I argued in a previous article that reboots were a necessary part of pop culture. That some memes and characters represent themes and ideas so strongly that it’s almost impossible to think of one without the other. The original Dante (or Camp Dante, as I like to call him), had run his course; he had no real story left to tell or character arc to continue. Our new Dante, however, has an incredibly bright future ahead of him, if DmC: Devil May Cry is anything to go by.
Everything we loved about Dante is still very much in place. The bad-arse attitude, the flair with which he handles his weapons and the ever-present struggle between his ‘humanity’ and demonic nature. Humanity might not be the right word though, as Dante is now no longer half human and half demon, rather, he’s a Nephilim (half angel, half demon), which makes you wonder how ‘Devil May Cry’ actually fits into the story at all. There are moments where Dante questions who he is and unfortunately, without the usual trope of ‘oh you showed some goodness so you’re in tune with your humanity,’ we’re stuck with him being reassured that ‘he’s just who he is.’
Every game has a slow clap moment, and for DmC, this was it.
Ninja Theory’s approach to DmC’s story didn’t stray too far from the originals, putting an emphasis on themes of humanity, power and kinship; but trying to keep these themes relevant to the modern era. Supposedly, the world is run by one man/demon whose power lies in his control over the world’s debt. He also controls the media through the ‘Raptor’ news network, and basically lobotomises humanity with the energy drink ‘Virility’, which, for some unexplained reason, everyone drinks. While it’s easy to understand what these entities are in reality (the US’ huge debts to China, the Fox News and poor nutritional health), it’s an incredibly ham-fisted way of representing it. For your average gamer, however, this is just the backdrop you don’t really need to pay attention to.
Despite not being your average gamer, I too quickly forgot about the problems and inherent flaws with the narrative when it came to the combat. It feels just as smooth as Devil May Cry 3 and has the almost absurd amount of variety that you’re presented with when playing as Dante in Devil May Cry 4. Switching between weapons is a simple D-pad press away, and to create some truly crazy combos you’ll be doing this a lot. Hell, I didn’t even do it for the combos; I just wanted to see Dante smash an enemy in six different ways in under 10 seconds.
This frenetic style of combat is bolstered by Dante’s new ability to either pull enemies closer towards him or pull himself towards enemies with his sword-turned-whip thing, and turns frantic mashing into a calculated plan of attack. Hit them in the air, avoid attack by pulling yourself into the air, smash them down, pull yourself to a lone enemy on the edge of the screen, pull yourself back into battle … while the previous series did give you the chance to be this cool, it never felt this easy or reliable. DmC makes the sheer power of Dante accessible to newcomers and gives veterans (like myself) a huge amount of variety to play around with.
With the change in combat style came a huge change in controls, and they do take a little while to get used to. When a trigger button is held down, it grants you access to your equipped Angelic or Demonic (LT and RT respectively) weapons. At first, trying to hit something with your regular attacks, then pulling yourself towards an enemy with the Angelic powers and then trying to hit an enemy with your Demonic weapon feels like your controller is a puzzle you’re trying to solve. After the first hour or so, this isn’t a problem, and if you’re still struggling after that time, I would argue that the problem just might lie with you.
The biggest flaw in the combat is the camera, which at times is incredibly helpful, showing you a wide area and all the potential threats currently around you and at other times is so transfixed on how cool Dante looks it just focuses on him like you’re supposed to start getting off. Apart from that, you are rewarded with Dante doing a ‘look’ at the end of each enemy wave, and considering how often this happens and how jarringly quick the transition is between ‘enemies – look – enemies’ it gets annoying really, really quickly.
Unfortunately, the faulty camera seems to seep into other aspects of the game as well. Sometimes the camera wouldn’t respond initially, as if safe-checking that you actually mean to hit the stick. It also usually happens exactly when you don’t want it to, like when you’re trying to see a hidden entrance or during the platforming, which is another portion of the game that needed some fine-tuning. Dante’s jump and double jump are made for verticality, not travel. While he does have the mid-air ‘Angel Dash’ move to propel him forward, the platforms are positioned in such a way that no unadjusted jump will land you squarely on where you need to go.
Grappling while traversing and platforming has similar frustrations; while it feels liberating to zoom around the place, the timing and spacing of these jumps never seems to be that solid or dependable. I suffered way too many mini-heart attacks for these sections not to come with some kind of health risk warning.
Devil May Cry was never short of spectacular boss battles, something that DmC has seemingly let slide. The few boss battles there were didn’t feel quite as epic as those I was used to from the series, and for that matter, not quite as epic as boss battles have been from other games in the hack and slash genre thus far. However, it was DmC’s new sense of style that saved these battles from being mediocre.
At one point, in an almost Saints Row: The Third fashion, you have to go through a series of surprisingly difficult and enjoyable challenges in a bright and glaring disco-dancing club to get to the boss. In another area, you have to fight enemies off from the viewpoint of a news chopper filming you from above. In yet another area, DmC takes cues from the likes of Guy Ritchie; the stage taking on a black and white motif, and as the narrator instructs you as to where you’re going, chalk arrows and will appear to guide your way. Coupled with the use of giant words appearing on the environment to reflect how hated you and humanity are (because nothing says ‘encouragement’ like KILL DANTE being displayed everywhere), DmC has an incredibly unique feel.
- Reviewed On