At long last the day has come. Why, I remember that when this game was first announced I was confused. It was so odd that they would give a game to such a shallow character who was needlessly edgy and contrived. Just a poor creation of too much faulty market research to try and remake a light hearted franchise under the guise of maturity when really it just feels like an angry teenage fan fiction. Whoops I was talking about Shadow The Hedgehog and Bomberman: Act Zero, honest mistake! DmC: Devil May Cry dropped last week as a contender for worst title since Manos: Hands of Fate (hint: Look up what “Manos” means in Spanish!) and with it the internet has erupted with fans of the old franchise clashing with bizarrely antagonistic video game website writers. Now, the gaming media has framed the whole kerfuffle around Dante’s change in hair color but please, let’s be realistic, there’s much more to it than that and bringing it up is just a maneuver to deflect and delegitimize the actual and very REAL complaints about this game. I’ve got a lot to say about this one so strap in this review is gonna get CUHRAYZEEEEEE! (It won’t, I’ll keep this level headed and serious.)
The first part here will just be about what really matters most: game play.
To understand the Devil May Cry franchise you have to look into its roots. It wasn’t an ordinary brawler where you have a punch and jump attack like everyone was used to up until the launch of the first game. DMC 1 drew its combat roots from fighting games. The games never once told you about things like cancels and invincibility frames which were generally concepts reserved for the depths of fighting games. While these sorts of things didn’t really get refined in DMC until the 3rd and 4th installments, the seeds were still planted and DMC1 boasts a deep combat experience that was unique back in 2001 when it launched. Also, like in fighting games, you used button combos to the tune of “attack-attack-pause-attack” or “attack-rapid tap attack” and so on.
Getting away from DMC1, all the DMC games (except 2 for various reasons) stressed offensive game play that would keep the player close the enemies and deep in danger. This was done so that you could have ample opportunity to pull off a number of the games stylish kills. They could have done a better job of teaching people how to pull these kills off but in the first game at least this was done through the secret missions. Personally I loved the stylish kills you could pull off and it really gave the player an empowering feeling. In a dark gothic castle where every room unleashed a new horror upon you that you still always felt like the most dangerous thing in the castle was YOU.
Now back to DmC. DmC: Devil May Cry (hereafter referred to as DmC with the lowercase m) bases its combat off of two things: 1 the button map of Heavenly Sword, developer Ninja Theory’s second game, and American household name in brawlers God of War. That’s not to knock God of War, but to be honest it had the combat depth of a puddle but it hit so many other notes correctly that it was still an enjoyable experience. The point is, DmC plays very slowly compared to the old games. Enemies almost seem to be appear and stand still, giving long exaggerated tells to their incoming attacks. In a way it reminds me of the Batman Arkham games on easy mode where the game slowed down and had lightning bolts appear above incoming attacks to give you warning to counter. Slightly bad example because the Batman games aren’t really in the same genre, more rhythm than brawler or hack-n-slash. Anyway, this made the game really boring for me as the sense of danger was now gone.
Hard in the old days used to mean something, mainly that you wouldn’t be making it too far without a serious fight! This was even a problem on the highest difficultly level which honestly showed very little difference from the lower ones. Ninja Theory said that on hardest the enemies would activate Devil Trigger (the game’s name for temporary super mode) frequently which should make combat a challenge as well as punish you for using the same attacks. I didn’t really notice this ever happening. And while it initially felt a little nice to be doing so well the shine soon came off as I started to feel like I was being patronized. This becomes even clearer when the game judges your performance at the end of the level. In the old days you were judged, harshly, in a number of categories; Style (average combo score during fights), Time to complete the level, Orbs gathered (through either combat or found from breaking furniture/secret stashes found), penalty for healing items used, and penalty for deaths/continues. It was hard enough to beat the level fast, but to add in everything else was a true challenge. SSS ranks only came after much sweat, snarling and gnashing of teeth. DmC still judges you on most or at least similar things, but seems to have made it a challenge to get below an A ranking. Hell it even gives you a guaranteed SSS rank if you find all of one of the 3 secret things to gather in any level. I’m suddenly reminded of Syndrome from The Incredibles when he said, “When everyone is super, no one will be.” I really think that feeling applies to this game. After a level of slow, boring, and unrewarding combat you are granted the highest of marks anyway to stroke your ego. I may be being a bit harsh since I’m playing this after years of the other 4, and accessibility has always been a small problem with this franchise, but I don’t feel that the game is challenging players or teaching them strong skills that won’t just help them here but in other games as well as the old ones did. And by that I mean while it is accessible, the game doesn’t challenge hard enough as the game progresses through the levels or at higher difficulties.
After the general combat of course comes the boss fights. Boss fights are generally supposed to be tests of what the player has learned thus far in the game. While that’s not always the case they are still the centerpieces to the game as a whole. Again, in the old days boss fights were a challenge, but each one had a rhythm to them that once you figured out made them a piece of cake, allowing you to heap on the style and taunts to the fight and generally act like Dante did in the cut scenes. In DmC the bosses are, well, kind of similar to each other really. All seem to have the same attacks, area of effect ground pound, parry-able attack, and most peculiarly a vomiting attack. This is seasoned liberally with the boss sitting still a lot and numerous, flow breaking cut scenes shoehorned into game play that got kind of annoying (WARNING: Your devil trigger still depletes during the cut scenes if you activated it before they trigger) since they were often exactly the same scene played over and over. That and you seem to do an amazing amount of damage to the bosses. So overall the boss fights are a pretty disappointing experience.
Lastly and leastly (note: leastly is not a word I am making a joke), the game has a fair amount of platforming. I won’t be too harsh on this part because to be honest no game in this genre does good platforming and this game is no different despite their best efforts. It’s still the boring affair it is elsewhere but the game seems to use to narrate things to you or show off its landscapes. Originally the old DMC1 was supposed to be Resident Evil 4 but later became its own thing, but they kept Resident Evils set map that you could usually explore entirely despite needing to go only to a certain place. DmC has each level as its own map, usually a fairly straight line with a starting point and end. The world feels a little cramped without the exploration, but at least it’s easy to figure out where to go.
So Overall, game play wise I didn’t really enjoy the game. It didn’t feel like a Devil May Cry game even though it paraded around in its skin. The only Dante that this one seems to be similar to is the one from EA’s Dante’s Inferno. Both had slow, easy to pick up combat that lacked depth. I can’t recommend this to someone experience to the DMC franchise or someone who mastered games like Bayonetta or Ninja Gaiden. It might not be a bad choice for someone looking to come into the genre or someone looking for a way to kill 7-8 hours or so. Rent or get on sale.
But I’m not quite done yet! There’s still more to review about it! Tune in next week for part 2 where I’ll review the games story, art style, and the drama surrounding this 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.