Thursday, March 7, 2013

I Finished DMC: Devil May Cry! (Review)

As with all articles in the "Finished" category, there may be spoilers. You've been warned.

What do J.J. Abrams and Ninja Theory have in common? They both know how to reboot a franchise. DMC: Devil May Cry has everything that a Devil May Cry game needs to have, and then some.

  • Badass main character with truckloads of attitude? Check.
  • Combo-Heavy Hack & Slash gameplay? Check.
  • Stylish Ranking System? Check.
  • Hordes of demons to slice up with a sword or perforate with dual pistols? Check.
  • Gigantic demon-bosses hellbent on conquering the world? Check.
  • Red Orbs for item purchases and Gold Orbs for continues? Check.
  • Puzzles? Well... I think there's one towards the end of the game.

The changes to Dante seemed to upset some people when they were first announced, but I honestly prefer this new Dante to the old one. Ninja Theory's Dante is just as much of a badass as the previous Dante, only now he has some personality to go with his endless supply of attitude. The White-Haired Dante was always too cool for school, and I feel like that made him a bit stiff. Metrosexual Dante still plays it cool, but he has some emotional range due to his relationships with supporting characters like Kat and Vergil.

That's not to say the game is ultra-emo or super-goth serious, either. There's a fair bit of humor in DMC: Devil May Cry, although I can't always tell what was supposed to be funny and what just is. I get that the Austin Powers and White-Haired Dante references were supposed to be fun, but was the terrible dialogue also meant to be taken in jest? When Mundus' demon whore Lillith uttered the line, "At last, the world is your bitch, and so am I," my mind did that numb vibrating thing it does whenever my girlfriend makes me watch Gossip Girl. It's terrible, but it's terrible in a funny "is this for real?" kind of way.

Luckily, the dialogue is where the terrible bits of Devil May Cry begin and end. The combat is satisfying in the kind of way that only being a super-powered near-god can provide. Dante's dual pistols, Ebony and Ivory, can juggle demons in the air, while his Sword Rebellion does most of the heavy lifting in the hack and slash department.

That doesn't mean you'll be stuck with one sword throughout the game, though. Dante's star-crossed parents left behind a whole new set of weapons for their little Nephilim to play with. The Left Trigger accesses Dante's angel weapons, which are best for fighting crowds of demons, while the Right Trigger accesses his demon weapons, which are best for fighting armored demons. This control scheme made it easy for me to chain combos together, alternating between angel weapons, demon weapons, and Rebellion, without breaking any of my fingers.

Unfortunately, I do still have some small combat-related complaints. I dislike that some of the enemies are completely invulnerable if you're not using an angel or devil weapon. I feel like this limited my ability to chain combos and use different weapons unnecessarily. Style rankings and combo chains are the main source of fun in Devil May Cry, so being limited to one weapon for some enemies killed my enjoyment a little bit.

There are also enemies that can block nearly all of Dante's attacks later on in the game. It's like playing Mortal Kombat with that kid who would jump into the corner, crouch, and hold down block until the timer ran out. I can deal with enemies who block occasionally, but enemies that just repel all of your attacks lead to frustration and boredom, not fun. They also make Dante seem weak, which goes against his "I'm the ultimate badass" character design.

I did thoroughly enjoy being allowed to try before I bought when it came to ability upgrades. I was allowed to experiment with each new ability before I commited to spending the upgrade point on it. This made choosing what abilities worked best for me a painless process. To build on that, if I did somehow screw up, I could just hit the A button and regain any ability points that I spent, regardless of how much time had passed since I purchased the upgrades. This kind of free and forgiving upgrade mechanic should be standard in video games. Don't punish the player just because they didn't google the ultimate build as soon as they started the game. Experimentation is part of the fun!

Funnily, it's the graphics that really made me go all gaga like a tween at a Justin Bieber concert. Ninja Theory creates some damn fine visuals. There's no arguing about it. Either you agree with me or you're an idiot. In fact, that's the new IQ test, if you don't think DMC has some of the best looking characters of this generation, you're dumb. Kat is gorgeous, and definitely the kind of woman you'd never see on the street. I asked my girlfriend if Dante was the kind of guy she would want to sleep with, she didn't answer. That means yes. Mundus and Lillith both look creepy and menacing. Even Vergil, who I believe to be the blandest of the bunch, looks perfect in his design.

Then there are the environments. Every chapter of Devil May Cry takes place in Limbo, which is a parallel dimension "closely super-positioned" to our own. This alternate dimension allowed Ninja Theory to go bonkers with their level design, and boy did they. During one chapter, a tower's reflection in the water is actually a second tower, where everything is inverted and Dante must kill the demon version of Bill O'Reilly. Another sends Dante into what's basically a music visualization where he must platform on equalizer bars en route to Lillith. My personal favorite is a later chapter that has Kat turning limbo into a building diagram as she guides Dante towards Mundus' lair.

Ninja Theory still drops the ball here and there, although these moments feel more "aw, it was almost perfect" than "OMG! These guys are fuggin' noob developers." Chapter 15 has almost no combat, instead you chase behind Vergil and Kat like friggin' Spider-Man swinging down a city street protecting them as they attempt to escape in a car. It may sound exciting on paper, but in reality, you swing like Spider-Man, that's it.

Also, during one of the final chapters, Ninja Theory made the questionable decision to include giant hell-fire explosions that damage Dante if he touches them. This means that during the crescendo of the game, when the pace should be picking up, Dante has to stand still every ten seconds while flames shoot up all around him. It really kills what was excellent pacing up until this specific chapter.

All in all, I really liked DMC: Devil May Cry. I'd dare to say that it's my favorite of the franchise so far. Devil May Cry was good, but it was still finding it's footing. DMC2, I never played. Three was my personal favorite until the reboot, and while I liked Nero in DMC4, the backtracking was a huge turn off for me. So I'm calling it, DMC: Devil May Cry is good. Real good. Like sex. With coke. Not cocaine. Soda. It's good.