Feel free to either watch the review below or read it, the old-fashioned way. I like to cater to all tastes.
DMC. Devil May Cry was released back in 2013 and was meant to be a reboot of Capcom’s Devil May Cry Series. This is one of those rare games which, I feel, deserved a much better reception than it got, so I’ll start by filling you in on its tale of woe. The original series was developed in house by Capcom but they decided they wanted a reboot to appeal more to a western market with a drastic new style for the franchise. They chose the UK studio Ninja Theory to develop this new look Devil May Cry. Unfortunately, the Storm clouds brewed over this title right back when the first images of the new look Dante was revealed.
As a long standing Devil May Cry fan, myself, having played all the previous titles, I completely understand the outcry of the fans as the new Dante looks nothing like the previous one, even losing his characteristic white hair. Dante’s character was also changed from cocky arrogance to teenage rebellion. In this situation most games developers would pander to the fans and change the character model before launch, but Ninja Theory stuck by their guns which led to the game being boycotted by a large percentage of the fan base.
On first sight of the game, I have to confess to have felt much the same as the majority of fans. All the drastic changes did feel very much like desecration. However, I played the game regardless, and I have to confess this is certainly one of those ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ examples, as the game, while looking nothing like the original, does at least stay true to the core mechanics. In fact, Ninja Theory drastically improved those core mechanics, as combat is even more fluid and varied than in the previous games, with the ability to easily switch weapons mid combo, and the incorporation of grapple and dash moves which turns narrowing the gaps between Dante and his enemies into a joy, rather than a chore that ends up breaking a well built combo. So while it might not look like a Devil May Cry game, it certainly plays like one, and the improvements were such that after the first few missions, I actually didn’t care so much about its extreme stylistic departure from the previous games, as playing it is just a joy.
DMC. Devil May Cry is a completely crazy game, and I say that with fondness. Dante starts the game standing naked outside his trailer and being pulled into limbo and conflict with a demon, which leads to a very Austin Powers style cut scene, where he dives through his trailer, flying through the air, putting his clothes on with his modesty protected only by random falling objects. If any fans had been left unaware that this was a completely new take on the franchise then that cut scene would have hammered the fact home. The game is also much darker and grittier and set in a modern world. Gone are the gothic style environments and empty ancient ruins. Even the HUD and menus have a drastic new look.
For veteran Devil May Cry players, it can feel a bit overwhelming, at first, as nothing is as it looked in the previous games, which is clearly the reason for the early hostility towards the game from the fans. I think, it was just a case of too much, too fast. While there is a story narrative as to the colour of Dante’s hair, as it does gradually turn white throughout the game. I feel that if Ninja Theory had just given in to the fans and used the white haired character model from the start, or at least given the option to, then they would have pacified the fan base and it wouldn’t have detracted that much from the narrative. His hair colour isn’t central to the story, and yet is a defining characteristic of the Dante fans knew and loved. I think the decision not to do that was what really hurt the early sales figures and that’s a real shame because the game has a style and excellence all of its own.
Another aspect that fans liked to complain about was the plot with complaints that it’s cliché and the characters are shallow. It’s true, the plot wouldn’t win any Oscars but when you look at the plot of previous Devil May Cry games then it is actually an improvement. Let’s face it, Devil May Cry 4’s plot was the cliché damsel in distress, boy tries to save girl, plot line and to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever played the Devil May Cry games just for the story. DMCs plot is gritty and more connected with reality, set in a recognisable modern world. It has also borrowed from Bayonetta, the idea of a world between the human and demon worlds, in this case called Limbo, in which Dante battles the demons. But this is still very cleverly grounded in the games real world by the occasional display of the repercussions of the battle, like the sight of the ruined amusement park at the end of the first mission.
Unlike in Bayonetta, in DMC this in between world is much more dreamlike and abstract and rather than forming a static backdrop, it’s constantly changing. Floors drop away and walls converge in an attempt to kill Dante, and whole rooms can break apart into floating islands. There are times where the environment itself feels like an enemy, as it tries it’s best to crush, trap and destroy Dante which makes the game all the more engrossing. There is also the extra dynamic of environmental awareness with the combat system, as sometimes with the toughest enemies, hitting them off the edge is the best solution, or you can use the environment as a form of crown control, as the enemies’ jumping abilities are generally limited.
The level design is visually striking. There are a number of different locations and each has a unique look and colour palate from the neon lit amusement park to the watery, ambient penitentiary to the crazy and psychedelic nightclub level. The one downside is that the levels are on the whole quite linear. Completing a level generally just involves getting from point A to point B and while there are alternate routes available in places, it doesn’t really prevent the game from feeling like it’s on predefined rails. There are secrets to find, lost souls and keys to collect and doors to extra mission to unlock, but these are generally just concealed in blind spots, like above doors you enter from or around corners. It would have been nice to have more levels like the mansion in mission 2 which does feel a little more open with new areas become available as you progress through the level, and it certainly felt less constrictive.
There are eight weapons available in the game each split into types: demon, angel and guns. Each of these can be swapped mid combo at the touch of a button, which allows a great freedom in terms of combat. You can hammer a close enemy with a hard hitting demon weapon then change to an angel weapon for a bit of crowd control and then back to a demon weapon again without even hitting the ground. This makes for some pretty epic looking combos and like the previous Devil May Cry games, it makes you feel like a real badass as you fluidly smash, hack and pound your way through crowds of enemies. Of all the things I like about this game, the combat is definitely at the top. It just feels so easy and effortless, and the tactical element added by the differing functions of each weapon adds real depth to the hack and slash combat.
Overall, despite the game’s bad early reception, I think this is one of the best of its genre. and if you haven’t played it then it’s certainly well worth a look. Visually the game is stunning and even better it’s backed up with excellent combat mechanics which make fighting hordes of demons a sheer joy. I know Capcom is currently creating a new game in the old series, and I’m certainly not going to be sad about that as I still love the old games, but I, personally, think there is enough space on the shelves for both iterations, and I would love to see a DMC. Devil May Cry sequel as well as one for the old series. Well here’s hoping, anyway.
Excellent combat system.
Graphics look great and are well optimised.
Game has a great artistic style from levels to the menus and HUD.
Eight weapons available, all of which can be upgraded and be swapped at the click of a button, even in the middle of a combo.
Has a better more grounded storyline than in previous Devil May Cry games.
Has little in common visually or story wise with previous games in the IP (Veteran fans may be disappointed)
The main character, Dante, has not only been changed with regards to looks but has a completely different personality, which, in my opinion, in not an improvement.