The times, they are a changin’. The Devil May Cry series has always been about marrying slick swordplay with gung-ho gunslinging, all delivered by a white-haired trash talker who turns demonic when things get rough. Ninja Theory still delivers on that experience, but the presentation and tone of the series has undertaken a marked change. Not all fans will like the result. The gameplay is noticeably more forgiving, and Dante’s appearance has been given a complete makeover. It is a firm departure from the Devil May Cry of past years, but after casting my nostalgia aside, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game exceeded my expectations.
Dante’s youthful exterior is misleading. Yes, he looks less like a demon hunter and more like a teenager working at a fast food franchise, but he still exudes confidence in his movements, his attacks and his delivery. Gamers can look forward to plenty of slow-motion cutscenes, dramatic poses, stylised settings, and the ever present sass talk. His attitude is rougher, less refined, and more profane. He represents a new age, a new generation – the youth in trouble are taking over.
The game’s themes go hand in hand with this new attitude. In DmC, the demons are secretly controlling society through debt, media bias, surveillance, advertising, and the threat of terrorism. The greater demon Mundus is the CEO of a corporation that sounds oddly like “Goldman Sachs”. Another demon controls a major media outlet called “Raptor News”, which is presumably a nod to Fox News. A succubus produces a drink called “Virility” that subdues the populace and controls their minds, invoking memories of a particular episode of Futurama.
On the other hand, Virgil, Dante’s brother, is the leader of a resistance group that shares some similarities with hacktivist group Anonymous. It’s somewhat fitting, then, that Dante takes up his sword called “Rebellion” and strikes back at the demons in the alternate reality of Limbo. (There’s an essay topic in here somewhere.)
Combat should be familiar to series’ veterans – Dante can jump and traverse, dodge attacks on the ground and in the air, and perform similar attack combinations with some identical weapon types from the original series. Apart from Rebellion, Dante’s mainstay broadsword, he has access to Devil Arms (“dark” weapons) and Angel Arms (“light” weapons), which are mapped to the right and left triggers. The control scheme lets you easily chain attacks with different weapons on the fly, rather than cycling through all your arms sequentially to pull off effective combos.
You can also pull enemies towards Dante, or pull Dante towards enemies instead. The end result is a much nimbler and more versatile character, and a control scheme that actually feels right in your hands. The overall experience instills a sense of omnipotence that I’d been missing for a long, long time.
Most of DmC‘s enemies are similar to those found in earlier games, but unlike their predecessors they are less aggressive. Some of them telegraph their attacks, holding their weapons aloft to let them shine in the light, giving you a visual cue that you should dodge or throw an attack their way. If you do happen to soak up too much damage, there are plenty of checkpoints, and you can resume from these checkpoints at any time. I feel these are the main reasons why the game has been branded as “easy”: in Devil May Cry, I feared for my life from start to finish, and I made every sliver of life count since the checkpoints were few and far between. In DmC, I didn’t experience that same adrenaline rush of cheating death, and perhaps for that reason it felt less rewarding.
But even though it may not be pushing you to the limits, it’s still a fun game. DmC retains the same formula of repelling waves of spawning enemies, and gameplay is still focused on flowing from target to target and experimenting with various attacks to build up your score meter and earn additional upgrade points.
If you haven’t already made up your mind with DmC and if you can come to terms with the fact that DmC has changed, you could do worse with your money. It may not be the pinnacle of Devil May Cry games, but it’s a damned fun game nonetheless.