2013 may have barely even started, but we already have one of the biggest releases of the year with us. DmC: Devil May Cry has been a constant source of debate amongst gamers since it’s public debut in 2010, and despite the incredibly positive previews not always for the better. However, Electronic Theatre has often maintained that gamers are the last people you should ask when wondering what it is that gamers actually want, and DmC: Devil May Cry is a cast iron example of the reasons why.
The elephant in the room here is the new look. DmC: Devil May Cry is a reboot of one of the defining action titles of the previous generation of consoles. Along with the likes of God of War and God Hand, the original Devil May Cry trilogy rounded-out a genre that was truly making use of its host system in a way that others could only dream of doing. These were true recreations of the classic scrolling beat-‘em-up on modern hardware, making the leap into 3D not by default, but with a passion for both their heritage and the new potential that was unlocked with more powerful hardware. Devil May Cry 4 however, launching in the early days of the current-generation, was merely a graphical update. Utilising the same formula we’d all seen three times previously Devil May Cry 4 achieved critical acclaim and modest commercial success, but failed to truly astound anyone. Enter Ninja Theory and their mission to do Dante justice: a modernisation built from the ground up for a modern audience, on modern hardware.
Of course, DmC: Devil May Cry is still a Devil May Cry videogame, meaning that it sees our hero Dante fighting against hordes of demons and brutal, screen-filling bosses with a variety of lightning fast combos. And just like the series’ previous high point – Devil May Cry 3 – players are limited by their knowledge of the combat system than by animation sequences or stuttered inputs. Combos are created by mixing together all of the available manoeuvres (unlocked at special statues and between missions through spending upgrade points) in any order the player chooses. Of course, there are certain combinations that work better than others, but learning which are the superior openers and finishers is part of the joy.
DmC: Devil May Cry features a variety of movesets, but these no longer come from switching combat styles. Instead the player begins with the basic sword (Rebellion) and twin pistols (Ebony & Ivory) and will gain additional weapons in the early levels. These weapons each offer a new series of different attacks which can be introduced into a combo at any point; players are positively encouraged to use varying movesets to increase the stylish nature of their combos, thus increasing their score and bringing them closer to those all-important ‘SSS’ ranks. Further to this player-centric design there are dozens of enemies that require different strategies to take down, and DmC: Devil May Cry regularly mixes many different types to provide fresh challenges. The combat system is simply a top grade production, comparable even to the likes of Bayonetta in its fluidity and the level of skill demanded, yet comfortably allowing players to develop with practice.
Sadly, DmC: Devil May Cry does omit much of the puzzle solving gameplay of it’s predecessors in favour of the combat action. Much like Devil may Cry 4, DmC: Devil May Cry opts for a linear structure that moves the player from one combat sequence to another, with hidden extras available when replaying earlier missions with new weapons. There are also side missions – objects to find, special challenges unlocked by collecting hidden keys – that provide ample distraction from the already lengthy campaign.
The art direction and Hollywood influenced delivery and pacing make DmC: Devil May Cry one of the defining titles of the current-generation: the last seven years have been building to presentation that oozes with style and glitz in the same way that From Dusk til Dawn defines an era of mature cinematography more than it offers an intriguing story. DmC: Devil May Cry is a tour de force of technical capability and modern delivery, and aside from the odd unfortunately placed loading delay, is practically flawless.
The voice acting is incredibly well delivered reinforcing the feeling that DmC: Devil May Cry is more Hollywood than bedroom coding, as has been the direction of the videogames industry’s current for more than twenty years. The soundtrack is also remarkable, with strikingly powerful metal supporting the action exactly when needed; it might be otherwise disposable, but here in DmC: Devil May Cry it clear that Ninja Theory has made the decisions that suit the experience best, including having bands from outside of the studio create the soundtrack.
While the previous generation of consoles found itself struggling to define the 3D scrolling beat-‘em-up outside of the Devil May Cry series there is no such issue on modern hardware. Titles such as Bayonetta, God of War III, Lollipop Chainsaw and the forthcoming Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance showcase the results of allowing a genre to mature, and as such Ninja Theory had their work cut out to prove that not only could they compete, but that they could bring the Devil May Cry franchise back to the frontline. DmC: Devil May Cry does exactly this, achieving all of its goals with style and wit; appealing to a younger demographic whilst providing enough of a hook to maintain the interest of the mature gamer. DmC: Devil May Cry enters a crowded genre and boldly states it’s taking charge, and none could deny it’s right to do so.