First the good news: Rebooting Devil May Cry
has not ruined the franchise. The game's darker, grimier visuals plus its easy-to-learn-tough-master combat combine to for a refreshing take on the established material.
And the bad news? Rebooting Devil May Cry has ruined Dante. Well ruined him for me anyway.
So here's the deal, our world is an illusion, a veil of normalcy placed over our eyes by our Demon Overlords. All the world's industry is controlled by Demons, food, pharmaceuticals, the media, everything. All is designed to keep us enslaved, and worse, keep us unaware of our enslavement. For example, advertisements are filled with subliminal messages to keep us docile and compliant.
Only a select few can see through the veneer, people with psychic abilities for instance, and of course people like the series protagonist Dante thanks to his demonic legacy. This new set-up is much more thought out and grounded than the back story of the original and as such provides much meatier story opportunities. So while the story of the game obviously focuses on Dante, his reunion with his brother Vergil and their war against the Demon Lord Mundus, it's clear from the get go that their are bigger stakes in pan, so to speak, than just their personal story. And the device of having demon-kind subtly pulling the strings on human life is contrasted nicely against their brutal and direct assaults against Dante, one of the few people that can perceive them for what they truly are.
As good as the story is, it's not going to make you any smarter and it's mainly let down by not taking its setting far enough and, perhaps more importantly, by the character of Dante himself. And no, it has nothing to do with his new look, which I kinda like. See, OG Dante came across as a cocky sonavabitch, who had the skills to back up his bravado; Dante 2013 is an equally skilled demonhunter, but his glib quips and machismo in this game just makes him come across as a huge douchenozzle. His puerile for its own sake and his attitude doesn't gel with the overall setting of game for me. It's not gamebreaking by any means, but I hardly think having a wholly unlikable lead character counts as a bullet-point in the plus column.
But putting those elements aside, there's not too much to complain about as far as Ninja Theory's DmC: Devil May Cry is concerned. Combat is visceral and engrossing, starting with some easily mastered combos and slowly progressing to more complex ones. Mastery of the game is in learning to link together the multitude of combos together forming a chain of hits against your enemies. But True Mastery of the game involves not only mixing up your combos, but also seamlessly switching between weapons without breaking your combo. It's this basic concept that is the meat of DmC's combat and it offers a suitably high skill ceiling to reach and a vast array of strategic choices for the player willing to put in the work.
The system Ninja Theory have developed allowing for this, multi-weapon comboing is quite simple and elegant. At any given time you have access to three melee weapons. Pressing an attack button normally will see Dante slice up demons with his signature sword, Rebellion. Hold down the left trigger and Rebellion will transform into an Angelic weapon with its own unique attributes. Hold down the right trigger and it becomes a Demonic one. Understanding that you have to hold the trigger down takes a while to get used to, but once mastered, the combat options are rather staggering. And that's not including things like parries and dodges. Pretty soon you'll discover it's very possible to tear through an entire wave of enemies with a single combo, using all your weapons; a feat the game encourages thanks to some enemies requiring specific attacks/weapons to defeat and of course the omnipresent Style Meter cheering you on.
The game extends its Demon/Angel relationship with movement as well. Pressing a trigger in combination with the jump button changes Rebellion into the Ophion Whip allowing Dante to swing from grapple points or pull platforms toward him. The inclusion of this mechanic allow for some tense platforming sections where timing a swing or platform pull can be critical. Oh and the Ophion Whip can be integrated into combat as well, either pulling enemies toward Dante or Dante toward enemies.
It should also be said that DmC: Devil MayCry is a horrible looking game, but in the nicest possible way. Visually, both technically and aesthetically, the game is phenomenal. All the levels have a wonderful griminess to them that sells the idea of the land itself suffering from demon possession. Best of all, the levels are dynamic, with walls and floors constantly shifting and moving into a surreal reflection of themselves as you navigate through a level. If there is a downside to that, it's that it is possible to lose your way as you progress through a level. More that once, I had to stop and think about where I was supposed to be heading because I had lost my bearings.
So yeah, ultimately, the game is let down by not taking full advantage of the setting it has created, a wasteful oversight since the potential for a meaningful story was just in sight. And then there's a lead character that's wholly unlikable. But those are forgivable sins for a game that offers satisfying and incredible depth of play. DmC: Devil May Cry is a fantastic game and thoroughly deserving of a place on your shelf.
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