When the original Devil May Cry hit the PS2, it immediately drew me in. From the company that basically invented the Survival Horror genre with the PS1’s Resident Evil series, here was this new thing where you were no longer the hunted, but the hunter. You weren’t afraid of the creatures of the night while you struggled to find even a handful of bullets to fight off the approaching demon hordes – you had unlimited ammo and you killed them in some of the coolest ways anything up to that point had ever been killed in a video game. Slash a demon into the air then keep him up there with a barrage of bullets from your dual pistols before he explodes? Yes, please.
Flash forward a decade. The series hasn’t had a game that fans could be proud of in this current seven-year-old console generation. It was time to shake things up. So Capcom handed the reins over to Ninja Theory, creators of the under-appreciated cult classic Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. The first thing they did was give Dante black hair, instantly drawing enmity from that vocal minority scared of change (check the MetaCritic bombing of the user score if you want to see whether they’re still mad about it). But you know what? Screw the haters. The change-up of DmC: Devil May Cry is exactly the booster shot this lagging series needed.
Right off the bat, you are shown exactly what kind of game DmC is going to be: Dante, flying slow-motion naked through his trailer home, pulling his clothes on as he goes, while dubstep blares in the background. It’s a game where you get rewarded for “style” (read: don’t break your combo) and graded/rewarded appropriately. It’s a game with a lot of swear words and the occasional pun. It has a jerk protagonist with a heart of gold and the techie/guide female trope. And metal music. So much metal music. Everything the 18-34 male demographic needs. That’s what kind of game this is.
But to break it down to its parts would be to deny exactly what makes DmC the kind of game you can spend ten solid hours playing on a Friday night. To shrug it off because Dante has black hair instead of white, or to ignore it because you “don’t like metal,” or to wait until the inevitable price drop because you don’t want to spend $60 on a ten-hour game… that would be a mistake. Ninja Theory’s reboot takes the fast, cool action of the original series and really cranks up the weird.
At it’s core, DmC is just another action game in the Devil May Cry universe. You jump around. You shoot and slash bad guys. You play as a reluctant hero and overcome seemingly insurmountable odds time and time again. You feel super cool with all your different guns and swords. There’s the occasional slower-paced platforming section and – in one instance – a switch puzzle to keep the hack ‘n’ slash from growing tedious (it never did). And all that’s fine – the controls are as tight as ever and the action is solid. But what Ninja Theory really nailed was the “feel” of Devil May Cry. It is metal, it’s all their own, and it is so, so weird.
See, most of your time will be spent in Limbo, which is a pretty unsettling place. The regular world is twisted, perverted, and broken in unimaginable ways, but your magic angel/demon powers mean that there’s nothing you can’t solve by stabbing or shooting it. Convenient, isn’t it, if not the best message to deliver to the kiddies? But as for the weird: DmC is set in this sort of dark realistic fantasy world where swearing and violence is the epitome of cool. So of course you listen to hard rock music and pounding dubstep while committing thousands of acts of demoncide. The crazy thing is that it’s really easy to buy into the fantasy and this world that Ninja Theory has created. That’s the key. It doesn’t matter if the enemies are flying babies with shields, an inside-out lady, or a Bill O’Reilly parody (which, by the way, is one of the smartest and most “Wow!” boss fights in recent memory). They just add this degree of strangeness not present in most current by-the-book games.
Even so, it is very much a Devil May Cry game, and I noticed some very big similarities with God of War, as well. Maybe it’s just action genre conventions, but if those aren’t your kind of games, this one won’t change your mind. It’s loud, and it makes you feel like a BAMF, and it’s oh-so-masculine, but it’s a rare game indeed that can make me trade an entire night of productivity/sleep/anything else and make me say, “Just one more level,” for hours in a row. The story can get a bit hammy, and a lot of the plot twists have been done before, and Dante can seem like a total tool at times (especially at the beginning of the game), but… man. If I said I had a more engrossing gaming experience in the last couple years, I’d be lying.
Still, I’m knocking off one gumball because I forgot how little I care about replaying games on harder difficulty levels and this game was so compelling that I finished it in two nights. This means that DmC cost me over $30 a day and that just ain’t right.
4 Gumballs out of 5