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DmC: Devil May Cry

Score: 85%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Ninja Theory
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:

I never understood the fan backlash against Ninja Theory's DmC: Devil May Cry. Sure, it's a reboot, but it's of a franchise that has been wildly inconsistent, at least in my opinion. The first game (which started life as a Resident Evil project) was something of a watershed moment for the action genre. It combined the puzzles and gothic environments of Resident Evil with a stylish and wicked-fast combat system. It was an immediate classic, and it still holds up well twelve years after its release. Then we got Devil May Cry 2, a soulless game that is often cited as one of the worst sequels ever made. Capcom rebounded with the gleefully corny and over-the-top Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, but played it far too safe with the underwhelming Devil May Cry 4. Ninja Theory's reboot attempts to legitimize Capcom's long-running action series as a serious dark fantasy. Everything is different: the combat, the storytelling, and the characters. Fanboys can cry foul all they want, but they do themselves and this game a grave injustice. I consider DmC: Devil May Cry the second-best installment in the franchise and give it a glowing recommendation.

Ninja Theory has a way of creating a special and cohesive vision for each of their games, and DmC: Devil May Cry is no exception. The colors of the demon-run "real world" are washed out and oppressive. Grays, browns, and blacks dominate. But Limbo is anything but neutral. Reds and oranges are everywhere, and you get the sense that anything can happen. And it can; this city is hardly inanimate, and it often actively attempts to impede Dante's progress. The ground quakes and rips itself to pieces, the walls converge and blow apart, and oftentimes a stray piece of concrete is all that stands between Dante and oblivion. Messages appear on the walls and on the ground; these accompany a demonic narration of the text as the world fights our hero. Enemy designs are fantastic; many demons wear masks, and they are all the more unsettling because of that. Boss fights might be disappointing from a gameplay perspective, but they all look unique enough to be memorable.

DmC: Devil May Cry is a heavy metal aggrotech thrill ride, featuring the music of Dutch trio Noisia and Norwegian electro-industrialist band Combichrist. The music is a perfect fit for the chaos; the shredding guitars, pounding drums, and larynx-tearing screams are probably what the Dante of old had in mind when he said "Let's rock, baby!" As Dante racks up hits and kills, his Style meter fills up. As his combo ranks up, a deep-voiced announcer calls out his progress with a gravelly roar. Each time you hear "SSSSAVAGE,", "SSSSADISTIC!," and "SSSSENSATIONAL!," you won't be able to stop yourself from grinning. The voice acting is easily the best in the series, mainly because of its restraint and subtlety. Earlier games in the series had an uncomfortable self-awareness about them when it came to voice acting -- particularly Devil May Cry 3. This game's voice and motion capture actors find the right balance of melodrama and levity. The sound effects are also fantastic; Dante's weapons actually sound as sharp as they look. The sound of enemies tearing apart is awful and awesome at the same time. I particularly like the atonal scream that marks the slow motion kill that ends each enemy encounter.


Gameplay:

Being a reboot, DmC: Devil May Cry has changed nearly everything about the franchise in favor of something more original. In the world of DmC, angels and demons have fought since time immemorial. However, a forbidden union between an angel (named Eva) and a demon (named Sparda) saw the birth of two very powerful Nephilim, Dante and Vergil. Being the evil bastard he is, the demon lord Mundus sentenced Sparda to a fate very similar to that of Prometheus and devoured Eva's heart. Now, Mundus rules over Limbo City; he keeps humanity enslaved through debt, propaganda, and special soft drinks (ironically called "Virility"). But not everyone accepts Mundus as their lord; an organization calling itself "The Order" fights against the demonic forces and aims to free mankind from their grasp. Our hero, Dante, is perfectly content to lead a life full of booze, guns, and casual sex, but his carelessness ends up dragging him into contact with The Order, which is led by (gasp!) his brother Vergil. With the help of a troubled psychic named Kat, Dante and Vergil decide to strategically exact their vengeance on the demon lord.

Yes, the androgynous white-haired frat boy has been replaced by someone who looks like he belongs in the Sex Pistols. Yes, he acts like kind of a tool sometimes. And yes, the setting is markedly different. But before I'm interrupted by someone who claims that he isn't "the real Dante," let me again bring to light an important truth. Devil May Cry has been an inconsistent franchise since the second installment. Dante has been reinvented in each of his games: in the first one, he was a one-liner factory of Schwarzeneggerian proportions. In Devil May Cry 2, he had no personality whatsoever. In Devil May Cry 3, he was the embodiment of bad 90s dudebro clichés. And in Devil May Cry 4, he took a backseat to the king of video game blandness himself, Nero. This Dante is easily the most interesting and sympathetic of all the character's incarnations. He's cocky, but vulnerable. He's powerful, but he knows he's not invincible. He's a showoff and a sh*t-talker, but he cares deeply for Vergil and Kat. The storytelling is easily the best the franchise has ever seen, and I truly hope we get to see more of it in the future.

If you've played a Devil May Cry game in the past, welcome home, but be prepared for a few new tricks. DmC: Devil May Cry is mostly about kicking ass and doing it with style, but there's more to it than that this time around. Let's start with the familiar: as Dante, you progress through a series of mostly-linear missions. Most of these missions begin with Dante being pulled into Limbo, a sort of parallel world controlled by demons. As he makes his way through each level, new obstacles appear. These can range from groups of enemies to shifts in the level design. I'll discuss the intricacies of the combat system later in the review, but all you need to know at this point is that it's an awful lot of fun.


Difficulty:

DmC: Devil May Cry features several difficulty settings, most of which won't surprise longtime fans. Human, Devil Hunter, and Nephilim are the main three; Human and Devil Hunter aren't terribly challenging, especially when you compare them to the main difficulty settings of Devil May Cry 3. Nephilim is a good place for fans to start.

More difficulty levels can be unlocked when you beat the game. Or course, you've got Dante Must Die, the standard "Very Hard" variant. It lives up to expectations, more or less. Once you get past the main spread, you get to the stuff that Devil May Cry games are known for. Heaven and Hell is the classic mode that features one-hit deaths for everything, including Dante himself. Hell and Hell seems designed for the masochists, as it gives enemies full health while keeping Dante a one-hit kill. Maybe I'm a chump, but I have no desire to try this mode.


Game Mechanics:

DmC: Devil May Cry's combat system is simple, intuitive, and fun, even if it isn't as complex as that of most other action games. It strongly resembles that of Heavenly Sword, another Ninja Theory game. However, this game's combat is much more gratifying and impactful. Dante can use three types of weapons and a firearm. Rebellion, Dante's old standby sword, is your default weapon; twin pistols Ebony and Ivory are the default firearms.

After the second mission, Dante gains access to angel and demon weapons, each of which has a diverse set of environmental and combat applications. You can switch out any of your weapons with the touch of the D-pad, and you can cycle between your presets in the middle of combat by holding down the proper trigger (Left for Angel and Right for Demon). Each weapon has the same basic weapon commands, which is disappointing. However, each move does something different enough to the point where it feels fresh enough.

Dante also gains an ability that is similar to Nero's Devil Bringer in Devil May Cry 4. The Angel Lift and Demon Pull double as platforming mechanics and combo extenders. Dante will occasionally need to pull himself towards platforms or hooks with the Angel Lift, but if he needs them to come to him, that's what the Demon Pull is for. They have the exact same function in combat; if an enemy is launched skyward, an Angel Lift will get Dante up in the air right next to his foe. If an enemy has a shield, a Demon Pull will weaken its grasp and ultimately tear it away. These are great ideas that increase Dante's mobility and combo potential.

I have two main complaints with the combat. The first is that there is no targeting system. This is a problem in a game that has so many enemies attacking the main character at once. It does its best, but its best just isn't quite enough. The other major criticism I can level at the combat is that the Angel weapons are so incredibly weak that they aren't much fun to use. Every time I come across an enemy that glowed bright blue, I feel a pang of disappointment. It takes entirely too long to take out an enemy with the Osiris and/or the Aquila. But to be fair, they are fun to use in combos; I'm partial to using the Aquila ability that pulls enemies together into a tightly-packed cluster, then tearing into the mass with Arbiter, Eryx, and Rebellion. Hopefully this lack of balance will be fixed in the next game.

Most missions have secrets that you won't be able to uncover until you acquire new gear and abilities. This might seem like a cheap way to increase the replay value, but you'll probably want to play the game multiple times anyway. These secrets are all tied into the angel and demon weapons; most of them are hidden behind special doors that can only be destroyed with the use of one of your special weapons. These secrets range, but all contribute to your completion percentage. Lost Souls are writhing red humanoids buried in the walls. You must reach them and destroy them to set them free. Other secrets involve special keys that can open the doors to secret missions. Secret missions are worth completing, as they always provide Dante with a permanent bonus to his health or Devil Trigger.

Stubborn and closed-minded fanboys are probably not going to play DmC: Devil May Cry, and shame on them for that. If you're an open-minded fan of the series or just a fan of action games in general, this is a game you should definitely play.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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