DmC: Devil May Cry – Review

Platform | Release Date
360, PS3 | January 15, 2013
PC | January 25, 2013
Developed by Ninja Theory
Published by Capcom

The Pitch:

In a society corrupted by demons only The Order can see the world for what it really is. Join Dante in the ultimate experience of stylish action; chain together combo after combo with panache and dispatch demonic spawn back to hell – reveal the truth behind the lies. Explore Dante’s dark past encountering some the most familiar faces in the DmC universe. Call upon unimaginable powers combined with Dante’s epic arsenal of weapons: sword, scyte, axe, pistols and more. Face your demons…

Capcom’s gambles on Western developers have yielded poor results more often than not. From Resident Evil to Bionic Commando, plenty of the publisher’s hallmark franchises have fallen foul of the process. However, short of handing over the reigns to Street Fighter again, there’s no series I would have expected to generate more outsourcing outcry than Devil May Cry. Sure enough, once the first videos of Ninja Theory’s DmC reboot hit the net, you could hear the screams all the way from the otaku gaming dens. And all over some white hair.

Putting it bluntly, if you’re the sort of person that a character’s hair colour is enough to warrant your complete abandonment in faith, your opinion probably isn’t the most well-measured. Ninja Theory need not worry about these crazy folks too much. In DmC they have developed a wildly creative, deeply faithful, and continuously surprising videogame.

It starts strong. The newly irreverent Dante wakes up in a haze of booze and abandoned underwear, but within a few minutes the grungy playboy lifestyle has to be left behind in favour of a chaotic chase through a warped fairground pier. Right off the bat, DmC‘s big concept, ‘limbo’, allows the developers to twist the dull real world into a playground of precise platforming and frantic combat zones. Bright lights, buckled roads, stretching black plasma, and exploding walls combine into a visual orgy that only gets better. Inception inspired city sections eventually make way for glowing shows of light and music, TV tube arenas, and topsy-turvy motorways. That’s the short list. I’m not sure I’ve got the words to describe the rest.

There’s a villain orchestrating much of this mania in the form of Mundas – a demon who has made his home on this side of a portal to hell and proceeded to enslave the world through soda, debt, and constant CCTV observation. Meeting with his brother Virgil, Dante sets out to bring down Mundas’ empire through wild guerilla attacks on key targets. Along for the ride is human witch Cat, a more useful version of Zelda’s Navi who provides gateways into limbo and constant guidance. What follows is a struggle of good and evil, but neither always comes from the direction you’ll be expecting.

The trio are exceptionally well acted, with Ninja Theory’s trademark motion capture animation giving characters a rare depth of expression. Visual variety, creative design, and excellent animation provide three incredibly strong pillars that give DmC an overall quality in its presentation that few can match in this generation. Art, whether it is in games or on walls, is about more than just technical prowess. Within DmC, it’s the expression that really shines through.

Look behind that presentation though, and you’ll find that it isn’t just the visuals that Ninja Theory have nailed. The combat system is hugely authentic, effectively mixing a blend of ground and aerial combat with juggles and combos. This isn’t new for the series, but feels incredibly fresh in the modern genre. Weighting of attacks is taken care of not by a simple X or Y button press, but by which weapon you choose at any one point in your combo. Hellish heavy attacks and angelic light attacks can both be woven into standard sword swipes instantly; a whole new set of moves just a trigger pull away. Enemies challenge you to combine these modes effectively, and using chain attacks to bring foes to you, or you to your foes, is crucial to success. The fact that this depth doesn’t feel intimidating, and that is actually fun to use, is the mark that the developer achieved their own.

Puzzles don’t really factor, save for one switch challenge towards the end of the game. For the most part when you’re not fighting, you’ll be jumping around. Rarely does it feel like the two things are hugely separated. Leaping from an exploding roof to the bottom of an upturned car happens, in fact it happens a lot, but those actions aren’t separated from combat by linearity. Too often, DmC‘s competitors will chain corridor to circular arena, to corridor and so forth. Here, I barely noticed when the path ahead was blocked pending me clearing the screen because engaging with my foes felt like a natural obstacle, not one manufactured by bland, lazy level design.

And for those that feel a bit precious about Devil May Cry, it’s worth considering that the twenty missions that make up the story involve not a single piece of backtracking. Take that Devil May Cry 4! They aren’t perfect by any means, with fifteen through nineteen having the distinct whiff of being filler, but my overall enjoyment was barely affected. What mattered was not whether things were being stretched out, but whether or not I was having fun regardless. I was. The combat was still brilliant. The characters were still great. DmC still delivered more visual creativity than all of its predecessors combined.

DmC is still very much Devil May Cry, but like only the very best reboots it offers a fresh take on an existing set of characters that pays respect while being boldly original. DmC is still very much Devil May Cry, but like only the very best reboots it offers a fresh take on an existing set of characters that pays respect while being boldly original. Ninja Theory are a developer who has had to answer questions about development decisions in the past, but in DmC they have a brilliant game whose few flaws lie in its inherent ties to its heritage rather than through new, bad design. For all franchises, there’s likely a ceiling of quality that any developer will find next to impossible to break. If a Devil May Cry game can only be so good, then this is pretty close to that version of perfection.

About Martin Perry

Martin Perry is Reviews Editor for Splitkick.
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