When it was announced that UK developer Ninja Theory (Enslaved, Heavenly Sword) would be producing the reboot of Capacom’s stylish beat-em-up, Devil May Cry (now known as DMC), plenty of gamers freaked over the new direction. All information pointed to a younger Dante sans-white hair, and it was generally assumed the new title would be too great a departure for longtime fans to stomach. Well y’all can worry no more, because DMC is exactly the breath of fresh air this series has needed for ages.
By setting the game in a timeline well before the events of previous installments, Ninja Theory introduces a younger Dante who is somehow more brash and hot-headed than the son of Sparda we already know. Demon slaying by day and group-sexing by night, our new hero discovers a higher purpose and his own origins after reuniting with his twin brother, Vergil. Leader of an underground anti-demon organization known as The Order (think hacker group Anonymous), Vergil jogs Dante’s amnesia-clouded brain and lets him in on the truth: there are demons living among us, and by clouding our minds via spiked energy drinks/taking over all the world’s media/ruling the economy by orchestrating mass debt, they are taking over the globe. King of all demons, Mundus, runs the show, and the brothers’ father, Sparda—once second in command in the demon hierarchy—has been imprisoned for eternity after falling in love with an angel and defying his boss to have children—Vergil and Dante. The brothers are nephilim: half-demon and half-angel, and they are the only ones who can disrupt Mundus’ stranglehold on the world. Hot damn!
Ninja Theory has long been known for killer writing, but it’s clear that stylish combat is the star of the show. This has always been the focal point in the series, and the UK developer has created a deep and satisfying combo system that takes hours to unlock and even more to master. Dante still wields the sword Rebellion and twin pistols Ebony & Ivory from previous games, but he also inherits new demonic and angelic weapons that are, in a word, badass! Melee is flawless as merely holding down one of the triggers allows our hero to utilize his new toys. Stringing attacks with each of the weapons becomes a downright pleasure, especially as more and more abilities, combos and attacks are unlocked with experience points earned by slaying the demonic hordes.
Traversal abilities become more and more exciting as each new weapon provides new means of exploration. The Osiris, for example, allows Dante to fling himself about via floating waypoint in a way that’s extremely similar to Nero’s demon arm from Devil May Cry 4. The Arbiter (a totally bitchin’ and heavy-hitting axe) allows Dante to manipulate the environment and open up new paths for exploration. This becomes particularly interesting during levels which contain hidden rooms or multiple paths.
Boss battles in Devil May Cry have been incredible since that one spider dude crawled up over the parapet in the first game, but everything is bigger and better here. There’s an almost Zelda tone to the puzzle-like nature of these battles, and some of the bosses are downright scary. One of the baddies in particular spews some pretty amazing and outrageously obscene dialogue at Dante…it seems like Ninja Theory had a total blast writing this thing. The strong and intelligent writing perfectly lends itself to the stellar voice acting as we learn that even though Dante is a hot-blooded badass, he still has a lot of heart.
Most levels take place in Limbo, a strange and distorted version of the world as we know it. Demons operate freely here, and the city itself attempts to kill Dante every chance it gets. While this is an interesting concept (particularly during a level in which we discover that the reflection of a tower seen in the city’s canal is an actual structure in Limbo), most environments and levels begin to look exactly the same. The graphics and visuals are quite beautiful for the most part, which only makes it more sad that so many are reused.
Lesser battles throughout the campaign seem to end too quickly, and despite a totally killer arsenal of moves and weaponry, it can be tricky to remember what combos to attempt. It’s almost like there’s just too many options to choose from and it isn’t long before you’ll kind of settle into a comfortable attack rut. Sure, these moves are totally awesome and everything, but since your style points meter is slowed by utilizing the same attack multiple times within a few seconds, getting those high scores becomes more a game of memorization that an exercise in acrobatic demon slaying.
New character Kat isn’t particularly interesting. She’s a witch, her foster father was a demon, she has a girl boner for Vergil, the end. This was especially disappointing after watching the bond between Tripp and Monkey in Enslaved, which is to say Ninja Theory has nailed the natural progression of relationships in the past, and it’s sad that the new girl is little more than a way for Dante to get to and from Limbo.
The Bottom Line
By injecting a new feel and a fresher hero—not to mention the title’s willingness to poke fun at itself—DMC should lay to rest any concerns fans may have. The core experience and stylishly visceral combat has never felt better, and Dante’s newer, more human persona is a much appreciated derivation from the meathead demon slayer of yesteryear. No game can be perfect, but Ninja Theory has expertly handled a beloved franchise thus proving once and for all that sometimes a fresh set of eyes is all a once proud series needs to reinvent itself. Pick this game up immediately and show Mundus that you just plain shouldn’t mess with a half demon/half angel’s family.
8.5 (out of 10)
Xbox 360, Ps3, PC
Rated M (There will be blood)