Dante Will Rise.
Chances are, if you are reading this review, you have already made up your mind about whether or not you will buy Devil May Cry. Capcom’s decision to hand the reins of one of the most beloved game series of the last decade to new developer, Ninja Theory, immediately divided fans. Some were happy to accept the changes – anything to see Dante’s demonic adventures continue. Most however, were incensed. Even before any solid details had emerged, fans had seemingly decided that this was not the direction they wanted for Dante and friends. Not since Mass Effect 3 has there been such a venomous backlash from gamers. As a huge fan of the series, I’d be lying to say I, too, wasn’t initially cautious. Ninja Theory have changed a lot of what made me love the originals. And as in all reboots, some things surpass the original works, while others falter. Saying that, after playing through Ninja Theory’s modern retelling, I can safely say most of my fears have been alleviated. Not only that, I am excited to see what Ninja Theory has in store down the line. This is not the Devil May Cry you know and love. But it might just damn near better.
Let’s cut to the chase. Dante will be unrecognizable for fans of the originals. Instead of his trademark white hair, this younger, more modern looking Dante, has a short spiky black cut. His jacket, while similar to the original Dante, hides a less than familiar white vest. He’s not too muscular either, Ninja Theory instead opting for a more Hollywood inspired chiseled look for their protagonist. In keeping with the tone of the game, I have to say it does work. Ninja Theory seem to have taken the saying ‘go for broke’ to heart as almost everything about the world they have built is unlike anything I have ever seen before in a game, let alone in a Devil May Cry game. But, I chose to embrace this game rather than look for faults. If you can’t look past some silly concepts, you might want to stick to the HD release of the original trilogy.
As I said, right from the offset, this is a more mature looking title. DmC starts with what I could only describe as one of the coolest openings I have ever seen in a video game. Let’s just say if you were worried that Dante didn’t look the part from the trailers, you won’t think the same after the first 30 minutes. Yes, I can’t argue that Dante isn’t a one dimensional character with silly one liners and an arrogance that Mussolini would take pride in, but again, it works. For some, new Dante will be laughable compared to the original, but personally, I think his portrayal could turn out to be a stroke of genius from Ninja Theory. I actually enjoyed playing as a less serious character. Rocksteady’s Batman series and the upcoming Tomb Raider deal with broken, almost tortured characters. Sometimes it’s a nice change to just concentrate on having fun and DmC provides fun in bucket loads.
Devil May Cry is best known for its combat, and this is probably the biggest change Ninja Theory have implemented. Dante still has his deadly sword ‘Rebellion’ as well as his trusty twin pistols ‘Ebony and Ivory’. As always he can switch between a brutally powerful axe weapon, Arbiter, or a speedy scythe, Osiris. New to the series are move-set modifiers, known as Angel Mode and Devil Mode. Using the trigger buttons enables abilities known as Devil Pull and Angel Pull. These can be used for both chaining combos together (pulling enemies closer, or boosting Dante into the air) and also for platforming when not in combat. I won’t spoil weapons you unlock later on in the game as they are quite cool. Switching between weapons is fast and fluid and overall the combat is super responsive. The progression system is excellent and Dante never feels overpowered as he slowly builds his arsenal, but here’s where the problems start. The excellent ranking up system seems a missed opportunity. The combat system has been heavily scrutinized ever since videos showing infinite combo attacks were leaked onto YouTube and while Ninja Theory have addressed the issues a bit, it still feels too toned down in terms of depth. The new chain combo ranking system is not as exploitable as the early aforementioned beta, but I was still pulling off SSS style scores within 2 hours of play. It’s a pity that Ninja Theory didn’t concentrate more on mapping out the controls as, out of the box, it feels sloppy.
The biggest problem is perhaps the removal of the lock on feature. I don’t know how many times I ruined a combo by hitting the wrong enemy. It’s baffling to think that a shoulder button couldn’t be used. What’s even more confusing is the camera. While it is far from game breaking, it’s safe to say it is the biggest disappointment of the game. When the action gets hectic, it’s near impossible to co-ordinate your next attack as enemies pour in front of the screen, blocking your view. It’s a terrible oversight on Ninja Theory’s behalf. Platforming suffers the worst. Time and time again, I found myself falling off of platforms or misjudging jumps. When you think of games such as Arkham City and Assassins Creed 3, it’s hard to justify how poorly executed it is. The combat does the job, but should be better. With a little polish and a better camera, Nija Theory could have won every die-hard Devil May Cry fan over.
But it’s fitting then that the real showcase of DmC is not the new fighting system – it’s the world Ninja Theory have created. More specifically, Limbo. Quite simply, Limbo is mesmerizing. The sections where the buildings themselves distort and twist are frighteningly awesome. In general, the level design is excellent. The Gothic style of Limbo mixed with the real world buildings create a visually stunning contrast. In fact, visually speaking, the game is up there with the best . It’s graphically superior to anything Ninja Theory have done before but what really marks it out is the detail. Transitions between the real world Limbo City and Limbo are seamless and add to the immersion. The ferris wheel set piece in the opening level is nothing short of spectacular. Surprisingly, the game deals with some heavy hitting themes too, even touching on the fears and oppressions of modern life as well as propaganda and manipulation by corporate companies. There’s even a whole level dedicated to reality Tv, but I won’t spoil that. Also, the ‘Virality’ level provides one of the highlights of the games, including a truly disgusting boss. Just tell the kids to cover their ears. (On a side note, do you think Ninja Theory are fans of Futurama?)
As I mentioned above, you’re either going to love Dante or hate him. Fans might be more displeased with the portrayal of Vergil. Kat provides the obvious love interest, but the real stars of the show are the enemies. Each character is unique. That means, even the same types of enemies have their own characteristics. Some are shorter or fatter, while others have an extra arm. Adding them to the already impressive back drop of Limbo merely increases the spectacle. The enemies themselves are mostly great, albeit, there are some annoying types in later levels, but most provide a challenge, even on normal difficulty. You won’t be stuck for variation either, as new types are introduced all the way up to level 19. It’s too bad then that the bosses are such a let down. Each boss fight transcends into mindless button smashing. As far as I could see, the main objective of each boss was to evade, hit, evade, hit.
Devil May Cry has one of the best soundtracks in any game of the series. The music matches the fast and furious action on screen brilliantly. Overall the voice acting is good, except for the script. Some of the one liners are so cringe worthy, I literally fell off my chair laughing. I don’t know if it was deliberate or not, but let’s just say, it should be taken lightly. Anyway, the story more than makes up for it. Dante is one of the coolest characters in gaming history and all in all, he retains that status.
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DmC: Devil May Cry is out on 15th January 2013.
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This article was first posted on January 14, 2013