Friday, December 13, 2013

DmC: Devil May Cry review (Best of 2013 Available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC)

Our Score
Awesome combo-heavy combat
Stunning graphics
The depth and feel of classic Capcom - with a twist

Not everyone will love the new direction
Loses some steam towards the end

Review Price £39.99

Available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC

DmC is everything that Capcom fans should dread. It’s a reboot of a beloved franchise with the hero transformed beyond all recognition, and one that’s been tackled by an external, Western developer. Bearing in mind Capcom’s previous experiments with Western teams – Resident Evil: Outbreak, Bionic Commando and the diabolical Dark Void spring to mind – that’s reason enough to fear the worst. Yet DmC is a triumph, not simply as good as the old Devil May Cry games but arguably better. It’s taken the best of the series and twisted it into bold new forms, yet without sacrificing the overall spirit.

DmC: Devil May Cry - A New Beginning
Let’s heap some praise on Ninja Theory – the studio behind Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. With DmC, it’s built a beautiful hybrid of its own styles and those of Capcom. You can see traces of the studio’s previous work in the visual design and the approach to storytelling, but also Capcom’s signature in the creature design, the combat and the game systems. The result is a game with one foot in the East and one foot in the West, but its heart and soul in exactly the right place.

Being a reboot, we’re back to the drawing board in terms of Dante and his world. The louche, silver-maned rake of Devil May Cry 1 to 4 is no longer, replaced by a young, cocky street punk in vest, jeans and leather parker. Dante’s brother and rival, Vergil, is now the head of a mysterious terrorist organisation, and the whole origin story of Dante’s demon father, Sparda, and angle mother, Eva, is subtly rewritten. In other respects, DmC reworks the plot of the first Devil May Cry, pitting Dante against the demon king Mundus, now the head of a shadowy organisation that secretly rules the world. From a storming opening with a running battle against a huge demonic hunter, the plot follows Dante as he explores his past, attacks Mundus’s network and takes the fight to the boss devil himself.

In terms of gameplay, DmC sits in the tradition of third-person 3D action epics that the original Devil May Cry helped invent; a tradition that now also includes God of War, Ninja Gaiden and Bayonetta. The reboot plays true to its forbears by mixing ranged weapons like pistols and shotguns with melee weapons like swords, axes and scythes, and by going big – no, make that huge – on spectacular combos. Barely a second goes by without Dante hoisting foes off the ground, flinging them into the air and juggling them with gunfire or brutal uppercut attacks to maximise the damage as they fall. Many of the enemies fit into familiar archetypes, and the new DmC has the same kind of battles against vast and repellent boss monsters as its predecessors. Dante might have changed, but the core content hasn’t.

DmC: Devil May Cry - Rebooting the Gameplay
Yet DmC does bring new things to the series. Dante's main weapons remain his sword, Rebellion, and pistols, Ebony and Ivory, but as he progresses through the game he gains access to two series of supplementary weapons, reflecting his half-angel, half-devil nature. Not only do these give you a range of options for tackling specific demon enemies, but also open up an already very expansive combo system with attacks that drag foes into slashing range or launch you towards them. Cleverly, these secondary weapons can be used instantly by using the left and right triggers as modifiers, making it easy to integrate their attacks into vicious combo chains, or switch arms while tackling different enemies at once. Finally, the game throws in the classic Devil Trigger, with a gauge for Dante to fill by slaying demons, which gives him power to enter a heavy-hitting, health-regenerating devil mode – always handy when you have a room of hell-spawned hardnuts to clear.

Combat is the bleeding heart and soul of DmC, and it's brilliant. It might not have the heft and rhythm of the fighting in God of War, but it matches Bayonetta's system for fluidity and grace, and each encounter brings new challenges and opportunities to try new combos. Heavenly Sword and Enslaved had decent action, but Ninja Theory's interpretation of Capcom's combat is easily its best work to date.

DmC: Devil May Cry - Gameplay cont.

On the non-combat side there’s good news and vaguely bad news. The bad? DmC is a fairly linear action game, and there’s little option to really explore the crumbling mansions and sinister facilities you’ll find inside. There are hardly any puzzles to solve and the focus is very much on the action. The good? Dante’s new weapons and capabilities make for some excellent platforming sections, with the new Dante easier to control and more responsive than the old. With abilities to grapple and swing from glowing blue hooks or grapple and tug glowing red ones, there’s more opportunity to interact with the environment, and chaining jumps, glides and grapples together is almost as much fun as chaining combos.

What’s more, Ninja Theory has remembered the other elements that made Devil May Cry work. Slain demons still release glowing red and green orbs in their death throes, and while DmC now uses a conventional checkpoint system, statues still allow you to spend those red orbs on health-giving stars and

DmC: Devil May Cry - A Demonic Spectacle
The gameplay, then, is phenomenal. If you love Bayonetta and God of War III, then here’s a game to match them for action. Just as importantly, here’s a game that can meet them on sheer spectacle. DmC’s smartest conceit is that the world we know co-exists with the demonic plane of Limbo, where most of the action takes place. In Limbo all bets are off. Streets crack and explode. Evil goo bubbles up to the surface. Buildings distort and distances suddenly elongate. Evil slogans and taunts appear superimposed on the architecture, and posters and ads take a sinister new turn.

It’s a dazzling effect, and DmC makes the most of it with frantic dashes through a shattered city skyline and a surreal excursion through a demon disco. One or two of the bosses lack Capcom’s monstrous imagination, but others fit in exactly with the best from Resident Evil and Devil May Cry. With Heavenly Sword and Enslaved Ninja Theory delivered visually impressive games with stunning close-up character animation, but with DmC it has surpassed itself. Technically and artistically it’s as good as anything in the genre.

DmC: Devil May Cry - Tears of Joy
At roughly twelve hours in length, the game goes on for just the right amount of time, and there’s no tacked on multiplayer option. Instead, you have options to play again at a higher difficulty level and boost your rankings and status on world leaderboards by fighting more stylishly or discovering more of the game’s collectibles. There are special stages to unlock and complete, most requiring some impressive feat of combat, and once you’ve polished off the game once, you can start again with a remixed version, played normally or with fiendishly hardcore no death conditions. This is the kind of stuff that Capcom’s biggest fans demand. As with so much else in DmC, Ninja Theory hasn’t left them wanting, and there’s more DLC on the way.

We’re sure that some Devil May Cry fans won’t like the new direction. DmC hasn’t got the camp qualities or bonkers baroque stylings of the Japanese original, and just as not everyone has taken to Daniel Craig’s Bond, so not everyone will take to the new, younger Dante. Some of the narrative’s attempts at characterisation and drama don’t quite come off – though many do – and there are some signs of a lack of ideas towards the end. Yet if you notice these minor flaws, it’s only because the overall quality level is so high. We didn’t expect it and we didn’t see it coming, but DmC is an exceptional action game. Miss it at peril to your soul.

DmC: Devil May Cry - Verdict
A reboot of Batman Begins and Casino Royale quality, which manages to be both the best game in the Devil May Cry series and Ninja Theory’s finest effort to date. While some of the baroque weirdness and high-camp style of the original games has been lost in translation, DmC delivers a great world, an interesting story, fantastic visuals and combat to match Bayonetta or God of War. Hack and slash action games just don’t get any better than this.

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