ataribomb's DmC Devil May Cry (Xbox 360) review

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  • 18 out of 25 Giant Bomb users found it helpful.

A solid action game with a troubled story

This is more or less from a forum post I made outlining my personal impressions of the game as a whole. Please be aware that I travel pretty far into spoiler territory, so fair warning.

Having finished it last night, I think I can finally convey my total thoughts on the game. I found the action to be completely passable with no real frustrations apart from the targeting. When the combat worked, I thought it worked really well. But when it didn't, especially in later levels where you're hit with the weapon or location specific enemies, I thought it fell apart. To me, not being able to quickly and accurately prioritize targets resulted in deaths that just felt undeserved. It felt like the game wasn't allowing me to do what it expected me to do. Of course, other people's experiences will probably vary. Those are just my thoughts.

If it were just the combat though, I hardly think I'd have a problem at all. The writing though, at least through my eyes, is the game's most troubling aspect. Normally something I'd pay no attention to, the writing both from the developers and critics has been acclaimed as some of the best in the series, and I'm still struggling to see how that is. I'm more than aware that the writing in the past games was nothing short of secondary. It, by all metrics, is cheesy, ambiguous, and mainly just an excuse to throw the character into a situation to fight some demons. But the difference is that it never pretended to be anything different. Ninja Theory was chosen to tell a story, the game was marketed on its story, and game publications praised the story, so I was actually looking forward to it.

What I experienced though was something completely different. The writing seems to mistake trauma for compelling character traits, touching on the topics of sexual abuse, torture, and self-mutilation. It provides the characters with all manner of emotional baggage but does nothing with it. Kat was abused she says, but never goes any further with it ever. Her character developed the strength to cope with that ordeal off camera and before she met Dante. Superman Vergil was the one who swooped in and gave fragile Kat the strength she needed to recover and re-focus herself, but we're not even shown that either. We're not shown anything, we're merely told. I'm of the mind that such topics should not be present in any form of media unless the writing is prepared to adequately explore and deal with the implications of such an ordeal. In the end I wondered why such a thing was even brought up.

I also take issue with Dante's development or lack thereof. Many people see his transformation from sweary loner, to team player as a substantial leap of character but I have to disagree with that. It's character progression to be sure, but Dante as a character never seems to actually learn and grow. His attachment to Kat exists because he tells us it does, not because we're shown how they grow together as a pair of characters. Same with his brother. His trust and (brief) reliance on Vergil occurs because we're told they're brothers and that's what they should do. Vergil reveals his final hand at the end, not because there was anything in the writing that led up to it, but because he just does. Granted that will more than likely be detailed in the DLC, but when you need to hide better writing behind 7 dollars, isn't that something of a problem? Vergil's abilities are also something of a writing issue to me as they'd never once before the final two missions even been hinted at. They were never seen, mentioned, or otherwise utilized in any strategic way that one might expect from his character. So he can slice holes in dimensions for travel? Why only use that as an escape method? Why not use that in conjunction with Dante to move him around quickly and quietly? The hole he opens clearly doesn't enter into Limbo as he demonstrates the ability after it and the Earthrealm (ha) had already merged. Also this is really nit-picky, but NT basically adapted his DMC3 move-set to the letter, but to my eyes it came off as looking poor. Why make those the elements you keep the same between the two characters? In personality he and his DMC3 counterpart are absolutely nothing alike, but in move-sets they're nearly identical. It's an odd move, and I'd of preferred it if NT had taken more liberties with his abilities.

In all though, with regards to the story, it came across as wanting to say too much all at once, so it ended up saying nothing at all. If NT wanted to focus on the core three characters and their emotional developments as they worked together to overthrow Mundus with Dante taking center-stage, I think they should have focused on that. It would have provided a much more compelling characterization of the core three characters, somewhat in the way DMC3 did (with Lady representing Dante's human side, and Vergil being his demon side) but much better. But as it stands, to me, this is as story that tells more than shows, and attempts to mask that flaw behind trauma and social commentary. I think partially this flaw is brought out all the more when combined with the sense of realism that the game conveys. Though trivial, a game's aesthetics can do much to add or detract from the narrative. Yes these characters look like they could possibly exist in real life, but what does that add really? All it does for me is make their questionable characterization stand out all the more.

Story aside, I truly thought the art direction in this game was superb, with the chalk board effects leading up to Mundus being a standout moment. That seriously made me praise the game out loud when I saw it. I also think that the music fits the game perfectly, and thought it's nothing I'd ever listen to on my own, within the context of the game there were some times I got pumped. I'm also a serious fan of the collectibles in the game, and thought that some of the hiding spots were rather devious and fun. And though I mentioned it before, I'll say it again, when the combat does work, it really does work. It's fast, it's fun, and can be very satisfying. And the two stand-out enemies have to be the Drakavaks and Dreamrunner. Those enemies were serious fun for me.

And finally I have one final nit-pick that's neither here nor there, but I wanted to mention. I wish there was a way to disable the completion rank to make it not factor into your overall rank. Once you 100% a level, you forever have a SSS rank buffer to pad out your score. Maybe this changes on the higher difficulty levels, but for me the end ranks always seemed cheapened somehow because I found some keys and doors. That has nothing to do with my combat or completion time, so why rank it?

So what's all this mean? Well basically, for me, I think that this is an extremely solid action game with a very troubled story. I recognize and respect that this DmC is entirely its own entity, and am expressing my opinions based on that. It's not perfect, but it will most assuredly improve and I certainly wish all the new fans well in that regard. For me though, I played it and gave it an even chance, but I'm getting off here. It was a fun ride while it lasted, but the direction the new DmC is going is not where I want to go. I'd still give this a solid 3/5 though. It's not perfect, but there is good to be found.

And though it goes without saying, all that crap is seriously just my opinion.

14 Comments
Posted by ImmortalSaiyan

I agree with you on the story. It is the games weak point, baring a few minor issues with the combat. There are greats ideas to the story but they are merely there and not explored. I was expecting the whole, demons mind controlling the public to be far more important than a simple plot device. I am releasing that I don't care much for the new Dante. He feels trapped between DMC3 and DmC. He had this new serious, detached attitude but spouts cheesy one liners which feels really out of place. Especially with the way the actor says Dante's lines, with a sort of self righteous slur.

Everything else about the game is fantastic, so at least it makes up for the story issues.

Posted by Nettacki

thanks for the review on this. Personally, I wasn't planning on buying it anyway since I was short on cash and I already blew my budget in last month's Steam/GoG/other digital PC games sales. It's a good representation on the other side of the argument on DmC's quality as a game.

Posted by Wonloong

I've heard this a lot when people say, "They gave the characters X, but doesn't do much with it." What does it mean by not doing much with it?

Posted by Nettacki

@Wonloong said:

I've heard this a lot when people say, "They gave the characters X, but doesn't do much with it." What does it mean by not doing much with it?

I think he means that they give characters a trait that's supposed to make them stand out, but for whatever reason don't fully integrate it into their overall characterization, or even explore it in any meaningful way throughout the game.

Posted by BoOzak

I think your expectations of the story are a little unfair, you wouldnt expect an action movie to flesh out all the traits in it's characters. I mean take "The Dark Knight" for instance, the Joker hints that he was abused (I dont mean sexually) as a child but you're never shown it, you dont even know if he's telling the truth, all you know is he's crazy and and that's all you need to know.

It's the same with Kat, you're basically just given the reason why she follows Vergil and that's it. I agree that Dante doesnt grow much as a character, he's given a purpose sure, but he's still arrogant and hot-headed. But he cant grow that much or he wouldnt be the same character. (for better or worse)

I'm by no means a DmC apologist, I still think DMC3 is the pennacle of the franchise and the combat in the new game leaves something to be desired. But the story definately isnt the game's weak point. (despite the shoddy dialog)

I agree about everything else though. Collectables shouldnt contribute to your score. Especially if you cant even get them all in your first playthrough.

Posted by Sammo21

I think its weird, personally, to weigh so heavily on the story. None of the other Devil May Cry games had good stories. All I care about is that the action is solid, flows wells, and is enjoyable. If that aspect doesn't work then the game doesn't work. I think the story is fine. Amazing? No, but it is fine. To give this game a 3 out 5 mostly because you didn't like the story means I can't recommend this review as it seems like this genre isn't for you if you came into this wanting a something it was never going to have and something most people don't need/want.

Posted by feetoffthesky

@BoOzak: Thanks for saying everything i was about to say

Posted by Ataribomb

@Nettacki: Yep, exactly what I meant.

@BoOzak: @Sammo21: @feetoffthesky:

I hear you, and again this is just where I'm coming from. If the game wasn't marketed so heavily on the story and if NT wasn't chosen specifically to tell a story, I'd not have cared. I adore the previous games (except 2), and in many ways I consider Bayo to be damn near perfect, and those stories were beyond absurd. But they never tried to be anything different either. I guess I paid such close attention to DmC's story because that's what Capcom, NT, critics, and most marketing on the game urged me to look towards. And, from my viewpoint, what I got was a muddled mess of themes, ideas, and poorly written characters, that in the end didn't really need to happen. You're right, the main demographic that plays these games does so for the combat, and if that's all you want then I think you'll be happy for one or two playthroughs. But I tried playing the game in the way that it seemed like Capcom and NT intended, and I didn't care for it. I don't play these sorts of games to be knocked over the head with overbearing political messages, themes of abuse, images of self mutilation, and a primer in the many applications of swear words. Again, it just feels like a game that can't have fun with itself, but still expects me to have fun. And as a player, I find that difficult.

I didn't focus much on the combat in the review because I think it's passable, at least at the lower difficulties. It's when things carry on and you bump up the difficulty, that the combat really begins to show it's limitations. I guess I didn't touch much on it because it was my understanding that the combat was generally recognized as weaker than the previous entries anyway. It's more accessible to be sure, but at the cost of depth and precision. In retrospect I probably shouldn't have assumed that. So if you like, my main gripes on the combat system really boil down to the unreliable soft-lockon system, the limited move-sets, the very weird need for the game to limit your combat options with weapon and target-specific enemies, and the emphasis on crowd control attacks which, to me, seem only added in to compensate for the lack of overall precision. Though you may not be able to maintain a lock on a single target in a crowd, at least your Aquila can hit everything around you, so that's cool right? I'd say no. I'd say the satisfaction that comes from this combat system, for better or worse, is just smoke and mirrors.

Sorry for not responding sooner, I'm terrible at checking my messages. And again, if you don't agree that's seriously cool, I'm glad this game is doing it for you. All this is just how it appears to me.

Edited by RoyCampbell
@Sammo21 said:

I think its weird, personally, to weigh so heavily on the story. None of the other Devil May Cry games had good stories. All I care about is that the action is solid, flows wells, and is enjoyable. If that aspect doesn't work then the game doesn't work. I think the story is fine. Amazing? No, but it is fine. To give this game a 3 out 5 mostly because you didn't like the story means I can't recommend this review as it seems like this genre isn't for you if you came into this wanting a something it was never going to have and something most people don't need/want.

Considering the amount of times Tameem threw the past Devil May Cry's stories (amongst many other things) under the bus and heralded this one's so often, there's reason why the story was criticized as much as it was in this review. Not to mention the fact that "Shakespearean" has been thrown around when describing the character interaction in DmC.
 
By the way: you don't have to hold a recommendation of a review hostage just because of a nitpick. You don't necessarily have to agree with every facet of a review to recommend it. I certainly hope you read the third paragraph, as it covered why Ataribomb went into such detail with the story.
Posted by Sammo21

@RoyCampbell:

Hold it hostage? I'm not, I stated I don't think that I can recommend a review that is so heavily skewed towards story. Mechanics, game play, and other factors should come way before story should in a video game. Otherwise most Mario games would be getting 3/5 for all time.

I also disagree with his statements about the game lacking precision or an expanded move set.

Posted by Ataribomb

@Sammo21:

You're not holding anything hostage, it's all good. People have different opinions, and I can respect that. The only thing I might caution against is falling into the trap of false equivalency. No one really judges Mario on its story because Mario games have never tried to market themselves on story. They are games almost completely defined by their mechanics, and that's fine. In that way they're more like the previous Devil May Cry games (ie. system over story). But if the day ever came where a Mario game was marketed as an evolution of storytelling for the franchise, then you'd better believe I'd pay much more attention to the story and how it is told. It would be wrong not to, especially if the story ever was referred to as "Shakespearean" in the marketing.

Posted by Sammo21

@Ataribomb: Well, I don't pay attention to marketing really. I don't get caught up in game trailers or anything like that. Giant Bomb quick looks and podcast word of mouth is the only thing I let effect my judgement outside of word of mouth from friends. In that regard its almost as if you are judging the game not on its own merits but on a product that doesn't exist but was marketed to you. I can see where someone would say it has Shakespearean roots with the family dynamic of Nero and Dante on top of the Sparda connection but that sounds like typical video game hyperbole to me. Just like people who tried to tell me that Halo 4 had some awesome story I ignore that stuff. To each their own though. I just thought you might like to know why I personally didn't recommend the review opposed to just not finding it helpful and moving on.

Posted by Ataribomb

@Sammo21:

All good duder. Sorry the review wasn't for you but I do appreciate your feedback, and can definitely respect you discussing your take on it. You're right also that if someone goes into this game not caring at all about the story, then this probably isn't the review for them. Thanks for the discussion. :D

Posted by Gimm3nicotinE

Good review man; one thing though... Drakavaks and Dreamrunner? Really? Man, those were the two enemies I groaned out loud at each time they appeared. Every time I'd engage one it'd be either A) an exercise in frustration or B) create distance, let them do their portal warp (which they do every time you create some distance), dodge the portal warp, angel pull to them, 4 hit rebellion combo; rinse repeat ad nauseum.

I think I recall some sort of combo functionality with the Kablooey gun, but at that point the above routine had already broken that enemy for me. All in all, I just don't get why they would make an enemy that is such a bastard to fight by conventional means, but then give them such a predictable attack pattern so as to let you develop a slow monotonous workaround.

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