Sunday, March 16, 2014
Xbox 360 review: DmC: Devil May Cry
Swapping out medieval castles and old European townscapes in favor of a more contemporary urban punk Eastern European setting, DmC: Devil May Cry does as much to build upon the standards set by previous Devil May Cry games as it does to reimagine and reinvent one of the most popular action game series out there. While the initial debut trailer of DmC was met with harsh criticism over the presentation of protagonist Dante, veteran fans of the series ought to give this title a second look, as it is far and away the smoothest-playing title in the series. Ninja Theory has decided to cut much of the fat from the upgrade system, and while there are still plenty of new combos and abilities that can be unlocked, they are simultaneously more practical and less complicated than in previous Devil May Cry games. Earning these upgrades is by no means a cake walk – you’re still going to have to put forth the effort into chaining combos in order to gain more points and a better overall score on each mission. But the game does loosen up a bit on the long-standing tradition of pushing for multiple playthroughs by making it so that you can earn enough points on a single run of the normal ‘Devil Hunter’ difficulty setting to fulfill a well-rounded and decently powerful arsenal. That said, a second or third playthrough on any of the seven difficulty settings is required in order to gather all the hidden collectibles.
The secondary weapons have also be retooled for the sake of practicality, but are still visually pleasing and a blast to use. The scythe Osiris and throwing star Aquila stand in as Angel weapons, dealing lower damage, but doing well to stall enemies or keep them at a distance. The gauntlets Eryx and axe Arbiter are slower Demon weapons that deal significant damage, but also leave Dante more open to enemy attacks, as he cannot recover as quickly after striking in order to perform a dodge. These weapons have variable ranges, and can all be incorporated into sky attacks in order to further chain combos. Dante can maintain his chain via his trademark pistols Ebony and Ivory, but as with previous DMC games, these effectively only serve that lone purpose. Meanwhile, two new guns, Revenant and Kablooey, deal notably greater damage with a more frequent reload rate, as a shotgun and sticky bomb launcher, respectively. Dante can also use chains to latch onto foes, whether they are airborne or groundside, and either pull himself toward them or drag them close to him to strike. To top this all off, Dante still has his signature sword Rebellion, which is the default main weapon, still plenty effective at dealing medium levels of damage to foes at a moderate rate.
DmC does well to incorporate many themes from the older Devil May Cry games into this new vision of the game world. At the outset, Dante believes himself a loner who has he unfortunate habit of drawing the attention of Demons and being sucked into Limbo, a plane of existence unseen by the public, but one that nonetheless influences their day-to-day life. It is not long before Dante meets Kat, a young witch who informs him that she knows of Limbo and that her boss, a man representing an organization known as ‘The Order’ wishes to meet with him. The problem is that it is difficult for Dante to lay low for long, and has his fair share of run-ins with demons before Kat is finally able to introduce Dante to the head of The Order, Vergil. Vergil helps Dante to restore his memories, and Dante comes to the realization that they are brothers, both Nephilim, the sons of an Angel mother and Demon father. Dante also remembers that Mundus, the demon who now reigns over the city where they now live, killed his mother and imprisoned his father, and has been hunting Dante ever since. However, the brothers hold one major advantage over Mundus: the demon does not know of the second Nephilim, Vergil, and thus the two hatch a plan with the help of Kat to strike at Mundus’ resources – his propaganda, his poisonous drinks, all that he holds most precious and important – in order to anger him and draw him away from the demon gate, his source of power, long enough that it might be shut.
While DmC boasts but a handful of boss fights, each is moderately intelligent in its design, providing Dante with a different challenge to tackle. They are nowhere near a rounded-out or in-depth as the likes of boss encounters from more adventure-driven games like The Legend of Zelda or even other contemporary action titles like No More Heroes. Still, the majority of DmC’s boss encounters handle about as smoothly as the rest of the experience, and are more a test of Dante’s endurance and adaptability to new threats than anything else. Occasionally, Dante will encounter weapon-specific enemies, which can only be fought with Angel or Demon weapons respectively. This adds an extra degree of tension to combat, if only for brief periods.
Challenge stages make their return, and are divided into different levels of difficulty that correspond to the color locks that bar access until matching keys are discovered. These stages include combat scenarios that limit the damage Dante can deal with certain weapons, and races against the clock to reach the end of a series of platforms. These race-style levels are decidedly more adventure-oriented in their design, and appear a number of times during the main game (sans the time limit) when Dante travels to a dream-like setting to unlock more of his memories. The variation in level design in DmC is one of the game’s greatest strengths, and while you spend the majority of your time in the warped version of reality known as Limbo, the game does pull a few clever punches generally reserved for game series boasting more complicated plots such as Metal Gear Solid or Bioshock.
DmC is surprisingly smart with regards to its scripting. Considering how abrasive and cocky Dante initially comes across as, it’s impressive to see his character progress into an anti-hero players can actually get behind, and to have some genuinely funny bits of humor sprinkled throughout. Much of this is due to the way that the voice actors portray their respective characters, a delivery which comes across as being very natural across the board for Dante, Vergil, Kat, etc. The soundtrack, comprised primarily by tracks written by Combichrist and Noisia, retains some of the metal thrash sounds of older Devil May Cry titles, while adding some electronica into the mix. Yes, there is some dubstep worked in, and while it comes across as a bit silly in the moment, it never steers the atmosphere of the game too far from its roots.
My rating: 9.25 (out of 10)