I put off playing this one for a long time - the original Devil May Cry series was a staple of my childhood, featuring fast-paced hack n slash action and nicely linear gameplay, something I have to come to appreciate even more since beginning to review games. Many fans were vocally unhappy about the design changes to main character Dante, but the core feeling remains intact and has been thoroughly turbocharged.
Capcom’s legendary franchise received the reboot in 2013 by developer Ninja Theory, well known for their PS3 exclusive Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. As I’ve mentioned in a previous review of Devil May Cry, the first title in that series began life as a Resident Evil entry, resulting in many hallmarks from that series staying with the game, including the sometimes-irritating fixed camera angles and general design style.
DmC: Devil May Cry was therefore intended to completely reboot the property from the ground up, to be completely distinct from those entries before it while retaining some degree of reminiscence of Dante’s old adventures. Speaking of which, the man himself has received a new visage, this time a dark-haired punk type with no knowledge of his demonic heritage or deep understanding of his powers, unlike the slightly more self-assured demon slayer of old.
This time our story takes place in a present-day city environment, completely at the mercy of demons which secretly control the humans within it. Dante has evidently been hunted by demons for quite some time, which manifest in a bloody alternate plane known as Limbo and relentlessly pursue him there. He comes across a young psychic named Kat who brings him to The Order, an underground resistance group led by his brother Vergil. They help him to come to understand his powers and declare their goal - to confront Mundus, ruler of the demon population and save humanity.
It’s all delivered through extremely well-directed cutscenes, with a strong Hollywood-esque plot and excellent voice performances from the entire cast. I particularly enjoyed Sage Mears’ performance as Kat, despite less-than stellar scripting for her character. The story is also somewhat predictable and the campaign ever-so-slightly shorter than I would have liked, but in a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously it doesn’t bother me too much.
For me, the biggest draw of the series has been its reflex-based combat, centred around smashing enemies around with glorious combos and racking up points while trying to avoid being hit. While I’m not all that competent in the latter department, DmC miraculously improves the system in my humble opinion.
Dante wields his classic sword Rebellion, quite capable of slicing through demonic flesh in its own right, but quickly comes across a number of other weapons including a scythe and a powerful but heavy axe. Whereas previously one melee weapon and one gun could be held at once, DmC allows Dante to switch between four of them on the fly, which allows you to build devastating combos and wreak a train of unholy destruction across the bodies of your foes. Of course, the twin pistols Ebony and Ivory return for the new adventure as well.
But that’s not all - there are some new modifiers to the system which provide even more nuance. Angel mode activates when Dante holds the Osiris scythe, while the axe Arbiter switches you to demon mode. Some enemies can only be hurt in one mode or another, which adds another management element to the combat, but they also influence your movement. While in Angel mode Dante can pull himself towards enemies or objectives, with Devil mode achieving the reverse and yanking platforms or objects in his direction. Gather enough power by defeating foes and Devil Trigger returns to grace the battlefield, increasing your armor, health regeneration and damage output.
As I’ve said, you’re wholeheartedly encouraged to fight as flamboyantly as possible, scoring bonus points for aerial combos, pulling of a variety of moves and using environmental hazards for your own benefit. Fallen enemies release red and white orbs, the first of which can be used to purchase useful consumables to restore health or energy, or to permanently upgrade Dante’s healthbar or Devil Trigger gauge. Conversely investing white orbs grants ability upgrades to Dante himself, such as improved evasion, or to one of his plethora of weapons, unlocking more combo maneuvres or improved damage.
The new art style looks great, quite comic-bookish in feel, and it’s certainly very striking - there is plenty of attention to detail in the level design, and the little things like demonic whisperings and dark pools that spontaneously appear really serve to cement the ethereal and otherworldly aspects of Limbo. Unfortunately the standard enemies did not receive the same treatment, showcasing lack of variety overall, although the bosses thankfully fared a little better. Kudos must go to the kickass metal soundtrack that accompanies encounters with enemies, a great callback to earlier entries that I’m very pleased made it through to DmC.
Plenty of replay value is provided in the form of trapped ‘lost souls’ in each level alongside secret missions, which require you to not only track down elusive doors to enter them but also one of three types of key to unlock. Given that most levels can be run through in 20 minutes or less if you skip the cutscenes, playing the role of a completionist feels enticingly realistic here.
Finally I must address the demonic elephant in the room that is Dante’s new design. Love it or hate it, it really shouldn’t influence your decision to try the game out, I found all the negative attention on the game’s launch to be somewhat petty in all truth. Personally speaking I prefer the design of old Dante, but the new version is a little more likeable and I can imagine relating to him better if DmC was the first title in the series that I played.
If you’re a fan of accelerated hack and slash combat, you need to give DmC a try - I picked it up for a little over £5 during a sale, and at that price point it’s a great investment. If you prefer something slower or more tactical, this one probably isn’t for you. It certainly doesn’t break new ground, but the new fighting system is one of the best I’ve tried in a long time.