Reboots, prequels and sequels are always hit or miss – just look at Star Wars (fingers crossed for JJ Abrams). Often times, new creative teams take over and either rehash an original concept to minimal success or bastardize everything you loved about the core material. It happens in video games all the time. Then, there are those rare cases when a reboot actually takes a series to new heights, paying homage to its predecessor, while pushing the franchise in a bold new direction.
DmC: Devil May Cry falls in the latter category. Dante’s rebirth is an epic new beginning, filled with seemingly infinite combos, vivid level design and some of the best damn story telling to date for the son of Sparda – not to mention excellent voice acting.
Admittedly, I was apprehensive going into this reboot. Dante was given a new look that seemed more emo-goth. The ear-length white hair was gone, remixed with shorter black hair – and what looked like a hint of guy-liner around the eyes in the concept art. Who wants a melodramatic Dante with soppy mommy and daddy issues? Not I.
Thankfully, any emo moments that Dante may have experienced in his childhood are glossed over in less than thirty seconds. Outside of a quick, artistic montage of his childhood, the Dante we meet is one hundred percent badass. This is a guy who doesn’t care about much – outside of sex and self – until a very poignant story forces him to mature.
The game begins with Mundus, the demon king, reveling in the fact that he has just taken control of the world’s debt. By doing so, he now owns the world’s economy. Right away, the setup becomes socially relevant, especially coming off of an election year, where the fiscal cliff was a hot topic. Perhaps, Mundus is behind all of our economic woes? As Verbal said, in The Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
There is one person who stands in the demon king’s way – Dante. Mundus orders his demons to drag Dante into limbo so that they can fight him at full strength. Once Dante’s in limbo, he arms himself with his coveted Rebellion sword and his Ebony and Ivory guns. Dante can dynamically switch between the two weapons to start chaining wild combos together. Later on, players will have three different guns to choose from as well as multiple demonic and angelic weapons. Demon weapons tend to be strong and cover short distances; they can also be used to break shields. Angelic weapons are generally weaker and used for distance; they can also juggle enemies. With each attack, you’ll see your combo meter rise, with ranks going from D all the way up to SSS.
The deep combat system is truly impressive so chaining combos together doesn’t simply boil down to button mashing. The combo score keeps you actively motivated to switch up your attacks mid-battle. Players will start off with their Rebellion blade and immediately switch to a bullet storm from above with the Ebony and Ivory guns, then spin a few demons in mid-air with the angelic Osiris scythe, before ultimately laying the smackdown with the demonic Arbiter axe. It’s a fight against your own ego as you strive to achieve an A-rank or higher every time. The combos are as intricate as your imagination and get more complex as you unlock new abilities for each weapon. Just don’t forget to dodge that attack from an ice demon creeping up behind you. Players will also be scored with an overall rank at the end of a mission, based on various factors such as completion time, style, deaths and number of items used.
The wickedly good story is backed up by the game’s hellishly vibrant, level design. Traveling back-and-forth between the real world and limbo is a visual treat of smart artistic choices. A simple soda factory in the real world will look like a mad-demon scientist laboratory in limbo. Mundane city streets and nightclubs all take on oversaturated colors and demonic landscapes in limbo. You’ll never look at the real world quite the same way (especially soda) as you cut between reality and limbo to see what’s really going on behind-the-scenes of everyday life.
When you’re twenty percent into the game, DmC becomes part platformer. Your demon arm lets you pull platforms closer, while your angel arm lets you grapple onto distant platforms. These same nuances can be used in combat. You can pull enemies closer to you or pull yourself closer to the enemy.
During your first big-boss battle with these angel-demon hooks, the combination of platforming and weapons is an utter delight. However, after the third or forth of these boss battles, things start to get repetitive. You’re always targeting the glowing blue or red weak point. The bosses vary in look and style, but the strategy always feels the same. Dante can later activate a Devil Trigger, which is his overdrive mode. It takes away the difficulty from these boss encounters because you can do a lot of damage in this mode. However, three additional levels of difficulty open up once you beat the game; there are also plenty of secret doors to revisit after unlocking all of the weapons.
Probably one of my favorite artistic choices in the game is the use of documentary camera angles in several of the shots. One of Mundus’ operations is the Raptor News Network. So there are a lot of different dirty camera angles, snap zooms and security cam footage. It’s a nice touch to keep the story moving along at a brisk pace.
Dante is excellently voiced without the need for any over acting. Unlike what you’d see in Grand Theft Auto games where the characters are caricatures, everyone in DmC (save Mundus and his concubine) tend to be very underplayed. It creates a great banter between Dante and his brother Vergil as well as Kat, a psychic who helps you travel to-and-from limbo. The solid character voicing allows for several introspective moments as well as humor.
As 2013’s first big action-adventure game, DmC: Devil May Cry is an overwhelming success. This game succeeds in revitalizing a beloved franchise for a new generation of gamers, while keeping all the intrinsic strengths of the original series. The art design, direction, and character voicing do a superb job in complimenting the multi-layered story. While there are moments when the beat ‘em up action becomes a game of arena survival, the complex combat chains keep each battle fresh and challenging. If you’ve never played Devil May Cry before (and shame on you for admitting that), then let DmC be your must-jump-on point.