon has its own list of upgradable abilities that can keep the gameplay spiced up if you feel like it’s too easy or you’re just getting tired of using the same weapon over and over.
DmC doesn’t seem to be one of those games that’s all about the narrative to me, and from what I’ve seen it doesn’t look like it was at the forefront of the design decisions behind the reboot as well. The story is probably the most easily digestible of all of the Devil may Cry games but that really only shows that it wasn’t that special in the first place. What the game lacks in constant narrative flow it makes up for in the presentation of it. As the game ascends into the later chapters it feels like the story sort of takes a nosedive, bringing the character’s dialogue and interactions with it. There’s a few points nearing the end of the game where Dante’s pointless inner banter to himself almost sound like they should have been outtakes but somebody at Ninja Theory left them in the game on accident. It’s not a huge problem and thankfully the voice cast seems to deliver quite well with those few exceptions.
Under-Clocked and Slowed Down
I said before that I wasn’t a huge Devil May Cry player, but it’s pretty obvious that there are some of those people out there looking into picking up DmC. I personally haven’t had any issues with finding the combat too easy but there’ve been a few videos floating around the Internet showing that the game might be a little bit slower then previous entries in the series, leaving some of the more die-hard, world-class Devil May Cry players a little disappointed. Most players won’t have any of these speed limit problems, though it’s something to keep in mind if you’re coming into the reboot with considerable knowledge. Another issue that may be a problem with the more dedicated players is that the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions are locked at only 30 frames-per-second. However, the PC version is pretty much unlimited in that respect as I’ve seen screenshots with well over 150 fps. This, combined with HD textures, shadows and more graphical capabilities make the PC the preferred platform in my opinion — Just make sure you bring a controller.
DmC: Devil may Cry is a stylishly glorious reboot of the aging series that gives it a new flair on top of the engaging combat. I had a blast playing through the game and it only gets better after more playthroughs with its New Game+ system. The story is reasonable if cliche; it doesn’t always keep you hooked in with the dialogue and sometimes it comes off as a little immature. However, there’s that looming sense of self awareness beneath everything that sort of sets the tone in a good way. I didn’t carry myself into DmC with many high expectations, but the game showed me a great time and kept me on the edge of my seat in an experience that’s starting off 2013 in a very good way.
Review Platform: PC