Devil May Cry fans rejoice! A new entry in the series has arrived. Teased a while ago, fans were overcome with excitement that a new Devil May Cry game was in the works, that is until more information surfaced. Capcom has handed the reigns over to developer Ninja Theory, who worked on titles such as Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey To The West, to give the series a fresh reboot. Right from the start the initial reactions to the changes Ninja Theory had in mind were anything but positive, but the success of games are not won by ideas alone.
DmC is set in a parallel universe in the Devil May Cry series. Players are placed in the shoes of the series' known protagonist, Dante. Immediately from the start, you're already being terrorized by a powerful demon. Dante quickly realizes that it's not only the demons that are out for blood, but the mysterious Limbo City as well; a city that appears normal like any other, but transforms into a sinister parody of itself known as Limbo whenever demons are aware of his presence.
After Dante's initial attack, he meets a young girl named Kat who, like him, is able to sense and see demons throughout Limbo City. She takes him to meet the leader of "The Order", a group who are all deemed terrorists by the media. He learns that The Order are aware of the demons and are fighting back and the leader Vergil asks that Dante join them. After accepting his offer, Dante learns that he is not human but instead Nephilim, offspring of a demon and an angel. From there you quickly dig deeper into his past and find out that Mundus, king of the demon world, is the one behind the attempts on Dante's life and the oppressor to Limbo City, making it Dante's mission to put an end to his reign of terror.
The very first thing you'll notice right off the bat is the completely redone look for Dante. Gone is his trademark red coat and white hair, replaced with a punk rock style edgy hairdo, don't care attitude Dante. DmC throws out everything you knew about Devil May Cry, while retaining its key characters, Dante, Vergil and Mundus, as well as similar story structures previous entries were known for.
The core gameplay mechanics are similar from previous games in the series, you performs combos by attacking with Dante's sword, Rebellion, and shooting with his twin pistols, Ebony and Ivory. As per usual, you can combine these in a number of ways to extend your combos and keep your opponents in a juggled state. Dante also gains modifiers to his attacks know as Angel Mode and Devil Mode, with each mode extending Dante's weapon arsenal. While in Angel Mode, Dante's sword transforms into the quick and furious scythe, Osiris, whilst Devil Mode grants access to the slow but powerful heavy axe
Both of these modes also alter the way Dante moves on the battlefield and throughout the environment. Devil Mode allows Dante to pull enemies toward him for close combat as well as pulling certain designated obstacles toward him during platforming sequences, while Angel Mode lets Dante pull himself towards enemies and various parts of the environment. Dante also earns the ability to perform angelic dashes in mid-air. All of this makes for some interesting platforming choices which feel fluid and well-thought out.
If that's not enough, you gain an additional weapon to each mode later on in the game. And much later you acquire the famous Devil Trigger, which, when activated, renders all enemies on screen helpless in the air, as you hack away in a powered demonic state. All of these can be mixed to perform a ridiculous amount of combo chains which are then ranked depending on their style and technique at the end of each encounter, the longer you keep that combo going the higher the points get, making you want to reach that elusive SSS rank. The combat in DmC is so satisfying and rewarding that you'll eagerly await each encounter with open arms.
Much like other games of this genre, you collect orbs throughout the game, some serving as healing orbs and others as currency. You can exchange currency orbs to purchase items from the shop, such as healing stars when you need health during battles, or health crosses that increase Dante's overall health, there are also stars and crosses that will increase your Devil Trigger meter or refill missing portions during encounters. Helpful items aside, you also earn upgrade points that you use to enhance current moves into more powerful versions or unlock additional attacks to add to your already expanding move set.
The levels, or missions, are all pretty linear: navigate your way through the level, fight demons that pop up along the way and then move on the next. After clearing a number of missions you'll come across boss encounters, which provide a change of pace. Though not as combo heavy as the regular cannon fodder demons, they mostly revolve around the general boss formula other games incorporate, repetitive attacks and pattern recognition. All of this is quickly redeemed once you gaze upon the giant grotesque monstrosities that make up a large portion of the games creative design. By the end of your DmC experience you'll have a hard time forgetting these memorable boss fights.
Scattered throughout the levels are hidden collectibles that come in the form of lost souls that you free, and keys that are used to unlock bonus challenge rooms. Each collectible can be hidden in open areas of the level or in hidden rooms that require a certain Angel or Devil upgrade to access, giving you incentive to replay older levels and fully explore them. The collectibles also factor in towards your overall ranking for each level. Clearing challenge rooms rewards Dante with a free health or devil trigger cross upgrade.
As previously stated, the game takes place in Limbo City, but your stay in the normal version is very limited. All the enemy encounters, as well as boss battles take place in its doppelgänger half, known only as Limbo. It is here where Ninja Theory's creativity truly flourishes. Limbo is best described as a sentient being itself, aware of your presence as it does everything and anything to stop you from getting to your destination. The walls and roads around you twist and deconstruct, turning inside out and upside down (literally), metamorphosing right before your eyes.
As for the visual presentation, it's hard to describe in words the colorful palletes that help breathe life to Limbo. At certain parts you're in a big open part of Limbo that bleeds a visual crime scene all over your screen, letting you know you're far away from safe place. Another time you're deep in a club that becomes just that, a living breathing demonic club with music inspired backgrounds, appearing playful yet very malevolent, you truly have to experience it for yourself.
To further enhance the creative direction Ninja Theory is going for, they hand over control of the soundtrack to Combichrist and Noisia, setting the mood for the steampunk inspired city. Each track plays at the right time in the right place, really helping set the tone during every single encounter. The voice actors do a really god job bringing the characters personalities to life. Body language and eye movement really let you know the mood of each character every time, when Dante is being sarcastic or annoyed, you'll surely know it. The characters really help sell the story plot and make you care whether or not this is a city worth saving, which is a rare thing for a game of this genre.
Being only vaguely familiar with the original Devil May Cry games, I was somewhat certain of what I might expect, of course my post reaction was anything but. Ninja Theory changes everything you thought you might've known about Devil May Cry in a remarkably positive way. It's clear that veterans might see all the changes as negative from the get-go, so it's highly recommended that players come in with an open mind. Newcomers looking for a solid action game will find exactly what they're looking for and more. DmC brings everything you loved from a Devil May Cry game as well as a new and fresh perspective that will put to rest all those negative thoughts.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of DmC Devil May Cry provided by Capcom.