Video Game Review: ‘DmC – Devil May Cry’
I feel like I should preface this review by saying I have been a Devil May Cry fan since game one. The first game was great, the second game was not so great. The third game was awesome, and I ended up digging the fourth game even though it has more mixed reviews as far as I could tell.
The reason why it is important to preface this is this new Devil May Cry game is a reboot, and as such, it has come under some serious fire from the die-hard fans. Right off the bat the biggest sore thumb as been the redesign of the main hero, Dante. Dante originally had a moptop of platinum white hair and an ankle length red leather coat that flew around him like a cape. This new Dante has a much shorter coat and much shorter hair, both colored very dark. Dante was also originally half demon and half human, but his human half has been replaced by an angel half. Not all is lost though. He still has his sword, Rebellion, and he still has his guns, Ebony and Ivory. His hair gets whiter them more he triggers his devil form (more on that later). He still has a cocky attitude, but he comes off more as an apathetic Millennial douchebag than usual. That’s ok though, because this is an origin story.
This new Devil May Cry game is to the original franchise, what Batman Begins was to the Burton/Shumacher era of Batman. Dante is developing as a character here like he never has befor, as well as a lot explanation (albeit unnecessary) of the minutia that made Devil May Cry memorable. He has always been more from the 80’s action hero mold: cocky, sarcastic, but a strong enough moral compass to make him a hero. That’s as far it gets. Here, we see a lost kid fighting demons like just any other demon thug become impassioned toward the fight for humanity when he joins a V for Vendetta/Anonymous like anarcho-activist group trying to take down the demon king, Mundus.
Mundus gets his own makeover as well. He is transformed into a corporate sleazeball controlling this city with his spiked soft drinks, his club promoting trophy wife/baby-mama, and his bought and paid for pundit propaganda. This is sci-fi/horror 101: repurposing our real world fears and paranoias into grand scale villains.
I love the new setting. The franchise usually takes place in an ambiguous Eastern European village with the occasional anachronistic technology. This new world is just your run of the mill city, but Dante, being weak and untrained in the ways of the supernatural, is constantly pulled into Limbo, the demon world. This basically means the regular world warps into a nightmare land with a passing resemblance to what it once was, as if he just put on the sunglasses from They Live.
Limbo is where your powers really kick in. You have the devil arms, like most games. They are slow but powerful. One is a battleaxe; the other are a pair of gauntlets. But now you also have “angel arms” (FYI, the game never refers to them as such IIRC). The angel arms are quick with great range. One is a scythe, and the other is a collection of oversized throwing stars (more like three pronged boomerangs). They are activated by holding the trigger buttons (R2 for the devil arms and L2 for the angel). You can rotate through each pair of arms with the D-pad, which also rotates your guns. In true DMC fashion, you eventually get a shotgun and an explosive of some kind. Rotating through all of your different weapons is pretty simple mid-fight and makes for some awesome combos.
Making stylish combos has always been a big part of the game, and they have done their best to make that more transparent. There is a stat counter on the side of the screen when you are fighting that lets you track just how well you are doing and helps make sense of what constitutes a stylish move. To be honest, I didn’t use it though. I was more focused on the bad guys which usually come at you in hordes. Being stylish becomes important, because the more style points you get, the more upgrade points you get. Each upgrade point is worth 1 new move. You can upgrade these moves at either the menu screen or one of the many Divinity Statues scattered through the game environment, as usual for a DMC game. You can also buy the usual items (health stars, devil stars, gold orbs) using the red orbs you collect in game. All the red orbs are collected the usual ways: kill an enemy, destroy a trivial piece of the environment, and the occasional special case.
In the older DMC games, you could rotate through these different fighting styles like Trickster or Gunslinger. These would change up the different moves that the limited buttons on a game controller could do. That is gone, but the moves worth saving still exist. One of my personal favorites was when in Gunslinger mode, Dante would jump in the air and shoot down while spinning. That is still there, you just have to upgrade your guns. One I always found useful was when in Trickster, Dante could jump up in the air and then double jump forward. That is still there too. You just have to update your angel weapon.
There was also a move from Devil May Cry 4 called The Devil Bringer, which was a demonic hand that would reach out and drag enemies into melee weapon range. I loved it, and it this new game has their own spin on it. Each half of Dante has a different bringer. The devil side brings enemies towards you, and the angel side brings Dante to the enemy. This is often used on the environment as well, when Dante needs to move a large object (devil) or grapple on to solid ground that is out of jumping distance (angel). Unfortunately, this takes you guns away when holding R2 or L2 since they share the same button.
The bringer becomes especially useful after you earn the devil trigger. The devil trigger (for the uninitiated) is an energy bar the fills up as you fight. When it gets to a certain point you can trigger your demonic self. In this version, Dante’s hair goes white, his jacket turns red, and all the enemies get sent up into the air. It is basically Dante doing to Limbo, what Limbo does to the real world. It’s a nice idea, but it doesn’t really work. You’ll need to use one of the bringers to get the enemies in melee range. It has an awesome aesthetic quality, but the gameplay during the triggered scenes absolutely suck. That’s a big letdown considering the Devil Trigger was so much fun. You do all this work to amp up that energy bar to cut loose, and now that aspect is gone.
The biggest problem with this game is it is still a button mashing game. The franchise always has been. Whenever you get into a tight spot, you can feel calm knowing you can mash your way out of it. It is essentially a Mortal Kombat like game given a journey aspect. At the same time, the franchise (this game in particular) tries to revolutionize that concept. The aforementioned style combos is the biggest one. There is a level of strategy that comes from chaining specific moves together, but there is also some little things, like off-screen enemies being less aggressive now so you are not just blindsided. You can focus more on targets that way, instead of just closing your eyes and hitting triangle. If you beat the game on any difficulty, you earn the new difficulty level “Son of Sparda,” which they promise that the enemy behavior is different this time around making for a more unique run through of the game. Beat that difficulty and you get the “Heaven and Hell” difficulty (where Dante dies with one hit) and then the “Hell and Hell” difficulty (where everyone dies with one hit). These definitely help the game be much more re-playable and changes your in-game strategy entirely. You would need to have way more finesse than just barging in and raging.
DmC: Devil May Cry is a welcome addition to the franchise and the perfect example of how a good reboot should work. It saves what works, tweaks what doesn’t until it does, and adds a level of depth to the story that wasn’t there before.