It’s not Dante, they said. It’s not 60 frames-per-second, they said. Jump cancels are gone, they said. It’s going to be a bad game, they said. Well, guess what? They were wrong. To be perfectly honest, I was wrong. I was far from a believer in Ninja Theory’s ability to handle such an action-oriented franchise considering (what I found to be) sub-par combat in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. I was worried about Dante’s new look for the reboot. He was gaunt, childish, and didn’t resemble the Dante I had grown attached to over four games. I was worried about gameplay suffering from not being 60 frames per second. All my worries about combat were blown away. All my worries about the likability and aesthetic of the character were shattered. DmC: Devil May Cry is not the game fans of the series were expecting. It is much, much better.
There is a lot of familiarity in DmC: Devil May Cry. Dante is back with familiar weapons like Rebellion and Ebony & Ivory in tow. Vergil is back with his trademark Yamato and summoned swords. Mundus has returned. There are also the new names, new faces, new enemies, new weapons, etc. that one would come to expect from a reboot. The environments are all new, as well. But we’ll get to that in a minute. The point being that there’s enough here for even those familiar with the series through games like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or through other media involved with the series to recognize some names and classic elements of the series. The elements that are new do a fantastic job of making you feel like you’re playing a brand new game.
The story hits upon elements that are considered by most to be quite old and cliché. The eternal conflict between angels and demons rages on and the demons have enslaved the human race through ridiculous things like soda. It all sounds rather mundane and rehashed, but Ninja Theory does a fantastic job of making these things seem interesting and fresh. The use of real actors and motion capture does wonders for the narrative. Characters seem loose and real, each with their own little quirks and mannerisms. The dialogue is delivered in such a way that the characters seem believable, two people talking to each other and not just lines read by voice actors. It’s great, really, to see that Ninja Theory has taken such care to flesh out characters in a franchise that has historically been primarily action heavy. The essence of DmC: Devil May Cry is combat, but it never hurts to have some characters fleshed out with funny or interesting dialogue and backstories. The shining star of Ninja Theory’s world building, however, is the world itself.
The world Ninja Theory has built for DmC is really a wonder. In the game’s “real world,” colors are really muted and there isn’t a whole lot of color usage at all. There are blues, blacks, browns, and the greens of Virility (one of the game’s main points). But when Dante is dragged into or willingly enters Limbo to fight demons or traverse the altered scope of reality, the colors and design come alive. What would otherwise be blank city streets filled with the bland people enslaved by demons turns into an Alice in Wonderland-esque perversion of the “real world.” The designers had so much freedom designing the levels, and it really shows that they were a labor of love. The colors become so vibrant, and the world is constantly animated. Elements of the environment are always moving and changing as you progress through the levels. One really fantastic touch is the presence of shadows of human beings in the “real world” that move and exist throughout Limbo. They really speak to the level of detail and care put into creating the environments in DmC.
Incredibly impressive were a certain nightclub level and a certain newsroom level in which things like sound waves or the idea of digitalization were examined and rendered in certain ways that absolutely astounded me. One aesthetic element that I really loved was the use of dynamic environmental text (there is a term for it, but I can’t for the life of me remember) as you traverse the levels. Enemies will appear on screen phrases or words like “KILL DANTE,” “CRUSH HIM,” or “STOP” will appear at scripted points to drive home the motivations of the enemy you combat. My only issue with Limbo and the game’s environments in general, is the sometimes excessive platforming. There are points in the game where it feels rather tedious by sheer amount of time spent jumping or pulling from platform to platform. However, even those moments seem incredibly well cared for. True to form, there are also a ton of hidden areas and collectibles that aren’t always exactly obvious. Secret Missions are back for every level. The environment also provides interesting options for combat, kills, and style points.
Combat is one of the things that people were most worried about. Combat is the most important part of any game bearing the name Devil May Cry. The series is arguably the pinnacle of character action games. Any person could do a simple YouTube search and see swag combo videos from Devil May Cry 3 and Devil May Cry 4. They are incredibly impressive! They were done on 60 frames-per-second engines that allowed for things like jump canceling. Now I can’t say that I have fully explored the limits of the engine in DmC, but I am skilled enough from my time with fighting games to really take advantage of certain aspects of the combat system. To be perfectly honest, it’s good. Rather, it’s great. I loved my time with it, and writing this review just makes me want to go back to playing it. One thing that shows Ninja Theory’s dedication to combat is that there is a training mode able to be selected from the main menu for players to practice combos. You can try skills before you buy them with skill points. Red orbs are now used for item purchases only.
There are five basic melee weapons and three ranged weapons. Rebellion reappears as the player’s default weapon, while the new additions are group in Angel and Demon weapons. The Angel weapons are a scythe, Osiris, and a set of shuriken-like ranged weapons called Aquila. The Demon weapons are a broadaxe called Arbiter and a set of fist weapons called Eryx. Each of these weapons has very specific sets of attacks and properties that define their usefulness in combat to each player. The weapon switching is done with a combination of the D-pad and the triggers on the controller. Players use the directional pad to select with ranged, angel, or demon weapon they want, and then activate that weapon by holding the left trigger for angel weapons and the right trigger for demon weapons. This allows for fast weapon switching, which means more accessible combos for new players and veterans alike.
Also new to the series is the use of angel and demon grapples. Left trigger plus the X button is an angel pull that propels the player toward the enemy (I found this particularly useful for extended air combos). Right trigger plus the X button is a demon pull that pulls the enemy to the player (which I found particularly useful for ground combos, interrupting the momentum of an enemy, or to crowd control multiple enemies). These pulls also function as helping manipulate the environment, either to pull platforms toward you or to propel the player through the air to other platforms. However, gone are the familiar lock-on and Devil Trigger buttons, having been replaced by two dodge buttons. But we’ll get to those in a moment.
Significantly changed in DmC is the style-point system. I think both Ninja Theory and players recognize the importance of the system to players and their enjoyment of the game. The new system works in a way that is quite accommodating to the player. Should a player manage to earn a certain rank, that rank will persist until the player is hit. So, should I receive a SSS rank in combat, that rank will stay until I am struck by an enemy. It is significantly easier for the player to receive a higher rank on the difficulty I played through (Demon Hunter, or normal for the sake of timeliness). The game also introduces a mechanic that will quickly augment the player’s rank: the Demon Dodge. If you have a demon weapon active (after purchasing the demon dodge skill), and successful execute a perfect evade by timing a dodge correctly, your damage and combat rank will both be greatly increased. There is a similar mechanic, the Angel Dodge, but that does not affect the player’s damage or combat rank.
The question people have been asking since its announcement is if DmC is worthy of the name Devil May Cry. I am here to tell you that I believe it does. It’s not Devil May Cry 5. DmC does not aim to be that. It is something brand new while retaining familiar elements of previous entries in the series. Just because it is not Devil May Cry 5 does not mean that it should be avoided, though. In fact, Ninja Theory should be lauded for their handling of the reboot. They hit the high points of the series in spades. The combat feels tight and fun. The character is as cocky and self-assured as ever, but with knowledge of the gravity of his situation. You still feel badass when you uppercut an enemy into a train. DmC: Devil May Cry is a fantastic character action game. It’s really fun, really in your face, incredibly over the top, and hits all the high notes like it should. If you’re an old fan of the series, don’t let Dante’s new face stop you from playing and enjoying this title. If you’re new to the series, there’s never been a better time to jump in and enjoy the best character action game since Bayonetta.