Rebooting a beloved franchise is no easy feat, as developer Ninja Theory found out when tasked with overhauling Capcom’s iconic Devil May Cry series. DmC: Devil May Cry is the Cambridge-based studio’s take on the 11+ million-selling stylish action franchise, at the centre of which has been much controversy over the new look protagonist, Dante. Gone is the refined white-haired hero of old, replaced with a younger, womanizing punk with a bad attitude and a penchant for potty-mouthed outbursts. To say the reaction to this new look has been polarizing would be a colossal understatement; Ninja Theory admitted things got so bad they were even inundated with death threats. Yet, beneath all the superficial sartorial bitching about the series’ demon-slaying badass, this reboot is as quintessentially DmC as any of its predecessors – perhaps more so, in fact.
DmC takes familiar characters but puts its own spin on the decade old series. Dante is back, as is his brother Vergil, although this time the pair aren’t at war, but rather working together to take down the demon Lord Mundus. At first, Dante doesn’t give a toss about helping out; we first meet him whoring and boozing it up down the local night club and lazing about in his trailer. Things soon change when the demons track him down, mind. Unlike the previous games however, which looked to gothic castles and fantasy landscapes for its backdrop, DmC adds a contemporary edge to the proceedings. Demons wage war on the humans not just with the scythe or sword, but with the backing of multimedia influence. TV networks and addictive health drinks corrupt the weak minded, giving Mundus absolute power over the sprawling, neon-lit metropolis of Limbo City.
At its core, DmC firmly adheres to the adrenaline-fuelled hack-‘n-slash DNA of its predecessors. This also means that the game is largely a linear experience, with little in the way of freedom aside from finding the odd nook or cranny for secrets (more on that later). Combat is the meat and potatoes of the action: Dante is armed to the teeth with a variety of weapons – both in the melee and firearm variety – and aside from making your way through areas, most of your time will be spent massacring a variety of demonic baddies. Of course, killing foes is only a small portion of the combat. The grading system, an intrinsic element of the series’ combat, once again makes a return, encouraging style, variety and precision in your attacks. Players who simply mash away at the attack button will probably dispatch most foes easily enough, but don’t expect to get higher than a D or C. However, those who employ as much at their disposal as possible will start raking in B, A and S ranks.
Dante can mix and match attacks. You can slash at foes with your trusty sword Rebellion, juggle them with pistols Ebony & Ivory, batter them with burning gauntlets and slice them to pieces with the mighty arbiter. Indeed, the amount of possibilities is overwhelming once you unlock all of Dante’s arsenal; however, the intuitive control system makes chaining combos together a breeze. Dipping into your expanded armaments is simply a case of hitting the D-pad (firearms) or holding down either R2 or L2, for either Demonic or Angel powers. The former tends to be more aggressive, while the latter allows for more refined, swifter attacks. As mentioned, keeping things varied is the key to bagging higher scores. Knowing your move set and how each attack works is paramount; simply arbitrarily switching between weapons every few hits may mix things up, but you need to know what you are doing in order to successfully create a winning combo chain. Once you nail things, you’ll be unleashing death in a visceral, bloody hail of stylish slashes and bullets before you know it, making combat a joy to watch and perform.
All of this is tied directly into your overall mission rank as with past games. The higher the score, the higher the grade you’ll receive at the end of a mission. Other staples returning include red orbs, which are obtained from smashing pieces of the environment, slaughtering benevolent, spider-like creatures and most predominantly, from slain enemies. These are can be used to purchase items such as healing stars and yellow orbs allowing you to continue from the spot if you kick the bucket. More crucial however are upgrade points, which you spend to enhance your move set, increasing the potency of an existing move or learning a new technique outright. You’ll farm these from scoring high chains and from secret missions, which are unlocked by hunting down and using special keys throughout the environment. Some require a bit of thorough searching, adding a nice dimension to the otherwise linear rollercoaster that makes up DmC’s dazzling locations. Likewise, freeing lost souls rewards you with copious amounts of red orbs, giving you plenty of excuse to venture off the beaten path where available.
Meanwhile, punctuating the lengthy combat sequences is some pretty intense platform segments. Many of the locations are broken up into floating platforms, requiring some pretty precise leaping on Dante’s part. These also make use of our hero’s Angel and Devil powers, requiring you to switch between the two in order to pull yourself towards an objective or literally pull chunks of the environment toward you, creating a platform. My feeling is they could have been even more challenging, perhaps forming the basis for some interesting environmental puzzles and offering a more cerebral take on the DMC series. Alas this wasn’t to be, but they nonetheless offer a welcome break from the bread-and-butter swordplay. Even more compelling are the bosses. Indeed, these are very much a culmination of what players have learned up until a specific point, interweaving platforming and combat into one challenging, blood-pumping spectacle. Hacking away isn’t an option here; a dollop of strategy will be required to quickly and efficiently dispatch whatever hulking monstrosity blocks your way, so be prepared to dip deep into your arsenal.
Visually, Ninja Theory has put their stamp on DmC, there’s no mistake in that. The western influence is palpable, from Dante’s swagger and cheeky Union Jack-adorned coat, to Limbo City’s demonic playground of corruption and consumerism. Things get even more dynamic however, when the bustling metropolis drags Dante into Limbo. This hellish environment brings out the demonic undercurrent that runs throughout the city; roads crack revealing gaping chasms, buildings are reduced to rubble, and graffiti-ridden walls paint a bleak tale of things to come. Even more impressive are some of the smaller locations. There’s a seemingly innocuous nightclub that transforms into a vibrant, demonic play house – complete with thumping speakers and neon-lit pathways that can only be traversed by having Dante switch between Angel and Demon powers – to a heavenly realm filled with sumptuous vistas.
The story, while quite absurd, is told via some stylishly-realised cut scenes, and thanks to some decent voice acting holds up pretty well. Dante’s expletive-filled pre-battle rants are sometimes a bit contrived, though he mellows somewhat as the game approaches its climax and develops a little more sensitivity to the situation and those around him. The soundtrack is just what you’d expect from a DMC game: brutal, fast and chock full of growling vocals that complement the frantic combat to perfection. With 20 missions to tuck into, the game provides plenty of bang for your buck, and with multiple difficulties, concept art and the desire to increase your overall mission grade available, you’ll be plugging away at DmC for months to come.
Overall, DmC: Devil May Cry is a superb reinvention of a classic series. Regardless of your opinion of the new-look Dante and his rejigged backstory, DmC plays just like any of its precursor titles, while adding its own flavour in terms of aesthetics and emphasis on platforming sections. All in all there’s not a great deal to fault here; some load times are a bit on the lengthy side, and there’s the odd hiccup during cut-scenes, but overall DmC is unequivocally one of the most stylish, rewarding and compelling action games you’ll play this generation. Don’t miss it.