Also on: Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Ninja Theory
Rebooting a video game franchise has got to be a heady responsibility. Even if the game isn’t a commercial or critical darling, if a franchise manages to snag a couple sequels along the way there’s a good chance some sort of rabid fan base has managed to latch on for the long haul. And that’s certainly not a bad thing either, as that fan base is generally responsible for whatever success the series has had up to the point that a publisher felt the need to hit the reset button. But when that reset buttons does get hit, well…watch out.
Devil May Cry, or DmC as this reboot seems to be branded, is no different. Granted, it’s a bit more popular than most, but it’s certainly not a household name like other major franchise players at this point. Capcom has struggled with filling that spot this gen, evident in the transition from Resident Evil 5 to 6, Lost Planet 1 to 2, and even their attempt at rebooting an 8-bit classic with the Grin developed Bionic Commando. For whatever reason, Capcom has really struggled when it comes to capitalizing on their pretty diverse portfolio of properties, and despite a strong showing with Devil May Cry 4 in 2008, they’ve hit that big, glowing, and potentially lucrative reset button with DmC.
Developed by Ninja Theory, of Heavenly Sword and Enslaved fame, DmC deviates a bit from the in-house developed titles that preceded it. Clearly, bringing in an outside team is a pretty big departure in and of itself, but there are other changes in store for long-time fans and newcomers alike. Most of which are actually decent, really, provided you come into the game after checking your series baggage at the door. No, Dante doesn’t have white hair and a red coat, and yeah, he looks a little malnourished in comparison to Dante of old. Unfortunately the game doesn’t run at 60 frames per second either, opting for a mostly solid 30 in favor of some more cinematic, slowed down action bits. But the combat, which really ends up being the core of any DMC experience regardless of middle letter capitalization, is really damn solid.
Dante comes equipped with a number of moves, some of which are tucked behind unlockables made available after gaining the prerequisite number of red orbs, used as currency throughout DmC. A lot of familiar moves make up Dante’s ever expanding repertoire, including the Stinger, Helmbreaker, and Prop. Weapon switching is still a key factor here, even if the weapon types have been changed up. By the end of the game you’ll have access to 8 different weapons, including 3 gun variations, so there’s a fair amount to play with. And swapping between them on the fly is easy enough via the D-Pad, along with swapping between equipped weapons through the top right and left trigger buttons, allowing you to string together combo’s with relative ease. And even though the drop in framerate compared to previous entries is sort of a bummer, during the actual fights you’ll remarkably find yourself forgetting that there’s any difference in overall speed or animation quality. It stands out a lot more when exploring the environment, and when watching the all too often cutscene interruptions, but certainly becomes less evident when fighting.
I’ll also go on record saying that I love the art design of DmC. I get why people aren’t too hot on the Dante redesign, even though I don’t find it as incredibly offensive as some, but the actual world environments, monster design, and bosses look incredible here. There’s a lot of color being squeezed out of the almost ancient Unreal Engine 3 displayed in DmC, and it looks positively gorgeous in motion. There’s some annoying texture pop-in, and I noticed the framerate in certain cutscenes seems to take a random hit or two, but by and large this is a fantastic looking game. And the soundtrack isn’t half bad either. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Combichrist involvement, as I’m not a particular fan, but overall I felt the music fit the world and characters quite well. And the voice acting is pretty solid throughout, with nothing overly offensive or annoying, and a decent range of emotion is on display for the parts of the game that require it. I think most can agree that Ninja Theory typically puts a hellacious amount of effort into facial and body animation, and that doesn’t stop with DmC.
Still, it’s not all roses for this reboot. The game features 20 missions, which could have easily been cut down significantly if the stale platforming segments were cut. These sections feel like little more than filler, and while they’re not quite as on-rails as those found in Enslaved (you can easily fall off platforms at least), they still offer little in the way of actual challenge. A lot of these sequences involve you switching between different grapple types tied into Angelic and Demonic weapon selections, but the novelty of pushing platforms away or dashing through the air in order to latch on to a nearby floating section of cement wears off quickly.
And the cutscenes are so abundant that you’ll quickly grow tired of the story even if you’re sort of interested in what’s going on. The general plot isn’t bad at all, and actually does a decent job of unveiling Dante’s backstory and building the right sort of stepping stones for a potential sequel. But there’s a constant need to intercut battles with short 15 to 30 second bits, even during boss fights, which ends up being far too distracting. And while you can skip past most major scenes, you’ll find that they often double as a way of masking load times, which even with the game forcibly installed on the PS3 can feel a tad too lengthy.
But these issues aren’t quite what I’d dub major. There’s some annoyance to be had with the cutscenes, loading, and platforming bits, but the core action gameplay that’s become synonymous with Devil May Cry still stands out as some of the best in the business. It’s not Devil May Cry 3, and it’s a pretty big departure from 4 even, but if approached with a fresh point of view and with a willingness to try something different, I’m willing to bet that most will have a lot of fun with DmC. It borrows enough familiar elements that it doesn’t entirely alienate long-time fans, but at the same time this feels like an entirely new experience. This might not be the Dante you know and love, but I really think this is a reboot with potential.