This isn’t the Dante the fans remember. He’s not wearing his trademarked red, buckled coat, and he doesn’t have the hair we’ve all used to recognize him over the years. He isn’t half-human, half-demon, and his story has been completely rewritten, and guess what? That’s just fine.
DmC: Devil May Cry is a complete reboot of the Devil May Cry franchise. For the first time, a studio other than Capcom (who is now only handling publishing duties and direction) is developing a title in the series. Enter Ninja Theory, the British developer best known for the action title Heavenly Sword. Even with its previous titles receiving praise, the studio was still assaulted by consumers who worried about the direction of the reboot. However, if those consumers were to actually sit down and play DmC, they would be in for a pleasant surprise.
The story of this Dante begins in a very modern setting; a sprawling urban complex with TVs blare constant cable news, ads for the energy drink known as Virility are plastered all over buildings, and our protagonist seems content to soak in the young nightlife and enjoy the…company of a few escorts he meets at a club. Although he appears to be a normal twenty-something mindlessly relishing in the excess of the city, it soon becomes apparent that he’s actually familiar with the not-so-everyday practice of killing demons, as is revealed when a young psychic named Kat helps him narrowly escape an attack from the demon-infested land known as Limbo. Soon, he enters an organization known as “The Order” and discovers that he is a nephilim: a half-angel, half-demon.
The plot has received quite a bit of flak from some in the media for being juvenile and possibly even offensive, but this would only be examining the game on a superficial level. Yes, the story does contain some teenage humor and quite a bit of vulgar language, as well as a few lines that are facepalm-worthy, but it also feels quite a bit more relevant than past games in the series. The political themes of the game also feel right at home, taking shots at consumerism and dishonest media while never becoming directly confrontational.
Of course, no Devil May Cry game would be worth anything if it didn’t feature a kick-ass combat system, and luckily, DmC may have the best one yet. Dante has access to three distinct “modes”: normal, angel and demon. Each of these allows him to use different melee weapons, such as a huge axe, a whirling scythe and a pair of crushing gauntlets. Switching between these on the fly is a breeze and allows for interesting combos, which is the key for achieving the famous “SSS” style ranking. The way these weapons are incorporated into enemy encounters and boss fights is also excellent, constantly changing the experience to keep the player alert. Angel weapons tend to work better when dealing with large crowds of enemies, while demon weapons are best for dishing out damage against one or two targets. Dante’s trusty sword, Rebellion, is always there when he needs it, as well.
The complexity of the combat system means that without excellent controls to back it up, it would be a nightmare, but DmC amazes in this aspect. Switching between enemies and dodging attacks is a breeze, and even though the game features a ridiculous number of moves, the way in which they’re activated is very straightforward and logical. In addition, buttons can be remapped to suit the preference of the player, although this may cause some difficulty when trying to use attacks that require two button presses.
While combat is definitely the star of the show in DmC, the platforming aspect of the game is vastly improved over previous Devil May Cry games. Dante uses his angel and demon hooks for some interesting swing moves from platform to platform, and, as the first game in the series to use a camera that isn’t horrible, the player is finally able to enjoy it all without much frustration. A few key points call for some quick escapes using Dante’s acrobatic abilities, and these are some of the most exciting moments in the entire game. Occasionally, it can be hard to judge jumps and leaps, but this issue is limited to just a few areas.
There has been much talk of the switch from Capcom’s proprietary game engine to Unreal Engine for DmC, but after seeing the game in action, most fears will be assuaged. Both gameplay and cutscenes look astounding, utilizing a unique art style and an attention to detail that is truly incredible. Facial animations are also spot-on, conveying the subtlest emotions of characters, and level design is also superb, allowing for some “Oh, wow!” moments, especially near the game’s end. There are some slight framerate hiccups during cutscenes, but they are hardly noticeable.
If there is one aspect of DmC that has not gotten enough recognition, it’s definitely the voice acting. Every character in the game sounds believable, even those with smaller parts, and the performances from the actors portraying the three main characters is astonishing. Music is also done well, although none of it is particularly noteworthy. The sound design is very unusual, with ambient noise sometimes ceasing to allow for moments of complete silence before ramping back up.
DmC: Devil May Cry’s haters were right: it isn’t a good game. It’s actually an incredible game, and one that deserves to be played by all those who call themselves fans of the action genre. While it does have a few minor issues and it’s a tad short, DmC is a magnificent triumph in game design and execution. This is how you make a reboot. Take notice.