Sometimes, timing is everything.
The very week that Sony ceases production on the PS2, one of the series’ that put it on the map is resurrected. Devil May Cry was that system’s first truly kick-ass exclusive back in early 2001, and it built its following on crazy combos, tough enemies, and a vividly askew visual style. As with most things that are influential, it’s easy to forget that while series’ like Ninja Gaiden and God of War made this type of game bigger and tougher, Devil May Cry paved the way for them.
And so DmC: Devil May Cry comes swaggering towards 2013 much like Dante into a room full of demons. Prior to this game’s release, opinions ranged from rage about changing the character models and hair color/style, to concern that by making it more accessible they would make it too easy for the crowd that revels in its legendary difficulty. Well, in truth DmC is not as different from classic Devil May Cry as most people would think. The only distinction I would make is that it might be the best one in the series.
DmC serves as a sort of prequel to the previous installments, chronicling Dante’s evolution from a punk who thrill-kills demons to self-styled protector of humanity. Creating strong characters and stories is right in developer Ninja Theory’s wheelhouse and, as with Heavenly Sword and Enslaved, they do a fantastic job. Voice acting in this series has traditionally run the gamut from groan-worthy to hilariously awful, so for this reason alone the switch in developers has been most welcome.
This game takes place in a world where the demon Mundus rules over all. Humanity is kept docile through deception and drugging, but certain people are able to see through the facade and confront it. The ‘real’ world in this game evokes the gothic flourishes from the original series. When Dante is pulled into Limbo to fight, everything gets ripped up, twisted, and reshaped in creative and visually striking ways. One zone is particularly memorable as you make your way through a television station clearly modeled after our friends at FOX News.
This sequence needs to be seen to be believed, but it is a perfect example of how DmC deftly manages to be bratty and funny while not veering off into self-parody. Amazingly, Ninja Theory maintains this fine balance right through to the phenomenal final battle and conclusion. I was actually quite impressed with the care that went into creating this story, as well as the quality of the voice work.
Gameplay straddles the line between platforming and combat sections. The former is quite enjoyable in its own right, owing largely to being able to control the camera so you no longer need to make complicated jumps from weird angles, and the latter is incredibly versatile for players of varying skill levels. I’ll be completely honest — while I enjoy these types of games, I’m not very skilled at them. However, I was able to not only get through most enemies with my limited skill set but I did it with a degree of style. By the end of the game you have an arsenal of five melee weapons and three ranged weapons, along with a devil trigger that sends you into overdrive. It is very easy to switch between all of them on the fly, mix-and-match, and create combo challenges for yourself. Personally, I found myself trying to clear rooms of enemies without touching the floor.
As with previous installments, you begin the game with a sword and guns but acquire new weapons as you progress. As you gain experience/style points you are able to upgrade weapons and abilities, turning you into a more powerful and efficient demon hunter while opening new paths to explore.
The campaign itself takes somewhere in the vicinity of 8-10 hours, but there is a bunch more stuff waiting for you. Completing the game unlocks four difficulty modes on top of the default ones for the truly hardcore. I tried Dante Must Die (your basic ‘extreme’ setting) and got destroyed pretty quickly into it. Other modes provide unique challenges, such as Heaven and Hell in which both you and enemies can be killed in one hit — essentially turning DmC into more of an old school arcade-type experience. The only bummer with this is that I’ll likely never get to experience them since each one is locked away until you complete the previous difficulty. In-game, there are challenge rooms, hidden upgrades, and paths that can only be unlocked with weapons and abilities that you acquired in a previous playthrough. This is, of course, in addition to being able to jump back into the game and try your hand at getting a SSS rank throughout. There is a ton of depth to DmC that makes it highly replayable and well worth its cost.
The bottom line is that if you are one of those people who are invested in hating this game because Ninja Theory exercised creative license and made a few changes to a franchise you loved, well then you still have four other games that you can go back and play. As for the rest of us, DmC: Devil May Cry is a near-perfect reimagining of one of the best action games from the past decade. Like Rockstar did with Max Payne 3 (last year’s outstanding reclamation project), Ninja Theory took all the elements that made the original Devil May Cry games great and refined the narrative rough edges with a thoroughly entertaining and visually sumptuous straight-up, full-on, all-caps VIDEO GAME.
I’m Mike Eaton…Just doing God’s work.
[+Fantastic, creative level design] [+Characterization/voice acting are top notch] [+Deep combat] [+Variety of unique difficulty levels] [+Beautiful game on PC] [-Cool gameplay modes inaccessible for mediocre players]