Wednesday, 23 January 2013

DmC: Devil May Cry

“Hacking and slashing his way back onto the scene, Dante is younger, fresher and full of style as Ninja Theory expand Devil May Cry into a fast paced and thoroughly entertaining experience.”

Very few franchises can claim to have directly inspired future generations of games but Devil May Cry is absolutely one of them. Single handedly re-invented the hack-and-slash adventure, huge titles like Ninja Gaiden 3 and the upcoming Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance simply would not exist was it not for Dante’s first appearance on the PlayStation 2. Devil May Cry brought complex and intricate combat mechanics to the forefront of gaming alongside impressive level design and the most addictive scoring system that keeps gamers coming back for that coveted SSS score.

Unfortunately as a series, Devil May Cry has had its ups and downs with Devil May Cry 2 and to an extent number 4 proving to be unfavourable titles. However, the introduction of DmC: Devil May Cry has brought a reinvigorated look and feel to Capcom’s franchise that takes everything we love about Devil May Cry and spices it up with a fresh and modern feel. Ninja Theory’s prequel is a roaring success that impresses on a technical, visual, audio and storyboard level and as a result, is a stellar title to kick off CeX’s reviews for 2013.

Right from the word go DmC screams style. The opening cutscene set in a nightclub gives off the impression that Dante is going to be rowdy, arrogant and a total bad ass throughout this story and boy it isn’t wrong. There’s plenty of swearing, clever jibes and hilarious moments including a wonderful scene where a white mop lands on Dante’s head and he concludes that he would never have hair like that in a million years. These kind of quirks are present throughout and really give you an opportunity to become invested in Dante as a character.

Despite the comical nature of Dante DmC’s story is surprisingly mature for the series. While before Devil May Cry looked at obscene narratives and over-the-top battles between the most ravenous creatures from hell, this time a more believable villain is at the forefront of global control through the means of media, propaganda and subtle mind control in the form of a soft drink (alright, it’s not all 100% believable but stick with me). This prequel story looks at how Dante learns about his heritage and his true identity, a Nephilim (half angel, half demon). The DmC story swerves off by introducing Dante’s angel side as opposed to the traditional half human, half devil backdrop. However, this new imposed angel blood infuses Dante with some fantastic new weapons that I’ll explore later in the review. Virgil is introduced very quickly into the story and DmC plays with your emotions as you watch Dante discover not only a long lost brother, but also who he really is and what his destiny entails.

DmC continues to delight the senses with one of the coolest soundtracks I’ve heard in a modern action game. I’m very fortunate because one of my favourite bands is Combichrist and they paired up with Noisia to string together a hard hitting agro-tech list of songs that go hand-in-hand with DmC’s style and gameplay.

Not only is DmC a pleasure for the senses but it’s also absolutely thrilling to play. DmC is all about chaining attacks with varied weapons without getting hit to score an end-of-combo rank ranging from D all the way to SSS. The more variety and longer your combo, the higher your rank will be. Then at the end of each level you get judged on style points accumulated from combos, time taken, collectibles found, items used and the amount of deaths. These culminate in a final rank with the end goal being that coveted SSS score for the level itself.

Of course with a system like this, combat must be balanced and technically tight in order to achieve the satisfying results. Fortunately DmC is renown for a high level of technical proficiency. Just like in previous games Dante begins his quest with the Rebellion sword and Ebony & Ivory pistols. Very quickly your arsenal is expanded with a devil axe, devil fists, an angel scythe, angel shuriken blades and new guns. Each weapon serves a different purpose in battle, for example the axe is used to take out shielded foes, the scythe can be utilized as a crowd controller while the fists are ruthless when you have an opportunity to go 1-on-1 with a foe. A real DmC pro will be able to incorporate every single weapon into 1 combo and while this sounds difficult, DmC’s fantastic controller lay out ensures that with some practice you’ll be a pro in no time. Simply pressing the attack button unleashes Dante’s Rebellion sword, while holding the right trigger switches seamlessly to Dante’s devil weapons while holding the opposite trigger brings out the angel weapons. This is intertwined with quickly switching what angel, devil and gun you have equipped by using the D-pad mid combat. All of this moulds together to make DmC’s combat, elegant, brutal and a whole load of fun.

DmC gives you plenty of opportunity to explore a wide variety of combos thanks to an interesting and balanced assortment of enemies, with some a lot tougher than others. Fantastic level design also helps give you plenty of room to do battle. DmC is a fast-paced game and you find yourself in larger-than-life sections pretty quickly but there are moments where the game does slow things down especially when you learn new gameplay mechanics like the angel and devil sling hooks that let you toy with the environment and open new areas.

Perhaps one of the best highlights of DmC are the awesome boss battles. Some may argue that these are simply remember sequence and attack-type battles but with the added incentive to get the SSS score players are forced to devise strategies that allow them to keep combos going while avoiding all of the enemies attacks. Most notably the Bob Barbus virtual boss battle has to be one of the most visually stunning fights I have experienced in modern gaming – truly remarkable.

DmC’s addictive system almost guarantees replayability. Not only will you be going back to find all the collective lost souls and hidden levels, but new abilities uncovered in the later parts of the game will allow Dante to explore previously inaccessible areas. Once you’ve mastered one of the 3 available difficulty levels you then unlock Heaven and Hell and Hell and Hell modes. The former sees every single enemy die in 1 hit but so does Dante, a bit of a fun mode. Hell and Hell however has every enemy back with full health while Dante dies with just one blow. Only a true master of DmC will dare try and complete this incredibly challenging game mode.

As much as DmC continues to impress me, there are certain issues that do hinder the experience somewhat. The lack of a lock-on mechanic is absolutely baffling for a game that requires precision. Often you will want to specifically lock on and drag a particular enemy towards you to begin a combo but when they stand in a group, there’s no guarantee that Dante will target the appropriate enemy. The camera also finds it difficult to keep up with the incredibly fast-paced combat and without the lock-on mechanic sometimes Dante might land and end up shooting a wall instead of an enemy that’s off screen. The campaign could be a little bit longer and the boss battles are few and far between, as exciting as they are.

Besides those issues DmC is undoubtedly an incredibly impressive title. We’re only in January but as far as current generation games go I wouldn’t be surprised if DmC makes it onto CeX’s best games of 2013 list right off the bat. If you’re looking for a beautifully presented game that excels in precision gameplay then look no further, DmC is stunning.

9.0 | Gameplay |

DmC is an incredibly captivating and fun game that boasts fast paced and thrilling gameplay. There’s plenty of variety and a learning curve that caters to newcomers and veterans alike ensures there’s challenge to be had for everyone. Great pacing, level and enemy design help overcome the occasionally cumbersome camera and the unusual omission of a targeting system.

9.0 | Presentation |

Devil May Cry has always oozed style so a revamp of the series was always going to raise questions. I remember when the new Dante was first released and everyone went absolutely crazy calling him an emo and the like. Well this younger Dante certainly delivers a more mature and simultaneously amusing narrative that lets you really appreciate him as a character. Environments are all beautiful and the artistic design in Limbo (the alternate world  and the effect Devil Trigger has on enemies are both mesmerizing.

10.0 | Replay Value |

DmC’s awesome scoring system makes it very easy to become addicted in trying to achieve that illusive SSS score. Learning how to perfect combos is entertaining and challenging but nothing’s too difficult and everything is just in reach for players to keep getting better and better.

9.0 | Final Thoughts |

Capcom’s series certainly goes through peaks and troughs – fortunately DmC: Devil May Cry is a definite high for the series. Taking a step back to Dante’s younger years while simultaneously evolving the franchise was never going to be an easy task but for the most part, Ninja Theory were completely successful. Engaging gameplay, intricate technical mechanics and serious artistic style makes this a game worth your time.

Igor Kharin.

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