By Tom Tolios / June 2nd, 2015
|Title||DmC: Devil May Cry Definitive Edition|
|Release Date||March 17, 2015|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, Xbox One|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Mature|
Let’s talk about Capcom’s Devil May Cry reboot, even if it’s still too soon for some of you. By now, fans of action adventure games are familiar with the controversies surrounding Ninja Theory’s take on Sparda’s scions, Dante and Vergil, and their nemesis, archdemon Mundus. The major points of contention are the visual redesigns of the characters and a forgiving combat engine. Other charges have been levied that the game neither looks nor sounds like a Devil May Cry game, and still others complain that it’s just too unironic or self aware. As a result of the animosity, the actual merits of the game have been lost in a chaotic sea of angry voices. It’s time to settle this debate once and for all. Let’s rock, baby!
Normally, games need to be reviewed on their own merits and not judged by previous entries in the series, but, sometimes, there are discussions that can’t be had without touching on these issues. Also, there’s an argument to be made that a series that changes too much over time can lose its identity, and history has shown this to be the case all too often. This is not to say that a given series can’t mature over time or age gracefully, but publishers have been known to lose their way with a franchise in a misguided attempt to maintain relevancy. So, let’s get the two major gripes out of the way first.
This version of Dante isn’t very charismatic and seems like an attempt by Capcom and Ninja Theory to connect with newer audiences that haven’t played the older games. He feels cynical and lacks any sense of earnest joy. If he wasn’t called Dante and wasn’t appearing in a game with the words “Devil May Cry” in the title, he’d just be one more disappointing protagonist that lacks a consistent tone and whose methods of appealing to audiences are bad jokes, swearing and asinine behavior. He eventually becomes someone you can like, but the evolution into a better character is botched to the point where I stopped asking questions about it and was just happy that I no longer had to deal with ‘that other guy’ from earlier in the game anymore.
But let’s talk about the fan gripe because it’s one of the elephants in the room. On his own merits, he’s not that great of a character. As an iteration of Dante, he’s awful. It’s like Capcom WANTED to run off one of their most popular and iconic heroes. In trying to reinvent him, they’ve missed the point entirely. Great video game characters don’t need to be reconstructed. They exist outside of time and will always be instantly recognizable for all the qualities that make them who they are. Now, they CAN be revisited, and origin stories CAN be effective. The recent Tomb Raider proved it’s possible to go back to the beginning without losing the essence of the character. But Capcom and Ninja Theory failed where Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics succeeded. Think of a God of War game where Kratos isn’t angry all the time because the publisher fears all his sound and fury doesn’t connected with modern audiences. It wouldn’t work. We all know Kratos’s appeal as a protagonist is his unending rage. He’s larger than life. So are Mario, Ryu Hayabusa, Solid Snake and every other character that endures as an icon in the medium. This Dante is a misfire. Score one for the disgruntled Dante fans; they’re right to be irritated because he’s just not as exciting as the guy they love.
And don’t think I’ve forgotten about Vergil, folks. We spend more time with Vergil in this game than we ever have before, but something feels off about him in DmC. He was more archetypal in Devil May Cry 3 and he had a dominant attitude, an iron will that made him just as much a standout as Dante, even down to the way he held Yamato and brandished it, making that dark katana an integral part of his character. All of that is lost here, as this Vergil is motivated by a different purpose and isn’t menacing or threatening in the least. Yes, it could be argued that the leader of a resistance movement against demonic overlords should feel noble, but the whole concept crashes and burns because he’s so mundane. Using Vergil is a great idea, and I welcome his appearance in any game deigning to call itself Devil May Cry, but he lacks any presence whatsoever this time. He’s just a guy here.
Now to the charges concerning the gameplay and difficulty. On this count, I agree that this game’s combat is easier and nothing like previous titles in the series, but, thematically, it has the kind of attitude and swagger I want out of a Devil May Cry game. The control pad’s functions are perfectly mapped, allowing for effortless execution and precision. The color-coded enemies are new to this series and are specifically designed to mix up the flow and keep players on their toes. Using your grappling hooks on enemies is a great tool for creating spacing, initiating or continuing combos and allowing for real creativity during battles. A variety of attacks can also launch foes to initiate juggling combos and aerial strings. The fighting is so smooth that missing an attack or using the wrong weapon is embarrassing, exposing you and making you feel like a scrub. That’s the whole point of Devil May Cry to begin with — the identity of the series’ gameplay if it ever had one. These are games about showing off and being cool during combat.
DmC: Devil May Cry gives players a wide array of options to kick all forms of demon butt, be it with Dante’s considerable arsenal of weapons and firearms or Vergil’s high-precision katana slashes, astral projectiles and displacement techniques. As it concerns Vergil, he requires a more skillful hand to master, but, once you’ve got his style down, he’s almost unbeatable. Whether you prefer Dante’s brand of melee mayhem or Vergil’s dismissive attitude and surgical strikes, the styles suit the characters perfectly. If I could levy a true criticism against DmC: Devil May Cry’s game engine, it’s that I don’t think it punishes players quite enough for being sloppy, but, judged on its own merits, there’s plenty to enjoy here. So, I can’t side with the critics that say the gameplay is lacking. This game is fun, and anybody that gives it an honest try will discover a rich hack-and-slasher with a lot of options and versatility.
There are many different monsters to be found in DmC: Devil May Cry, and each of them has their own strengths and weaknesses to evade and exploit. Some enemies have shields that need to be broken first. Others fire projectiles at you, create barriers to protect themselves or have specific weak spots you have to focus on. Some fly and you either have to bring them down with specific attacks or grapple them in order to close the distance. Color-coded enemies, white and red, can only be damaged by the corresponding weapon types. Dante has two weapons for each color, a scythe and dual shuriken for white and a battleaxe and armored gloves for red, in addition to his sword, dual pistols, shotgun and explosive firearm. Color-coded weapons can hurt enemies of the same type and color neutral enemies, while color neutral weapons can only hurt enemies of that type. Vergil only has his signature katana Yamato, but, as you play through his campaign, you unlock white and red properties that function similarly to Dante’s.
Each of Dante’s and Vergil’s weapons has its own set of special attacks which must be purchased and leveled up between stages as you earn experience points, and you’ll need to become proficient with them in order to max your grade for the level and earn the biggest rewards. You also get in-game currency, referred to as Souls, to buy health items and permanent increases to Dante’s and Vergil’s stats. Using the same attacks over and over will actually hurt your score, as the game penalizes you for being boring. So, get familiar with all of our abilities and flaunt them as much as possible. Since stages can be replayed after they’ve been completed, you’ll likely be revisiting them to improve your score and gather up any collectibles you missed during your first go around. The best way to level grind if you want to get every upgrade quickly is the Bloody Palace mode where you fight increasingly challenging waves of monsters. Note that all of your upgrades are available to you regardless of the difficulty level or mode you choose, and even harder modes can be unlocked as you progress.
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