January 14, 2013
“Not in a million years!” That's a sentiment that Devil May Cry fans might have cried out when news reached their ears that Ninja Theory had taken over their beloved franchise for a reboot at the behest of Capcom. In DmC, it's a cheeky dig at those very fans and a statement that sends a message, loud and clear. You'll understand what we're talking about once you've completed the first mission in DmC. This is Ninja Theory's rodeo, and this is the UK studio's own version of Dante, whether you like it or not. There's a good chance that you will like it though, and like it a lot. Any misgivings you had about the new direction will have dissipated after the first hour or two with the game.
It pretty much goes without saying that Capcom and Ninja Theory have a lot riding upon DmC, but rebooting the series is a gamble that's paid off, at least in gameplay and storytelling terms. All of the key elements that have become the series' staple are still mostly present and correct, but with the real world and Limbo existing in tandem, Mundus is not just a demon this time around. He's also the owner of an evil and unscrupulous investment bank who plans to lord it over the world and 'make it his bitch' using the power of debt. Not even a short-term lender can save you from his nefarious plan it seems.
There are some very pertinent and topical swipes at modern society in DmC, with Fox News lampooned as the Raptor News Network, and Bob Barbas “just doing God's work” like an only slightly more hysterical Bill O'Reilly. It's smart, satirical stuff, and indicative of the game's increased focus on spinning a more absorbing, coherent yarn.
You'll move between the real world and Limbo with the help of your human medium and spiritual helper, Kat, who's part of Vergil's underground resistance, The Order, fighting powers that are more than they seem. Just wait until you find out how Virility, the world's best-selling drink is made. It's not pretty, but it does make for a damn fine boss battle.
DmC doesn't really feel much like a reboot, preserving the spirit and core mechanics of the series, as well as retaining Dante's cocksure attitude, stripping out many of the character's more irritating traits. You can't help but warm to this new Dante, as he develops from nihilistic low-life to assured nephilim demon hunter, laughing in the face of danger and dropping F-bombs at screaming succubus demons. But it's his ever-growing arsenal of moves and abilities that'll draw you in and keep you hooked.
Like past iterations in the Devil May Cry series, you'll acquire new weapons and abilities as you progress, using the mainstay currency of red orbs to purchase moves and upgrades at a Divinity Statue or at the beginning of a mission. Gone are Dante's various stances this time around, replaced by a unified move set that mixes in all of the best bits from Royalguard, Trickster and the like. There's a quick evasion move that's not quite as handy as Bayonetta's versatile cartwheel, but still does the job, and you can bust out heavyweight Demon weapons to really lay into foes, while Dante's Angel weaponry is perfectly suited to crowd control.
As you progress you'll be presented with more weapon choices, with Dante's Angelic Osiris scythe joined by the devastating Aquila throwing stars and the Demonic Arbiter axe complemented by the flaming Eryx gauntlets. Juggling weapons is a snap thanks to the intuitive control system that maps Angel and Demon weapons to the left and right triggers respectively, while firearms and alternate weapons can be quickly switched on the fly using the d-pad. Ebony & Ivory are joined by the Revenant shotgun and the brilliantly named Kablooey, making for innumerable combinations of moves. Some enemies are vulnerable only to Angel or Demon weapons too, so efficiently exploiting the strengths of each is all part and parcel of your chosen combat strategy.
Executing aerial combos is a snap too, thanks to the ability to pull yourself towards enemies with an Angelic grab or pull enemies towards you with the Demonic whip. You can use these as traversal tools too, pulling platforms and objects into position, or swinging between designated points. The only issue with this comes with an occasionally unresponsive trigger press, which can lead to an unexpected fall. Luckily the only punishment for missing a jump is the loss of a small chunk of health, and a quick respawn to the nearest platform.
An air dash replaces Dante's air hike too, as you're now able to double-jump from the off, meaning you're able to cover fairly long distances during the platforming sections. The Devil Trigger meanwhile, turns the screen and Dante's hair bright white while suspending enemies in mid air, leaving them wide open to be dragged back down to earth and torn a new one with a devastating combo.
As ever, you're awarded a style rating with the higher ratings coming with sustained combos, and by the time you've acquired the grin-inducing Aquila blades, you'll be racking up SSS style combos with little effort. Still, DmC's combat system is superb and makes complete logical sense. Stringing together Dante's gun and melee attacks presents you with a range of tactical choices, and switching between them all becomes second nature in no time. Bayonetta's crown as the ultimate hack and slasher might be safe, but DmC is a genuinely fantastic gameplay experience that can rank itself among the genre's high points.
DmC's achievement list isn't too bad either. Most are attached to straightforward progress through the story, while you're encouraged to explore off the beaten path to locate lost souls and hidden keys that unlock doors for secret missions. Covering all the bases, none of DmC's achievements are particularly inventive, but there's a decent enough spread to keep you playing. Only the hardcore player will bag the full 1000 Gamerscore however, given that there's an achievement attached to each of the unlockable higher difficulty levels. Good luck beating Hell and Hell mode!
Overall, DmC's difficulty might have been toned down in comparison to past titles – Devil May Cry 2 excepted – but having breezed through the game on the standard Devil Hunter difficulty before diving straight back in for a Son of Sparda playthrough, we can attest that there's more than enough of a challenge here for players of any and all skill levels. Unlocking everything the game has to offer will take more than one playthrough, but the prospect of revisiting the game is something you'll relish rather than dread.
The presence of a cinematic and engaging narrative, truly imaginative, stunning visuals and great gameplay ensure that DmC is never anything but an exciting and immensely enjoyable game. Given the rather turbulent initial response to DmC among the hardened fans amid fears that the games they loved so much were being trampled upon, Ninja Theory has put its money where its mouth is, and Dante's comeback truly sings. Capcom's strategy of collaborating with western studios has paid off in the best possible way for DmC, making for not just one of the best Devil May Cry games to date - almost reaching the lofty heights of Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening - but the best game Ninja Theory has ever made.
While the eardrum-pounding strains of Noisia and Combichrist might not be to everyone's tastes, the dark, grinding electronic metal music hits all of the right notes and fits the game perfectly.
A sensational looking game, DmC's environments run the gamut taking you from sun-dappled streets to hellish underground lairs and more surreal places like the nightclub level or the topsy-turvy penitentiary. The motion-captured performances are exemplary too.
A superlative combat system that's utterly intuitive while preserving the essential feel and core gameplay of the series. The perfect marriage of Capcom's know-how and Ninja Theory's ingenuity, DmC is an eminently playable success.
There's a good 8-10 hours of gameplay spread across DmC's 20 story missions, with additional replay value coming with the unlockable difficulty levels, leaderboards, hidden secret missions and variety of collectibles.
A solid enough list that ticks most of the right boxes. There are slightly too many simplistic progression-based tasks here, however, and not enough creativity on show. Less grinding achievements and more skill-based stuff wouldn't have gone amiss either. Killing 5000 demons won't come easy.
A bright new beginning for Dante, Ninja Theory's DmC is a triumph and a positive first step towards things to come. Capcom's most successful collaboration with a western studio to date, DmC is also Ninja Theory's finest game. SSSensational.