Reimagine: to imagine again or anew; especially : to form a new conception of.
Sounds simple enough. Developer Ninja Theory were hired to do exactly this to one of the most beloved action franchises of all time. The catch? Take the iconic main character Dante and make him as different as you possibly can. This reboot begins and ends with Dante, and though not necessary, one’s ability to enjoy DmC may hinge on whether you buy in at his inception. Yet, casting DmC aside for the simple reason of disliking Dante’s new coat of paint would be a mistake, and given the chance, this more realistic offering will grow on long-time fans and newcomers alike. Comparisons will never cease from the new to the old, but DmC forges its own path through franchise-worthy combat and its show stealing world.[gn_heading style="2"]Devils never cry, but Nephilim may[/gn_heading]
Let’s address the elephant in the room: Dante. Gone is the trademark white hair, goofy party quotes, and endearing aloofness. What they are replaced with is something…different. What that difference ultimately becomes is up to you, but the perceived faults of this new Dante are highly exaggerated. In prior games, the character was simply a parody, and as charmingly iconic as his design was, Dante was little more than a series of nonsensical catch phrases that always came off as silly and misplaced, defended with statements of “The game doesn’t take itself too seriously“. What we have now, for better or worse, is an actual character with realistic tones. Well, as realistic as a half demon/angel Nephilim can be. He’s brash, arrogant, and can back it up. The backlash is a testament to this new design and hits close to home for some, because we’ve all met someone just like him and probably aren’t too fond of them either.[gn_pullquote align="left"]“The backlash is a testament to this new design and hits close to home for some, because we’ve all met someone just like him and probably aren’t too fond of them either.”[/gn_pullquote]Sadly, the same cannot be said for other characters in their transition. Mundus, the antagonist from the original game, returns in his role as the focus of all evil. The entirety of the narrative builds towards his all-powerful, god-like abilities, a sentiment echoed by him as well, and when it is all said and done, you wonder what the fuss was all about. Likewise, Dante’s twin brother Vergil returns from Devil May Cry 3 fame as an ally, and he is not treated with the respect the character would seemingly command. Once an almighty rival to his brother, he has now become an admittedly weaker, conniving disappointment. We shall see where Ninja Theory goes with the upcoming downloadable content entitled Vergil’s Downfall and the inevitable sequel, but this was not a good beginning for Dante’s power hungry sibling.
DmC‘s story takes place not in gothic precipices of yore but in a modern setting, where evil walks among us hidden from sight. Controlled by demonic figureheads, politics and control are the weapons they wield to control the human hordes. Out to expose this farce are The Order, led by Vergil and Kat; they struggle to battle this illusion, which ultimately leads them to find Dante, Vergil’s long-lost twin brother. While the heaven and hell struggle is similar to previous games, the way in which it is fed to us has changed. Demons are now given an underlying reason to exist in the narrative, rather than just appear and kill indiscriminately, all while the player was left wondering how the human element played into the equation and why. Story is secondary in Devil May Cry and always has been, but at least now it has a context for its carnage. What’s there is handled well, but clocking in at under 10 hours on your first play through, with only added difficulty options and a few secret room trials to overcome, will have you strained for replay value.[gn_pullquote align="right"]“Yet, where boss stand-offs flourish, standard enemy design flounders. Bleeding together like kindergarten watercolor art, you’ll be hard pressed to differentiate your foes by anything other than size and color”[/gn_pullquote] The world is its own star and can be described as nothing short of genius. Limbo contorts and changes itself to suit the mood, while the diversity of its color palette never fail to impress. You will definitely be seeing this artistic level design copied in games to come. Mission design gives the game’s boss baddies a realm to await defeat in, and what is here works, even though there isn’t enough of them. DmC does have a couple of standouts, though, and long-time fans will admire the attention given to these encounters. Yet, where boss stand-offs flourish, standard enemy design flounders. Bleeding together like kindergarten watercolor art, you’ll be hard pressed to differentiate your foes by anything other than size and color. Metallic and bland, enemy design disappoints and “uninspired” is putting it lightly. [gn_heading style="2"]Combat, it’s one helluva party![/gn_heading]
Action games live and die on their combat. This franchise’s legend was built on that very thing, and DmC excels in the most important department: gameplay. Dante feels devastating wielding his classic sword Rebellion alongside trusty sidearms Ebony & Ivory, but there are welcome additions here as well, along with new wrinkles. Accompanying your traditional arsenal are Angel and Demon weapons, light and heavy respectively.
Through an ever expanding warehouse of combo options, facilitated through the level intermission power-up choices, combat is free-flowing and never-ending as long as enemies fill the screen. Your new Angel and Devil weapons, mapped to the left and right triggers on your controller, also allow Dante to pull enemies to you, or you to them. Armed with all this, Dante gains mastery over the ground and the ability to infinitely chain combos to the air, all while mixing and morphing your weapons on the fly to attain that coveted SSS ranking. Once you do, watch that style counter climb as this is how the game is meant to be played. Mashing the same Rebellion combo over and over has never been the allure of any Devil May Cry game, let alone this one, so adapt and be wowed at what Ninja Theory has given you to deal demon death. Although the Style! options of previous games are missed, keep in mind that this is a reboot and fan favorite combat choices weren’t added to the series until games 3 and 4. I’m sure Ninja Theory is listening, but suffice it to say, what is here is more than adequate to deal your brand of wanton destruction. One hiccup of the glorious gameplay is the lack of a lock-on enemy option, which puzzles, as it’s been a series mainstay throughout. The system in place is relatively accurate in directing your punishment to the proper target, but occasional situations arise where attacks land astray and you are left scratching your head. These instances are rare, so don’t let this dissuade you.
DmC‘s stubbornness has paid off. The new Dante works, fan service is rightly paid, and the ever-changing limbo will have you wanting more. Combat is glorious, and just when you think you are mastering its nuances, something new is added to the mix. The story is as grounded as a tale of angels and demons can be, but the payoff and length wound its potential impact, and where Dante finds footing, his brother Vergil takes an unfortunate step back. The series can only get better, but rest assured, DmC is in very capable hands and this re-imagining delivers on almost every front.
Reviewer’s note: The 360 and PC iterations of DmC are the recommended versions. PS3 suffers from longer load times, texture rendering problems, and framerate stuttering. Not enough to squash enjoyment, but noticeably inferior to its console cousin.
- Limbo is a show stealer, along with the incredible visuals.
- Combat is true to form, rivaling any action game released this generation.
- Surprisingly, the new Dante.
- Uninspired enemy design/the new Vergil.
- Campaign length is short with little replay ability.
[gn_note color="#FFCC00"]This review was based on a retail copy of the PlayStation 3 version of DmC Devil May Cry, developed by Ninja Theory and published by CAPCOM.[/gn_note]