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Game Review: DmC: Devil May Cry

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DmC: Devil May Cry is the textbook definition of a “gritty, serious reboot” that replaces the immense originality and fun of the original with grit, profanity, and mediocre game play.

Yes, I’m a fan of Devil May Cry 3 and 4. They were great, if flawed, games that are as fun as they are challenging.

No, I did not grow-up with Devil May Cry 3. When DMC 3: Special Edition came out, I disliked it because it was way too hard and I preferred Ninja Gaiden Black. I actually got into the franchise after the demo for DmC came out.

Ninja Theory developed both Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and DmC. Enslaved was decent, had a few memorable characters, and was worth playing. Because of this, I download the demo for DmC. I played it, and I thought it was okay (compared to Enslaved). Then I looked at the Internet. Multiple people hated the demo and thought DMC4 was much better despite its flaws. I also heard that DMC4 was more accommodating to new players than DMC3 was. I played the Xbox Live demo for DMC4 and loved it.

My problem with DmC isn’t that it is radically different from DMC3 and DMC4. I’m okay with Ninja Theory and Capcom making DmC serious and accessible for a wider audience as long as the game is still good. The real problem is that the game, on its own merits, is lousy.

The Plot

DMC3 and DMC4 don’t have good plots. You know what else doesn’t? Commando. It doesn’t need a compelling plot to be an excellent action flick, because all the plot needs to do is give a believable excuse for Arnold Schwarzenegger to flex his muscles, blow stuff up, and dispense one-liners. The previous two DMC games have “action movie excuse plots”.

On paper, DmC has an action movie plot. It’s mostly DMC3 plus They Live. But in execution, DmC doesn’t know what it wants to be.

On one hand, DmC takes itself seriously. It is concerned with real-life issues like debt, terrorism, advertising, unborn children, child abuse, and Fox News.

On the other hand, there are (completely terrible) one-liners, (awful) attempts at humor, and standard action film plot stuff about angels and demons. The game has some bad voice acting (Vergil has no personality for 2/3rds of the game), and dialogue is often cringe-worthy.

DmC doesn’t quite know what it wants to be and suffers greatly from it.

That inconsistency can be partially excused if the characters are likeable (or at least relatable). There’s only one likeable character in this entire game. He is a demon named Phineas. He has a cool design, and he’s basically the “Morgan Freeman” type of character.

No other character comes remotely close.

Game Play

Plot and characters would not matter if you could skip all of it during game play and if the combat was good.

There are mission-long sections of the game that force exposure to the plot, and there are certain (short) cutscenes that cannot be skipped.

At the beginning, the combat is mediocre. It basically plays like DMC3 without lock-on. This is okay until you have to hit air enemies: it’s quite hard to pick one without lock-on, and this game’s lock-on replacement (just for ranged weapons) is unreliable and lacks an indicator. Then you notice that many enemies don’t really fight back. I was playing on Nephilim difficulty (the highest available at the start), and most enemies were downright lethargic. It’s a far cry from DMC3 and DMC4 where, on Normal, enemies constantly attack.

I went further and realized that most enemies could be trivially stun-locked or juggled. DMC3 and DMC4 has stun-locking and juggling, but they limit juggling, and stun-locking seems unreliable at higher difficulties. DmC imposes no such limits, so just go right ahead and stay in the air while stun-locking nearly everything.

In the previous two DMC games, combat is challenging, and you actively have to dodge and jump to avoid getting surrounded or cornered. DmC feels more like God of War: I don’t really care about getting surrounded, most enemies don’t pose a threat, and I don’t get much use out of a majority of the available weapons.

Speaking of God of War, DmC shares another trait with that franchise: tons of bottomless pits! They’re not insta-kills here (you get warped back like it’s Legend of Zelda), but they play a major role during combat. DMC3 and DMC4 also have bottomless pits, but they warp you somewhere else with no damage, are uncommon for non-combat areas, and are incredibly rare during combat.

The “warp with damage” mechanic isn’t the only thing DmC borrows from Legend of Zelda. Almost every boss battle has puzzle-solving. In fact, one boss feels like a Mario boss, complete with stomping on switches!

Sonic Adventure shares a mechanic with DmC. I’m not making this up. Remember the numbered jump pads from SA where you had to press jump when Sonic got to one? They’re in DmC but they’re not numbered!

DmC’s game play might share more in common with God of War, Legend of Zelda, and maybe even Mario and Sonic (combined) than it does Devil May Cry! I know that Capcom and Ninja Theory wanted DmC to have a wider audience, but they should not have replaced what makes DMC what it is with mechanics made popular by other franchises.

Wait, There’s Actually Some Positive Things Here

I trashed the plot, dismissed the characters, and laughed at the combat. There are actually some positives here.

I prefer DmC’s soundtrack over DMC3 and DMC4’s normal battle music. Strictly because there’s way more of it in DmC.

The Bob Barbas boss fight is cool. It also contains a news ticker joke that I actually laughed at (a rarity in this game). The aforementioned “Mario boss” is Bob Barbas, but he is, by far, the most enjoyable part of the game.

The boss fight at the end (it’s obvious who it is but there’s little foreshadowing about it) could have been great. It’s an actual DMC-style Duel Boss. One that’s sadly punctuated by multiple cutscenes, and one that ends with yet another puzzle. This fight is another highlight of the game, but it could have been so much better with the fat trimmed.

The PC version is good, with all of the graphic and control options that you want.

Everything that I didn’t explicitly complain about is probably fine.

Expectations

These positive aspects stand-out because DmC, as a whole, is a bad video game that does way more wrong than right. This is exactly what I was expecting going into it.

Truth be told, I read many opinions about DmC before I played the game for the first time. It caused a relatively major stink when it was first released. “True fans” have been e-riotting ever since the game was first announced. The more I heard about the game prior to its release, the less I liked it. I knew that I wouldn’t love this game well before buying it, but I bought the ticket anyways because I wanted to support the franchise (at a very reasonable sale price of $15), play the Vergil’s Downfall DLC, and form my own opinion about the main game.

A Word to the Disagreeable

Many game reviewers and non-fans of the franchise seem to love this game. I keep hearing that it’s accessible, that the plot doesn’t matter, that Dante is way more cool than the “constantly rejected by women” Dante of previous games, and that previous games were way too hard.

I cannot comprehend the reality of DmC’s fans. This is an absolutely lousy game.

Recommendations

Please avoid this game.

I played it and wrote this long dumb review so you wouldn’t have to try it yourself. Search YouTube for “dmc bob barbas” and you can watch the only part of the game that I actively enjoyed. It’s a shame that people will miss out on it because it’s in such a bad game.

If you want to get into Devil May Cry, I highly recommend DMC4. The ‘Human’ difficulty setting is fairly easy but still provides an enjoyable challenge. Dante is a loveable goofball in that game, and the parts where you play as him have some of my favorite cutscenes in any video game.

Mini-Review: Vergil’s Downfall

Vergil’s Downfall is far superior to the main game in every way. Even the voice acting is a considerable step-up. I still prefer DMC3 and DMC4 over Vergil’s Downfall. But this is a respectable addition to the series.

Recommended to fans of hack-and-slash games and people who own DmC but think that it’s an insult to the franchise.

I don’t think that it’s worth owning DmC just to play Vergil’s Downfall. It’s a rather short piece of content (less than half the length of the original game). At this point, DMC4 is far cheaper and has much more content.


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