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Posted by on Jan 22, 2013

REVIEW: DmC Devil May Cry

REVIEW: DmC Devil May Cry

Title: DmC Devil May Cry
Platform: X360 / PS3 / PC [reviewed on X360]
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Capcom
TL;DR: The Sparda Family is at its finest hour, and there’s more on the horizon.
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[NOTE: This game has been purchased and/or rented by the author's own personal funds and was not furnished by any official entity. All opinions expressed belong solely to the author, and has not been endorsed by any major studio or publisher.]

Pepperoni Pizza. Perhaps it was Hideki Kamiya’s comment on the commonalities of American culture, but back in 2001 we saw the beginnings of a new franchise out of Capcom. It was a bit of a “Whoopsie,” intended at first to be yet another entry into the Resident Evil franchise, but it quickly became a beast of its own.

We were introduced to Dante Sparda, a white-haired, I-don’t-give-a-shit guy who ate pizza with his feet propped up nonchalantly on a desk, swigging Jack Daniels from a bottle, and listening to grungy rock music. He did work of the supernatural hunting kind almost like a PI, and he’d certainly give the Winchester boys a run for their money, often taking jobs that didn’t get him pay and little recognition. But that’s how he liked it — quiet.

It was the hack n’ slash kind of title that developers dreamed of making, a successful title that gave you power-ups, new combos, stuff like that. Hideki Kamiya perfected the formula, but then he upped and left to move on to other things. The next few games in the series were anything but wonderful, and I couldn’t help but think: This is it. This is the end of Devil May Cry.

And then came Ninja Theory, their wacky ideas, and their formula that was going to turn the Sparda family upside down on their heads and hang them from the rafters.

dmc-screen1

Welcome to Limbo. Enjoy your stay here or…you know, you can get as uncomfortable as you like.

Ninja Theory’s take on the fabled demon-hunting series is definitely not apologetic. Working off of DMC 3‘s portrayal or a rebellious young Dante who was rough around the edges and yet still cared, they formed the groundwork for their spin on this tale. Two brothers, separated at birth, working to destroy the Demon King, and trying to find each other and a purpose as they do it. If anything, DmC‘s reboot is a much grittier retelling of DMC 3‘s story, beginning with a rather exposed look at our new hero.

I wasn’t jesting when I said “exposed” either, and nothing should ever come between a man and his pizza.

Complete with easter eggs that are a constant reference to earlier DMC titles, this game is any demon-hunting lover’s dream come true. I will be the first to make this confession: I hated the redesign, but then again, I learned to love it, and it now has earned a very permanent spot on my shelf.

As for those still smarting over the entire character design: Get over it. Dante has been a smarmy little bitch in the past, and Ninja Theory has neatly exaggerated that facet of his personality. As for the white hair? Really, just play the game and see what happens.

“Complete with easter eggs that are a constant reference to earlier DMC titles, this game is any demon-hunting lover’s dream come true.”

Ninja Theory has always excelled in telling a compelling story, and their past efforts with Enslaved and Heavenly Sword are a taste of what they could do with the story of DmC. Set in the world of Limbo intermingling with the real world, we’re given a different look at the shattered past of Vergil and Dante, two sons born to the Demon Knight Sparda.

A rebel in the ranks of the King Mundus (surprise, bet you didn’t expect to hear that name again did you?), Sparda fell in love with an angel named Eva, as opposed to a regular human. As they hide amongst humanity in the real world, they are given two sons, but Mundus quickly finds out and…well, the inevitable happens.

Fast-forwards to Dante, waking up in his home on the pier. He meets the mysterious psychic Kat, who claims to be working for The Order, a resistance group fighting against Mundus. The Demon King now takes on the guise of a CEO of a powerful financial institution that more or less runs the real world. Social commentary? This game is rife with it, and it’s lovely in all of its barbed wit.

Killer moves? You got it.

One of the biggest fears fans had was the combat system. Set on a firm foundation of stylish slick moves with guns, swords, and a multitude of alternate weapons, Ninja Theory didn’t skimp in that department at all. When they said that they spent most of their time with the combat, it shows, allowing players to seamlessly transition between the standard issue Rebellion to other weapons.

Spinning it a different way, we’re now introduced to the idea of “Angelic” weaponry and “Demonic” weaponry. As suspected, angelic weapons are more crowd-controlling sweeping maneuvers designed to get those pesky Stygians off your back, whereas demonic weapons are hard-hitting shield breakers that can toss an asshole off the nearest edge.

Offered in the game is a Training Mode, which allows players to practice all of their slick moves. This isn’t some button-mashing fighter fest — Devil May Cry has always demanded that the player pay attention to their surroundings and know when to break away and dodge, and also how to time their taps to execute stylish moves. The style counter is back (it hasn’t gone anywhere), and you are rewarded skill points to spend on your abilities depending on how awesome you perform in battle. Little extra visual cues, such as your weapon flashing, tells you when you can tap the button again to execute a different combo than your standard X X X X slasher.

“Devil May Cry has always demanded that the player pay attention to their surroundings…and also how to time their taps to execute stylish moves.”

Learning to switch between angelic and demonic weapon types is an exercise in knowing which trigger to pull at what time. Later stages of the game also ask that you pay close attention to what colors your enemies are and match it depending on your weapon — blue for angelic, red for demonic. Some stage elements also ask that you pay attention so you know when to change your colors to avoid taking damage. The mind-numbing pulsing lights of Lilith’s Club come to mind, but it’s far and few between. This is no easy “Oh let me just keep mashing the same buttons over and over again” game. Devil May Cry never has been that kind of a hacker, and I hope it doesn’t turn into one as such.

Jackpot! Er…well, maybe not.

One of Ninja Theory’s largest weaknesses comes through in glaring light, and that’s their jiggling camera and utter lack of a proper targeting system. It was a large annoyance in Enslaved, but it becomes unbearable in DMC at times.

Demanding that the player be almost eye-level with enemies above them (or below them), it’s damn near impossible to target anything from the ground alone, especially since they seem to have a magnetic lock on you. In a game that features both grounded enemies and aerial foes, it’s hard to break away from the relentless assault on the ground to jump into the air when all you really want to do is just shoot them to interrupt an incoming missile.

dmc-screen2

Coupled with an unsteady camera that seems to be controlled by college students trying to find the Blair Witch, the sudden seamless action can suddenly become a fight to get out from behind a wall, pillar, or a crushed car on the street. Yes, the combat is otherwise incredibly solid, solid enough to probably build a stone fortress upon, but color me frustrated — I really wish Ninja Theory would get their act together when it comes to the lack of a proper target system. All I want to shoot is that goddamn pixie with its laser gun and shove the bone-headed Hell Knight off a platform. In this case, it sometimes is really too much to ask.

So what’s the ultimate verdict of DmC Devil May Cry? Play the damn game. For any love of the DMC series, this is your new beginning, and it’s only going to get so much better from here. With crisp combat maneuvers, impressive visuals, and a compelling story that clearly fleshes out the characters that we’ve come to love, this is the refreshing that the series has craved for so long.

The Good

  • Excellent story and adaptation of the groundwork Capcom laid out in 2001 and later.
  • Worried about the combat? It’s fluid, it’s solid, it’s everything we’ve been hoping for. And more.
  • Still smarting over the character redesign? Get over it — it’s not worth boycotting this game over. Promise.

The Bad

  • Unstable camera lends to sticky situations that shouldn’t be an issue in the first place.
  • An absent targeting system shows Ninja Theory’s weak spot. Again.

DMC is currently available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms. The PC version is out later this week.

Family Focus
The ESRB gave this a resounding “M” rating and for good reasons: there’s a lot of cussing, and a lot of innuendo. I mean, it’s Devil May Cry. You shouldn’t let your kids play this. Then again, some people still let their five year olds play Call of Duty, so you know. Responsibility and all that.

Tabitha W.

Best known for her dumb ass antics on Twitter, Tabs likes to play a lot of games, especially if it involves copious amounts of assassins, swords, and hot cyborgs. She also likes a lot of coffee, and requires a weekly cupcake sacrifice. Don't forget the bacon.

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