Not since Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code has there been more controversy surrounding a fictional characters haircut. It was the first thing we saw of the new Dante and for all intents and purposes, it was the only thing anyone saw: A young guy with a douchey haircut. It didn’t matter whether it was a reboot, a new studio or a completely different take on Dante, the fans saw something different and they didn’t like it.
Fast forward to January 2013 and the edgy, reboot of the ‘Devil May Cry’ series by Ninja Theory (Heavenly Blade, Enslaved) is being lauded as a complete success and I for one, am inclined to agree. With brilliant, frenetic action, brilliantly varied level design that seems to have been inspired by Christoper Nolan’s ‘Inception’ and perhaps most importantly, engaging characters, it’s hard to be anything but impressed with this title.
Let’s look at Dante first. Many things about the story of DmC may have changed, such as the way Dante discovers his heritage, his relationship with his brother Vergil and his race itself (instead of being a demon, he is known as a Nephilim, a half angel, half demon hybrid, a race that is said to be extremely powerful). At his core, however, the character of Dante is unchanged. He’s still cocky, sarcastic and full of attitude. But as many worried, myself included, this new, edgier version of Dante would come off with all the attitude of the frontman of an emo rock band rather than the experienced, confident fighter that was the classic Dante. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. Instead, we get to see glimpses of the factors that led to Dante being as rebellious as he is.
Instead of showing us a spoiled, pouty teenager who stole money from his parents wallet, we see an outcast, a young man who does what he wants in defiance to the society that has shunned him. Because of this, his whole ‘Fuck You’ attitude ends up feeling much less in your face. This is mainly due to the great performance and mo-cap of Dante himself. The lines are delivered in a nuanced, understated way and there is a great deal of complexity to his facial expression. Within minutes of meeting Dante, you instantly find him cool and by the end of the first level you’re hooked into his story (and at no point do you find yourself distracted by his haircut)
The gameplay itself is more or less what you come to expect from a Devil May Cry game or indeed any action platformer. You have a variety of weapons, each weapon with it’s own moveset and you have a style ranking system. Variety is the name of the game here, with you trying to to combine as many different moves and weapon attacks without taking damage in order to get your score as high as possible. It’s fairly addictive and despite the frustation of ruining a combo when you take damage or hit the wrong enemy, you know that the only one at fault is you rather than the game itself. The way the different weapons are each assigned to trigger buttons, switching on the fly becomes a breeze and once you get into the swing of things, you’ll find yourself raking in the points without too much trouble.
The level design is also inspired. The main concept of the game is that underneath what we see as the real world, there is the world of ‘Limbo’ where the demons exist, and Dante is consistently being dragged into Limbo as the demons hunt him down. What this means is we often see real world locations suddenly twist, contract and expand. Pavements explode apart, buildings slam together and the surreal will take form. This design enables even the most well trodden video game territory become new. A great example of this is when a night club level transforms into a playground of disco balls and soundwaves, with the whole level pulsing and moving to the sound of the music. Another example is a News graphic actually coming alive and forming platforms, effectively turning something we all recognise into one of the most unique levels I’ve seen in a game. This constant change and evolution to the levels keeps things feeling fresh and varied, like anything could happen at any moment.
All that said, the game isn’t quite perfect. There are times when the stop/start nature of going from action to cut scenes can feel a bit jarring. It gets to the point where, every time you see you’re near a large area you know you’re going to trigger a cutscene that will probably be followed by fighting. That said, there are little touches here and there, like random events that can pop up, that will keep you on your toes. Also, there are instances in boss fights where something that COULD have been a cutscene will instead have a nice interactive element which keeps you engaged. Another thing that would have been nice would be some kind of lock on system for those annoying flying enemies.
Other than that though, this is a cracking game. The only thing that can be said is whether the re-playability will be a factor for you. There are multiple difficulty modes, some of which offer unique challenge, as well as plenty of collectibles, challenge modes and unlockable costumes (Yes, you can unlock a white haired Dante skin… Feel silly for complaining now?). Despite all those extra features, I can only really see the action game fans getting the most out of these bonuses whereas people in it for the story might find the re-playability lacking. That said, the story mode clocks in at about 10 or 11 hours and with a great story and satisfying ending this definitely feels like the start of something new and great and if you decide to take the journey, I don’t think it’s one you’ll regret.
So I suppose the best way to sum up this game is by referring back to the original series. After finishing DmC, I had an itch that still needed scratching so for curiosity sake I put in one of the original DMC games and I have to say, after playing through the remake, the original Dante comes off as a cardboard cut out, whereas months ago I would have railed against this new Dante and now I can actively say I prefer him. DmC has made me a convert and I’m ready to see where this series will go from here.
Ben O’Brien hosts a weekly radio show on 2rrr 88.5fm called ‘Big Head Mode’. You can stream the show every friday, at 9pm on www.2rrr.org.au and you can follow the show on facebook for updates, news and gaming reviews at www.facebook.com/bigheadmode2rrr