A year on, terrific action and set pieces make this a great deal.
When it comes down to it, I probably wouldn't have paid $60 for Devil May Cry, even though it's a genuinely terrific game. It seemed like a bit of a steep entry point for an action game, and it's in a genre I'm not terribly excited about anymore. But when it steeply dropped in price during a Black Friday sale, I decided to take a chance on it, and I'm really glad I did. Overall, this is a superbly crafted game that feels (and occasionally looks) astonishingly good.
I have little experience with the DMC franchise. I played the original in college with a friend, but I remember little of the experience or the game, save from thinking it sure was pretty. I picked up DMC 4 at some point, but I grew bored of it rapidly and ditched it for greener pastures. I didn't expect much out of this rebooted franchise, and much like Tomb Raider a month or two ago, I find myself pleasantly surprised.
There's a level of sheen and polish here that makes Devil May Cry an absolute blast to play through from start to finish. The fighting mechanics feel as precise as any action-centric platformer I've played. Combos are easy to pull off, and the way they work between enemies is pretty nifty too. Instead of combos draining or ending after a certain amount of time has gone by, they're endlessly linked through segments so long as you don't take damage. This makes it easy for even an actioner schmuck like me to rack up some impressive-looking scores at the end of each level.
The various weapons and tools feel good, too. You're assigned a regular sword, your rapid firing pistols, two other guns, and two light and dark weapons apiece. The light weapons are ranged and crowd-control types, whereas the darker weapons are heavier "boss killers." My favored combinations were the light chakrams, the dark scythe, and the good ol' pistols, and I'm proud to say the game made it easy enough to pull of slick combinations that I actually felt like a pro by the end of the game. Of course, by that point, by tht point, I was playing on easy, so of course I felt pretty great at the game. But let's not talk about that, shall we? OK, then.
Of note too are the particularly crazy bosses you'll take on. These are designed extremely well. My favorite has to be the disembodied head of a demonic version of a Fox news anchor (take your pick as to which one, but I'm going with Bill O'Reilly).
There's some terrific level design on display here too, although some are distinctly lacking any sort of wow facto. Most notable is the way the demon world seems to infuse the regular world with its corruption, leading to a warped sense of reality for Dante and some really neat visual tricks. A demonic voice will utter words and phrases to his minions and Dante from afar, and these appear imprinted on the various environments. It's a pretty simple trick, but it's evocative of, say, Man on Fire or Domino, and that's not a bad thing at all. There's a particularly neat level about three quarters of the way through wherein Dante must clear a path while a car is escaping. As the car flees, the landscape around is torn asunder in slow-motion, leaving Dante to pull vehicles, trailers, and propellers out of the way before the car hits them. If all the levels had this kind of ingenuity behind them, I probably would've given this a five star rating.
Unfortunately, though, not all the levels hold up quite so well. There's a (thankfully brief) particularly egregious level in the midst of a French-looking town, broken up into two sections. It's dull to traverse and explore. Thankfully, levels like these are usually in the minority (I'd say only about a third of the levels are dull). And while the boss designs are pretty terrific, most feel like the same kinds of boss battles you've seen a few dozen times before. You'll dodge sweeping beams of lasers, jump from hazardous platform to hazardous platform, and in general, perform the same task three or four times before the boss eventually crumbles. The last boss is a bit different, but that fight's no less annoying.
I'm also a bit unsatisfied with the upgrading of abilities, but this is mostly due to me being generally terrible at learning the proper timing and sequencing of the advanced combos you unlock through upgrading. That said, upgrade points are given out liberally, and levels can be completed over and over again to get a chance at a better score and even more money and skill points.
Some of the character designs, particularly those of Dante, Vergil, and Kat, are pretty generic and uninspired. I don't particularly give two shits if Dante's hair is blonde, black, brown, in gheri curls, or if he's got pins and needles sticking out of him like Pinhead - he's just bland here. Kat's your typical absurdly dressed, generic Barbie doll-plastic character, and Vergil's about as dull as dull can be. They all reminded me of the generic male and female characters you'd see at the beginning of a create-a-character process in, say, Saints Row or a WWE game. It's too bad, because the antagonists look pretty great.
The worst part of the game, by far, is the uninspired death metal soundtrack and score. Jesus God, the music in this game is fucking awful. I'd rather listen to country and western for the duration, and I really, really, reaaaaaally hate country music.
Bang for My Buck:
I purchased DMC at about $15. It's a pretty damned good price for the product, especially considering the amount of replay value scoremongers and collectible hunters will get out of it. Despite the action-y nature of it, there are quite a few levels here, and I never felt like I was shortchanged. I'd say it's definnitely worth around $20 - this is a year old game that's already dropped below that price point, so don't spend any more than that on it.
It's not a game I'll keep on my 360's hard drive for long, though I could possibly see myself playing back through some of the levels at some point to net more collectibles and open more doors. It took me about ten hours to beat it, but that included a couple of missions I doubled up on. Action pros should be able to finish it much quicker than that.
There are a ton of difficulty levels to unlock, including some intriguing "one shot one kill" difficulty levels for both Dante and his enemies. I doubt I'll replay through these modes, but it's pretty cool they're available and would potentially push the replayability above 20 hours or so.
Unless you have a serious aversion to its religious aspects (die hard Christians will want to steer far, far away), I really think this is the sort of game that will have a pretty widespread appeal. The action elements are terrific, the platforming is tight, and it's as good a game, if not better, than Bayonetta and Dante's Inferno, my two other favorites of the genre. I'd say give this one a shot if you're at all curious about it. It's well worth your time.