DmC: Devil May Cry

I consider myself a pretty big fan of the Devil may Cry franchise.  I’ve played every game, and even watched some of the anime.  It’s likely because of my past experience with the franchise that I had serious misgivings about the new Devil may Cry prior to its release.  This new entry is a reboot that drastically alters the world and story of the original games and was created by a brand new developer, Ninja Theory.  While there are many changes in visual design, and its tone is a little less silly than previous entries, the new game is handled very well with the excellent and frantic combat the series is known for remains intact.  Ninja Theory has managed to put their own twist on this storied franchise while still making an excellent action game.

In Devil may Cry, you play as Dante, a wise-cracking demon hunter who is the son of a demon lord named Sparda and an angel named Eva.  This union gives Dante some spectacular powers but he has lost all memories of his origin and has no idea of his true nature.  Eventually the truth is revealed to him by his twin brother Vergil and a human resistance fighter named Kat.  Together they team up to take down the evil demon Mundus, the lord of demons who killed Dante's mother and imprisoned Sparda for eternity.  In the world of Devil may Cry, demons secretly run the world through subliminal messages, drugged soda, and a media empire.  It’s very similar to John Carpenter’s 1988 film They Live, right down to an alternate world that reveals the truth.  There are two worlds in Devil may Cry:  the normal human world and Limbo, the twisted realm of demons.  It is in Limbo that the majority of the game takes place.  Overall, the story is solid, with plenty of cool moments and even a few emotional cutscenes. You get a more serious story than what I have come to expect from the series and a well handled narrative, although the ending is a little abrupt. Dante, while slightly different than his previous incarnations, remains a very compelling character.  I didn’t particularly care for the social commentary, and if you have seen They Live or watch The Daily Show, then you have seen these Occupy Wall Street type topics, handled much better.  Still,  they do not detract from the part of the story concerned with evil demons, so it is easy to look past them.

The game looks really cool, with good-looking character models, moody and well-lit scenery and fantastic character animations.  Some of the environmental textures are a little flat, especially on the large buildings, and there is some severe texture pop-in during some of the cutscenes, though it remained unnoticeable during the actual gameplay.  The framerate is pretty solid during fights against groups of enemies and large scale boss fights.  These technical accomplishments of the game wouldn't matter so much if it had a boring sense of visual style. Thankfully the visuals are just as good as the graphics.  Limbo exists as a twisted version of the human world, with strange floating objects, warped buildings, dammed souls, and of course a plethora of demons for Dante to fight.  The developers do a good job of changing up the environments over the course of the game.  Stages include an amusement park, a soda factory, a dance club, and a demonic prison.  The demons look suitably twisted and threatening, and the action is fast and stylish.

As good as the presentation is in Devil may Cry, it is merely a side note to the excellent gameplay.  A 3-D action brawler, you'll move through each level beating up demons, solving puzzles, and doing some platforming which can be a little finicky at times.  Although there are  a number of mechanics at play, the primary focus is on the combat.  At its core, combat is simple:  one button for melee attacks, one button is for ranged attacks, and another is for launching enemies into the air.  It starts simple enough but as the game goes on, Dante gains more weapons and abilities making the combat much more more complex.  By holding down the left or right triggers, Dante can change which type of weapon he is using.  There are three different types:  Angel weapons that are fast, light attacks with a wide area-of-affect; Demon weapons that are slower, heavy attacks useful for taking down armored enemies; And normal weapons, which are a combination of the two.  For further variety, Dante can change which Demon, Angle, or ranged weapon he is using on the fly, switching between them mid-combo effortlessly as variety increases you’re combo score and offers up additional white and red orbs to be used on upgrades and items.  The combat controls are really great and just a ton of fun to use.

One of the nice touches this game has that I’ve never seen before in the genre is the way in which it handles pauses during combos.  In most games, you simply need to guess the timing which can be difficult especially when you are surrounded by hordes of enemies.  In DmC Ninja Theory has added a visual cue, a small light, that shines when you have waited long enough for the game to recognize a pause in the combo.  This makes pulling off the more advanced moves much easier, and eventually you will get a good enough feeling for the game’s timing that you won’t have to rely on the visual cue.  It’s a simple solution, but an effective one.

On the normal difficulty, the game is not that hard, especially when compared to previous entries in the series.  However, you can unlock plenty of difficulties, including one where Dante dies in one hit, so rest assured there will be a setting that fits your skill level.  Once you finish the game on one difficulty, you can continue on too harder ones with your upgrades and abilities intact.  This is a lot of fun and does give this 8-hour game some significant replay value.  Something interesting to note is the inclusion of a training mode, where players can practice Dante's combos.  I didn’t spend much time with it, but it seems like a neat addition to a genre that focuses on precision inputs.

I highly recommend Devil may Cry.  It’s a great action game that hangs with the best the genre can offer.  Combine that with its cool aesthetic and engaging characters, and you have the first can’t-miss release of 2013.