Defying the Devil in DmC

DmC: Devil May Cry has had a tough journey to this point. Even though it’s created by acclaimed developer Ninja Theory, features fantastic graphics and has already proven capable via trade show demonstrations, fan reception remains lukewarm. Why? Because Dante doesn’t have white hair. Well, OK, it’s not that simple; besides Dante’s makeover, the game has received a completely updated visual style that may render it unrecognizable at first glance. Unfortunately, many have overlooked the most important point: while the game may not look like a Devil May Cry, it plays exactly like one — just improved and more polished. The kicker? New Dante is a badass after all.

While Devil May Cry has always been a AAA series, never before has it ventured into the territory that DmC does. This is a thoroughly over the top experience from the moment a demon claw busts through Dante’s trailer (oh how the mighty have not yet risen). It’s the sort of game where enemies can be vaulted up into a spinning amusment park ride and diced into a million pieces; where Dante must avoid getting chopped up by dozens of tiny circular saws while trying to maneuver through a haunted house — and that’s all just in the first level. While it could be the recipe for a big cheese sandwich, Alex Garland’s fantastic script keeps affairs grounded in reality — or should we say purgatory — throughout the meaty campaign. A disgusting Slurm Queen-like monster may have Dante slicing open her liquid tubes one moment, but the next may feature a rather touching exchange between him and Kat.

Adding to the experience is fantastic level design and visuals from series newcomers Ninja Theory. The entire game flows smoothly, featuring creative areas that perfectly fit the platforming gameplay, most of which still involves timing jumps and pulls correctly of which there are two types: Ophion Demon Pull and Angel Lift. Demon Pull is executed by hitting RT + X when a glowing red icon appears on an object, pulling it towards you. Conversely, Angel Lift is carried out with LT + Y and pulls Dante towards an object. These two pulls must frequently be chained together multiple times for Dante to fly through areas — the majority of which are quite inspired. Besides the demented carnival previously mentioned, highlights include a bizarro world with upside down buildings and demon trains randomly barreling through tunnels towards you (think Ghostbusters II), along with running through a rusty air vent quick enough before the blades at the end make a Dante smoothie (which is likely not as tasty as a Jill sandwich). While dark and hellish as ever before, there are spots of brightness through the environment that make it all pop in way similar to the developer’s last outing, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.

Of course, no visual assessment of DmC would be complete without mentioning the new Dante. While it’s likely that the most stubborn fans will want to hear otherwise, the fact is that he’s a fine take on the character. While his fashion style will remain subjective, Dante brings an attitude and humor to game that fits the tone perfectly. He’ll frequently make ridiculous quips throughout cutscenes, generally littered with F-bombs, that come off as funny rather than annoying due to the fact that he doesn’t take himself seriously. Not surprisingly, there are some visual flourishes throughout that pay fan-service to the original Dante. The most obvious is the fan-favorite Devil Trigger, activated by pushing the L and R sticks simultaneously. Doing so unleashes a red cape, glowing eyed, white haired version of Dante (sound familiar?) and suspends all of the enemies in the air to let enraged Dante make quick work of them. It’s a nice touch that works both as a throwback and a helpful gameplay mechanic.

While the series may have recieved a facelift, the core combat remains as enjoyable as ever. There’s multiple weapons to choose from, a number of which are unlocked as the game progresses, with nary a dull one in the bunch. The awesome dual pistols Ebony & Ivory return, along with a standard sword (called “Rebellion” here) and Arbiter. One of the most rewarding new weapons is Osiris, a huge scythe used to attack multiple enemies at once. It’s incredibly fluid and makes fighting waves of weaker enemies much more entertaining than dealing with them one by one. The weapon actually gains more power by striking enemies, encouraging its use quite frequently. Another highlight are the flaming magical gauntlets known as Eryx. As they deal more damage than Rebellion but are quicker than Arbiter, there are multiple opportunities that call for their use. Plus, simply beating an enemy to death with nothing but flaming fists is rewarding in itself.

DmC is shaping up to be a fantastic entry into the franchise when released in January. While the updated visuals and Dante had fans worried, they can rest assured that under Ninja Theory’s experienced direction, the series is as delightful as ever. Most importantly, it remains the same core DmC experience, complete with tons of different moves to master in the art of demon slicing and great platforming elements. With a strong script from Alex Garland, unique visual flourishes and a soundtrack from Noisia and Combichrist, DmC may be one of the most well-produced ridiculous games ever made.