OXCGN’s DmC: Devil May Cry Review
A surprisingly solid reboot
by Gav Ross
©2013 Gav Ross
Mired in controversy since its Tokyo Game Show reveal more than two years ago, DmC — a from-the-ground-up reinvention of Capcom’s beloved Devil May Cry franchise with UK development house Ninja Theory at the helm — arrives on shelves with a hefty weight of expectation on its shoulders.
Gone is the dashing, mystical demon-hunter with a silvery mop-top and predilection for exploring castles; the new Dante in his place is a cocky, well-groomed gent with plenty of swagger.
But, unable to remember more than random snippets from childhood, he’s also suffering an identity crisis.
Knock Knock: Who’s There?
Dante already knew he wasn’t quite human, but the full extent of his heritage only becomes apparent when he is introduced to Kat’s associate, Vergil – a suave fellow who claims to be Dante’s brother.
Through the course of DmC‘s first couple of missions, Dante discovers that he and his sibling are unique not only for the fact they both look like they just stepped out of a catalogue for men’s clothing, they’re also half-angel/half-demon.
Known as ‘Nephilim’, the two brother are the only ones with the ability to take down Mundus – the game’s Big Bad.
The nefarious God-like ruler of Limbo City and the demons that reside in its shadows, Mundus is voiced by True Blood’s Louis Herthum; and he delivers the best performance by far.
Welcome to Limbo
Limbo City itself presents a metamorphosing landscape.
On one side, it’s a hopeless reality full of CCTV cameras, where the human population is controlled by demons through ingesting a mega-marketed energy drink named Virility; on the side, it’s a mind-bending unreality where buildings distort and demons are plentiful.
This very cool device allows for some surreal and experimental level design, as Dante spends a good amount of time in the warped side of Limbo.
The free-flowing traversal aspect of Ninja Theory’s 2010 sleeper-hit Enslaved makes a welcome return here, with Dante frequently navigating the environment with his scythe-chain, swinging between remnants of collapsed buildings like Spider-Man.
With an over-the-top opening sequence that comes close to rivaling the awesome zaniness of Bayonetta‘s initial cutscenes, DmC does a fine job of capturing one’s attention.
Cheesy dialogue is plentiful, especially from the mouth of Dante himself, but voice acting is, on a whole, pretty bland.
Still, the intrigue of unraveling the protagonist’s past is inexplicably gripping.
Normally one to don a pair of headphones and catch up on some podcasts whilst playing through a campaign (hey, I read the subtitles at least), this reviewer remained glued to cutscenes preceding and following each of the early missions.
Motion-capture technology gives character movements added realism in pre-rendered scenes, and the pacing of each level is near-perfect, at least early on.
There are also some extra, all-too-brief ‘flashback’ cut-scenes that look incredible – like Renaissance paintings come to life.
The reinvention of Devil May Cry‘s characters, story and world is all well and good, but if the stylised hack and slash combat of past installments wasn’t matched, everything else would fall in a heap.
Thankfully, DmC delivers in spades (or scythes).
Starting off with just his trusty sword ‘Rebellion’ – a hand-me-down from his demon Dad – Dante gradually acquires a raft of weapons that leaves players spoiled for choice.
The classic ‘Ebony and Ivory’ pistols make a welcome return, along with a few other explosive firearms, though they’re a little underpowered this time round.
The demonic axe ‘Arbiter’ is slow as hell but delivers devastating damage; ‘Osiris’ is a quick, flashy scythe that vivisects enemies in a whirlwind flurry; ‘Eryx’ allows Dante to crack skulls with fiery Super Skrull-like gauntlets; and ‘Aquila’ are lightning-fast, angelic ninja stars that come in handy when swarmed by baddies.
Staying tried-and-true to the series’ roots, players are awarded style points for evading, parrying and destroying enemies with as much insane variety as possible.
While it’s easy to look amazing juggling a hapless demon in the air – shooting and slashing at its corpse in a frenzied combo – it takes dedicated practice (or innate skill, at least) to achieve the ‘SSS’ rank on higher difficulties.
What may be off-putting to some (especially Devil May Cry die-hards) is that, overall, combat is looser, simpler and, to put it bluntly, dumbed down.
Several other factors influence rankings, too: the time taken to finish a mission, any health-boosting items used and, of course, deaths.
But Dante won’t by dying much in this adventure, especially not on lower difficulty settings.
For the first run-through, there are three difficulty options, with ‘Nephilim’ – which isn’t a huge challenge in itself – being the highest.
More punishing difficulty settings don’t become available until initial completion of all 20 missions.
A ‘remixed’ version of the campaign is unlocked after the credits roll – one which sees enemies from halfway through the game suddenly appear in the first mission.
This difficulty, dubbed ‘Son of Sparda’, really would have been best kept as an option right off the bat.
The most insane of the lot is ‘Hell and Hell’ mode – introducing a one-hit-and-Dante’s-dead scenario that’s strictly FSO (For Sadists Only).
A new path
Helped along by a stompin’ soundtrack by Norwegian tech-metal outfit Combichrist, DmC is consistently a blast, save for a minor dip about three quarters of the way through the adventure when the story begins to wane.
With a fairly predictable finish, DmC peaks at around the halfway mark thanks to an indescribably brilliant boss fight that gives the term ‘interactive news’ new meaning.
This bold rebirth may not be infused with exactly the same spirit as Devil May Cry games of the past, but it confidently and admirably forges its own path.