DmC: Devil May Cry
By now it’s safe to say that we should all be on the same page when observing the supernatural/superhero, demon slaying genre. It’s not so much a ‘genre’, but a cliche, and it’s one of the most accessible faculties for telling a “story” where depth isn’t so much as a concern compared to the lightshow of sex and violence accompanied by occasional pops of mercurial dialogue. Unabashedly, the Devil May Cry franchise embraces the gimmicks and created a few white-maned ones of its own. But as the series is tied to the self-disorienting motions of modern anime narratives it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that a good many people just stopped caring. And so the torch was passed westward to Ninja Theory to keep the furnace burning.
This rendition tells the tale of a newer, punk rock influenced Son of Sparda and his freeway trek of soul searching and revenge accompanied by modern Wiccan, Kat, and reuniting with long lost twin brother Vergil, now comes with swag hat. In being helped to reconnect with his hybrid demon/angel origins, Dante is brought into the fold of Vergil’s Order, currently at war with the reboot Mundus: destroyer of the House of Sparda, and posing as banking mogul Kyle Rider. The freedom fight for humanity is staged in Limbo, a demonic plane of existence veiled by our world with Mundus already pressing firmly down on all of society’s pressure points.
DmC plays very much like the previous titles. All the orb & star harvesting and combo happy mayhem returns but for fans and even general hack-and-slash addicts the Western influences of God of War and Dante’s Inferno (how about that?) is as clear as day. Congruent with the latter, minus the dictation of ethics, Dante is able to access holy and dark weaponry from alternating the trigger buttons. Coupled with the ease of cycling through the armory with the D-pad, Dante can equip any of his munitions on the fly.
Combos from previous titles revolved primarily around lifting and juggling enemies over and over, however DmC’s introduction of the Ophion whip system adds the diversity that seemed to have been missing all along. Being able to grapple towards enemies or pull them into your direction becomes the meat & potatoes of combo invention. Initially it can be overwhelming to embrace, but when you start actively making attempts to string the craziness along the task becomes entrancing and habitual. This is something that you want to happen often as it dictates heights of final scores achieved and rewards you in upgrade points. In conjunction with white upgrade orbs, leveling up your abilities becomes streamlined with little to make you feel that you’re falling behind. Later on as you progress, new weapons acquired can be brought back to earlier completed levels capable of opening access to originally unattainable secrets.
Also keeping things straightforward is the abandonment of the Capcom wanderlust syndrome. Instead of trying to find that key to unlock this door, when you’re not grinding demonic forces, you’ll be using the Ophion whip to traverse the Inception on crack (and shots of Bacardi) terrain of Limbo - beautifully sinister (being the operative word for its platforming elements) in design and borrowing from the blueprints of anterior Devil May Crys.
Franchise fans will immediately recognize the story drawing on shades from the first and third titles. As Capcom’s obsession with lopsided timelines certainly leaves much to imagine on how Dante had grew into his role as people’s champ, DmC exhibits a brand of conviction with its narration - illustrating how Dante transgresses from being a cocky, carefree drifter into a man who has found his center in the skirmish between morals and purpose. This is evidently the main focus of DmC’s story whereas the allegory of vengeance seemed to have been neglected; the developers assuming that allotting its climax in a storm of CG fireworks and ‘meh’ choreography would provide all the satisfaction required.
The other focus of DmC’s story is its statement of today’s society. Corporate enslavement, questionable nutrition facts, biased media, the misguided obsession for fame and zero responsibility with all the subliminal messaging that most succumb to. Breaking free and knowing that there’s nothing wrong with you, just something wrong with the rest of the world, isn’t exactly anything new as far as underlying themes go but its grounded elements does convey a relatable tale for those already rebelling against today’s demons.
Much of DmC is well and good, but the reboot naysayers will immediately pick up on the game’s notable flaws. For starters, in contrast to the aforementioned influences, the adventure is pretty short, a consequence of Ninja Theory’s attempts at making things straightforward. The only means of elongating the experience is changing the difficulty, the gist of it cranks up the enemy’s resilience. Aside from dividing your attention between a group of foes susceptible against angelic and demonic attacks, there isn’t much of a challenge factor to write home about.
The music has its moments but it’s subtle in comparison to the soundtracks of DmC’s predecessors. Noisia’s dubstep (I am so sick of this crap) and CombiChrist’s modern industrial goth antics can be hit or miss, especially for an oldie like myself who’d find the jams of Maynard James Keenan, KMFDM, and Trent Reznor more befitting of a Western take. But at least we don’t have to listen to tools singing about ‘tears inside me’ or ‘never surrender’.
Additionally, this is yet another sad case in which the PS3 version is outshined by its 360 counterpart. The frame rate and even the sound gets erratic during cutscenes and texture rendering seems to have trouble keeping up with everything that’s going on, impeding all efforts in getting lost within the graphic nooks and crannies. Although only by two occurrences, the game inexplicably holds up a finger and tells you “hold up, I need to take this call” - stopping to load, the first time occurring during the introductory cutscene of Succubus and another time out of nowhere during gameplay. This very well may be the cause of two ensuing instances where the game actually froze on me. These hiccups at times had me double taking every now and then when seeing purposely etched distortions in Limbo or certain visual effects as I can’t help but wonder if there’s something wrong with my copy. Hopefully we’ll be seeing patches in the future but in spite of the disruptive nature of the technical setbacks, these episodes again were seldom.
Whether or not DmC stands as an exemplary reboot the somewhat equal clashing of pros and cons certainly has it doing so in the subjective region. But there’s no denying that gamers can walk away from the experience feeling a lasting good impression of the revamp. The new direction of the franchise holds a lot of promising potential and Ninja Theory still comes out showing that the duties of keeping things new and fresh are in capable hands. Here’s to new beginnings.
Seven out of ten