DmC: Devil May Cry
Platform: PS3/Xbox 360/PC
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
‘Kamiya must be crying himself to sleep over that haircut’ I can imagine one particularly irate DmC: Devil May Cry hater saying. Worse things have been said by fans since Capcom announced the Ninja Theory helmed reboot last year, but for the sake of literary grace and civilisation itself, I’ll leave those comments to your imagination. The truth is though, Hideki Kamiya’s little baby Devil May Cry had become pants: spoiled by several lack lustre sequels that made the originally enigmatic protagonist Dante into a boring old bastard who had as much enthusiasm for his adventures as the people developing it. Even the introduction of the almost Ash Ketchum character Nero in Devil May Cry 4 couldn’t inject some depth to the franchise. Capcom did learn one thing from making sequels though, and it was that the only time the series managed to recapture the glory of Kamiya’s original title was in a prequel adventure, namely 2005’s Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening.
It therefore makes perfect sense that DmC has rebooted the franchise by bringing us back to Dante's roots and adding some much needed depth to the character. Set in Dante’s youth, the story follows his discovery of the hidden angel and devil powers within him, while explaining the terrible fate of his mother (the angel Eva) and father (the famous demon warrior Sparda). Along for the narrative rollercoaster is series favourite Vergil, Dante’s brother, and newcomer Kat, who quite refreshingly amongst all this talk of fantasy, is just a human. It’s a typical story done with refreshing sincerity, which makes any lack of originality unimportant as Ninja Theory have clearly injected passion into the characters.
For most fans of the series though, the only thing to consider is combat. Famous for its ludicrous sword and gunplay, chain combos and hardcore score ranking, Devil May Cry has always offered a very unique action experience, until Kamiya went even further with the infamous Bayonetta. DmC retains the calibre of destruction and violence that we've come to expect from Dante’s demon slaying, but quite brilliantly, it makes it far more accessible to a new audience. Instead of awkwardly menu swapping weapons mid game, DmC utilises the controller to bring Angel and Demon weapons into play at the pull of a trigger. In addition, Ninja Theory have noticed the advantages of Nero’s chain in Devil May Cry 4 and incorporated it into Dante’s move set to allow him to pull enemies and fly over to them swiftly. The Devil Trigger makes a return too, although slightly reduced in its capacity to reflect Dante’s currently unformed abilities. Its activation still causes a lot of damage though, and in a nice nod to the series, makes Dante’s hair go all pretty white like it used to be.
The result of these added factors is some incredibly agile and smooth combat that allows you to take on a manner of different play-styles and combat with ease. Most importantly though, it looks bloody fantastic, with aerial combat being brought into play regularly thanks to Dante’s chains, and the variety of different weapons providing some truly elaborate ways to slay demon scum. Each weapon is also unique, with an appropriate situation to match their abilities, meaning there is a feeling of effect, rather than redundancy. I found myself not particularly preferring a weapon over another, but flitting between each as I smashed and sliced through enemies. The D-pad also allows you to swap the weapon assigned to each trigger, as well as change guns. This can feel awkward at times, but since Dante’s move set is often time based, with spaces between combos, it usually allows a moment to quickly flick your hand and switch. With each weapon featuring an upgradeable move set, there is a great sense of having a wide arsenal at your disposal.
Another important factor in DmC is the level design. It doesn’t always affect combat, but a platforming element remains apparent throughout the game: albeit, less Crash Bandicoot and more Paradise Lost. Levels are usually navigated through Dante’s whip, using Angel Lift to float majestically through cities and underworlds, while using Demon Pull to manipulate surroundings. It’s very straightforward in most places, but timing can occasionally be difficult, especially using Angel Glide, and so it does present a challenge. However, DmC feels like this navigation element is meant more to show off Ninja Theory’s imagination. Considering the narrative of the Devil May Cry series, it offers them as a developer a chance to visualise the most ridiculous and disturbing setting they can possibly dream up from a nightmarish coma. One boss fight involving a vomit succubus is truly quite disgusting, while the effect of limbo on the local city is insane: certainly proving to the player that Dante is stood on the brink of Hell. In short, the game looks fantastic, Ninja Theory have created epic setpieces and perverted dimensions that look like they were born from a séance hosted by Slenderman.
DmC is by no means a perfect game though. It doesn’t reinvent the genre like Bayonetta, enemies and levels can be repetitive, while combat could feature more unlockable moves to satisfy the hardcore players. Still, the always present style rank in the corner of the screen constantly challenges the player to fight with class and ability, encouraging you to play through again to better your score. This has always been a major part of Devil May Cry, and here it remains as a driving force behind the game that in combination with the series of extreme difficulty levels rewards the committed fan with a sense of achievement. It is one of the best entries to the franchise, which instead of revolutionising it, takes everything we loved about the series and respects it by upping the ante to a SSS style rank. There are moments of complete ingenuity, particularly the fourth wall breaking boss fight with a news presenter, while combat is far more approachable. The fresh visualisation of the Devil May Cry universe through the eyes of a new studio has given it a lease of life that it has needed for a long time. DmC is obnoxious, loud and flamboyantly brilliant, and as a result provides the only context where I will admit that post-hardcore screaming and dub-step are acceptable as a soundtrack. If you truly love Devil May Cry, you’ll see that Dante’s new hair cut isn’t there to annoy fans, but to embrace them with love, kisses and bloody demon murder.