Dante is back to battling demons in Ninja Theory’s reboot of the Devil May Cry franchise. Waking up with a hangover in a dark, shattered world, half-angel, half-demon, and all-badass Dante is pulled at once into Limbo, where the demon world blends with the real world and most of the game’s action takes place. The blend of combat and platforming will get your blood pumping, but the longer cut-scenes can start to counteract the adrenaline rush. Dante also got a major makeover, which is likely to offend franchise purists, but his new hair and general style do great work in making him seem more of a modern day antihero, rather than an anachronism.
From fighting hordes of demons to outrunning a collapsing environment, the gameplay is exceedingly fast-paced, so you’ll need to have a pretty good handle on the complex weapon system to be able to progress through the game smoothly. You’re still being judged at all times during combat with the style ranking system providing constant feedback on your performance, so you’ll want to vary up your attacks while you toss and juggle enemies around the screen to get the highest score possible for each encounter. Particularly useful for chaining combos are your twin pistols, Ebony and Ivory, and your grappling hooks, which can pull you to the enemy, or pull the enemy to you. Using the grappling hook to zip between enemies, dodge attacks, and beef up your combos, is some of the most fun you’ll have in DmC, and you’ll rarely find yourself lacking in opportunity to employ what may be Dante’s most useful accessory.
The movement and camera controls are fairly intuitive, so you’ll get to focus your energies on learning the complexities of the weapons system. As you move through the game, you’ll earn new weapons to aid you with your demon slaying agenda, such as Osiris, your angelic scythe, which is particularly adept at taking on masses of demons from all sides. Each weapon will specialize in a different situation, and some enemies are only susceptible to specific weapon types, though ultimately you’ll find yourself using all of your weapons with some regularity, if only to keep your juggles interesting. The biggest trouble with the weapons system is the time it takes to really get the hang of switching quickly between weapons in the middle of a combo in order to increase your style points. Once you’ve put in the time, however, you’ll feel seriously hardcore as you cleave your way through swaths of enemies without breaking a sweat.
One major concern with the game is a total lack of direction while in a mission. Without many cues as to where you’re supposed to go, and lacking a compass or map to reference, it can be easy to get lost even in the enclosed spaces, as many rooms and areas look very similar. Similarly, in various places you may find yourself unable to move forward until you locate an obscured grapple point on the wall somewhere, which can mean spending several minutes wandering around a small area with no action to keep you entertained. Likewise, unless you have a superb sense of direction, you’ll likely find yourself running the wrong way after an encounter on occasion, as it is very easy to get turned around during combat and the way forward is rarely obvious. In one stage, for example, you’re running through the subway, and it is very easy to accidentally start back-tracking in here, as there aren’t any direction indicators telling you which way you should be going, and subway walls naturally look largely the same regardless of which direction you’re traveling.
While few and far between, there are also some bugs present in DMC that can really put a damper on the experience. For example, it is possible for a mini-boss to fail to spawn when it should, which leaves you trapped in a tiny area. In order to proceed, you’re forced to restart the entire level, which can be maddening, especially on a challenging stage where you may have had to use one of your precious, and increasingly expensive, extra lives to get through the first time.
The progress system in DmC is solid, without a doubt, and frequent checkpoints make sure that you never lose too much progress, even if you royally screw up. While you have access to Golden Orbs, which allow you to respawn immediately, they cost money to acquire, and become more expensive the more you purchase. You can simply let yourself die, however, and you’ll be knocked back to the latest checkpoint, which is typically not more than a screen or two away from where you died. The best thing about the respawn system is that it allows you to take on tougher encounters, since you can simply spend an orb to jump right back into the action, with your enemies already weakened from your first attempt.
Despite a couple of problems, Devil May Cry is a lot of fun for any fan of action melee, whether or not they’re veterans of the franchise. The style rating system gives you a reason to play through multiple times as well as motivating you to explore using the entirety of the arsenal made available to you. Thought it takes a lot of time to get used to, the weapon system does a fine job of making you feel in control, even if you’re just frantically mashing buttons. Aside from Dante’s cheesy one-liners, the atmosphere of the game is dark and brutal, with the shattered environments adding to the feeling of a world on the verge of annihilation.
Bottom Line: The combat in Devil May Cry gets to be repetitive when you play for too long in one sitting, but the missions are well designed for playing in short bursts and picking it back up later.
Recommendation: If you’re a fan of the genre or the franchise, or interested in learning the ropes, then DMC will not disappoint you. If you’re easily frustrated, however, or you’re not interested in hack-and-slashes in general, it is probably worth giving this a miss.[rating=3.5]
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Developer: Ninja Theory
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360