DmC: Devil May Cry Xbox 360 Review

Author: Lydia Sung
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, January 14th, 2013
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/dmc_devil_may_cry/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Responses to Capcom’s Devil May Cry reboot weren’t exactly positive across the board. When the Japanese company first announced that their iconic action series would be getting an unexpected makeover and handing the reins to Heavenly Sword studio Ninja Theory, many fans were stunned and a little upset. Are our worries still warranted, however?

In a nutshell, the answer is “no,” because against all odds, DmC: Devil May Cry delivers and with more style than ever before. As expected, the game has its pitfalls, and boy, are they difficult to ignore. While not exactly negligible, these flaws aren’t enough to drag the entire experience down. Ninja Theory charges out of the gate with a bang, full of flash and flare. Through gameplay, they’ve retained the heart and soul of Devil May Cry, which veteran fans will quickly recognize, while simultaneously offering a new starting point for any newcomers interested in the series.

New Dante, Same Ol' Tricks

Demons and angels just don’t know how to get along, though in the latter’s defense, demons are pretty damn evil in Devil May Cry. The foundation here is familiar: Dante is the halfling son of Sparda, born from his demon father and angel mother. As Nephilim, he and others like him hold the power to defeat Mundus, the lord of all demons who, in DmC, has most of mankind enslaved as spiritual cattle. How? Through spiked soft drinks and fear-mongering right-wing TV news, humorously enough.

The most obvious change in DmC is the new Dante, that scowly young man on the cover art. The reboot stars a snarkier and angstier demon hunter who goes by the same name and wields the same weapons as the original. He's basically a younger, hipper, and less endearing incarnation of the white-haired freelancer, possessing the same devil-may-care attitude without any of his predecessor’s charm.

At least Dante’s combat mastery carries over, making the new Dante just as much fun to play with as the last. His arsenal is a robust collection of melee and ranged weapons, demonic and angelic, promising a satisfying variety for all sorts of players. The combat is unbelievably easy to pick up, and customizable controls make it all the easier to adapt to. Long-time action fans won’t feel shut out, however, because in true Devil May Cry fashion, mastering the weapons-based combat should be a long term endeavor, especially when you factor in all the unlockable abilities.

If you’re fond of collectibles, DmC has a few of those too. Health boosts and other beneficial items can be uncovered by exploring side hallways and streets. Special keys hidden throughout the world will unlock secret missions. None of this is particularly impactful on the gameplay experience, but keeping that aspect of Devil May Cry gives completionists a little something extra to strive towards. Given the linearity of the game, however, don’t expect to do too much exploring, which is only a shame because the world is so beautiful.

Beauty in the World

The world is, believe it or not, where DmC really excels, both from a gameplay and visual design standpoint. Parallel to our world is a separate plane aptly named “Limbo,” and it’s here that most of the game actually takes place. Story progression is delegated to the more mundane “real” world, and all the bloody action falls to Limbo, a surreal domain that Mundus directly manipulates in his efforts to kill Dante. This malleable universe is a sight to behold, constantly shifting like an Escher painting on acid, and Dante’s own ability to alter Limbo just makes getting around that much more fun.

Limbo feels like a fresh coat of paint on an old house. The sort of variation we see is staggering, with every new stage taking its own unique look and feel. Granted, some of the locations could stand to be more creative (nothing too special about a sprawling warehouse), but even the most overused settings get some special treatment, becoming an otherworldly playground that’s hypnotic and, at times, even creepy. Its demonic denizens, too, boast some creative appearances, with just a couple exceptions.

Unfortunately, the novelty wears thin once you’re hitting the latter half of the campaign. While there is comfort in becoming more acclimated to Dante’s abilities and this alien world, the challenges and obstacles begin to feel too predictable. Similarly, the enemies that felt so unique at first easily lose their cool factor, because DmC will eventually just keep heaping them on in greater numbers. Sure, the enemy concepts are creative, but the way they’re utilized just isn’t. Dropping Dante in a room with ten of each isn’t at all interesting, especially when this formula is being abused toward DmC’s final hours. Heck, fewer enemies would’ve been completely acceptable if that meant tougher encounters with more interesting mechanics.

Surprisingly, the regular encounters are still infinitely more entertaining than the bosses. See, the menagerie of demons you’ll meet throughout every stage are actually fun to kill, allowing the player to really flex their hack ‘n’ slash prowess. Switching between weapons and abilities on a whim leads to some great combos, and the combat in DmC encourages us to go nuts. That is, until you get to the boss fights. Visually, the boss fights are as impressive as anyone could hope for, but in action, they’re much less dynamic than the rest of the game. Multiple health bars and hard-hitting attacks create an illusion of difficulty, one that is easily unraveled as soon as you figure out each boss’ comically simplistic weakness and patterned behaviors.

More Serious than Before?

As for the story, no one can say Ninja Theory didn't try. The results of their writing labor, however, prove to be one of DmC's weaker aspects. I'll give them an "A" for effort, but when I'm always one step ahead of the plot, staying interested becomes a real chore. On top of all that, the narrative is a mess of mixed messages. Every character seems to have a tragic backstory the game wants us to hear, and even the snarky Dante is painted as a tortured soul. Yet the very first moments shows Dante at a club – complete with seizure inducing strobe effects – watching strippers he later takes home for a nauseating sex scene. I say "nauseating" because the camera just goes all over the place in trying to portray wild drunken sex as edgy and rad.

That's a little blatant even by classic Devil May Cry standards, though the fourth game was definitely pushing the envelope in tastefulness. If that's the tone Ninja Theory wanted for the game, so be it; but it actually isn't. Before long, we're handed a completely different view of Dante, and drawn-out sequences of self-discovery and character interaction drag us in a much more serious direction. The opening, with its teenage rebellion, "I don't give a shit" attitude, adds absolutely nothing of value to the game itself.

In this respect, DmC doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. When the game isn’t trying to (likely unsuccessfully) charm you into liking Dante and his friends, it flings gratuitous T&A in your face. When conversing with antagonists, Dante’s vocabulary is suddenly reduced to a dictionary of swear words, resulting in numerous cutscenes where all he and an enemy does is shout “fuck you” back and forth for several long and painful seconds. No, not very compelling at all; in fact, it’s downright juvenile.

Final Thoughts

DmC is by no means perfect, but Ninja Theory certainly accomplished what they set out to do; they made a great action game. As a fan of the original Dante, I’m still not sure that this reboot was completely necessary for the series, but DmC is undeniably fun, in large part perhaps due to the developers’ faithfulness to the original games. Appearances aside, the game still feels quintessentially Devil May Cry. Everything else is basically icing on the cake.

Story is the biggest issue, where DmC stumbles the most. Still, despite my griping, I found myself easily forgetting about its flaws while caught up in the moment – the experience of something all at once familiar and new.

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