Capcom’s decision to ‘reboot’ its much-loved Devil May Cry series was met with much derision when it unveiled its plans to the world at TGS back in 2010. The uniquely Japanese arcade hack n’ slash title that started its life as a Resident Evil game has developed a fiercely loyal following over the years; and fans were horrified to discover that their favourite franchise had been farmed out to British developer Ninja Theory, creators of Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey To The West. Not only did the studio have no experience in the genre, but the concept art released of a new, ‘emo’ looking young Dante had die-hards frothing at the mouth. This wasn’t a re-imagining they wanted any part of – they shouldn’t have been so hasty.
Die-hards May Cry
Fast forward to 2013 and the stupidly named DmC: Devil May Cry is upon us, and the game clearly speaks for itself. Capcom have stated that this isn’t a reboot; rather the game takes place in an ‘alternate reality’ within the DmC universe. This is a move that betrays the company’s lack of faith in Ninja Theory’s hard work, and is totally unnecessary – for our money this is the best Devil May Cry to date.
The game runs on Epic’s hugely popular Unreal Engine 3 and consequently, in a first for the series, the game runs at 30fps instead of the customary 60. There was worry that this might impede the game’s famously frenetic combat; but fans needn’t worry – the game is as slick and sophisticated as ever. Arguably, Ninja Theory stand with Epic, People Can Fly and Rocksteady as the top-tier of UE3 masters. The engine is renowned for being responsible for drab, grey games but DmC is a vibrant explosion of noise, colour and bombast. It’s a gorgeous game to behold and has its own definitive art style which is unique, and sets it apart from previous franchise entries. Standard UE3 problems such as texture pop-in are still present, but rear their ugly head infrequently and don’t spoil proceedings.
Living In Perfect Harmony
Protagonist Dante’s re-imagining isn’t nearly the disaster people were worrying about – in fact he has just the right amount of swagger and attitude combined with a likeable demeanour and a far superior, modern look to the foppish, white-haired dandy of old. He’s a much more western, much more relevant character that reflects the overall game’s standing in the gaming world today. The game oozes cool, style and charisma; and unusually for a game in this genre has a decent storyline well-written (probably helped by the fact that the script was overseen by The Beach writer Alex Garland, once again lending his talents to Ninja Theory). It’s not going to win any Oscars, but it’s funny, irreverent, and has some amusing things to say about our culture and the society we live in.
The game mechanics will be instantly familiar to fans of the genre. Dante attacks with his twin revolvers Ebony & Ivory and his sword Rebellion; mixing and matching to create intricate combos. New gameplay elements come in the guise of Angel Mode and Devil Mode, modifiers that are initiated by holding down the left and right triggers respectively. These grant access to a wealth of extra weapons such as scythes, axes, burning fists and bladed discs. Dante also has access to the Devil Trigger Mode that turns the screen black and white, and sees Dante garbed in red with white hair in a fan-pleasing turn. He regenerates health and does more damage when in this state. There is an exhausting amount of moves and combos available and combat can initially feel overwhelming; but you’ll soon be pulling off SSS combos and shredding demons let, right and centre. Combat is accompanied by a thumping, adrenaline-fueled soundtrack courtesy of Norwegian Aggrotech band Combichrist and Dutch Electro trio Noisia. It really fits the tone of the game and keeps you fired up throughout.
Living The Limbo-Loca
The enemy design is fantastic and the myriad types of foe require many differing tactics to send them back to hell. Bosses are huge and really imaginative – a screaming, swearing succubus and enormous demon fetus with its mother hanging from its stomach by the umbilical cord being disgusting highlights. The game revels in gruesomeness and gleefully subjects you to stomach churning sights at every turn. The actual environment of Limbo City is a prominent antagonist too – the terrain often deforms and disintegrates around you; actively trying to end Dante’s life. Level design is great – the game constantly throws you into different environments with different feels to them, a trip into a virtual news network world a surreal highlight.
It’s not all fun though. The abundance of platforming sections do the game no favours – this is primarily a combat game, and like many of its hack n’ slash peers the in-game camera is often erratic. Dante’s weak-feeling jump doesn’t mix well with the dodgy camera and the large leaps he’s required to make. You’ll often find yourself frustrated after failing the same jump several times in a row and watching your health bar become increasingly empty. There is also a spectacularly misjudged statue-based puzzle towards the endgame that totally destroys the pacing of the game’s final act – not helped by the fact its the only puzzle in a 12 hour campaign.
Still, you can’t help but be pleasantly surprised by DmC. Its slick, aggressive, satirical and an absolute blast to play. It has a substantial campaign that is full of weird and wonderful highlights, some great characters, imaginative enemies and most importantly that integral gameplay that fans of the series love. We’d certainly recommend it over Metal Gear Rising, and if you love the genre you’ll find more than enough here to keep you coming back for more.
– Matt Reynolds. Give him a follow on Twitter @thelostmoment