Style. Everyone has it in their own unique way. It is the most visual form of expression and is an instantly recognisable way to differentiate you from your brethren. Ninja Theory’s DmC reboot, much like the quintessentially Japanese Devil May Cry predecessors, is all about style. It’s not merely enough to eviscerate, decapitate or defenestrate. You need to do it with aplomb. It’s all about flair, and DmC has it; begs you incorporate it and accepts nothing less than 16 different pieces of it as the bare minimum.
Initial reactions to the change in new beginning for the franchise were not favourable, even considering combat aficionado Ninja Theory was at the helm. Why was Capcom letting its baby become “Westernised”? Why revamp Dante and take away his luxurious white locks? Why set it in an alternate universe to reset the series?
While these all may appear to be valid concerns for any fan cautious of someone messing with a much-loved franchise, I can tell you that DmC – Devil May Cry -- gives you all the ball-breaking, nut-busting, finger-snapping, eye-popping and ridiculously over-the-top action you could ask for. Better yet, Ninja Theory beautifully compliments it with spectacular motion-capture, a vibrant colour palate, insane old-school bosses, a smart-arse protagonist and some of the coolest level designs I’ve ever seen. DmC is so damned satisfying you’ll want to smoke a cigarette afterwards.
You play Dante, a kind of emo douchebag living an indulgent and carefree existence in his boardwalk trailer jumping from skirt to skirt awash an ocean of alcohol. Then reality sets in… or rather Limbo comes crashing down, exploding all around him; taking the jam out of his doughnut. Now I’m not talking about a conga line filled with revelers grooving to a Jamaican steel drum band seeing how low they can go. I’m talking about an alternate demon-filled dimension that violently drags you through to its version of reality and wants to hack your face off.
You see, Dante is a bit of a mystery. He’s Nephilim -- an unholy offspring of angel and demon making him a bit of a wildcard. His lineage is unknown to him, with memories of his family and parentage curiously blank. After dealing with a few troublesome demon spawn and sending them back to the depths of Hell he has a moment to regroup and collect himself. He hooks up with a medium named Kat, who has the ability to see Limbo but not travel through it, and aligns himself with a radical group known as The Order and here’s where it all gets a little funky.
Demonic influences are everywhere and DmC has an interesting take on how it affects us mere mortals (thanks to longtime Ninja Theory collaborator Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later and most recently Dredd). Advertising, sexual temptations via nightclubs and brothels, manufactured news under the guise of bible-bashing and, of course, any multi-national corporation are tools used by demons to enslave humanity with or without their knowledge.
At the top of the heap sits Mundus, an arch-demon who via the use of the powerful Hell Gate is an unstoppable force. He’s also responsible for the banishment of Dante’s Dad and the murder of his Mum. Not cool, bro. Thus the pieces are on the board, slowly moving into place for an epic brouhaha as Dante slaughters score after score of unholy abominations on his road to revenge. But wait, there’s more.
Remember that wee little organisation I mentioned known as The Order? Well its head honcho is a rather spiffy looking chap by the name of Vergil who kind of looks a bit like Dante. Actually, he looks exactly like Dante (bar the hair). To be more precise, he’s Dante’s twin brother and he too is driven by an unquenchable desire to cleft Mundus in twain. So the bros join forces to demolish Mundus’ empire piece by piece and free humanity from the shackles of demonic slavery. Ain’t they a pair?
So the stage is now set, but it would be for naught without some solid performances and sexified graphics and Ninja Theory has got you covered. These guys and gals know their mo-cap. DmC has some true acting gloriously recreated digitally for your eye and earholes. All characters emote believably, move realistically (taking into account the setting) and have depth and subtlety to their performances. It really helps immerse you in a completely fantastical, brutal wonderland, and what a wondrous place it is.
Ninja Theory has come up with some of the most outstanding level designs I’ve ever seen. From a visual standpoint alone, colours burst through every section and the sense of scale at times can be positively daunting. Getting dragged into Limbo never gets old, it’s like watching the world Dante inhabits explode as Limbo breaks through shattering buildings and leaving a path of destruction in its wake.
Without spoiling too much, the showdown at a nightclub with Mundus’ sweetie Lilith is something that will stay with me for quite some time. The design incorporated sound waves, equalisers and all manner of neon-infused electronics feeling like a drug-induced trip through Tron: Legacy and I totally meant that as a compliment.
Waving the flag for Australia is Tim Phillipps who voices Dante and you’d never even know it unless you looked up his back catalogue with stints in Neighbours, Home and Away and even Underbelly. He does a brilliant job breathing life into Dante and he is ably backed up by his Kiwi compadre from across the Tasman, David de Lautour, voicing Vergil, who’s been in everything from Xena to Power Rangers. The two riff off each other completely naturally and their chemistry helps ground the experience.
I can almost hear you guys thinking, enough with the play by play ko-zee-ii old mate, how about breaking down the combat? Take it easy, tiger. Don’t get your panties in a twist. DmC gives you a crazy number of options to fillet and fricassee your enemies and it’s up to you how you handle them. Each enemy type is cut from a classic mold including the bosses.
You’ll get a clear audio or visual cue when they are about to attack and it becomes about memorising patterns and working out which is the best tool for the job using your Nephilim Swiss army knife. You kick off sporting dual pistols Ebony and Ivory (lawsuit from Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney pending) and the stabtastic sword Rebellion. These are your go-to weapons and the most pedestrian of your arsenal.
Your mixed heritage has blessed you with angelic-powered weapons for more precise, crowd controlling attacks allowing you to chain grab enemies and pull yourself towards them. On the demon side of things it’s more about collateral damage and laying waste to any and everything. I’m talking scorched Earth here, mofos. Ninja Theory has given you all the tools -- it’s up to you to decide how you use them.
Can you get by with just the bare minimum? Sure you can. You don’t need to memorise the myriad of unlockable moves for each of the near dozen weapons. You can still hack, slash and button mash your way through, not easily mind you, but you’d make it. Would you? Hell no! Each skirmish gives you a grading or rank as you pick apart each demon type and by mixing and matching attacks and not taking damage you’ll work your way up to the coveted ‘SSS’ rating. The question remains, will you?
Frak yeah! Chaining together insane combinations is what makes DmC as inviting as Scarlett Johansson tossing you her room key. You can pitch demons up into the air and grapple to them, hitting them higher and higher, leapfrogging from one enemy type to the next. I was partial to loosening them up with the thousand stabs of Rebellion, tossing my Aquila blades and stunning them into place, popping off a few courtesy rounds with my sawn-off shotgun, Revenant, and finishing them off with some debilitating fisticuffs via the Eryx gauntlets, but that’s just me. If those don’t float your boat there’s the Arbiter scythe, Osiris heavy axe or the magnificently titled firearm, Kablooey, which unleashes manually-detonated explosive needle rounds.
Why DmC’s combat works so well is that working out your strategic approach is only part of the problem. Once you do it’s about recognising the pattern and when frustration kicks in it’s not the AI taking cheap shots or cheating, it’s your own mistake or finger slip that’s gotten you into trouble. It can be unforgiving but it never gets overwhelming. You always feel like it’s simply a matter of time before you make whichever spawn of Satan you’re tussling with your bitch.
On the minus side there really wasn’t all that much to complain about. The PS3 version (which I played) is a little less pretty than its Xbox 360 or PC (obviously) counterparts, but it’s far from ugly either. Just a touch less sharp or vibrant on occasion. The camera can be sporadically temperamental taking a few moments to catch up or illogically focusing on the wrong enemy. This is mainly due to the auto lock-on for targeting adversaries. Given the depth of the combat and that it pretty much uses up every button on the controller I think Ninja Theory did a fine job of following the action as it unfolds without compromising attack options.
DmC is one hell of a game. It hits you on almost every level. The story is intriguing with some interesting ideas on media corrupting the masses and while completely predictable still manages to throw some curve balls at you. It looks spectacular, is wonderfully acted and has some of the most imaginative level designs and memorable boss battles I’ve come across in quite some time, and then there’s the combat.
Like a Whitman’s sampler variety is the spice of death. Stick to your favourites to get the job done or try a little bit of everything as you go for that elusive SSS rating. The second you knock out the campaign I dare you not to mosey on back for another round to try your newer toys or find all those hidden collectables. It screams replayability and I just can’t wait to get back to it. In fact, screw you guys, I’m off to play it now…