Who doesn’t remember the furor that this game caused when it first announced in 2010? “What is with this new Dante? I hate his guts,” was the general attitude of many within the gaming crowd. “He doesn’t even have white hair!”
I’ve already stated my piece on this belief, thinking that it was more of a reaction towards Capcom abandoning its Japanese roots to pander towards the AAA market, but there is a lot to consider when putting it so simply. One, all of Capcom’s legendary developers had departed the company by that point. Shinji Mikami, Hideki Kamiya, and most of the other brilliant minds behind its best franchises already had Platinum Games or other ventures up and running for a few years.
Two, Japanese games just weren’t selling after the boom of the AAA market. Even beloved critical hits like Bayonetta proved to be a flop, sure-fire signs that the Western gaming industry was welcoming in a new generation who had mostly fallen out of love with Japanese video games.
Capcom takes a lot of heat for its outsourcing during this turbulent period, from me especially. If you turn the situation inside out and really try to understand the situation the company was in, without its most talented developers and selling games to a market that didn’t care, you really start to understand it had no other choice. It was desperate to reinvent its biggest franchises to get new gamers involved.
Whether you agree with this direction is a matter of opinion. I think the company would have been better served sticking to its guns, but at the same time, given the atmosphere surrounding the company at the time, I think its nothing short of a marvel that DmC Devil May Cry turned out to be as decent as it did.
Topical and stuff, bro
While blasting through DmC Devil May Cry for writing this review, I started thinking about how deep my fandom for the Devil May Cry franchise really goes. Would I like the new Dante compared to the old one? How much do I know or even like the old Dante. This new one is really… not all that bad.
The truth is, I was not that big of a Devil May Cry fan. The original remains one of my favorite video games of all time, but it has that constant world/Resident Evil set design going for it that the other more linear action games do not. The sequel was a flop, the third one was too tough to get emotionally invested in Dante as a character, and the fourth game, well, Dante didn’t star in that one, did he?
After realizing this, I tried to take on DmC Devil May Cry’s plot with a clean slate, dissolving any inhibitions that I might have against this Western reboot of the popular Japanese series. You can’t blame me for not trying. Trust me, I forced myself through a fair share of painful cutscenes.
Everything about DmC Devil May Cry’s story is just “juvenile.” What kind of complaint is that coming from the fan of one of gaming’s most childish trash talkers? There is a fine difference between “being juvenile while being silly” and “being juvenile while trying to be serious, cool, and mature entertainment for grown-ups.” The original Devil May Cry falls in the former, knowing that it is just a fun video game and nothing more.
DmC Devil May Cry falls into the latter, attempting a “topical and stuff, bro” spin on the demon slayer’s universe. This game reeks of real world issues and delivers them with the subtlety of a shotgun.
Demons control the world through debt and corrupt banks. “Terrorist” belches from the mouths of every character that stumbles on screen. Humans are unwilling to rise against rampant corruption because they are by being fattened off of unhealthy energy drinks while a puppet propaganda “news media” channel, not shy about its religious bias, pacifies them with subliminal messages.
I kid you not, when fighting the news anchor as a boss fight, he screams “We’re going to do it live!”
Again, “topical and stuff, bro” with the subtlety of a shotgun. Capcom needed to aim towards a younger Western generation who consider themselves up-to-date on the news and world issues, and it used that to sell this new DmC game. It’s definitely effective at stirring that pot, but it’s a pot I’d rather not eat from.
Sometimes I just want a dude who kills demons. Take your politics into your own original franchise.
You can use the modern world to inspire wonderful video games. You can create marvelous stories by pulling headlines from the times the game was created in. You must slide those themes between the lines though. Don’t make it the centerpiece of your setting, and don’t beat your audience over the skull with it.
DmC Devil May Cry was obviously written for the raw and still-forming imaginations of adolescents, that very same new generation who Capcom needed to capture with dangling keys.
When it’s not leaning on this dreadful setup, the plot works on some levels but not so much on others. This new Dante is not half as bad as he was made out to be during the backlash. He’s inoffensive, but he doesn’t try to chew up the scenery or stand out in anyway. He’s just kind of “there.” Maybe he would be more memorable, for better or worse, if he didn’t deadpan it into the camera for over half of his performance.
All I could think of while looking at him was Anakin Skywalker subdued into a background role. Again, for better or worse.
As for the other pieces of the game’s love triangle, Dante also shares a lot of screentime with his brother Virgil and generic lady-sidekick Kat. Dante and Vergil share the chemistry of a high school physics class, their deadpan holding the relationship back.
Kat just kind of hangs out and needs to be rescued twice over the course of the game. In the opening level, she claims a demon is bullet proof, chucks a flaming bottle at it, and then mentions to Dante that everything is okay. And it works. She’s a tool to fix Dante’s unfixable situations with “magic, and she hangs on his arm by the end because he’s just steaming with charisma.
Again, it’s just piles of painful setup and a lackluster origin story, but luckily, DmC’s consistently insane presentation is able to create a few memorable scenes that save the overall package from total dismissal.
Its plot works best when all the exposition, all the reminders that these are “serious characters,” and all the world building gets flushed down the toilet, and Dante just spits it out with his disgusting enemies. By far, the best character in the game is a Succubus whose disgusting bodily fluids are used to make the unhealthy, sedative energy drink. Her trash talk is epic in its blunt crudeness.
In another scene, Dante walks his way into a club where the main villain’s mistress is throwing a party. Dante battles through rank after rank of enemies, club lights blare taking the art direction to astounding heights, the insults become so blunt that they couldn’t cut through water. Dante changes color, the enemies change color. Club music, club music. A giant demon baby, who could be from The Binding of Isaac for all we know, ruptures from his mother’s body and sucks her back into his pores via its umbilical cord. Dante yanks her from his protection and beats the stuffing out of her with his magma fists.
It’s wildly fun and wildly disgusting, definitely showing that this game still has some memories of the classic franchise’s rebelliousness tucked away inside.
But at the same time, DmC is a serious family drama between two long lost orphaned brothers. It’s an origin story of self-discovery realizing that their parents were murdered. It’s a commentary on our world. It’s jumbled bag of terrorism, media, social networking, debt, banks, corruption, sex, lies, and disruption of privacy all rolled into a game where a caterpillar demon tells Dante, in much more colorful wording, that she wants to poop on him.
DmC is tonally insane and all over the place, and I don’t know whether to fault or praise Ninja Theory for somehow making all these conflicting themes mesh into an inspired and fully realized story. Despite rolling my eyes at the commentary and looking away whenever Virgil and Dante shared screen time, I can’t totally dismiss the presentation here. There’s a little bit of “magic” that I can’t quite pin down.
Nothing really sinks to the level of “your dead wife is your bionic arm.”
Devil of War or God of Bayonetta?
At least Ninja Theory has the gameplay credentials to make its combat entertaining. DmC might be a storytelling mess of epic proportions, but Dante knows how to throw down and rock with the best of them, including his former self!
From what history has shown us, this kind of hard hitting hack n’ slash genre, which originated from the first Devil May Cry, has been approached very differently by Japan and the West. Western franchises, most notably God of War, put more emphasis into the spectacle of combat with relatively easy combos and a lot of QTEs. Kratos sees an enemy, and this select combo will work. Plain and simple.
Japanese franchises, extending to the like of Devil May Cry, Bayonetta and Ninja Gaiden, provide a countless array of weapons and abilities that can be strung together in a nearly infinite manner. This formula encourages experimentation to find what works best, and I don’t think its a surprise that I prefer this greener side of the genre knowing that my hand isn’t going to be held.
With DmC Devil May Cry, we have a game that was developed in the West but with an Eastern publisher, and luckily, it leans more towards the latter of the two. Dante holds five melee weapons which can be switched on the fly in mid-combo and has an arsenal of at least three guns. With the right combination of jumps, dodges, timing, properly using sub-weapons, and a massive laundry list of abilities contained in each weapon, this game provides plenty of opportunities to build a repertoire of attack patterns.
Dante’s graceful cat-like controls also lend a huge hand in making sure combat is the star of this game.
Not that the gameplay is totally free from baggage though. The game sports quite a few scripted chase scenes in which Dante must use his reflexes and a pair of grappling hooks to clear a path and traverse massive leaps. Some of these work, others take a lot of trial and error and even guessing. Just depends how “in the zone” you are when playing these parts, but they are mostly unobtrusive.
Locking is kind of useless as well as you must hold down R1 to activate it. Unless your fingers are jointed to your hands in a special fashion, using the Devil Powers assigned to R2 becomes more trouble than the locking mechanism is worth.
The most offensive parts though thankfully only happen twice. These “interactive cutscenes” provide no actions for Dante to make other than following Kat to a destination and listening to her exposition. It’s like a GTA IV drive to a mission. Maybe she’ll paint an interactive circle for Dante to toggle with, but please, I want to get on with the fighting! If this were a cutscene, it would have wrapped itself up in about a quarter of the time.
DmC Devil May Cry works very well when Dante is fighting. I’m not prepared to put it on the level of the Bayonetta games, but it’s clear that the developers knew how to respect the franchise’s Japanese roots in its approach to fighting. Boss fights are exciting, taking on waves of enemies is fun, and never once does it feel like Ninja Theory is getting in the way of your enjoyment. String those combos together and find your own ways make Dante move beautifully.
That’s what original developer Hideki Kamiya wanted with the first Devil May Cry game.
The definition of definitive
I’m at a bit of a loss when it comes to shelling out an opinion on the Definitive Edition content mostly because this was my first time through the game.
I will say that I between last week’s Resident Evil Revelations 2 and DmC Devil May Cry, I did get my first taste of what 60fps at 1080p could really feel like. You can thank my console gaming bad habits for that. At first it was distracting, but eventually my mind gave in and accepted it. Cutscenes shattered my disbelief with the fake motion, and mo-cap performances were even more grating on the mind. However, the seamless gameplay flowed like an angel. No complaints here.
DmC Devil May Cry also sports a “Turbo Mode” which speeds up the gameplay by 20 percent, and I highly recommend every fan give this a try. I switched back and forth between the turbo and normal on my playthrough, and I’ll be going with the Turbo Mode every time from here on out. Doesn’t matter whether I decide to take on the campaign again or just bomb around in Bloody Palace, Devil May Cry’s “endless mode.”
The new “Must Style” only lets Dante damage enemies when his combo hits an S-rank, but this kind of limitation is not really for me.
I also find it absolutely hilarious that each and every one of the new skins for Dante has white hair. It’s like a huge “We hear you, you jerks!” from Ninja Theory and Capcom.
My only complaint about the new content is that a lot of if can only be unlocked once the campaign has been beaten. I mean, that’s fine for me since I never played the game, but plenty of fans that already beat the original release might just want to hit the leaderboards and not have to suffer through DmC’s barrage of painful plot devices.
Turbo Mode and the new skins are available from the start, but you’ll have to go digging for the rest.
It grows on you like a parasite
My emotions towards DmC Devil May Cry are a mixed bag. It frustrated me. It made me roll my eyes. It made me tense. I would say the highs and lows were about even, but as I wrap up this review, a part of my brain is nagging me, telling me that I am not quite finished with this game yet.
I didn’t hate it. We’ll get that out of the way. It’s a rare case in a game when the second half supersedes the first half, but this is a game that will grow on your over time as the insanity of its presentation starts to move away from its awkward set up and its seamless combat expands with new weapons and abilities.
Just don’t enter it expecting a story that is worth reliving. I guess you could say that about the original Devil May Cry though, huh?
As for those who are buying for an upgrade, I can’t really say that the Turbo Mode alone is worth the added price. Definitely not the new character or weapons skins, but the different modes used to mix up the formula might provide a surprising twist for hardcore players.
My limited knowledge of 60fps doesn’t do me any favors either, but I know there are plenty out there who demand the fastest and the best technology can offer. My mind is divorced from that notion, thinking a good game will shine through technical limitations, but if it’ important to you, the upgrade might be worthy.
If you intend to really dig into the Bloody Palace and other challenges, it provides a full package and is worth the relatively cheap $40 entry point. Those looking just for the adventure or the story might find it a bit underwhelming though. Wait for a sale if you are a “one and doner.”
Disclaimer: We were provided a review copy of DmC Devil May Cry Definitive Edition by Capcom and completed with campaign and had a few rounds in the Bloody Palace before writing this review.