domstercool's DmC Devil May Cry (PlayStation 3) review

This is a title that gets most of the important parts right when it comes to an action game

From its initial reveal, DmC: Devil May Cry (DmC) was slapped in the face with a lot of negativity. Let’s be honest with each other: As gamers, we shout out for refreshing new ideas and mechanics, but some fans hate it when a different company touches “their” dear franchises and messes with the aesthetics or the formula. This was evident as soon as people saw Dante’s new redesign. Screw talking about the gameplay, all they wanted to do was stomp on Ninja Theory and hate on the game because Dante no longer looked like his original self – silly reasons, really. Now that the game is out, I am happy to say that Ninja Theory has created a stylish action game that embodies the previous games, but with a new flair of British flavour that blends together with some great level designs and an elegant, flowing combat system that makes for a wonderful action game.

Being a reboot to the series means that the plot you have been following up to now needs to be pushed aside and made way for Ninja Theory’s take on the world of DmC. Dante is still a cocky guy who is not afraid of his confidence and abilities, but this time he comes with a rather dirty mouth and a modern and westernised punk-like attitude, as he swears his way through the demon spawn and gets funky with half-naked females. Dante is the son of Sparda, a demon, and Eva, an angel, and together with Vergil are both Nephilims (Half-Demon, Half-Angel bred), and are the only beings capable of taking down Mundus, the king of the demon world. The game focuses on the brothers and another person, Kat, a young female who has a painful past of her own, as they struggle to stop Mundus from ruling Limbo City. At the same time, the player discovers about Dante’s past and his hidden powers within. This is an alternative universe, but the game also acts as an origins story to how Dante became such a freaking awesome demon hunter.

Story is more of a focus this time around, which for the most part is a good thing, showing quality cinematic scenes that at the same time manage to stay crazy but with less cheesiness than before. However, the emphasis on story means that sometimes the flow of the game and its combat is interrupted with small set pieces of dialogue and forced walking on the player. It does not happen often, but when it does it can be a momentum breaker, especially after you are pumped up from the mission before and are raring to continue your demon arse-kicking. Apart from that slight problem, the cutscenes and story are amusing from start to finish and is sure to please people who do not mind a game trying a little too hard for cheap adult laughs.

At the core of every Devil May Cry (let’s ignore Devil May Cry 2, since that game was a mess) is an intuitive stylish combat system that is deeper than most action games would care to go with their fighting mechanics. The combat in DmC is no different in that regard. It takes the old games as a base, such as some familiar combos and the orb-based upgrade system for earning new moves, and then Ninja Theory threw in their own twists on the formula to make for some very classy action that keeps the player excited through the game’s 20 missions.

Dante comes equipped with his trademark Ebony and Ivory pistols (Square Button) and his Rebellion sword (Triangle Button, Circle for launching). As Dante progresses through the game he gains access to demon and angel weapons, and with a cleverly-thought-out control scheme, players can hold down either R2 to switch to the demon weapon or L2 to switch to the angel weapon. Letting go of the button will revert Dante back to his Rebellion sword. This allows for some extended chaining of combos, as when you reach the end of a string you can switch to another weapon and continuing chaining and then again after that. It is a notable inclusion that removes the limitation of having to equip weapons at the start of a mission and gives Dante access to all his weapons at one time.

There is not only that, because Dante gains an additional angel and demon weapon, but since there is no equipment option, the game puts the demon weapons to the Right D-Pad and the angel weapons to the Left D-pad. With a quick flick of a direction the weapon will switch to the other one. These can be linked into combos, so you can technically drill an enemy with one demon weapon and then switch to the other one and carry on styling. Demon weapons include the Arbiter axe (a giant axe) and the Eryx, a pair of gauntlets that let you hammer your opponents with your fists. On the angel side there is the Osiris scythe that powers up the more you use it and the Aquila, a pair of large shuriken-style blades that can be throw out like frisbees or used to trap enemies in their place so they cannot attack. There is a lot of freedom in the combat system to experiment chaining different moves together.

Variety is thrown into combat with coloured enemies, where they can only be killed with a demon or angel weapon. This does not happen too often, so you are mostly free to go about using any weapon you want. The combat is not all rosy, though. For one, I felt that a lot of the boss fights were rather basic in gameplay design, with only one being memorable. Another problem is the distinctive lack of lock-on, which can mess up your combos in the latter half of the game where the enemies are grouped together more often. The game does a good job, for the most part, of targeting the right enemy, but at times it decided to target an enemy that I did not want to shoot. This is mainly a problem for the guns and not the melee attacks.

Concerns were raised that the game might be easier than previous titles. That is certainly the case if you play on the normal “Devil Hunter” setting, as the game is more forgiving than, say,Devil May Cry 3. The style system feels easier to gain SSS ranks on the normal setting, mainly due to the angel and devil grapple that allows you to pull enemies towards you or pull you towards them. This is a key component in keeping the combo chain alive and styling up to that elusive rank. When cranking up the difficulty, getting those SSS ranks does become harder, as taking damage drops your rank, along with the repeated use of the same move. The game stresses the importance of changing weapons to keep gaining the most points possible and this keeps the combat addictive, especially if you are into leaderboards, as each mission records your total points and ranks you against the world on that difficulty. I see the standard difficulty as the one for new gamers that are coming to the series, while after that the game steps up for the hardcore with Son of Sparda, Dante Must Die, Heaven and Hell, and Hell and Hell (die in one hit and enemies have normal health) difficulties.

Dante spends a lot of his time in Limbo, the parallel dimension of Limbo City. Limbo allows the world to be broken apart and in turn creates a lot of platforming elements. Platforming was a bit of a sore part of the older games, as the controls were never fluent enough to carry the accuracy needed for jumps. Ninja Theory has overcome this with the use of the angel/demon whip and is used often to pull Dante towards platforms. It mixes this up with the use of the angel dash, which thrusts Dante forward in a gliding motion, to make for some compelling platform sections. The level design in general is mostly exceptional and it is all varied, constantly pushing you forward at a fast pace through vivid colour palettes and environments covering fairgrounds, destroyed cities, underground layers, mansions and even a nightclub – probably my favourite level in the game due to its unique nature. If you like to finish games 100%, then you will be happy to know that each mission contains hidden keys, secret mission doors and lost souls that need to be discovered.

Using the Unreal Engine 3 for a game like this meant that the console versions are running at 30 frames per second to keep the visual quality high. This is not exactly the best way to run a game that has a high focus on smooth combat animations and transitions, but in all honesty, the feel of the game is still very good. It is hard to determine if the 60FPS of the PC version will make the combat feel better in this game, because it depends on how it was developed. It is a shame that the PS3 version can suffer from some slowdown during cutscenes. During gameplay, the game mostly holds up, with a slight dip in frames when the screen is filled with enemies.

All my worries for the game were gone after playing through Ninja Theory’s take on the Devil May Cry franchise. This is a title that gets most of the important parts right when it comes to an action game. It makes you feel like a bad arse, thanks to the cool-looking combat and easy-to-produce combos, but remains deep to allow people to delve into the system and pull off some wild moves. This new world is interesting, well-produced, stylish and full of character. I hope Ninja Theory get another chance with the franchise to fix some of the smaller issues with the game and produce one hell of a combat-focused action sequel, because they are certainly heading in the right direction with this first attempt.

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