Game Review: DMC “Devil May Cry”
Developer: Ninja Theory
Platform: Xbox360 & PlayStation 3
ESRB Rating: MATURE with Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language
As I have already mentioned before I have been on board with the controversial reboot of the Devil May Cry (DMC for short) franchise since day one, it was an ambitious project which had massive potential to kick start a series which had in all due fairness run it’s course. Ever since the announcement that UK-based studio Ninja Theory was set to drastically change certain aspects of the familiar DMC formula they have been more or less been stripped by the internet, smeared with honey and thrown aside for the trolls and haters to feed on. I genuinely felt for Ninja Theory as they knew they would be in a no-win situation when they undertook this task. They knew that if they opted to reboot the franchise they would be met with a tsunami of rage from hardcore fans but if they went ahead with the familiar then they would be frowned upon for showing a lack of brass.
They were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t.
However, now that I have completed DMC and am sitting here writing about it it’s hard to put into words without being overly smug just how unjustified and unwarranted all of the hate towards this game has been: DMC is not just a phenomenal action game it’s also the best installment in the entire franchise. The action is jaw-dropping, the plot is engaging and backed up with some fantastic motion capture and dialogue, and the characters range from the likeable to the diabolical.
The opening sequence of DMC shows players just how far removed this story is from anything the series has given them up until this point. Certain aspects of the original mythos remain however: Dante is a young renegade with supernatural blood in his veins who has been living in on-the-run ever since his parents were murdered by demons when he was seven. It is during the controversial (you’ll see why) opening sequence that we are introduced to this new Dante during a night on the town engaging in all of the usual activities: clubbing, drinking, and errr… “indulging”. Following his psychedelic night out Dante wakes in his empty trailer home and faster than you can say “Constantine” is dragged into ‘Limbo’ by hordes of demons hell-bent on murdering him. Escaping with his life with the powers inherited from his parents and thanks to some cross-dimensional help from a mystic medium called “Kat” Dante finds himself dragged into an ancient battle between the forces of hell led by the arch-demon Mundus and the resistance forces of humanity led by Dante’s long-lost brother Vergil.
Despite the simple setup the plot is actually quite good, especially in comparison to past DMC games. Humanity has been subdued by demons masquerading as humans: minds are controlled by media, bodies poisoned by illicit substances, and souls are crushed through debt. It’s down to Dante and Vergil to put an end to the tyrannical reign of the demons and liberate humanity from their influence. The bold move by Ninja Theory to make the demonic forces the embodiment of “Modern Evil” really pays off in the narrative as it forces the player to take a serious and cynical look at the way we live our lives in our contemporary society. Many of our modern dilemmas are addressed through the narrative: the proliferation of debt through a corrupt banking system, the increasing radicalization of 24-hour news networks (the allusion and references to Fox News and the likes of Bill O’Reilly are unmissable), and the sensitive subjects of surveillance and terrorism give the impression that this isn’t just a video game story that is being told here… it’s a social statement, cognitive dissonance at it’s best folks.
Being an action game, let alone part of a series renowned for the quality of it’s action, DMC sure doesn’t disappoint. The majority of the hack-and-slash gameplay takes place in the psychedelic realm of ‘Limbo’, the world between Earth and Hell, a setting which allows for some absolutely stunning environments as entire locations can become twisted parodies of themselves in the blink of an eye – it’s really something to marvel at and Ninja Theory should be praised for bringing such an ambitious concept to life. Dante, being a Nephilim (demonic & angelic powers) has access to a vast array of supernatural powers whilst in limbo and wields an impressive arsenal starting with his trusty blade Rebellion and his twin pistols Ebony & Ivory. As the game progresses Dante will acquire a hefty battle axe “Arbiter” capable of dishing out bone-crunching punishment, an elegant scythe “Osiris” which excels at lightning-fast attacks, a pair of caestus “Eryx” great for shattering defenses, and a pair of chakram “Aquila” which excels at crowd control. All of these weapons can be brought to bear with seamless ease and, when mastered, can enable the player to pull off some bat-shit-crazy combos. Flowing through Dante’s arsenal as you wipe out hordes of demons and achieving that oh-so-elusive “SSS” combo rank is a thing of sheer beauty.
The soundtrack also deserves special mention as well. The series staple “Orchestral” and “Gothic” sounds of previous titles have been replaced with the aggressive and pounding sounds of “Industrial” and “Aggro-Tech”; specifically CombiChrist and Noisia. I acknowledge that the new stance that has been taken on the soundtrack might not sit well with everyone but it works well with the setting and mood of the story; just as the orchestral sounds of the past worked with past DMC titles the new-and-modern works in a similarly modern scenario.
Whilst there is no multiplayer mode (and really, why should there be here?) longevity and replay value are present in this package. Completing the story on the ‘medium’ or ‘hard’ settings opens up several other settings ranging from the challenging to the downright masochistic. Enemies act differently depending on which difficulty setting you are on and posses different and tougher skill sets the higher the difficulty goes. This, coupled with the online score leader boards available for both console releases, means that there is a lot of motivation to keep coming back for more.
Possible minor problems with the way the story ends, for now anyway, aside there is not a whole lot that I can berate DMC for. If anything Ninja Theory deserves some serious recognition for forging ahead with their controversial project in the face of such overwhelming adversity from die-hard conservative fandom which did everything in their power (literally) to stop this game from being made: boycotts, death threats, slander campaigns, fabricated reviews… the lengthy and pathetic list goes on and on. Gamers need to stop being so arbitrary and reactive when it comes to change, they really do. We are one of the only if not THE only side of interactive media which goes to such insane lengths to prevent change. Sure, film goers might get tired of reboots of movie franchises but they don’t boycott cinemas and send death threats to directors… at least not yet.
Final Score: 9/10
+ Fantastic story which directly engages with the player at several points, cognitive dissonance folks!
+ Likeable main cast supported by antagonists you love to hate.
+ Limbo is absolutely phenomenal to traverse and the design of the demons is suitable macabre.
+ Silky-smooth frame rate keeps the action flowing without any hiccups.
+ Action is instantly recognizable to veterans but also open enough to accommodate newcomers.
+ “Rank” system combined with such a versatile arsenal and new enemies keeps combat fresh and exciting.
+ The franchise has successfully been rebooted and shows incredible potential for the future.
– Soundtrack might not go down well with everyone, it’s something of an acquired taste.
– Ending is slightly questionable, set to be addressed through DLC and future installments.