Genre: Action Developer: Ninja Theory Ltd Publisher: Capcom Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 17th Jan 2013 Platforms:
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It’s amazing what a difference actual lip-synching makes. Characters in DmC show real emotion in their faces. Their words, for once, align with the phonetic movements of their lips, making them feel much more human. It’s a lesson that the majority of half-right Muppet talkers in games should take on board.
The quality of the story scenes comes as little surprise, given that this series reboot comes from Ninja Theory, a company that has developed a reputation for high quality characterisation, with proven devotion to emotion and motivation. Say what you will about Heavenly Sword and Enslaved, there’s no denying the richness with which the characters are written and animated.
In DmC, Ninja Theory has repainted Dante, removing his age and white hair with confident strokes, while maintaining the cocksure arrogance that sees him armed with a ready quip for every situation. Yet beneath that arrogance and swagger lies confusion, a deep desire for answers and a lack of personal identity. It is the former that Devil May Cry fans hang tightly to, spawning internet posts full of ill-informed cries of woe, when it should be the latter that they embrace.
Although DmC’s Dante has a far from a complex personal story - replace the supernatural elements and you have a fairly standard tragedy drama at play - in the realm of videogames such themes are rarely handled well. Ninja Theory is respectful of their characters, focusing on Dante as he discovers the truth of his past, the camera lingering as his internal cogs grind through newfound motivation. Yes, DmC is a game about bashing the hell out of demons, but at least there is some cogent impetus for doing so.
Dante may be a bit of a **** - in fact he’s a lot of one, an unreliable storm with little regard for others - but he has the familial history to back it up. His mother was murdered before his eyes and his father imprisoned in eternal torture, his memories blocked purposefully so that he had no recollection of his angel/demon hybridity and the fact that he has a twin brother - if Dante seems a little distant, he has good reason to be.
When it comes to gameplay, DmC is a distillation of the past twenty years of action titles. Devil May Cry is the franchise skin, while God of War’s brutality and weaponised combos comprise the skeleton. Other iconic games fill in the rest of the flesh, their influence clearly present in DmC’s DNA, with Castlevania’s and Metroid’s systematic unlocking of new tools and abilities at the forefront. Within your first few hours of play you’ll be swinging across chasms, utilising five different weapons on the fly, grappling to platforms, pulling dreamscape scenery towards you and taking part in secret challenge rooms for the chance of a health upgrade.
DmC rolls forward at a cracking pace and everything drips with quality, from the aforementioned character animations to the unique monster designs, crunchy sound effects and - the true star of the show - the gorgeous visuals. On PC, the game runs like a dream, the Unreal Engine 3 optimised beautifully and given room to render some truly breathtaking scenes.
Much of DmC takes place in Limbo, a demonic world into which Dante is invariably dragged by demons hunting him down. It can get a bit too predictable, in that every mission seems to have Dante once more pulled into Limbo, an eye-rolling “not again” moment that is played out too many times, but when the payoff is wonderful dream-like visuals and psychedelic level distortions, Limbo’s purpose as a delivery platform for “the fighting bit” can be forgiven.
Each level is straightforward, giving you waves of enemies to defeat in as stylish a manner as you see fit. As expected for the series, your combat is ranked, employing a system whereby repeating the same actions too closely together reduces their value. It can be unforgiving as you get used to the complex roster of controls and combos. Not only do you have aerial and physical attacks to memorise and string together, but additional weapons that unlock as you move through story missions.
Early on, your trusty companions are the angelic Osiris scythe and demonic Arbiter axe, which each have two main attacks. A third tool, the Ophion Whip, has a light and dark side too, depending on which modifier trigger (we suggest you use a game controller if playing on PC) you use. Angel Lift pulls Dante towards enemies and acts as a hookshot for blue grapple points in levels and during boss fights, while Demon Pull drags enemies to you for a beat down as well as floating scenery in Limbo so as to create ledges and platforms. There is a lot at your disposal but timing it all to maintain smooth style takes practice. It’s very easy to drop from an S rating to a B or C from one missed action.
Despite its demonic intent, Limbo is a playful world. Taunting words spoken by an omnipresent demon pop up across the scenery in large white lettering; members of the public flit in and out of existence as they go about their controlled lives, ignorant of your struggle; light poles and trash cans shrivel with corruption; devil vines cover doors and vehicles and snake up walls; darkness drips from overhangs, encrusting bricks in cocoons of crystalised obsidian; and seemingly nearby exits extend away from you at the last moment, stretching your goal across vast chasms or hallways.
Throughout each level are hidden keys, used to unlock doors to challenges such as killing enemies or reaching the end point of a platforming section within a time limit. Lost Souls are also trapped in Limbo and liberating them contributes to your level completion percentage. Everything you do in a level combines with your combat scores to give you an overall mission rating at each breathing point. Outside of all this, you are levelling up, unlocking new combos and buying supplies at the shop. It cannot be said that there is little to do in DmC.
Although level design is linear and simple, there are clear creature spawn beats and boss battles at the end of each handful of missions which gives DmC an addictive quality. The bosses are all quite easy to defeat and some of them are particularly memorable. My favourite battle took place inside a television tower, with Dante entering a news presenter’s eye during each battle stage. A “nightly news update” monologue then plays over your combat as viewed from a news chopper. Another sees a demon give birth to a monster which then sucks her into itself, requiring you to weaken it before latching onto the mother’s legs to pull her out from her own spawn ... That one’s actually a bit disturbing.
For all its perceived depth, DmC is at times in breach of itself. The combat ranking system encourages broad attack patterns, yet there are some demons that can only be damaged by certain weapons, thus limiting severely the ways in which you can deal with them. During mob attacks, shielded enemies are best dealt with first, yet with no ability to target or lock onto enemies it can become frustrating to whip over to the incorrect target within a populated battle. The auto aim is generally very good, but it runs into problems when there is a crowd. Upgrades are also disappointing in their narrow focus. Most of the game can be completed without buying all of the combos, which means that doing so will only appeal to players who enjoy memorising button presses. It’s common to own a collection of upgrade points and feel no real excitement for anything on offer.
Even with these few frayed ends DmC: Devil May Cry is not the disrespectful dump on the franchise that many believe. This reboot is a tight and stylish action title that looks gorgeous, plays smoothly and exhibits a charming self-awareness at all times. It does feel unfocused now and then, especially during the frequent platforming sections that have little purpose other than to position a beautiful roiling sea in the background. However, it’s clear that Ninja Theory was the right choice for the task. The team has crafted a decent fiction in which humans and demons share a mutually corrupt relationship and, in Dante, an unwilling saviour whose initial motivations of pride and vengeance transform realistically into more noble aspirations.
The sense of characters being real emotional beings is far above most other releases, even if the actual emotions being displayed are not particularly new. If you’ve never played a Devil May Cry game, this is a somewhat lighter but far more entertaining offering. For series devotees, give it a chance - there’s humour here plus action and depth if you crave it. Bring on DmC 2.
I only played the demo but I don't see the appeal for fans of the original, gameplay felt same old and there was a lameness that would have been intentional in the original, but just feels lame and poopy in this one. It ran like doggie doo on PS3 too.
I think it's more a game for newcomers to the genre rather than DMC fans (who get to play the HD bundle now anyway so no wet biscuits), I'm okay with that; Bayonetta felt like the spiritual sequel to DMC and Bayonetta 2 is being made so :)