DmC is a fresh, great new take on the story aspect of the classic franchise that maintains its gameplay exhilaration.
We all know the many reactions that came with the territory when it was revealed that Capcom would not only be handing the next Devil May Cry game to a different developer, but also be rebooting the franchise. Many traditional fans have raged at this game for the direction it was turning and how it reportedly differs from the Japanese counterparts. After having been a longtime fan of the Devil May Cry series and owning all four of the predecessors I never was on the hate/protest movement with either Capcom or Ninja Theory. Devil May Cry is a series that was taken many different directions as the series progressed. What started off as an early generation PS2 game that modeled itself after Resident Evil while combining brutal hack-and-slash combat has been more mitigating towards the action style of execution with each future game.
The series has been experimented with in many ways, but always had to make sacrifices while doing so. Prime examples are with DMC2 trying to experiment with flexible gameplay by allowing the player to play as two characters through the same story, but wound up sacrificing its difficulty and combat flexibility. DMC4 reinvigorated this same dynamic by having the player control two different characters through different scenarios while combining the brutal, satisfying combat fans know and love, but sacrificed its level of variety. Hence making the game feel more recycled in terms of ideas and creativity. That being said, I do not hate nor dislike both of the aforementioned games. DMC4 was great for what it had to work with and like DMC2 introduced a new, welcome character who has his own satisfying mode of combat. While I credit DMC2 for introducing me to the series, I have to admit that having played it years later that age has not been very kind to it.
Not only is DmC a fresh, new take on the series, but it does manage to retain most of the elements many have come to expect from the franchise while giving it some new characterizations and new combat mechanics. According to the development team at Ninja Theory, the Japanese creators came up with this game's idea after having played the classic Heavenly Sword. They became infatuated by the game's innovative combat and control mechanics to where they wanted this exact company to develop the next Devil May Cry game. The result is a solid, satisfying game that shines a new light on a franchise that was pushed every which way in terms of gameplay mechanics.
Taking place in an alternate world set within the Devil May Cry universe, an aloof, womanizing, and aggressive rebel named Dante is approached one morning by a cute woman named Kat. Kat claims to work for an anonymous underground organization known as The Order-a group of rebels who revolt against demonic authority and the iron fist of the demon emperor, Mundus. After being attacked by a horde of demons in Limbo, Dante fights off the onslaught and follows Kat to the organization only to discover it being run by his twin brother, Vergil. Understanding that his brother has lost his memory of his past, Vergil helps his brother to understand his origins and why The Order stands for its cause.
As I said previously, Devil May Cry was never a series that struck me as being story driven, but gameplay driven. Admittedly, I do believe that DMC 3 and 4 had the strongest stories of the Japanese predecessors. That does explain why I was not offended by this new direction because I don't look at the series from a storytelling standpoint. Anyone who has played Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, chances are: one would know how Ninja Theory is good at providing unique, satisfying gameplay with strong characters and a rich story. DmC is no exception in this case.
In contrast to the predecessors, we are given much back-story on Dante, Vergil, and Sparda. Characters that were presented as just cardboard cutouts of active characters in the hack-and-slash action genre, but likable are presented in this game as full three-dimensional beings. In the original games, we weren't given much back-story on Sparda or on the mother of the two brothers. We were told that Sparda rebelled against the ruler of the underworld, fell in love with some random human, had half-demon hybrids, and saved humanity. DmC cares to elaborate more on how Sparda rebelled and who the mother of the two twins was. It also makes the two necklaces that were presented in DMC3 a much stronger, alternate plot point. We also get a full understanding as to why Dante devotes himself to fighting demons.
In this game, the brothers' mother is revealed to have been an angel named Eva who fell in love with the demon Sparda and gave birth to twin Nephilims (half-angel and half-demon hybrids). After outraging Mundus, demons raid their home and Eva sacrifices herself in order to protect the two twins while they get separated by their father. Once Sparda is caught, he is not killed and instead banished to the deepest, darkest realm of Hell where he is constantly tormented.
Mundus' role is also altered a little. While still maintaining the status of being the ruler of the demons, Mundus isn't portrayed as the god-like figure that he was in the original game. Mundus is portrayed as a corruptly rich entrepreneur who controls the media, food processing factories, "security", and even manipulates the economy. A woman named Lilith accompanies him and leads the vice operations of Limbo City. Vergil is also portrayed as an ally to Dante and a technology wiz who helps him to understand his forgotten truth.
The story to DmC is great and adds a lot of dimensions to otherwise successful two-dimensional characters. While the story presents itself as straightforward, it does take some twists and adds some very engaging and creative elements to its gameplay. Like with Bayonetta, the story takes place in two different worlds: one of flesh and bone and the other in one in between the physical world and the afterlife that looks like a bleak, demonic rendition of Purgatorio. Unlike Bayonetta, I love how everything Dante does in that world is intertwined with the disasters that happen in the fleshly world. One example being in the beginning where Dante fights one of the hunter demons near a ferris wheel until it breaks and is portrayed on the media as being a faulty, technological happenstance. It does go to explain more clearly how Dante can see these manifested demons despite being half-demon himself. Being a Nephilim in this game's case.
This brings me to the gameplay. As was said earlier, this game borrows its combat dynamics from Heavenly Sword. After hearing about it myself, I always wondered,"Hmm. The Devil May Cry control scheme modeled after Heavenly Sword. I wonder how that will work out." Despite this difference, it works out very well. Like with the original games, DmC does manage to retain Dante's more iconic moves with Rebellion and his two pistols: Ebony and Ivory, but creates newer combos for his newer weapons. Being the hybrid he is in this game, Dante has two weapon types: Angel weapons and Demon weapons. Angel weapons glow light blue and are made for speed and range. Devil weapons glow red and are built for strength. Each has their own abilities and they play more roles in the game than just combat.
Like with Heavenly Sword, DmC's weapon transitions are very smooth and are simplified to the use of the shoulder buttons: L2 and R2 (Heavenly Sword was L1 and R1). L2 activates the Angel weapons and R2 activates the Demon weapons. The D-pad alternates the selection of guns and divine weapons. Dante can jump using X, fire his guns with Square, and use the Triangle and Circle buttons for typical to charged attacks. L1 and R1 evade in corresponding directions and L3 and R3 activate Devil Trigger. The Devil Trigger mode not only grants Dante his traditional abilities, but it allows him to slow time in the form of his Quicksilver technique from DMC3 and deliver more hard-hitting aerial combos. Unlike the original games, Dante's moves aren't categorized in relation the character's selected style. Combat is fluid, satisfying, flexible, and works very well. Each weapon serves its purpose well and is also used in cases of context-sensitivity. The game does sacrifice the lock-on feature that we all remember from the original games, but one gets used to the auto aim.
Certain enemies and obstacles can get marked by one of the two colors. The weapon of the corresponding color can only destroy the colored obstacles and enemies and either red or blue marks certain platforms. Both weapons have extension ability in both combat and platforming. The Angel weapons pull Dante toward a specific target, while the Demon weapons pull that target towards Dante. The platforming is done in the same fashion as the previous games of Dante getting from one platform to next and using scripted mechanisms to reach faraway areas. The platforming of this game does borrow the context-sensitive nature of Enslaved. These same mechanics also play a part in boss battles. These same weapons can also help to reveal hidden areas that can lead to extra red orbs, hidden keys, lost souls, and different colored doors that lead to secret missions. Orb collection and item collection is still present. Red orbs help to buy items at the divinity statues, green orbs heal Dante, and gold orbs resurrect Dante after defeat. Upgrades are purchased with upgrade points that are obtained either during or after completion of a level in accordance to the ranking. The blue and purple orbs have been replaced with green and purple crosses that can be obtained through purchase or in fragments after completing secret missions.
All that being said, I'm not going to blindly defend this game. DmC does share a few flaws. I did find the camera system to be a little problematic in situations of intense action. The boss fights are engaging and are potentially good I did feel as is they could've used a little more work in their pattern-based attacks. Like the previous games done by Ninja Theory, DmC runs off of the Unreal Engine and looks great on a technical standpoint. Since I own the PS3 version I have encountered a handful of frame rate issues during the cinematics. Despite these faults, these factors do not affect the game's playability in any way.
DmC is a fresh, great new take on the story aspect of the classic franchise that maintains its gameplay exhilaration. The game is of fair length and spawns up to 20 missions. There's a lot to unlock and a lot of variety. I'd say that with Ninja Theory, Platinum Games has met its match. I know that there still remain loyalists who are determined to protest against against this game. I consider myself one of those gamers that just take games for what they are and have fun with what they have to offer, while being selective and critical. That being said, I have played a share of bad games in my life. I do not think that the difference in perspective and feel is enough to sink this game down. I do think that judging it solely on that basis is rather close-minded. I personally doubt that this game will spell the end to the Japanese counterpart. I enjoyed DmC for what it was and I hope that Ninja Theory has a sequel to this and its aforementioned games sometime.