Title: DmC: Devil May Cry
Developer: Ninja Theory
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, Windows
Genre: Hack n’ Slash
PG Rating: Mature
There is a moment very early into DmC where certain ‘concerns’, shall we say, are directly addressed. Without wishing to give anything away, developers Ninja Theory drop a not-so-subtle easter egg right in your lap and what you make of it will no doubt reflect what you make of DmC as a whole. If you’ve played the previous Devil May Cry games and frequent the internet at all, chances are you were one the vocal detractors of Dantes new look and the games’ new direction. If that’s you, this nod to the past will come in the form of a huge middle finger, pointed directly at you and your kind telling you that you need to either adapt or get the hell out. That said, if you’re a little more open minded about things it will still come in the form of a giant middle finger just not aimed at you; more like an inside joke that you’re a part of. And believe me, the joke is on everyone else; DmC is magnificent.
Let’s get this fanboy stuff out of the way; fanboys (and girls) are jerks. They just are. They are horrible to be around, horrible to talk to and just plain awful. Fans are fine, fans are the lifeblood of any given franchise, but fanboys/girls are the cancer that infests and festers and kills anything it can claw its way into from the inside out. Fans appreciate the art that they enjoy while fanboys and fangirls feel that they are entitled to the art they enjoy. You are not. If you are not getting what you want, you are a person with a mind and a body and the ability to create art of your own. Do it. That’s how things get done.
DMC fanboys were disgustingly quick to dismiss this effort from acclaimed English studio Ninja Theory. Despite the fact that it was the heads at Capcom that forced their hand on the radical image change, despite the fact that every gameplay video released showed the same fast-paced, visceral combat the franchise was known for, fanboys were unyielding in their refusal to accept that maybe, just maybe, since Hideki Kamiya abandoned the series, some fresh ideas and new perspectives were exactly what it needed. I’ll give them this, at least they’re persistent in their idiocy.
And you know what? Who cares? Their refusal to come to this party just leaves more party for the rest of us and boy oh boy; what a party it is.
DmC reboots the Devil May Cry franchise, although it’s not completely unreasonable to also take it as a simple prequel, and drags its story out of B-movie, anime schlock and into a more contemporary, albeit still completely batshit, setting. ‘Demons’ are presented as the true force behind the evil and greed that is corrupting the real world, running the show and keeping humanity enslaved from a parallel universe known as Limbo. With most of the earths population blissfully unaware of their slavery, it has been easy for the Raptor News Network (read: Fox News) to convince them that mysterious resistance group ‘The Order’, are nothing but no-good terrorists. This, of course, is not the case and it isn’t long before our leading man, Dante, is drafted in to help them rid the world of demons once for and for all.
And how does the reckless young anti-hero take to his new role as a hitman for hire? Like a duck to bloody water. Combat in DmC is just beautiful. Across the course of the game you’ll slash, slice, flatten and fire your way through hoards of demons with swords, axes, scythes, guns, hooks, projectiles and enormous hulken fists. Demons burst apart with just the right mix of friction and gooeyness and the variety of enemy types, and the combinations thereof, keep you on your toes at all times. You’ll be switching between weapons quite frequently mid-fight, especially when the weapon specific enemies show up. Dante, being half angel and half demon, can wield both demonic and angelic weapons; the Arbiter is a weighty demonic axe used to deal massive amounts of damage in slow, powerful swings, while Osiris is an angelic scythe, light and agile, ideal for distracting multiple enemies at once before using the Arbiter to deal the finishing blow. Your skills are judged and graded based on your ability to mix things up, the more stylish and varied your demon slaying is, the more points you’re awarded at end of each level, points that can be spent on more moves to make your killing sprees even more stylish still. It is, quite literally, a vicious circle.
This being a Ninja Theory game, the combat has to share the limelight with the platforming. Dante has dual grappling hooks which allow him to either pull ledges closer or lift him angelically to them. Before you go getting too excited though both of these are context sensitive and can only be used at specific cues. The platforming sections serve as occasionally welcome rests from the chaos of the combat but they don’t really do much else. Their linearity renders them relatively uninteresting and in a world where Suda 51 can make linearity sizzle with excitement, it’s slightly disappointing that a little more effort didn’t go into these parts of the game.
DmC has a curious take on sexual politics too. Given how prominent the discussions of gender roles in gaming have been this generation, DmCs opening cinematic comes across equal parts bold and misjudged. Some questionable dialog between antagonists and close ups of female strippers in a strip club, clearly designed to establish Dante as a womanizer and rogue, achieve their goal but not without causing offense to some I’d imagine. What’s interesting is that from that point on, the game pulls the weight off female sexuality completely and hovers it around that of the male lead. While Dante is only nude for a very small amount of time (again, the opening cinematic), I have to believe that a major effort went into making him as sexually appealing as possible. I played the game with my girlfriend in the room and, by her own admission, every line of dialog, every facial expression and swagger laden movement lead her to swoon and faun over the Son of Sparda, occasionally drawing audible breathless sighs. I kind of wish I was making that last part up. The only prominent female character, Kat, is never seen or portrayed in a sexual, or even overly romantic, light and is instead used as a device to hold the narrative together and ultimately be a catalyst to the, effective but predictable, twist. It’s progressive in the same, not-gonna-please-everybody way that Lollipop Chainsaw was, and as much furore as the opening sequence may go on to cause, it’s at least interesting to see a game use sexualization in a different way.
DmC has been a critical success thus far, notching up rave reviews from just about every gaming publication there is. Fanboys however have taken it upon themselves to undermine its deserved metacritic score by keeping its user rating in the red, you know, the same petty tactic fanboys used against the masterpiece that was Portal 2 because it had optional launch-day DLC. Their most common complaint is that the game is too easy and doesn’t offer enough challenge in comparison to the previous games and to that I say this: DmC offers six different difficulty settings, the hardest of which leaves you vulnerable to death from one hit while your enemies are suped up and super powerful. If you claim to be able to pirouette your way through DmC under these conditions without breaking a sweat you are either lying or this game being slightly simpler is most definitely the least of your problems.
You’re entitled to not like this game. Just like you’re entitled to not like Portal, K-On!, Ben & Jerrys Baked Alaska or any of the other awesome stuff the world is filled with. You’re also entitled to believe that Ninja Theory have destroyed the legacy of a great franchise and I’m entitled to believe that you’re wrong. DmC is a masterpiece from a studio that have shown great promise in everything they’ve done so far. If there’s any justice in the world, this game will make them boatloads of money and their next effort will be even better again.
Fanboys may cry, but DmC is brilliant.