I was expecting the worst from DmC. I love the pre-reboot series (I even like DMC 2), and I was nervous about seeing the game put in the hands of Ninja Theory, whose Heavenly Sword was very pretty and also very derivative and dull. I let myself be cautiously optimistic at the same time, because the DMC games have plots you could write on a postage stamp (Dante and pals fight monsters, Dante fights big boss monster, everyone goes home for tea), and all that could be done with the characters has probably been done. The series needed a reboot. (Plus, that nicely fixes the problem of ‘where exactly does DMC2 fit into the series’ timeline’.)
Fortunately, it’s a quite brilliant reboot. It’s got some comforting familiarity (Dante’s still a cocky cuntcake, combat still involves using a sword to twat enemies up into the air and ‘juggling’ them with gunfire, you still buy things from divinity statues using red orbs and look for secret missions), and some nice restyling. Vergil is now a cool (but silly-hatted) gunslinger, driver and hacker instead of a moody git who refuses to use firearms because they’re not the way of a true warrior. New character Kat (a witch who keeps her spells in spray cans for quick deployment) is probably vaguely based on 3’s Lady, and is a more interesting and likable character. The game has a less goff vibe, and feels like what DMC2 was trying to be. In particular, Noisia and Combichrist were excellent choices for the soundtrack. Devil May Cry with a dubstep backdrop? Oh hell yes.
I was impressed by the intro cutscene, in which Dante answers the door in the nuddy-pants and proceeds to get dressed in an unfeasibly dramatic way while running into battle. The whole time this happens, his bits are somehow obscured by a carefully-choreographed parade of dong-shaped objects (such as a flying baseball bat). That shows that Ninja Theory have the series’ innuendo and silliness down pat.
I have mixed feelings about the new sweariness. Old Dante was disappointingly unsweary, but a script peppered with ‘Fuck you!’ ‘Fuck YOU!’ comes across as written by someone in a hurry to get to the pub. As does this terrible bit of dialogue: ‘You’re going to die!’ ‘Oh really? Somehow, I doubt that.’ Seriously, Ninja Theory?
Play follows the action-adventure standard of ‘twat all the enemies in the area, then you can crack on with solving the environmental puzzle and move on to the next area.’ ‘Puzzle’ is probably too generous a term – most of it is easy platforming. It’s linear, but encourages you to revisit levels by having obstacles that you can only clear with a weapon you acquire later in the game. You can finish the game in one inexorable advance from intro to final cutscene if that’s how you want to play, or if you’re a completionist and like to explore and to collect things you can go back and do that too.
Combat is fairly formulaic, in that you’ll probably find a favourite combo and stick with that until you find an enemy it doesn’t work on. It’s annoyingly easy to fall off precipices when using the move to pull yourself to an airborne enemy, meaning that this move gets largely unused in favour of the equally-effective one to pull the enemy towards you. Your overall mission score is affected by the quality of your battle moves (avoid taking damage and avoid repetition), but it’s surprisingly easy to score highly in this area, meaning that you don’t really have to think that hard about finesse unless you’re going for an mission S rank or above.
The game has enough references to the previous series to please DMC wankers like me. A couple of times it does get a bit ‘Look! That was a reference, did you like it?’ Yes, ho ho, I see what you did there. Some enemy designs are reimaginings of monsters from past games, and the game has a battle mechanic similar to the brilliant Devil Bringer used by Nero in DMC4. Interestingly, there’s no title drop (all the previous games made references to the fact that devils never cry, and the title of the series was also the title of Dante’s business), making me wonder if the devs will make the letters DmC stand for something else.
I was bracing myself for a women-objectifying scene mentioned in another review. It’s there and yeah, pretty gratuitous, but fortunately it’s over quickly and happens right at the start. It’s almost as though the devs thought it was obligatory to have at least one pan over a woman’s knickered bum but didn’t really want to and shoved it in quick at the start to get it over with. I found myself thinking ‘that wasn’t so bad’, which is quite sad because it shows how ubiquitous this has become in mainstream gaming.
I’m more bothered by how Western-centric the plot is. An illuminati of demons have taken over the world by a combination of manipulating finances using possessed bankers (topical lols), a propaganda-filled news network (an obvious pisstake of Fox), and an addictive aggressively-marketed soft drink that makes its consumers subservient. Fair enough, but it’s not explained how this works in areas without television coverage or fizzy pop, or how a worldwide stranglehold can be broken by taking out one television station and one factory.
It’s so refreshing to see a game that hasn’t forgotten it is a game, and presents itself as such. Checkpoints are so frequent that you can stop playing pretty much wherever you want and not have to worry about losing progress when you resume play. If you’ve reached a level in any difficulty mode, you can try it at any other mode you’ve unlocked. Controls are remappable. Hard mode is the normal mode from the pre-reboot games, making it kinder to series newbies while leaving its trademark difficulty still in place for those who want it. You can try out moves in a training arena before committing to buying them, and you can respec whenever you want. Secret mission doors you’ve unlocked and lost souls you’ve found stay that way on subsequent mission playthroughs. DmC is a hard game only in that it’s tough to play – the structure as a game is engineered in such a way that you never have to think about it, and can get on with the business of enjoying the damn game. We need more of this.
If you’re new to the Devil May Cry series, this is probably a better purchase than the Devil May Cry HD Collection, which is a very soulless port, or Devil May Cry 4, which is buttock-clenchingly hard and makes you play as shitehawk Nero for the first half before you can be Dante. If you’re an established Devil May Cry fan, you must get this. It’s a worthy continuation.
Bonus: Here’s a Storify of my livetweeting the game when I first got it.