Devil May Cry: The Kotaku Review

New Coke lives on only as a joke. But, imagine if you will, a reality where that reworking of the ubiquitous soft drink was actually good. You won't have to think that hard about such a plane of existence. All you have to do is swap New Dante for New Coke and, bam, there you are in a world where everything can be different. Yes, the re-imagined Dante and the game he stars in — a revamp of Capcom's popular Devil May Cry action series — is excellent.

When the new take on Dante first appeared, fans of the older games grumbled loudly about how this take ruined everything. But, those players who grew up on a diet of stylish action against demonic hordes should be pleased by gameplay changes made by Ninja Theory. And though this is a crasser, more grounded version of the lead character, the tweaks to Dante's affect make him more well-rounded and sympathetic.

As far as the button-pressing goes, the pillars of the formula are still here. You wield firearms and bladed weapons in a rapid dance of carnage against hellish forces. Switch from the various attacks at your disposal lets you create unique combo that you get points for. Style is still paramount.

Devil May Cry has always been about panache. The original set of games — produced exclusively in Japan — focused on a particular strain of otaku cool. There was flair, yes, but more than a little cheese as well. Old-school Dante looked like a refugee from a 1980s hair-metal band and his wisecracking dialogue was as clunky as it was memorable.

DmC

DmC re-imagines Capcom's storied occult rock action franchise with an angry-youth update that brings tons of fresh energy to action fans.

Developer: Ninja Theory and Capcom Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 (version played) Released: January 15 Type of game: action/adventure game with occult heavy metal overtones shot through with "We are the 99%" iconography. What I played: played through 18 of 20 missions over 17.5 hours.

Two Things I Loved

  • DmC's sense of flow is divine. Whether swinging the environment and switching grapple types as you go or changing up your attacks one, two three times in an eyeblink, you feel caught in a constant stream of challenge and reward.
  • The gritty art design and great enemy types do a great job of world-building that makes this reboot feel very fleshed out.

Two Things I Hated

  • There's a lot of foul language in DmC and it occasionally feels like the creators themselves are desperately trying to be thought of as outlaws.
  • Some of the boss fights drag on too long.

Made-to-Order-Back-of-Box-Quotes

  • " See, Resident Evil 6 devs, this is how you update a formula." — Evan Narcisse, Kotaku
  • "The Dante is dead. Long live the Dante." — Evan Narcisse, Kotaku

Differences to Dante go deeper down than just his look. This new guy is still the son of a demon, who slowly discovers his heritage. But he's been created more in the snot-nosed rebel mode. He starts off as a sort of gutter punk, boozing, sexing and demon-killing on the margins of society. Then he falls in with The Order, a bunch of radical activists clearly modelled after anarcho-liberal movements like Occupy Wall Street, Wikileaks or Anonymous. The Order fights against the 1 per cent, only in this narrative the elite are demons who have been secretly brainwashing and enslaving mankind to control the world. Dante, after joining up with the Order, gets pegged as a terrorist by a necromantic newscaster at a fake Fox News analogue.

One could make arguments that using extreme left political groups as a template for heroism in this game is either a stroke of genius or extreme trivialisation. But, I found the fact that this subtext dovetails so well with the series' mythology to be appealingly clever. Secret oppression, crushing debt, paranoia that turns out to be justified… all are elements that will definitely ring true to the people playing this game in 2013.

Still, all of these grasps at edginess sometimes feel adolescent — with strippers, lots of cussing, political activism a la Wikileaks — but it's always been play experience that's been paramount in DMC games. And the play in this new title is finely tuned and very rewarding.

Most of the handful of weapons that Dante will wield have either demonic or angelic heritages. This duality gets seeded all throughout the game, adding an element of signal-decoding to the fighting and locomotion in Devil May Cry. Certain grapple points only work with an angelic or demonic weapon and specific enemies will only take damage from heavenly or hellish attacks. For example, if a Hell Knight superheats the ground beneath you, equip a demon weapon to avoid taking damage.

Switching between angelic and demonic modifiers creates a great combat flow that extends into the traversal, making the whole affair feel incredibly unified. When you're in the groove, dozens of "lookit what I just did" moments seem to spill out of the game every 30 seconds. A burly launch attack blends into a devastating juggle followed by canny ranged attacks and a deft dodge to set up another cycle of whoop-ass. Pull yourself up to a flying enemy to escape chaos on the ground and blast your pistols at the fools who can fly. You can mix it up in a variety of ways and they all feel good.

As you journey through the game's levels, you'll find and use keys to open up secret missions, which are usually combat or traversal challenges. Aside from giving you the chance to earn health upgrades, these secret areas — like their predecessors in the old-school DMC games — boil down the attractions of the franchise to its purest form. There's no emo/buttrock cheesiness here, no political commentary aspirations. It's just wave after wave of fast-twitch reflex symphony, with you trying to make the combat look as cool as demonically possible.

Dozens of upgradeable skills let you build a Dante that feels suited to your playstyle. Like to dodge and stay close for counter-attacks? Pick up Demon Evade for a attack boost after making bad guys miss. Like to dodge and create distance between you and the attackers? There's also Angel Evade, which gives you more space and a window of invulnerability. It's the same thing for other defensive moves, ranged attacks and melee slashes. The better you rank in the game's missions, the more upgrades you get. You wind up feeling like you control your own fortunes as a result.

In Devil May Cry, advertising deadens your mind. Soda is poison. Debt is the ultimate weapon. The parallel reality of Limbo makes for a neat if heavy-handed conceit regarding the disparity of social justice in the world. Fittingly, things that happen there affect events in the real world. Limbo's visual treatment — a broken, sometimes upside-down version of what we see everyday, filtered through a miasmic haze — is one of the best things about the game, letting Ninja Theory invoke realism without having to say beholden to it.

One of Devil May Cry's' core premises is that Limbo is only a shift of perceptions away. The main characters here were told that they were crazy when they divulged that they saw demons but it turns out they weren't. It's that kind of plot beat that exemplifies the counter-culture vibe that the game is going for. Dante says at one point, ""I just knew in my heart I wasn't crazy." You also have to wonder if that moment is Ninja Theory commenting on how their own in-progress work was being received by a subset of fans. As corny or ham-fisted as the game feels at times, it can still feel like there's real emotion throbbing beneath the surface, a sensation that was lacking in the previous iteration of Devil May Cry.

It'd be easy to reduce the game to They Live with liberal social commentary with its demonic robber baron villains. This game updates the elements of the Devil May formula — combat flow, maximising a moveset in a personalised way and slashing around biblically influenced lore — to make it feel like it belongs in the present day. Is it more grounded and serious? Yeah. This new Dante looks like someone you'd walk past in the street. But the surprise is how much that switch works. Ninja Theory's still mining a vein of self-conscious character creation but the winking is far more knowing than it was in the previous Devil May Cry games. However, the play is so good that it makes you reconsider the entirety of the work being done. The new Devil May Cry isn't from the netherworld after all. Fact is, for action fans, it's a slice of heaven.


Comments

    When I was playing the demo I got the feeling that the boss fights drag on for to long, I'm definately getting this game but I'm going to have to wait until 1-2 pm.

      i fucking loved the amount of swears in the game. the more the better!!!! Mafia 2 and House of the dead overkill and battlefield 3. loved every second of those games. not becuse of gameplay but of the amount of swears!

    I played the demo, but it just didn't grab me. It wasn't awful or anything, but nor was there anything about it that made me think this was a game I wanted to spend any more time playing. There's enough interesting stuff coming out over the next couple of months that I can skip this one, I think.

    Reeeeally want to get it, but might have to wait till next week to pick it up.

    PC version is optimised to hell and back and with no AA can run at over 100-200 fps with the higher end cards!!!!

    So as long as my Mac Pro can run it comfortable at 1080/60 I'm good. Will probably wait for a Steam sale and pick up the PC version.

    Nup. I can't get behind this game. I am a big fan of the original series and no, it's not because his fucking hair (and if you ever thought that was the reason, you're a fucking idiot).
    The biggest reason is, this reboot was totally unnecessary. Why couldn't this same game be some other IP? What do they get out of calling it DMC? Brand recognition? I certainly don't recognise anything DMC in it. What was the point of bastardising the original series with this western fodder crap? If it weren't DMC, i could accepted it for what it really is. I'll never accept it for a DMC game.
    The second biggest reason is that if this becomes popular enough, there's no way the money grubbing Capcom will ever go back to the old universe. If this game was not DMC, we'd still have a chance for a real DMC5. But no, we'll be stuck with this try hard, poorly written, prick version of Dante and that's sad

      Because the better alternative is to release the same repetitive game that doesn't expand on the universe or expands the story into stupid crap that doesn't make sense and is completely forced...

      the problem with releasing a new devil may cry in the main universe is sthat most of the people who made the devil may cry games have left capcom, i saw this game as an excuse to get someone else working on the series, without tarnishing the original one.

      lets just say that capcom don't ever go back to the main universe, wouldn't that be a good thing? i mean, instead of there being a possibility we get a shitty devil may cry 5, the main series can end on a good note, unlike a lot of capcoms other franchises.

      however, i think capcom is smart enough to know that most fans want the original dante, so i wouldn't bet that capcom won't ever make another main DMC game.

      honestly this DmC actually looks pretty good, ninja theory seem to have gotten it right.

      From playing the demo it feels VERY OG DMC, the combat is really good and in line with juggling, combos, special moves etc, but still feels fresh, especially with the realtime weapon switching that can add so much to you creating your own preferred combos (dream come true for me). Dante seems to be himself, just a bit younger and less camp. Still taunting unholy demons from hell like they were bratty school kids, still being impossibly suave in the face of insurmountable odds, still bringing over the top action and cheese.

      If you haven't already, give the demo a go, it definitely changed my initial somewhat sceptical opinion into a firmly positive one.

      And let's face it Dante has ALWAYS been poorly written, but that's what DMC has always been about.

      The guy that made the 2 best DMC games Hideaki Itsuno (yes, he also did DMC2, but 3 and 4 more than make up for that mistake), as far as I know is still at Capcom. And I know a lot of people, including DMC fans didn't like DMC4, but if you get over the level repetition, it's an excellent game. The combat system is still fantastic.

      I understand Capcom wanting to do some revamping to DMC, it was getting a bit samey, and the one thing I don't fault this new DmC with is the combat. It seems a little easy, and i'm not a fan of the weapon modifier thing they borrowed from Heavenly Sword (didn't like it then, don't like it now, it just feels too fidgety), but it's still solid combat mechanic, probably because it was Capcom's doing, although it does sound the lack of lock-on is a problem.

      Why couldn't they do an "RE4" and continue with the universe, the characters the fans love, the setting and the story, and revamp the gameplay? Why did they think rebooting it and ruining everything they had was a good idea? As I said, it could've easily been a new IP. Are they afraid of creating new IP's that much in this day and age that they can only work off old franchises? I wouldn't mind if I knew it was just a one off, but come on. If this sells well enough, there's no way they'd return to the proper universe.

      If it was a new IP, i probably wouldn't have mind this awful character so much, either. You say DMC has always had poor writing, well yeah, but it was wonderfully cheesy. The new one just feel very try hard, they're trying to be "edgy" by throwing out "fuck" and "shit" all the time, and have no idea what the word "subtle" means. Compare the meeting of Dante and that Succubus thing in the new DmC to the meeting of Dante and the Phantom from the original. Or Dante meeting Berial in DMC4. One comes off as the ramblings of an angsty teenager, the others come off being said by a cocky bastard who knows how "bad-ass" (for lack of a better phrase) he is. And whenever he does say something that isn't lame as hell, it's delivered with, again, that try hard attitude.

      Also, that colour palette's really gross.

      I'm still probably going to buy it eventually, because it looks to be a good action game, it just didn't need to be DMC.

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