Last year I wrote a piece on the demo for “DmC: Devil May Cry”- Ninja Theory’s reboot of the popular Capcom series, of which I’m a fan. In said piece I basically wrote that the gameplay was solid, but the story telling in the demo and the new depiction of Dante were both lacking. Well, I recently picked up a copy of the full game and I was very pleasantly surprised indeed- not only is the gameplay fantastic, the story is intriguing and well told and despite a few moments where Dante is irritating, immature and needlessly sweary he’s likable and has some real human moments. I also mentioned the level design being boring, which thankfully is not at all true of the full game.
The story involves Mundus (the primary antagonist from the first game)- now a humanoid demon king that resembles a cross between Frank West and Lex Luthor controlling the entire human race through a spiked soft drink and an aggressively brainwashing TV news network run by a man who totally isn’t Bill O’Reilly. Half demon, half human Demon hunter Dante is now a half human, half angel creature called a “Nephilim”, and is an angsty young man who prefers getting drunk and picking up women to actively pursuing and killing demons. It’s revealed that due to his past Dante grew up angry and troubled, and his backstory is well implemented, even if the “angry young man” angle is a little cliche. As the story goes on he has some genuinely nice moments, and grows into a more compassionate character by the end. Unfortunately he has irritating moments- particularly dialogue involving childish, sweary insults that are supposed to be amusing but completely miss the mark. The worst example of this is during the “Succubus” boss featured in the demo, where Dante and said boss throw swear words back and forth in dialogue that is almost painful after a while. Also irritating is the scene near the start of the game involving a white wig- an obvious dig at the old games that is unwelcome, but not to the point where it ruins the game. The game features Vergil (Dante’s brother) who rather than being a wayward man who loves the competition that comes with fighting Dante is now a behind-the-scenes puppeteer leading the fight against Mundus and has one moment where he acts completely out of character in an move that makes him seem insipid and borderline psychotic. He’s not as good as he once was, unlike Dante, who’s largely likable while being different to the old Dante. The story is enjoyable and intriguing, and is a different kind of plot to what was seen in the old games.
Gameplay wise it’s as fun as it ever was – even better in fact. The combat seems faster, smoother and more satisfying than ever before, with all five of the game’s melee weapons feeling useful and fun to use. Ebony and Ivory – Dante’s guns – feel more useful also, either for damaging enemies or simply keeping your combo running. Speaking of which, your combo meter now only drops down to the start of your current letter rank, inside of combat as long as you don’t get hit. This is a lot easier than in the old games (where it continuously reduced to zero) which some people have said reduces the hardcore feel to the game, but I felt that it was more fair, and was a nice change. The game’s platforming sections also control better now, and feel a lot more integrated into the plot- Dante’s demon and angel weapons (accessible via the shoulder buttons) either pulling Dante towards platforms or pulling them towards him. This also extends to the combat, and said demon/angel dynamic features in certain enemy types, as well as opening up secret areas. The combat has been carefully crafted to feel similar to the previous games whilst also doing its own thing, and succeeds- every battle feels interesting and fun, as you try out different combinations of weapons and techniques, with each one feeling valid. The boss fights are pretty straightforward – they’re standard “learn the enemy’s attack pattern and attack at the right moment”, but every boss is well designed, fun to fight and memorable, particularly the boss fight against the aforementioned totally not Bill O’Reilly character in which Dante fights enemies in a live news feed. The “Devil Trigger” function of previous games has gone from increasing Dante’s speed, damage and increasing his health to freezing enemies in the air so Dante can leap up to them and freely attack them- dealing more damage and regaining health; the system feels as useful as always.
Similarly excellent is the level design. The cutscenes show off the human world, with the unseen effects of Mundus’ control subtly shown. The missions themselves take place almost entirely in “Limbo”- the demon world featured in the game. Structures can fly apart and seemingly have a life of their own, key phrases spoken by an unseen demonic force appear written on surfaces, and of course demons pour out of the woodwork to attack Dante. As well as limbo itself looking good, there are various levels featuring some unique, interesting level design that really stands out, particularly among level designs in a lot of recent games. Ninja theory has really worked hard to create a believable, great looking world that can stand alone compared to the older games, and it constantly throws levels at you that are memorable and fun to play. The standout for me was the prison underneath a river- physical manifestations made out of reflections on the water that reminded me of Silent Hill Downpour.
There are a couple of things to dislike with “DmC: Devil May Cry”- Dante occasionally has annoying, crude and childish lines, and Vergil is a different, worse character to how he was portrayed in the old games – but these things don’t ruin the game. Ninja Theory have approached the notion of rebooting a popular franchise like “Devil May Cry” and run with it- the combat, story and level design are all lovingly crafted, and it’s a very fun, interesting and rewarding game to play. As a fan of the old games, this reboot is amazing, and well worth the money of existing fans and newcomers alike- it’s a great start to the new year, and a game well worth picking up.
By James Lambert