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By Kris . January 19, 2013 . 4:30pm
Don’t think of DmC as Devil May Cry 5. It’s not. The gameplay isn’t the same as DMCs 1-4, and the removal of lock-on, lower gravity, and the redesigned style rank system that will only drop its level grade if you get hit have seen to that.
If you go in expecting an expansion of the combat in DMC4 (which I still consider the pinnacle of combat in action games), you’ll be disappointed and find a lot of your old muscle memory will fail you. This is not DMC5. This is DmC. And if you’re willing to open your mind to that, you’ll find that it’s a damn good game.
DmC Devil May Cry is a very different take on the DMC mythos. Dante is now a half-angel/half-demon Nephilim, Vergil uses computers more than he uses his katana Yamato (which he bizarrely mispronounces), and Mundus is a banker who actually has a bit of a personality. DmC’s world is full of sleaze, corruption, and paranoia, with a demon world lurking beneath and infecting the human one. Demons have managed to work their way into society and lurk in the background, keeping the humans docile.
I actually found myself drawn in by the way that the story was presented. While not exactly Shakespeare, it was a step up for me from DMC4′s teen-angst-punctuated-by-a-thirty-something-man-who-acts-like-a-child melodrama (I’m still mad about how ludicrous Dante was in that game, but that’s a story for another day), and it set each level up pretty well.
As for Dante, he’s not as obnoxious as some of the dialogue you may have seen on the Internet would have you believe. He’s still as flippant as ever, making terrible puns about the fights he’s in, and basically joking around with his enemies mid-fight. While I know that they’re not in the same universe, his humor reminds me of a younger, slightly more profane version DMC1′s Dante. He’s not completely over the top, but he’s still more playful than you might expect someone facing off against demons would be. There’s even a callback to DMC1′s “flock off, feather face” line. I ended up liking Dante much more than I expected to by the end of the game.
That said, considering that I thought Ninja Theory’s last collaboration with Alex Garland—Enslaved: Odyssey to the West—had great writing, I was surprisingly disappointed by that element of DmC. Garland didn’t write the script this time around (he was probably busy working on the fantastic Dredd movie), but he’s the first named credit in the game’s intro sequence, so I was still hoping for a little more than I got. DmC almost feels constrained by its 20 missions. While the world is interesting and the game offers little hints at why we should care about its characters, I wish we could have seen more of everyone. It feels like the game was more ambitious and cut down partway through development.
Even the dialogue is kind of uneven. I adore some exchanges, like Vergil explaining to Dante why he learned how to hack:
Vergil: “Guess I channeled [the feeling that his life wasn't as it seemed] into hacking—and you? How’d you find release?”
Dante: “Killing demons and getting laid… but that computer stuff sounds good, too.”
But every once in a while, dialogue like this happens:
Phineas: “You found your inner devil alright… But you have yet to discover your full potential.”
Dante: “Mainly, I just wanna kill the demon king named Mundus.”
However, even with a bum line of dialogue here and there, I actually found myself intrigued with DmC’s story. I even found myself starting new stages late into the night to see how things would play out. It’s an improvement over most of the genre (and most of the series), even if it’s a step down from Ninja Theory’s previous work. But still, the story isn’t what you come to a Devil May Cry game for, so let’s talk about combat.
Surprisingly, DmC’s greatest achievement is its combat. Before everyone links me the one-hit SSS video, hear me out.
Back in 2010, like everyone else, I figured that Ninja Theory would never be able to make anything that approached the brilliance of DMC3, so I was rather skeptical when I heard about the reboot. That having been said, it’s not immediately apparent just how good the combat in DmC Devil May Cry is. If you go into the game trying to play it like the previous games, it’s incredibly jarring. Lock-on is gone, its former location (R1) replaced by a dodge button, as is the old location of Devil Trigger (L1). Stinger (which for the uninitiated will make Dante lunge at a targeted enemy) is now performed by double-tapping forward and pressing triangle. Launchers (for the most part) are mapped to circle. Sure, there are still different combos depending on whether you pause a beat after the second attack, but even Dante’s standard sword Rebellion has one more hit in its standard combo than DMC3 and 4 do. It’s very different, but a point will come when things start to click.
Within the first three levels, the game eases you into the new combat, which involves two forms—Angel and Demon. Hold L2 to use Dante’s Angel Form, which will provide access to the faster, wider-reaching weapons in the game, as well as the Angel Lift, which allows you to latch onto enemies and zip towards them. Also increasing Dante’s mobility are the slow air-dash Angel Glide and the teleport-like Angel Dodge, which gives you a teleport to escape tricky situations or return you to the enemy you just dodged with two taps of one of the dash buttons.
Meanwhile, R2′s Demon Form is less aerially focused, giving you access to slower and heavier demon weapons, the “demon pull” which will pull enemies towards you, and the infamous Demon Dodge, which will give you a damage boost (and corresponding style rank boost) on your attacks for a short while.
Those are the basics, but it’s when the game gets a bit more complex that it gets fun. By the end of the game, you have three guns, two angel weapons, and two demon weapons that you can swap between on the fly between the two triggers and the d-pad. This allows you to do things like… stick an enemy with four timed explosive needles from the “Kablooey” gun, launch them with demon axe Arbiter’s ranged launcher, hold them airborne with Dante’s pistols, Ebony & Ivory, before re-launching them mid-descent with a shot from the shotgun Revenant, then following them into the air with an angel lift, using angelic scythe Osiris’s secondary air combo to lift them even higher into the air, swapping over to the angel chakram/glaive/shuriken thing, Aquila, and using its secondary air-combo to pull your enemy (and unfortunate souls nearby) directly in front of you in a group, and finally detonating the Kablooey needles and damaging all the enemies you just grabbed all in less time than it took you to read this sentence.
Each weapon has its own distinct uses, whether it’s the Eryx’s (the gauntlets) ability to charge a launcher that can send practically any enemy airborne or the Aquila’s ability to lock enemies in place with a single spinning blade (“Round Trip”, for those with fond memories of DMC1), and the sheer amount of flexibility you have at any given time can almost be overwhelming. It’s absolutely joyful, especially on harder difficulties.
More than any Devil May Cry before it, DmC is based around crowd control. That doesn’t mean that comboing away at a single enemy is a thing of the past, but you now have a number of moves with a wider attack radius. Even Dante’s new gauntlet weapons (the silly-looking Eryx) are capable of releasing shockwaves that emanate out from Dante’s position.
In an attempt to counter this, DmC has a number of color-coded enemies. Blue ones are only weak to angel weapons, and red ones are only weak to demon weapons. Guns won’t work on them, and Rebellion will simply bounce off. While having two of each type of weapon later in the game makes these fights more bearable, I found myself simply Devil Triggering through situations like this, which launched enemies, gave me more attack power, and disabled their weapon resistance for an all-too-brief time.
Even with the annoyance of the color-coded enemies, fighting through a big skirmish stringing combos together in DmC Devil May Cry is awesome, especially because the game isn’t afraid to throw multiple “tough” enemies at you at once.
You might cut through a wave of fodder enemies only to be greeted by a shield-generating Witch, a heavy buzzsaw-weilding butcher, and the most challenging enemy in the game (and one of the best in DMC history, in my opinion): the Drekavac. Drekavacs teleport, block bullets, and can even parry you mid-air-combo. Managing one of these in the middle of a chaotic battlefield is a blast. Fights like these are where the true joy of the game comes out. You’re constantly working on keeping your style meter up, using demon dodge to boost your attacks, and balancing crowd control and single-enemy combos. It’s a thing of beauty.
Food for Thought:
1. The upgrade system in DmC is based on DMC4′s Proud Souls system (wherein you could buy and return skills to customize your moveset), but with a few tweaks. For one thing, instead of acting as a separate currency like Proud Souls did in, you gain white orbs while fighting and they fill up a gauge. When that gauge is full, you get one upgrade point to be used as you see fit. This seems to dole out upgrades at a much more generous rate than the rather stingy system in DMC4 and allows you to try before you buy it (which was coincidentally one of my favorite things about Bayonetta).
2. I didn’t write about the game’s boss fights because they’re not much to write about. Most of them are giant-sized enemies, more setpiece than battle. That said, some of those setpieces are pretty cool.
3. There is a surprising lack of backtracking and asset reuse for a Capcom game. You only fight each boss in the game once, a first for the series!
4. Combichrist’s additions to the soundtrack make it my favorite in the series. It sounds like DMC3 but hookier.
5. Getting a good rank at the end of a stage is much easier in DmC than in previous games. Getting an S in this game is kind of like getting a B in DMC3… On the other hand, it’s nice that you don’t have to do all the orb hunting that DMC4 wanted you to do to get a good completion rank, because you only have to collect the collectables once.
6. The PS3 version of the game runs fine in combat, but has a few framerate drops, audio glitches, and odd shadowing issues in cutscenes.