Review: Devil May Cry (DmC)
By Nick Henderson on January 22nd, 2013 (9 comments)
Few titles are as a saturated by controversy as Capcom's reboot of the Devil May Cry series. The publishing powerhouse has been making some bold decisions with their core franchises lately by skewing their typical gameplay stylings and sometimes handing them off to western developers all together. In the case of DmC, Capcom has entrusted Ninja Theory, a studio known for producing bold, narrative driven experiences, with re-imagining one of their most gameplay focused franchises. If you were able to withhold judgement and remain objective in the leadup to release, then you will know that only one question is truly important here: Can Ninja Theory produce a respectable character-action game that is worthy of the Devil May Cry namesake? Against all odds, the answer is yes.
Devil May Cry (DmC)
Developer: Ninja Theory
Release Date: January 15, 2013 (PC, 360, PS3)
A Reboot in Every Sense of the Word
To be clear, DmC serves as a complete re-imagining of the franchise and should be treated as such. Ninja Theory was given creative freedom with an established IP and asked to do something new and that is exactly what they have done. Despite initial fan outcry, Ninja Theory has stood their ground and delivered a fresh and somewhat grounded portrayal of a universe that has never been shy about dipping their toes in the insane and incomprehensible.
The universe that exists here is one in which humans are unknowingly enslaved by demons through the use of tainted soft drinks and mass-media (sounds familiar right?). Demons exist in a twisted mirror of our world known as Limbo; a world that our hero, Dante, can traverse thanks to the blood of his demon father that courses through his veins. An interesting concept for sure but ultimately one that succeeds thanks to the storytelling and character stylings that Ninja Theory provides.
The big area of contention amongst fans of the series has been the new look that Ninja Theory has dropped on Dante. The shoulder-length white hair and flashy red trench coat are gone and have been replaced by a character that is decidely more juvenile in his appearance. With that said, the cocky, loud-mouthed qualities that have defined the character for a decade are still intact but are slightly more subdued in their use this time around.
New Digs, Same Attitude
The proprietory engine that powered Devil May Cry 4 has been dropped in favor of the Unreal Engine; Ninja Theory's engine of choice. From a technical standpoint, DmC may be a step backward for the series yet it stil manages to impress with an undeniable sense of style and an astounding visual presentation that is unlike anything I have ever seen in a video game. The world of Limbo is a twisted and contorted mirror image of the human world that comes to life with jarring yet beautiful transformations. Before your eyes, buildings shift and break apart, roads collapse into nothingness, and perspective is twisted into something beyond human comprehension.
The world is twisted even further when Devil Trigger is activated. The world is bathed in white light and enemies are catapulted skyward and suspended helplessly as Dante's demonic power is unleased. Not only is this devilishly satisfying but it adds another layer of beauty to a world that is already easy on the eyes. The pitfalls of the aging Unreal tech are still present here but Ninja Theory's creative vision has done an eloquent job of hiding them.
On a side note, DmC continues the trend of supporting the frinetic combat with some fairly generic but fitting metal music. Combichrist, a heavy industrial act that I have listened to for a few years now, was used to good effect in some of the game's more epic moments. I won't waste much time talking about this because I realize that few topics are as subjective as musical taste but I will say that I enjoyed the soundtrack and found that it suited the content quite well.
Yes, Ninja Theory is a studio that is best known for their storytelling chops and are rarely heralded for their combat mechanics; a frightening thought when the franchise in question is Devil May Cry. In this instance, Ninja Theory has put on their big-boy pants and not only delivered their best combat system to date but a combat system worthy of the Devil May Cry name. Every button on the controllered is utilized in a way that is intuitive but demanding of your undivided attention. Chaining combos together and switching between melee weapons and firearms on the fly is effortless and the style points system rewards and punishes the player in healthy doses. As a player, you are guaranteed to feel empowered and challenged.
With that said, the combat system never quite achieves the level of ingenuity of Devil May Cry 3's style system which allowed the player to switch between different fighting stances on the fly. The combat here is addicting and insanely satisfying as a good character action should be but the areas in which it has been scaled back will be noticeable to fans of the series. A few other hinderances also keep this from being the best combat the series has to offer. The lack of a lock-on and a stubborn camera make it difficult to focus your attacks and make the combat feel less precise than it should be. Throw on a few uninspired weapons and you have yourself a recipe for inferiority.
Curbing the Vision
I adored Ninja Theory's bold new take on Devil May Cry and I was eager to get my hands on the game immediately. These are the kinds of things that keep our favorite franchises from growing stale over time. So it comes to reason that one of my biggest complaints with the game is that the final product feels noticeably less bold in it's execution. Even the character of Dante has been tweaked (slightly) from his original portrayal in the debut trailer. Sure, he quit smoking and looks less like drug addict but at the same time, I feel like he comes across a bit more bland. These decisions were no doubt made to appease the rabid fanboys that called foul and as a result I can't help but lose a little bit of respect for Ninja Theory in the end.
Perhaps more noticeable though is the more subdued nature of the character in the game's cutscenes; an aspect of the series that I have always expected great things from. The choreography has always been top notch and the over-the-top nature of the action sequences is what set the series apart in the first place. While these moments are definitely still present in DmC, they are fewer in number. What is there is certainly well executed but I can only hope that Ninja Theory turns it up a notch if they are given the chance to make a sequel.
Don't be fooled by the new look, DmC is every bit as worthy of the Devil May Cry name as it's predecessors. Has Ninja Theory delivered the best Devil May Cry game in the series? From a gameplay perspective, not quite. However, the game delivers a new take on a franchise that I felt was growing stale and does so in tandum with a stylish and addicting combat system that deserves respect. Ninja Theory has proven that reboots can be done well and ensured that Devil May Cry lives on for a few more years. I can only hope that Capcom has the good sense to give this team another crack at it because I think we might have something special on our hands.
(Great - Only very minor issues get in the way of greatness)
I have been around since the very early days of 4Player but you may know me as “the short one” or the guy who is really into Dexter and that sweet new DmC reboot. I am a gaming enthusiast at my core and I love sharing my opinions on the subject with anyone who will listen. I am a cautious optimist and will try any game at least once. When it comes to gaming, I prefer to leave no stone unturned.
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