It’s becoming common for Japanese publishers to outsource work on their somewhat stagnant intellectual property to Western Studios. DMC: Devil May Cry is Capcom and Ninja Theory’s latest effort in rebooting a beloved series. It’s difficult not to feel sorry for Ninja Theory, the original Devil May Cry was one of the most well received titles available on the Playstaton 2, and absolutely groundbreaking for its time, so they’re left with some absolutely huge shoes to fill in Capcom’s wake. It’s something of a lose lose scenario really, irrespective of what they achieve with DMC, trivial aesthetic and stylistic details are going to dishearten fans of the original series. It’s safe to say DMC is the hack and slash tour-de-force it once was, or near enough, but ultimately given Ninja Theory’s burden, is that even enough?
DMC kicks off with the introduction of our obnoxious hero, Dante. Similar to games prior DMC kicks things off with over the top action from the get go, but this game has a distinctly different style. Frankly, it’s a little more grounded. Whilst he’s not quite as ‘bad ass’ as his gray haired counterpart, Dante comes to be a much more believable, and frankly likable personality. The same can be said for the rest of the cast, Virgil particularly has much more interaction with Dante this time around and it’s interesting to see how the relationship of these two brothers develops from a different perspective.
The games narrative is solid, Vergil, Dante and the rest of the cast are all characterized better than they have been in any DMC games prior. Motivations are clearly iterated from the get go and as a result it’s much easier to relate to the games characters and plot. The games story sees Dante attempting to overthrow Demon King Mundus who rules over the human world. It’s a pretty predictable experience but a wild ride none the less. Sadly the game clocks in a little shorter than prior DMC titles at around 8hours, but as with any DMC game there’s plenty of replay-ability through the plethora of additional difficulties and collectibles.
Of course with Ninja Theory at the helm the very least you can expect is a spectacular cinematic experience, DMC is no exception. The game is packed with cut-scenes and cinematic gameplay sequences. Some of this is enjoyable, others, not so much. As Dante’s dragged into limbo (an alternate, demonic reality) you’ll find the floors and environments collapsing around you, the effects are indeed pretty but these sequences only serve to reinforce the games linearity. This serves to you through linear corridors and pathways all too frequently, it’s a palatable component to the game but one that’s largely devoid of challenge and eventually feels like a waste of time. Unfortunately these linear sequences take the place of where prior DMC games introduced elements of exploration, no longer do you need to backtrack through environments in search of keys and other components that impede progress. If you’re looking for an all-action experience DMC handles things better, but I felt the occasional puzzle or bout of exploration would have aided the games pacing and made the whole affair feel less linear in nature.
Naturally this is all largely irrelevant though, the hack and slash gameplay will always be the definition, and thereby measure of quality of any DMC game. Fortunately for fans, this is where DMC shines. Whilst this reboot comes with a drop in framerate (from 60 to 30) the game looks smooth. Not quite as much as DMC games prior but the drop in frames isn’t significant enough to effect the gameplay negatively to any significant degree. Mechanically the game features distinct differences to prior DMC games, the circle button is now dedicated button for launching enemies into the air. As a result the games aerial combos are much more accessible than they once were, you don’t need to be particularly talented to juggle an enemy infinitely in the sky. The games learning curve has been largely removed due to the simple fact that the game controls better than prior DMC games, fundamentally; mechanically most of what made DMC great is still intact. There’s an abundance of flexibility added to the combos available as you can access Dante’s alternate angel and demon weapons with L2 and R2 at any time during gameplay.
Enemy variety is similar to prior DMC games, or any hack and slash for that matter. Ground-based grunts merely serve as punchbags for your spectacular combos, alongside a mixture of heavier to huge ground base enemies which take more attuned strategy to defeat. Quite frequently your angel and demon powers need to be interchanged in order to defeat enemies with corresponding properties. For instance a fire knight can cover the arena in fire, the only way to avoid damage is to use demon form and those corresponding weapons. Similarly you can use your angel and demon grappling hooks to effect enemies in difficult ways, the latter pulls enemies towards you and the former you towards them. You’ll find yourself using this to chain together endless air combos, and pulling hulking behemoths to the ground so you can wale on their head, it’s fun stuff.
DMC’s gameplay is largely, immensely enjoyable. It’s not quite hack and slash at its finest but it’s all mechanically sound, Ninja Theory have done a good job in capturing the feel of prior DMC games and placing it into their own. However the accessible nature of the gameplay will likely turn off a lot of the original DMC’s more hardcore fans. Bosses are remarkable in their design but their patterns are simplistic and easy to read. Dodging generally is relatively easy and DMC veterans will find the game a cakewalk on any of its stock difficulties. With all that said it’s difficult to deny the games fun-factor, if you weren’t a pro on prior DMC games it’s very possible you’ll find the accessibility that others will resent, endearing and it’s great that Ninja Theory are able to bring the DMC series to a wider audience with a superior control scheme.
Overall Ninja Theory have done a spectacular job and if critiqued without comparison to prior DMC games it would easier to perceive it as a better experience than it is. As it stands however DMC sees improvements in various departments such as cinematic, graphical, and narrative. However it’s true that the game trades style for substance offering a simplified hack and slash experience but it’s a very good effort from Ninja Theory and a sound basis for a rebooted Devil May Cry series.