Jan. 16, 2013 at 12:14 PM ET
It was easy for the devil to take control. All he had to offer was junk food, 24-hour news, and easy credit. The world gave itself over. "DmC: Devil May Cry" is the story of what happens when one man finds out that he’s not human after all, and he begins to fight back.
Ninja Theory ("Enslaved," "Heavenly Sword") had a big job when it came to rebooting Capcom’s franchise, and the developer drew fire by introducing a redesigned Dante with dark hair. It’s always tricky to manage change when it comes to games with this much momentum, but "DmC" doesn’t just adjust the formula, it makes the game relevant for modern gamers.
When the devil came, he was not red
"Devil May Cry" was always about style, and "DmC" has no problem keeping up with the past games in this regard. So many developers suffer from a fear of color, but Ninja Theory experiments with different color palettes throughout the game, to great effect. You’ll see some amazing things in the game, and the levels themselves will often fight to destroy you.
The characters shift between the real world and Limbo, a shadowy dimension where demons walk freely and humans look like ghosts. The developer didn’t stop there, and they take the time to mock the overblown computer-generated graphics of modern news networks and even reality shows for inventive, splashy scenes.
The story is interesting, and there is more depth than you’d expect, but the real star here is the action.
The game begins by teaching you a few simple moves, and then introduces the ability to upgrade your weapons and attacks, and then adds more weapons and layers on more abilities, while continually teaching you how it all works.
Hitting a button allows you to attack with your sword, but hitting that same button while holding the right or left triggers gives you access to other weapons as well. So the same button, depending on whether it’s hit alone or in conjunction with a trigger, can give you access to three weapons. Then you’re given the option of changing the weapon that is used when you hold the left or right trigger and hit the button. This system adds a wonderful left and right rocking motion to the controls once you begin to alternate between weapons in the heat of battle.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the choices given to you in combat, but the game comes alive when you relax, take the time to learn the many systems, and study the best time to use each weapon. You’re rewarded for learning lengthy combos, attacking with multiple weapons, and destroying your enemies with style.
The basic combat consists of waves of different enemies, and that formula rarely changes throughout the game. You’re forced to change your strategy and adjust your tactics due to the varying the waves of enemies consisting of different types of demons, each of which has their own powers and weaknesses. You have to be smart to survive, especially in the harder difficulty settings.
You can also find keys that unlock optional challenge levels, and I’ll admit that I didn’t find many of these in my first playthrough. You’re given a grade at the end of every chapter, so you have ample reason to go back, retry a section, improve your score, and in some cases even unlock different areas once you return with different weapons and abilities. There is much going on in every chapter, and it’s doubtful that you’ll be able to see everything the first time you play.
If you’re a fan of the classic "Devil May Cry" titles, games like "God of War," or you like action titles in general this is one of the better examples of the genre, and the game remains fun from the first battle to the last. The boss battles require you to learn basic patterns and how to counter-attack effectively, but they seem more like an anachronism than a serious road block to enjoying the game.
Plus, the often-amusing dialog and design of these monstrous creatures makes it easy to overlook their classical influences. Their inclusion in a game that feels modern in most other ways feels odd, and they add little to the game’s pacing or story. There are no quick-time events, and for that we are grateful.
He was chrome, and he said…
The action is as good as we could have hoped, but Ninja Theory also added a well-written story, complete with interesting (if cartoonish) characters. The most striking addition is Kat, a woman who was taken in by a demon after being orphaned. The game doesn’t go into details about what he did to her, but it hints at things, and it’s not pretty. She learned to escape into the spirit world, and is now a powerful magician.
She mixes modern convenience with her arcane knowledge. Spells are pre-mixed and kept in cans of spray paint so she can use them at a moment’s notice. She uses stencils instead of painting the complex designs by hand. Wait until you see what she can do with an egg timer. It’s refreshing to see a female supporting character who doesn’t exist just to be a sexual object, and is shown to be both strong and capable.
Dante comes to respect her, and then trust her, and then he realizes what it feels like to have something to lose. It’s not a romantic relationship, at least not on the surface, and watching Dante learn about what it is to care about something outside of killing demons and getting laid is gratifying.
The game tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end while setting up a sequel that doesn’t seem tacked on. The protagonist changes and grows through the story.
The core action is some of the best you’ll find. The game shows you some amazing things, and the world feels lived-in and alive. The dialog is written well and (mostly) delivered well. My biggest complaints consist of a slightly annoying camera and bosses that feel out of place. The game even takes a moment to troll fans who complained about Dante’s hair color.
There is a moment in a game where Dante is facing Kat, with one of them in Limbo, and he’s giving her advice about how to deal with a terrifying situation. “Get on your knees, put your hands up, don’t fight back,” he tells her. He looks into her eyes. They have no way to touch each other, and she looks scared. It’s important to Dante that she not feel alone. The door is broken down, and there is the sound of gunshots. I realized at that moment I cared about these people and the story I was being told, and the play itself is far above most other action titles. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
For more from our friends at the Penny Arcade Report, check out these stories: