DmC: Devil May Cry review

Those evil Westerners! How dare they redesign the iconic, the memorable, the super-awesome-cool Dante! What have they done!?

OK, I’m kidding (if you couldn’t half tell), but I was admittedly one of the many Devil May Cry fanboys that was critical of Capcom’s and Ninja Theory’s reboot of the popular hack-and-slash action series. Guilty as charged! But I’m quite happy to say that, despite the series’ obvious shift in tone and direction with DmC: Devil May Cry, I’m now officially one of the converted, and I hope you are too.

Because DmC is a really good game. Sure, it’s probably the easiest game in the DMC series, but that’s not to say it’s easy overall, because this game can really beat down on you, and then while you’re down on the ground begging for mercy, it’ll come back at you with everything else it’s got lurking in the shadows.

The story is incomprehensibly ridiculous, but it’s a game about a war between demons and angels, so that should be expected. What I think Ninja Theory does so well with this game is create a universe well within the Devil May Cry mythology, and yet so far removed from it that it almost seems like an entirely new series.

The new Dante, for all of the conjecture, debate and anger he’s caused, is surprisingly likable: he’s a staunch individual, careless about the issues of the world and the apparent “brainwashing” of the people taking place around him. His philosophy? “As long as I can do what I want, I don’t care what other people do”.

His suspiciously empowering brother Vergil isn’t quite the evil sibling he was in Devil May Cry 3, this time employing Dante’s demon-slaying skills to take down the powerful and greedy media mogul, Mundus. Their relationship is just as engrossing as it was in the aforementioned game, despite the two characters being passingly similar to their portrayal in previous DMC entries.

The gameplay is impressively tight and intimidatingly deep, with a seemingly never ending stream of new skill moves, unlocked weapons and new ways to take down the increasingly sinister demons Dante will face throughout the 20-mission campaign. This is as deep as I’ve seen Devil May Cry, and Ninja Theory has done a superb job in dragging out the game’s progression system, meaning new weapons and skills are unlocked pretty much every third or fourth mission.

The aim of the game, like every other game in the series, is to slice and dice your way through the nastiest demons this side of Limbo, but there’s a lot more to it than button-mashing. The Devil May Cry series is renowned for its difficulty, and its challenge is executed in a number of engaging ways. Thankfully, that doesn’t change in DmC.

You can very easily blast your way through enemies using the same one powerful move over and over again, but the demons will eventually learn what you’re all about and counter you before you have a chance to avoid their attacks. The game will punish you, too, with a poor ranking unless you’re able to “stylise” your devilish moves. DmC is as much about good and evil as it is about style, and it does a fantastic job of beating down on you if you don’t embrace its relentless focus on combos and precision.

The first few missions are a blast but get old quickly, as enemies aren’t quite as challenging as they should be, even on the higher difficulties. The challenge spikes about halfway through, when wave upon wave of demon  —  of which new ones are constantly introduced  —  come at Dante with everything they’ve got. Dante’s array of guns, swords, demon fists and knives are all upgradable, and chance are you won’t upgrade absolutely everything before you finish the game.

The “Demon Trigger” feature, which helps restore Dante’s health while giving him near-insurmountable strength and power temporarily, is introduced later than in previous DMC games, which is welcomed as it keeps the game balanced and allows you to test the waters with Dante’s other tools before using this decisively devastating devil slaying skill.

DmC’s boss battles are as outrageous as the game’s plot, sent among some of the most original, crazy level designs seen yet. One boss battle takes place in a virtual Fox New world (try and imagine that for a second), while another is set in what can best be described as a living, breathing DJ set. Some of DmC’s settings need to be seen to be believed, because they just can’t be described in words.

And therein lies one of DmC’s most impressive traits: its presentation. Ninja Theory has painstakingly designed some of the most detailed, original and outrageous environments I’ve seen in a game. This isn’t just exclusive to boss battles: every place you visit in this game is truly a sight to behold. DmC isn’t just a gorgeous game: it’s stunningly artistic.

“Artistic” is relative, sure, but Ninja Theory has embraced the series’ history, challenged its mythology, and created a game world completely befitting of its sensationalized plot.

For all the complaining Devil May Cry fans have done (myself included), it all seems so embarrassingly pointless considering how well a job Ninja Theory has done with this game. If you don’t like it as DMC game than suck it up and pretend it’s an action game in its own right because it’s a hell of a lot of fun. The story, as ridiculous as it is, is surprisingly entertaining, while the characters have actually turned out to be quite likable. The combat  —  the bread and butter of any DMC game  —  is satisfying and tight, employing a deep unlock system, and at-times relentless difficulty that punishes anyone that lacks the style needed to dominate this game. It’s a dry month for games, so go out, buy DmC, and ditch the hate: Dante’s back!