Last time I focused purely on combat. This time around I’ll cut right to the chase and judge the game on its remaining traits, its much lauded story, it’s also much lauded art, and time permitting the ongoing PR debacle surrounding it.
Those of you who had to take the SAT/ACT tests will appreciate this. DmC: Devil May Cry is to the DMC franchise as M. Night Shamalayans The Last Airbender is to the Avatar: The Last Airbender TV series. A faulty, grim reimagining that completely misses the spirit of the source materials ability to be light hearted but able to pull off melodrama. If you didn’t watch that show or movie, consider this one then, think about the movie Ghostbusters, most people have seen that. It took paranormal horror material and made it something enjoyable for a wide range of people buy balancing out the horror with comedy and likable versatile characters such as Bill Murrays’ Peter Venkman. Now imagine replacing him with someone uncharismatic, bored, and unlikable, like Sam Worthington. The movie would probably lose its entire effect and we’d be left with just another forgettable horror movie. The point I’m trying to make is this is what DmC feels like when stacked against the old games.
Now you can argue that the old games plots were flimsy or so baffling that it wasn’t worth thinking about, and the characters were silly, over the top and campy. And you would be right! Despite all that the games still worked as the characters actions were still consistent with their personalities. Unlike many games the female characters as DMC weren’t quite as crappy as women are often portrayed in games (Bayonetta excluded). The women weren’t weak useless damsels who cowered in the corner, they got in on the action and despite still being dressed and animated provocatively they were still treated as equal in ability to Dante. DMC games worked in the same way that Indiana Jones movies worked: they didn’t need a grand plan all they really needed was an excuse to have an adventure. And despite the seeming lack of depth there were some character arcs, the third game is the best example of this. DMC4 had small arcs for Dante, who passed the torch to Nero, and Nero, who had a somewhat weaker arch that is common in action romance animes (he starts off as a jerk who likes a girl and becomes a more responsible jerk that fights to protect her and admit he likes her). With all that out of the way let’s get to DmC.
New Dante is some kind of young alcoholic (although it doesn’t make sense for him to be able to get drunk since the plot reveals you aren’t human and aren’t effected by such chemicals) derelict who scores threesomes with strippers despite (or perhaps because he) looks like a heroin addict and dwells in a trailer. Quite the change from a guy who hanged out in what looked like an abandoned Biker Bar and ate Pizza! Dante is recruited by Anonymous activist group clone The Order by Kat, an orphan who summons magic portals from spray paint cans she fills with squirrel semen. No part of that sentence was a joke. The Order is led by Dante’s estranged brother Virgil, who at one point in the game spontaneously informs you that his penis is bigger than yours, and opposes the all powerful bald demon man Mundus who controls the world economy through debt, unhealthy soda that was ripped off of the Slurm Factory episode of Futurama, and runs Fox News. Beneath what normal people see in the world is the real soul of the world that demands submission subliminally from the humans, ala the movie “They Live!” although sadly the game doesn’t feature a lengthy fight scene between Keith David and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. More games really need Keith and Roddy to fight; I bet they could have fit that into Mass Effect at least once.
Anyway each character is such a change from their source that all they seem to share is the name. Dante seems less devil-may-care (hey NOW I get it!) in persona and comes across as an angry teenage power fantasy. Vergil went from anime trope brooding sword guy to secret Nazi batman teenage power fantasy. Kat wasn’t in the old games but compared to the previous DMC girls she’s pretty sub-par. She was an orphan adopted by demons and sexually abused by her demon adopted father until she was saved by Vergil who encouraged her to kill him to free herself. She’s also a Wiccan who jerks off squirrels to use their sperm for magic spray paint and gets caught easily by the enemy where she cracks under pressure and gives away your identity. Finally, a standard issue video game woman!
The old games were peppered with remarkably stupid but memorable scenes like Dante getting impaled and shrugging it off numerous times, Dante surfing on a missile, Dante fighting a sexy demon lady who turns into a weaponized electric guitar that you use by playing heavy metal on as an attack, Dante dancing and ogling the naked lady lights on a demonic angler fish toad, Dante pulling exploding swords out of a backpack while dancing salsa and making sexual double entendres, and Dante getting into a scenery chewing contest with a demonic beetle. Dumb yes, but fun and you kind of remember it and laugh about it years down the line. DmC really only has one moment that stands out and it really just stands out because it’s so out of place and horrible. During a hostage exchange to get Kat back and in return they’ll give Mundas back his pregnant mistress and apparent key to his success. Vergil decides to blow the deal by shooting the pregnant demon woman in the back killing the baby and while she screams in horror he shoots her in the head killing her. This scene really doesn’t have a place in a video game, at least not one that claims to be both true to the light hearted spirit of the old games and in the words of Tameem Antoniades head of Ninja Theory “we are adding (among other things) a more dynamic world and a videogame story, which hopefully for once, treats us like sophisticated adults.” At the time this happens Dante reacts with slight disapproval to Vergil but that seems to fade by the time they meet up with Mundus since he proceeds to mock him about seeing his baby explode in chunks. Now you can argue that it’s not a problem because the woman is a demon and so is the baby, but so are Dante and Vergil, they aren’t human at all and were supposed to care about them according to the game. The baby is also a boss you fight just before this scene so maybe you can argue that it’s not so much a murder and abortion it’s just a double homicide, but that’s still bad. Also Dante and Vergil aren’t just demons they are also half angel. But we never see an angel in the game and their power or any details are really explained about them, so what’s the point? After all this and a boring fight against Mundus that plays exactly like the fight against the Slurm Queen we’re treated to Vergil’s sudden heel turn into villianhood and bland fight that inexplicably turns your hair white before Vergil walks away from it all and the game ends about 30 seconds later.
So that’s the great story that reviewers keep touting? 6-7 hours of lines read in the most bored off-tone way that we’re written in an equally boring manner with a thematically schizophrenic plot? It reminds me of the Star Wars prequels where all non-action scenes were just 2 stone faced people reading bad lines in a bored tone while standing and facing each other. Dante doesn’t have a motivation or real desire to be here and just has a “yeah all right” attitude to everything presented to him. I don’t quite feel like the game is treating me or even itself like a sophisticated adult, it feels like anything you’d find over at fanfiction.net, but please if you value your sanity don’t go to fanfiction.net. Games CAN be mature and sophisticated, but generally not in the action, brawler, hack and slash genre. They are games like Heavy Rain or most of Red Dead Redemption, or even Final Fantasy, where most of the complaints have been about characters not game play. Maybe Ninja Theory could have made the mature and sophisticated action game they seem to want this to be if they didn’t have the DMC label on it since that brings with 11 years of baggage established with 4 successful games that demanded the presence of certain things and themes.
Moving along to the graphics there are only a few things to complain about. I’m not wild about urban environments in games and personally prefer anything to it, but honestly the graphics aren’t too bad here and do have a style to them that seems to be fairly consistent with the game and manages to be unique to the game. Unforgivably the game can’t manage much over 30 frames per second while the previous installment (DMC4) managed a mostly consistent 60 with sharp graphics. The game is actually shot well like it’s a movie but that’s been Ninja Theory’s strength. They really should be doing CG movies instead of games, as long as they are written by someone other than Tameem.
I do want to say a few things about the internet drama surrounding this game. It reminds me a lot of what happened with Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age 2 where there’s an angry rift between players and reviewers. Reviewers are consistently framing the narrative as the fans simply complaining that new Dante has a different hair color than he did in old games. This is a dishonest maneuver to delegitimize the many and very real issues with this game and needs to stop. If we really want games to be “mature and sophisticated” then gaming sites need to stop acting like trolls. Players do too, but that’s sort of a lost cause so don’t even engage. Roger Ebert started a big debate on his site about the artistic merit of games when he claimed that games will never be art. While you may disagree with him the important thing to take away from it is he had a respectable and professional discussion with anyone who was willing to engage with civility on the topic. He may not have changed his mind or anyone else’s, but he did it like an adult. That is what isn’t happening right now with this game and like I said before we can’t change some of the people or people just out for trolling, but as reviewers these lines appearing in reviews of this game are unforgivable:
- “vast improvements over DMC1” Why are you only comparing it to the first game when 3 more have come out since then?
- “highly original story” The story in DmC is almost exactly like the movie “They Live”
- “Dante is as he was in the other games” This has been shown to not be true
- “Dante is better than he was in the other games” This is baiting people into anger and is subjective not objective
- “I don’t see what the so-called ‘fans’ are complaining about” Maybe you should read what they have to say since many have no problem typing out thesis paper length posts about it
- “The 30fps makes no difference and feels as smooth as 60fps” It doesn’t make the game unplayable but it is very noticeable and is a step back from the previous games
- “This is my first DMC game, but it controls exactly like the others” Contradictory statement
- “New Dante is hot” Not helpful to a review and calls into question your taste in attractiveness
- “I’ve never played the original games, but…” Then your input is fairly limited since you can’t really review this game without knowing something about the old ones
- “It tells a mature, serious story” No and No. It is what a 9 year old thinks maturity is when they watch an R rated movie.
- “It’s the Hair, isn’t it?” Disregard everything now
Games lack a trustworthy and consistent review system. Anyone can become a game critic and most of us aren’t experts on games so much as we are enthusiasts, I am very guilty of this one. But this sort of antagonistic battle between players and reviewers is happening a lot lately and it may be time for a discussion about the role of reviewers so we can establish some integrity and do our jobs! Sorry for the derail. Point is, there are very real and very legitimate complaints to be had about this game. Don’t just write off people as angry trolls.
In the end, DmC: Devil May Cry is a pretty average game. It didn’t really break any barriers or redefine anything. It’s not some awful budget game and it is actually playable and put together well enough. However it has lost the depth and replayablilty that the old games had. Look up Truestyle Tournaments to see what people did in the old DMC’s and be in awe at their finger speed. There won’t be many style heavy contests for this game, but there wasn’t for God of War really either. For old fans of the series, I would recommend you look elsewhere for a satisfying game. Metal Gear Rising is next month and Bayonetta 2 is…. eventually. Everyone else, I’d say rent it or wait a bit and get it on sale.
- Accessible combat that’s easy to learn and master
- Levels segmented and ease of combat allows game to be played at casual pace
- Art’s not bad
- Story is presented in a cinematic way
- Stuff to hunt down and collect
- Combat lacks depth and gets boring fast
- Playing at length in one sitting also gets boring
- Story kind of stupid and characters boring and can be unlikable to some
- Levels are straight lines so you may feel railroaded
- Bosses disappointingly boring
- Music is dubstep and I only list this under Cons because I don’t care for it, you may enjoy dubstep and that’s fine. Please move this to a pro if you do.
- Sniper rifle abortion scene so insane it sours the entire game
Kimo is a contemptuous old coot. With experience in video games dating back to 1988 and a schizophrenic range of games he boasts an impressive range of knowledge of gamings best, and worst. Dwelling in the desolate wastes of the American Midwest he brings to Z1Gaming a perspective that looks for positive qualities in even the worst games.