Where Angels And Demons Tread – DmC: Devil May Cry Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Many fans of the Devil May Cry series were in an uproar at the announcement of the latest game, DmC: Devil May Cry, criticizing the choice to reboot the franchise and alter the protagonist Dante’s appearance – although, some started to change their tone as gameplay trailers were released. All the excitement and disappointment has been building up to this: the title’s release where angels and demons collide! How will the reboot fair? Will it ascend to the heavens as a glorious must-have, or will it fall to the pits of hell (also known as the bargain bin) for its insolence? Grab your sword, guns, and flashy trench coat, and join me as we look at the wild ride that is DmC.
As mentioned, DmC is a reboot of the series and is set in a parallel universe. Our story is delivered in mission format, and it follows the iconic protagonist, Dante (though much younger than he was before), in his quest to free humanity from the clutches of demons. Having lost his memory when he was very little, Dante spends his nights hanging out in clubs, taking in booze and strippers (both of which tend to follow him home), never really caring where life takes him. However, one day he is contacted by a young medium named Kat and a mysterious man named Vergil, who are both members of The Order – an organization set on freeing humanity from demon control. They explain to him that demons have been ruling the world behind the scenes through control of the media, drugs, and other methods.
Dante, being the brash and selfish character he is, is reluctant to help and is unsure of why they dragged him into it. It’s at this point that Vergil helps Dante discover his past, which is riddled with tragedy. His father was Sparda, previously second-in-command of the underworld, ruled by the evil and powerful Mundus. One day, Sparda fell in love with an angel named Eva, and he betrayed his leader to flee to the human world. Living in secret, Sparda and Eva had two children: Dante and Vergil. Being hybrids between angels and demons (Nephilim), they are the only ones capable of taking down the demon king. Knowing this, Mundus attacked their home when they were still children, killing Eva. Before capture, Sparda hid his children away and wiped their memories to protect them. Looking for vengeance, Dante signs on with The Order, and begins his hunt of the demon king.
What makes DmC a wonderful tale is its combination of over-the-top humor and serious drama. If you’ve ever played a Devil May Cry game before, you’ll know Dante’s carefree, playboy attitude. Quick to lash out with a sexual joke, some curse words, or excessive violence, Dante is a walking personification of the rating M for Mature. The devil side of him is brash, irresponsible, and hilarious, which gives DmC an amusing side to it – especially when supporting characters or enemies get into a verbal cuss-fight with Dante. On the other side though, there are a lot of serious and heartwarming moments too. As Dante discovers the truth about his past, he starts to show calmer emotions like regret and sorrow, showcasing the angel within him. Players will also see him open up and start to care about those around him, fearing for their safety, and wanting to help – acting less like a jerk and more like a hero. While we may be used to the more brash, action and comedy-oriented scripts of past title, this new setup for the series reboot is absolutely brilliant. For every moment of laughter, there is a scene of drama – making for an incredible mixture than can only be called DmC.
The gameplay keeps the same established formula as the originals – though considerably evolved. While some levels have parts based in the human world, the majority of the game takes place in Limbo, a twisted and chaotic would that mirrors Dante’s own, where demons walk freely. This place seems to be alive, with the walls/floors cracking, crumbling, and distorting in an attempt to halt Dante’s advances. To defend themselves and battle the demonic foes, players have both melee and projectile weapons, and can string their physical attacks into small combos – with the specific combo determined by specific buttons and the time between presses. Guns are generally weaker, but can be used to disrupt light attacks or keep the combo meter going (but more on that later). As for defense, gamers have two evade buttons to use, allowing them to roll or dash out of the way and avoid damage. On top of this, some enemy attacks can be parried, either by correct timing in your attack or by using an attack of great power. After unlocking it in the story, players are also able to enter the Devil Trigger mode that the series is known for, where Dante unleashes his inner devil to knock all nearby enemies into the air, slow time, gain extra attack and defense, as well as slowly regenerate health. Anyone who has played Devil May Cry before is going to feel right at home here, and will master the controls fairly quickly.
So what keeps the gameplay feeling fresh? Well, that would be the Angel and Demon mechanics. Early in the game, players will receive angelic and demonic weapons, which can be switched between instantly by pulling and holding LT and RT. Each weapon has its own abilities and style, such as the demonic axe being slow yet powerful, or the angelic scythe being great for attacking wide areas. Switching to these weapon modes also serves two other purposes: navigation and resistance. Every once in a while you’ll encounter an enemy that can either only be damaged by an Angel or Demon weapon, or have attacks that will yield no damage to the player as long as they are in a certain mode.
Using these tools for navigation, however, is similar to Nero’s devil arm from Devil May Cry 4. The two mechanics are life and pull, and each serves a certain purpose. Lift is used to bring Dante towards an object or enemy (sometimes resulting in Spider-Man-like swinging across different gaps), where Pull is used to… well, pull objects into different positions (often making stepping stones) or foes into close proximity. Whether it’s for combat or just to get around, the Lift and Pull mechanics add a considerable amount of depth to gameplay given their simplicity, making for a very interesting experience.
The only complaint that players may have about combat is the lack of a lock-on system. With all of these commands and skills at your fingertips, sometimes it ends up being difficult to go after the correct enemy – especially when using Lift, Pull, and guns. Many a time I’ve personally tried to Lift myself up to a certain foe, and accidentally grabbed a flyer… who just so happened to be above a pitfall. Such a small mechanic would have made the intense action that much better, but instead its absence degrades the experience.
Should things not go as planned and you’re running out of health or really need to go into Devil Trigger, then your items are going to save the day. Several tools are available for purchase at Divinity Statues placed throughout levels, or from the menu in between missions, each helping in different ways. Green stars recover health, purple ones fill the Devil Trigger meter, yellow orbs will revive you should you parish, and green/purple crosses extend your health/trigger meter’s total size. To purchase these fine products, you’ll need red orbs – which are dropped by slain enemies. Also dropped are white orbs, which are used to learn new abilities. Pick up enough of these orbs and you’ll earn an unlock point, which can be used to unlock new skills and combos, or upgrade current ones (which can also be done at Divinity Statues or in between rounds). Made a mistake or don’t like your last unlock? Fret not, as you may remove points from learned skills for relocation whenever you want, preventing accidental selection blues.
To really get the most out of each mission, there are several collectables littered around for you to find. Most notable are the keys, which can open different doors around levels. There are four types of keys: copper, silver, argent, and golden – each having matching doors to open. Behind said doors are short challenges, with goals such as killing a set of enemies only with a certain weapon, or reaching checkpoints within a time limit. Also found around Limbo are Lost Souls, human beings trapped within the rift. Destroying these souls will release them, offering bonus red orbs. These collectables help to both challenge players, while giving them something extra to keep an eye out for: increasing replayability.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Devil May Cry game if it didn’t have scoring. As players string together different combos and attacks, they’ll see their style meter increasing – starting at D and ending in SSS. To reach higher degrees, gamers need to vary their attack strategy (as repeating the same action will stop filling the meter) and avoid enemy attacks because if you get hit, the meter resets. At the end of the mission, you’re given a final score based on style, duration, and completion – and are penalized if you used an item or died. However, your outcome is also rewarded in white orbs, meaning the better you play the quicker you can upgrade! These final scores can also be uploaded to the online leaderboards, so you can see how you stack up against the world and your friends, giving the title a bit of a competitive side.
DmC is nothing short of stunning visually. While Dante may not look like his usual self, his British punk-rock style is still very well-designed. In fact, the same can be said for every character, whether they have been modeled to be aesthetically pleasing (like the completely adorable Kat) or purposely crafted to be disgusting (such as the she-devil Lilith), the general art direction is a splendor to behold. A special mention goes to the design for Limbo, which is constantly shifting, breaking, crawling with black ooze, and posting Mundus’ wishes in text along the walls, floors, and ceilings. Accompanying the artistic direction is incredibly smooth and beautiful animations, especially in scripted fight scenes. The visual side of DmC is going to leave you with wide eyes the entire ride, and is a great visual treat.
Only one small problem plagues DmC’s graphics, and that is the dreaded texture pop! While some base textures already look a bit rough around the edges up close, every once in a while the finalized skins do not load properly until a few seconds after the scene has started – sometimes even happening mid-scene as a new camera angle loads. This error that has haunted many a game before it is the only thing that holds the title back, as just about everything else is spot on!
In keeping with an authentic Devil May Cry feel, the title’s soundtrack is mainly comprised of songs from the bands Combichrist and Noisa. This keeps that dark electronic rock sound you’ve heard in previous titles, but the music is unique enough to keep it from sounding repetitive or reused. As for voice actors, while none of them sound overly familiar, everyone gives purely outstanding performances. While some characters in previous games have had annoying or lackluster voice actors, every word spoken in DmC is delivered exactly how it should be – bringing the amazing script to life. The actors will make you laugh in humorous moments, and yank at your feelings in the emotional ones. Whether you’re just listening from your TV speakers, or are going with full blown surround or headphones, you ears will thank you for the chance to give this title a listen.
When you pull yourself back out from Limbo and wipe the demon blood off your sword, you’ll realize that DmC: Devil May Cry is a fantastic reboot for the series. If you can get past your grudge over the decision to change things around, you’ll see that the core game you love is still there, simply wrapped in a new case. Retaining all the gameplay combat mechanics that made previous titles so addictive, a lot of new tricks help make the formula even better, with the new, more serious direction blending perfectly with the over-the-top action and comedy. Held back only slightly by a lack of lock-on and a visual issue, DmC is a must have for returning and new players alike. Grab your guns and swords, and “Let’s rock, baby!”
Final Score: 4.5 / 5.0 and a toast to excellent new beginnings!
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