Capcom has handed off development of their stylish action franchise Devil May Cry to UK’s Ninja Theory (Enslaved, Heavenly Sword) and the result is surprisingly familiar. So much so that I’m not certain if there are really spoilers. Although the parallel storyline reboot situation DmC brings to the world is different than past games in the series, playing the game is a déjà vu trip. This means that the twist at the end of the game is clear to anyone who’s familiar with the series, but how it all happens is new.
That’s the biggest takeaway for longtime Devil May Cry fans, this is still the game you loved. The combos and action moments are spot on, puzzles and traversal are mostly limited, heavy metal attitude reigns supreme with our punk hero complete with union flag emblazoned on his coat sleeve. Oh, and for those who think the Japanese anime styled white hair Dante is the superior design, Ninja Theory has not only acknowledged the old look with a cheeky joke in the first mission, but also by making it a part of the storyline.
All DmC wants to be is a cool ass way for players to deal damage to demons for hours on end. We’ll get to the story, and how Ninja Theory has tried to make this an allegory for the ill of society. But let’s all be honest, you just want to toss a demon in the air, slash it a dozen times, then come spinning to the ground raining bullets from Ebony and Ivory (Dante’s trusted pistols). And demon splitting you shall do, and you shall love every moment.
Except this one extraordinarily bothersome thing about the game pops up due to the duality of Dante, and how it affects gameplay. In this version of the universe Dante is the Son of Sparda (a demon) and Eva (an angel). This is like a black man and white woman getting married in Alabama circa 1953, according to how reviled the game tells us the union was. Especially to demons. One particular demon, named Mundus, kills Eva and traps Sparda. But before this happens Sparda is able to wipe his son’s memories and send him away.
So cut to about 20 years later, and you have Dante. Half angel, half demon. This is the conceit given for the changing of styles and weapons in DmC. Blue means angel, so you have to hold the left trigger in order to use that weapon or use the chain to pull yourself about the world on floating hooks. Right trigger is used for demon weapons. And you’ll find yourself against foes that can only be hurt by one or the other, which incidentally leaves the pistols and Rebellion (Dante’s sword) out of many a fight.
The control system is a little clumsy, but in general works well. The most offensive moments are when you’re traversing through the limbo world on floating platforms and you fall because of forgetting to switch from right trigger being held down to left. Left trigger combined with X has Dante whip out his hookshot to pull himself to an enemy or a preset hook; right trigger with X has Dante pull the environment towards himself. When it works, it actually makes the little bit of puzzle solving fun in the game. But it’s too touchy and clunky to enhance the experience.
Which brings us to the reimagining of Dante’s world. DmC takes place in a more modern and real world, but there’s an underlying demon universe controlling mankind. Led by the demon king Mundus, the demons are poisoning mankind with sugary carbonated beverages, riling up the masses via a neocon news anchor who is the spawn of Bill O’Reilly and Glen Beck, and keeping humans in check. No one knows this is happening because Limbo, the term used to describe the demon version of our world, can’t be seen by humans.
The story has the player working to take on the big bad corporations – I mean demons – to help free the humans. It’s interesting and funny, especially a fight with the news anchor where part of the battle is Breaking News! footage. As with a tale such as this there is only one who can actually achieve the goal, the chosen one. Dante happens to be a half demon half angel, a creature that is uniquely able to kill Mundus. And so you set of in stylish pursuit.
The game is different enough in tone and style that with name changes a casual observer wouldn’t know it was a reboot. But fans of the series will recognize the nods to the old version, as well as the way the game plays. While still as slick looking as ever, the minor annoyance of holding a trigger to perform specific maneuvers may keep this game to a single play through for many fans. And for the record, this story and the new look of Dante are much improved. But I was just happy when I heard “Savage!” screamed at me as I watched my style rank go up to triple S. If you wanted some more Devil May Cry to play, DmC is in contention for a top slot in the series.
Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
Developer: Ninja Theory