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DmC : Devil May Cry Review

Cart: DmC Devil May Cry
Cab: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC
Coin: Ninja Theory

Not thirty minutes into Devil May Cry and Dante hits you, in a typically emotionless manner, with a powerful and deeply revealing statement:

“My Mother; I barely knew her”

Strip back the relentless, visceral carnage, the incessant techno music and the gaudy, psychedelic palette and you’ll find that DmC is a game somewhat strangely obsessed with the old-fashioned, romantic concept of family.

From the re-imagined back-story to the newly adoptive parents at Ninja Theory, Dante’s journey to this point is one filled with all the trials and tribulations that we’ve come to expect from a truly dysfunctional upbringing.

And yet despite all of this upheaval, DmC is utterly flawless in its execution.

The DmC franchise has earned its place in the pantheon of gaming as that which gave birth to the extreme-combat sub-genre, paving way for the equally accomplished Nina Gaiden, Bayonetta and God of War series’. Even Ninja Theory’s own PS3 launch-window title, Heavenly Sword, was a remarkably strong foray into the ring. But it was Dante’s flame that had begun to burn that bit less brightly with his equally cock-sure and capable offspring strutting their stuff with just that bit more confidence and ingenuity. After an epic but ultimately inconsistent trilogy of titles in the sixth generation of console gaming, DmC4 was a nostalgic if largely derivative affair that felt rather like meeting up with your ex-partner for old time’s sake.

DMC Screenshot 1

Capcom, it seems, were acutely aware of what little fuel there was left in the tank and to their immense credit, handed responsibility of rebooting the franchise to arguably one of the most underestimated and misunderstood studios in the business: Ninja Theory.

After two brave, bold, artistically ambitious and yet ultimately aborted franchise launches in the form of the afore-mentioned Heavenly Sword and the superbly imagined Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Ninja Theory were a leftfield bet for Capcom on a number of levels. Viewed by certain quarters of the community as part damaged-goods and part jaded-visionaries, the truth of the matter is that Ninja Theory brought absolutely everything that you could possibly wish for to the table for such a significant reboot. Their own noteworthy journey is one that has equipped them with a unique and refined skillset; one that was simply crying out for the right subject matter.

Looking at what they have achieved with DmC, produced under Capcom’s auspicious guidance, they have clearly found their niche.

An accomplished and refined game in almost every respect; perhaps the single strongest aspect of DmC is its plot. Taking us right back to Dante’s origins and presenting us with a radically alternate universe, the story, whilst ridiculous to the extreme, holds itself together superbly well and is masterfully told through a solid script, strong characterisation, excellent voice-acting and consistently impressive production values throughout. Whilst the quality of the dramatic direction is not quite as professional in comparison to Ninja Theory’s games produced alongside Andy Serkis, it’s abundantly clear that they gleaned much from the BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated force of nature and the cut-scenes in DmC are expertly crafted by anyone’s standards.

The overall level of polish, however, is perhaps even higher than in any of their previous titles with an insane amount of creativity and attention-to-detail on offer in this visual feast.

Dante is regularly pulled into limbo by his demon prey and it is here that the level design reaches dizzy heights. Walls come alive, terrain is ripped-up and torn apart and the horizon becomes twisted and distorted beyond all recognition. It is in these warped landscapes that the combat, which is equally rich and diverse, takes place. Given the numerous stylistic and narrative changes that this reboot has undergone, it is perhaps the combat where fans will feel most at home.  Huge sword strikes, dual-wielded infinite-ammo pistols, insane acrobatics and freeform carnage blend together beautifully to create an experience that’s as absorbing as it is rewarding.

DMC Screenshot 2

Bordering on organised chaos; you slowly begin to make sense of the sadistic ballet that unfolds before your eyes and on some unconscious level you start to adapt and refine your seemingly random strategies. As you approach a deeper understanding of the combat mechanics you enter an almost Zen-like state, ever spurred-on by the chain-multiplier and deliciously addictive grading system. It’s here that that true charm and wonder of DmC is to be found and where the real genius of the marriage between Ninja Theory and DmC lay.

It’s a marriage that builds in so many meaningful ways upon the previous titles in the franchise and one that bodes fantastically well for the future. Aside from a degree of repetitiveness and a somewhat predictable twist in the story, DmC simply doesn’t put a foot wrong, splitting wide-open the throng of critical voices that met the early preview build. Diehard DmC fans will probably take time to adjust to this re-imagined, westernised vision of their blade of choice but there’s no denying the quality of product on offer.

As much as I can wholeheartedly recommend DmC to both old and newcomers alike then, and as much as I’ve found my time with it to be a near-perfect arcade experience, it’s the magical and unquestionably successful joining of two battle-scarred old romantics that fills me with the greatest sense of pride.

Here’s hoping that they don’t waste any time in having kids of their own.

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Husband. Parent. Gamer. Go figure.

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4 Comments

  1. This is one genre that I just don’t get. I have completed games like it in the past, but they just felt empty to me. Maybe this one is different.

  2. I have to be honest with you: I’ve not been what you would call a massive fan of the genre either. Ninja Gaiden 1 was pretty good but I found myself relying on a stock set of moves throughout. God of War never grabbed me (something for a Lost in Translation) as I found it to be completely tasteless in its approach. This, on the other hand, struts a more westernised and sassy feel to it. It’s still crass on a lot of levels, but cool crass. When you get into the flow, it can be hugely rewarding!

  3. I have to be honest with you: I’ve not been what you would call a massive fan of the genre either. Ninja Gaiden 1 was pretty good but I found myself relying on a stock set of moves throughout. God of War never grabbed me (something for a Lost in Translation) as I found it to be completely tasteless in its approach. This, on the other hand, has a more westernised and sassy feel to it. It’s still crass on a lot of levels, but cool crass. When you get into the flow, it can be hugely rewarding!

  4. More than anything though, it’s just great to see Ninja Thoery hit all the right notes at the same time and with the same subject matter. They came SO close with Enslaved it was gutting to see it flop in the charts. Still hopeful that franshise might one day get another look-in. The story was great and Andy Serkis is amazing on screen.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

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