Fans are poisonous. The average, majority fan is so fickle and short-sighted, they stand to halt artistic vision and experimental game design and leave us in an endless wheel of regurgitated styles and templates.
This thought stems immediately from Capcom published, Ninja Theory developed, franchise reboot DmC. A fair fan of the previous titles and owner of all four, I wouldn’t call myself a Dante Must Die kind of guy but hack-n-slash has its kicks. What most stood out within the series for me though was the first title: the game was hauntingly atmospheric and was clearly influenced by its history as a Resident Evil title. As a kid I found the puppets and inanimate-turned-animate objects strictly terrifying, and even now a real sense of claustrophobia can envelope me as I get locked in room faced with having to eliminate all enemies first. This is what the series should be recognised for; but instead the series regresses to standard, anime-dramatic, eastern affair.
The second game does enough damage that the third struggles to climb back up, though it does a good job and is more reminiscent of the first than the sequel. Four comes out and the game attempts to overcome the stalemate of repetition: it introduces a new protagonist with a new fighting style to stir the pot a little bit, but isn’t confident enough to walk away from fan favourite Dante and he features for nearly half the game too. As a next generation sequel, it’s not enough. The graphics sure are pretty but it does little to define itself as anything new and it becomes a matter of fan-service cameos and continuity tied. You only have to look at a franchise like Metal Gear Solid and see how that series’ seventh generation entry changes on such a drastic scale without abandoning the core of the game. The gameplay of DMC4 is undoubtedly solid, but it loses any real flavour - yes, Devil May Cry 5 would have been fine, but it would have got in the way of DmC, and that’s what’s important.
There were two significant points made at the announcement of DmC: one was that Dante (and consequently the entire game - but no one cared about that so much as his hair) faced a complete redesign as a reboot to the series, and the other was that western Ninja Theory was to helm the next title.
What should have been a focus point of discussion was whether or not Ninja Theory was established and talented enough to carry such an important title on their shoulders. As much as DmC is a series reboot, it must be faithful, most of all to the gameplay which the games pioneered as a genre. And this would be a fair point of debate: though with only a limited back-catalogue behind them, Ninja Theory had proven a fair grasp of high octane, hack-n-slash combat in for the form of early Playstation 3 title Heavenly Sword. That combined with their strong story-telling of Enslaved stood to suggest Ninja Theory could bring real maturity and development to the franchise.
It even then came to knowledge that the game would feature a reduced FPS, capped at 30, and while it was a point worth being vocal on, it definitely did not instigate the most noise. Instead, all anyone wanted to talk was Dante’s hair. Known for his long, white, swept hair (which would be distinctly “emo” anyway if for another colour), earthquakes hit the fanbase when his hair turned instead to a shorter, fringed, black style. Despite still maintaining a distinctive red (and black) coat, and replacing whatever top Dante featured for each game with a white vest , it was taken that Dante had become the Edward Cullen of video games. Let me just put both of these generation designs side by side:
Now this simple redesign - contextually understandable in presenting a much younger, immature Dante - was pure blasphemy to the hardcore audience of the series, and universally rejected. It led to comments like this “NO! he looks emo... come on...you know 90% of us hate this emo goth trash!” and “I will boycott the game if they do not fix this issue. 95% or more are unhappy with this change. Who is with me?” and this was on a big scale.
You only have to look across to developers like Bioware where fan power is becoming far too apparent. Backlash to their Mass Effect trilogy’s ending led to several free content updates and DLCs to try and appeal to those seemingly wounded by the ending they didn’t want. Whether you’re a fan of the ending or not, it was the intended product; you can’t bully film directors to change their endings or characters’ deaths, even in an on-going series. Fred Weasley won’t be brought back despite millions of people crying their eyes out about it. If feedback was considered and constructive, it can be an incredibly useful tool, but when even Bioware writers are describing fan feedback as “increasingly toxic” and are purposely trying to avoid it, we’ve reached a point where fan input is more danger than it’s worth.
Pulling back to the point, DmC is fantastic. It’s respectful to the franchise while bringing a whole new vision; it’s visually wonderful and eclectic, myriad colours shaking up the monotony of gothic fantasy. The script is lightyears ahead in strength, with the characters suddenly relatable with genuine responses and passages of dialogue, with a plot that draws you through despite its familiarity. The sales have been decent so hopefully its initial reaction didn’t hinder it too harshly, but looking forward, fans like these are cancer to game development. Capcom handed over one of their flagship titles to a relatively unproven developer to great results, and we need an industry where developers are willing to take risks like this rather than get stuck in a rut of conformity and emulation.