The reboot has become a pop culture staple, Hollywood consistently reboots, often and unnecessarily quickly (Spiderman) and often failing (the laughable Conan The Barbarian), even Madonna presses her reboot button every couple of years or so. As video game franchises get older it is inevitable that publishers and developers are going to want to reinvigorate their franchises to appeal to and gain new audiences. However reboots are a risky business, Fallout 3 worked, I have high hopes for Tomb Raider, but the likes of Duke Nukem Forever and Prince of Persia are prime examples of videogame reboot failure. The risk of upsetting legions of hardcore fans is great; they are not always going to be happy with the new direction a development team may take with their beloved franchise.
This was evident when it was revealed that UK based developers Ninja Theory would be developing Capcom’s newest Devil May Cry outing. When images of a youthful dark haired Dante began surfacing last year community backlash went off the Richter scale, an emo Dante? Dark hair? Hell no! The masses cried, dropping controllers and taking forums by storm. I too being a pessimistic glass half empty kind of guy also thought the new look was unappealing. But rest assured the new Dante is not an over sensitive, angst ridden teenager, worried about his penis size, who is going to kill himself at the first sign of demon trouble. In fact the new Dante grew on me, thanks to some decent voice acting, character development, lots of swearing and some fun game play.
The story sees Dante start off as a nihilistic and self interested Nephilim (half angel half demon), a reluctant hero drawn into the fight between good and evil. His initial motivations for joining the fight are selfish, namely revenge on those who murdered his mother and imprisoned his father. The big bad being Mundus the demon king. Mundus and his mistress Lilith manipulate the world from behind the scenes through mass debt, the mass media and junk food. While not quite as profound as it likes to think it is, the story does take a good swipe at capitalism. Mundus is keeping humanity enslaved through debt, he manufactures a soft drink that keeps the populace docile, whilst monitoring and controlling the masses through his Raptor news network.
These thinly veiled attacks on consumerism and American news networks are interesting and amusing but not quite high satire. There is even an early reference to Anonymous, with one of the characters wearing a mask very similar to the V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes one. Ultimately the story is predictable, and a very westernised version of Dante that left me wanting for some of the incoherent bat-shit insanity of previous outings. Although westernised, it does make for a more accessible coherent story and Dante’s character development throughout the story arc is a high point. After my initial dislike for the new Dante, he grew on me greatly and I ended up liking the character a lot. He is more aggressive than the Dante of old and swears like a sailor, but I found him really quite endearing, as he finds his aim in life and finally becomes a true anti-hero.
The new main game mechanic is where Dante gets dragged between the real world and ‘Limbo’ (the demon world). Initially the art direction grated on me, it took the first 3 levels before I began to enjoy it. When Dante gets dragged into Limbo, all Hell literally breaks loose and makes for some interesting environments. The world of Limbo is a fragmented version of the real world where the scenery gets ripped and twisted into many pieces and the perspective of the real world drastically changes. This allows for some sound plat-forming as physical boundaries are pushed to their limits. Dante traverses the torn scenery by using his demon and angelic powers to pull and push platforms around him whilst catapulting himself from one destination to the next via grapple points on ledges. Cue lots of lots of floating platforms to jump, double jump, mid-air dash, grapple, dash, grapple again, double jump again mayhem. This time there is also more emphasis on exploration as the collectables: lost souls, keys, and secret mission rooms are hidden throughout the levels and are often inaccessible until you get the next weapon or unlock an ability to reach them, this adds replay value for the next play through.
When the game begins you are equipped with Dante’s sword Rebellion and his guns Ebony and Ivory. Initially the combat is very simplistic and essentially amounts to a couple of moves but as with all DMC games Dante’s arsenal increases as the game progresses and this is the highlight of the game.
Dante’s styles have been replaced by angelic (quick) and demonic (heavy) weapons, these modes are accessed by holding down the left or right triggers respectively, at first I found it a bit fiddly, but was soon got the hang of things and found that the combat system was intuitive. By the end of the campaign you will have acquired five melee weapons and three guns, all upgradeable, all available at any given moment and all awesome, making you a total badass demon slayer. The combat has enormous depth and variety and you will soon be stringing some truly awesome combos together. None of the weapons are redundant; they all have demon slaying merit and are a lot of fun to play around with.
There really is a great amount of depth, variety, and fun to be had in the combat that does not let the franchise down.
Anyone familiar with the series will appreciate that the core mechanics are still present; this is still definitely a Devil May Cry game. The Style meter is back and lists the scores and the moves incorporated into your combos. The more moves you chain together and the more varied they are the, the higher the rank you achieve. Just continuously mashing the same attack over and over again will only yield a D rank, but once you start chaining attacks together you will soon be achieving A ranks and even the coveted SSS rank.
After every mission you will be graded based on your style, time, level completion (keys, doors, lost souls), on how many items you've used and how many deaths you had. Depending on how well you did you will be awarded bonus white orbs, fill the white orb counter and you get another point spend on unlocking Dante’s moves and weapon abilities and of course you collect red orbs to spend on items. There is no lock on mode, which at first I thought was weird and a bad choice on Ninja Theory’s part, but there were only a handful of occasions where this was frustrating, generally the auto lock handled things pretty well. Devil Trigger is also back, but sadly I did not find it as awesome this time round. Instigating the DT before would enhance your abilities and holding the DT button before activating could give way to some strategic energy blasts for clearing bunches of enemies. Now the DT just blasts the enemies in the air for you to go combo crazy on for short amount of time. The game also takes Nero from DMC 4’s grapple abilities further, as Dante is now able to pull himself toward enemies as well as pull them towards him, I found this highly enjoyable and added extra dimension to combo stringing.
However due to the fluidity of the combat system the difficulty is undeniably easier, even novices should have no problem racking up SSS scores, although this makes DMC more accessible than its predecessors, I would recommend any DMC veterans to jump straight into the harder difficulty settings. Enemy wise, the character models are all suitably DMC, there are flying enemies, the usual tank types, canon fodder and some pretty nimble mini bosses that start turning up late in the game. There are also some enemies that can only be destroyed by specifically using either your angelic or demonic weapons on them. This opens up some interesting battle scenarios, especially when there are a bunch of these enemies mixed up with the standard fodder, you really have to think on the fly as you quickly change weapons to adapt to your foes weakness, without getting mobbed by the rest of the room.
Boss battles are a DMC staple and are suitably big and grandiose occasions they look great, but are also too easy, work out the pattern (and they all sign-post their attacks) and you will be whaling on them in no time. Once figured out, I can’t see them being too difficult on the harder settings either. But they do look sweet and the dialogue in them is generally outrageously foul and funny the most memorable being in the soft drink factory, where Virility the drink in the game is manufactured in a very gross way (I have often wondered how they make cherry coke taste so disgusting now I know). The boss here spouts profanity at Dante that would even make Pazuzu (the demon from The Exorcist) blush. The voice acting is spot on throughout although some of the dialogue is pretty cheesy, but this keeps in with the old franchise. Soundtrack wise, I had never heard of Noisia or Combichrist before (excuse my ignorance, I am getting old) and I am not in a hurry to download the mp3’s either, but did not find the dark, bass heavy soundtrack irritating or headache inducing. In fact during the Lilith nightclub level I thought the music was perfectly apt and found myself merrily bobbing my head and tapping my foot away as I was racking up the style points.
Devil May Cry is not perfect and it is initially easier, but it’s not Dante lite, it’s more of a club sandwich than a salad. I beat the game on normal mode (Devil Hunter) in just over ten hours. Anyone looking to 100% the game will get a lot out of it, there are achievements for killing a ton load of enemies, the prerequisite secret missions to complete and of course collectables, but with the challenge of the higher difficulties the replay ability for finger ninjas is great, but casual gamers will definitely get two play-throughs. Anyone who enjoys 3rd person hack and slash action games is going to get their moneys worth.
Like them or not, reboots are here to stay and Ninja Theory has done a solid job with one.