Ever since DMC: Devil May Cry’s announcement, there has been a large section of Devil May Cry fanatics who have done nothing but denigrate the game. From the announcement of Ninja Theory as the developer, to the new, more Westernised appearance of Dante, DMC was destined to fail before it even got out of the blocks. Instead we have a triumphant reimagining of what was becoming arguably a stale franchise, providing much-needed attitude and vigor to the original formula.
Dante is the result of some fondling between a demon father and angel mother. Inheriting qualities from both parents, Dante is in fact Nephilim, able to traverse the real world and ‘limbo’, the underworld where demons reside. Mundus, the lord of demons, controls the human populace in the real world in Orwellian fashion, suppressing their emotions and senses via the most popular soft drink: Vitality. This, along with subliminal messaging that hides the truth in favour of blind optimism renders humans indoctrinated, unaware of the real horrors which lurk beneath. Of course, you are the one to bring an end to this despotism.
The most important ingredient of the Devil May Cry series is the combat. While Ninja Theory has experimented with similar games in the genre such as Heavenly Sword, it’s safe to say that these attempts have lacked the complex and elaborate move sets that studios such as Capcom and Platinum Games have mastered. With this in mind, it would be understandable that many go into this game with a great deal of trepidation.
Thankfully, Ninja Theory has absorbed much of what more established developers achieve in this genre, creating a game that provides enough complexity for the hardcore to appreciate and experiment with. It’s also a highly accessible combat system as well without being a button masher, so new entrants to the series can pick it up and play with ease, effortlessly cleaving their opponents with panache. Move lists and chain attacks are limited compared to what is generally expected from the franchise, but there is still enough intricacy hidden for the elite to sink their teeth into.
Most welcoming is the quick switch between heavy (demon) and light (angel) weaponry with the press of the trigger buttons. These vastly different gameplay styles compliment the standard sword slinging well; all of these accessible on the fly. It’s extremely gratifying to launch your enemy into the air with your sword, maintain levity with a few hits from your scythe, to finally bring your foe to its grizzly doom with the smash of your axe. Regrettably there are situations where certain enemies can only be defeated by a specific type of weapon, restricting the fun factor in unleashing manic combos. It by no means ruins the gameplay, and actually can encourage you to familiarize yourself with different weapon types, but it detracts from the essential freedom to express yourself that DMC traditionally offers. When DMC does offer you the liberty to experiment however, it truly excels.
The balance between challenge and accessibility is always difficult to determine, and I feel that the developer did about as good a job they could in delivering that balance. For the hardcore audience, they may be slightly let down by the lack of initial challenge even on the default hardest setting. As a huge fan of Bayonetta I found this ‘Nephilim’ difficulty a bit too easy. Rarely did I find myself repeating an area more than 2 or 3 times. Unlocking the ubiquitous ‘Dante Must Die’ setting and beyond however offers the true ‘Devil May Cry’ that fans have been clamouring for.
Having only played the PC version I can’t comment on how DMC plays at the console standard of 30fps, or whether this greatly impacts upon the fluidity and responsiveness of the combat (my guess is it will!). What I can say though that 60fps should be the aim for such games which require cat-like reflexes and low latency between the controller input and the display output. You simply can’t imagine the greatest example in the industry, Bayonetta, running at half the frame rate; it would be a different experiences altogether, most definitely an inferior one as well.
Obviously the PC allows for no such compromises to be made, and providing you have a decent mid range graphics card in the range of a GTX 560 or Radon 6870, you can maintain a rock solid 60fps at 1080p with maximum details. It is disappointing to see that DMC offers very little over its console counterparts aside from slightly better textures and improved lighting at the highest settings, but it’s clear that Ninja Theory’s intention was to allow for 60fps across a range of PC configurations; the right call in my opinion. Most people can be safe in the knowledge that they don’t need a supercomputer to realise the definitive Devil May Cry experience.
The level design is exceptional, with the world constantly shifting between what is real and what is ‘limbo’. The end levels in particular are extremely imaginative, ranging from an epilepsy-inducing dance floor to living life through a lens by way of Raptor news. The pacing of such creative concepts ensures that the player will always get the right dosage of that which is familiar territory and that which is uncharted. The most special quality about the environments however is their sentient nature, constantly morphing to hinder Dante’s progress and expressing contempt for him at every turn.
In terms of visuals, it is certainly distinct from other entries. Areas are generally large in presentation and abundant with their use of primary colours but are somewhat limited in access, though there is room for minor exploration when looking for secret challenge rooms and lost souls to ‘free’. Character models are of a good standard and some of the boss characters are really inspired, but the same can’t be said for enemies. As most games do, DMC offers 4 or 5 unique enemy types and then adds new armour, weapons or abilities to increase their challenge throughout the game. You will quickly grow tiresome of the same enemies and unfortunately this sticks out like a sore thumb considering the rest of the game is one of the most unique of recent memory in terms of design.
Voice acting is very good, but is limited by an inconsistent script that constantly oscillates between the overly personal and the potty-humoured absurd. Dante’s one-liners in particular are simultaneously witty and cringe worthy; amusing and embarrassing. Granted though, it’s much better written overall compared to any of Capcom’s efforts, but that isn’t particularly difficult in all truth.
The stand-out aspect of DMC though from an audio-visual perspective is DMC’s soundtrack, which can only be described as exceptional. Noisia and Combichrist contribute their characteristic electro/metal concoctions to give the game a unique personality, with renowned Dub artist Skrillex complimenting the above with his typical blend of all things cacophonous. Such collaborations give DMC a much different and welcomed flavour to what is the norm for the series. The soundtrack alone is worth a purchase.
So what’s the message for the die-hard fans that rejected this reimaging of the Devil May Cry series? Simply put, give it as much attention as all the other entries. Dante may look ‘wrong’, hence the furore surrounding the game, but ultimately – and most importantly – the core DNA of DMC still exists: hacking and slashing with style. It may not be as punishing as Devil May Cry 3 or as pioneering as the first entry in the franchise, but Ninja Theory has succeeded in preserving much of the combat complexity whilst adding a splash of its own personality. If Dante must die, it won’t be today!