DmC: Devil May Cry. The reboot to the franchise that helped patient the hack and slash genre... or according to the contributors of very sad (and truly pathetic) message board topics the most evil, vile thing on the face of the planet. The "pros" and "antis" have taken it upon themselves to wage a war over the worth of DmC that is ridiculous as the day is long. At first I took a pretty kind of pride in watching over these squabbles - kind of like the typical JRPG super villain who’s manipulating a lesser evil in order to pester the heroes - because it's somewhat to fun watch unabated chaos unfold. However, after a while such laughter turns to despair when you realize these are the people that help make up the gaming community and they seem incapable of having a civilized conversation.
Of course, I know many people will just say "well, that's the internet for you…" and leave it at that. By this point in its existence I think most people know the World Wide Web is the place where opinions and respectful debate go to die. Post something on the www and if you have a large enough of an audience you're sure to have some snarky ass comments nestled among the ones that make you question reading and writing levels of those responding. Yeah, I know everyone hates a grammar Nazi (including myself) but I think I may hate gamers even more despite being one myself. However, one of the worst kept secrets in the world of gaming is that gamers want their interest in games to be respected. Games have come a long way in that regard but there is still a lot of work to be done. The funny thing is while gamers will admit this is their aim, their behavior when expressing opinions online, behind the perceived safety of a screen name, often betrays their purity of their devotion. It is one thing to dislike a game... it's another thing entirely to devote a ton of energy to run a personal smear campaign against it just because the developer and publisher's vision doesn't line up with your own.
This is the situation that DmC has faced even prior to its release. Granted, there were a few things said by members of development team that added fuel to the mob's fire but then you have to realize these people were looking for any reason to pounce to begin with. Damned if you do and damned if you don't, right? So what about the game itself? Do these people have a leg to stand on or are they really just out on a witch hunt? Personally, and if the beginning of this review is any indication, I feel it's the latter.
Now before I get too far I should probably admit that I do understand why the DMC fanbase became so vested in Dante as he was depicted in games like DMC3 and DMC4. When you get down to it Dante was a rather likable fellow and I know I wouldn't have had a problem with seeing more of him. After playing DMC4 I didn’t really see an in-game reason to reboot the franchise and Nero wasn’t even close to being a bad character. Given that you can't help but feel the fans of the previous games would have been unhappy with any kind of change - even if it was for the better. Then there are the moments where DmC pretty much proves how uptight the fanbase really is when small, tongue-in-cheek joke about finding white hair ridiculous sets off a message board fire storm. Seriously, I wish I was joking about that but I'm not.
For the most part, most people's opinions about DmC end up in one of two camps: the "it's a horrible travesty camp" which gives the game a one out of ten (or a zero out of ten if possible) even though the game is far from being the kind of broken mess that truly deserves such a rating and the "I have to rate it insanely high to make up for all the low scores" guys who think they're doing the game a great service when they're not. The truth is - well, at least my truth - is that this game is somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.
The first thing in the game that caught my attention was the art style – not Dante’s character, not the lack of Trish or the supposed weakening of the combat system – but the art style. As I watched a video of the game on YouTube prior to buying the game the environments (especially Limbo) really stuck me as something an eastern company would dream up rather than a western Japanese company. DmC definitely makes a departure in this area when you compare the bright hues to the duller environments in previous Devil May Cry games. This doesn’t really make one kind of environment better than the other but you really need to take in this difference to really understand where DmC is coming from.
I know some are probably like “no freaking da!” when it comes to these differences in visual aesthetics being broken down and analyzed, but you have to notice the difference before you can really see where DmC’s art style succeeds and falls flat. The main thing I noticed when I actually started to play the game opposed to just watching it is how dirty it looks. Most of DmC’s locals are down and out and – truth be told – aren’t very exciting. This really isn’t really a graphics or performance issue because this was Ninja Theory’s obvious intent – and why they chose to build the game using the Unreal Engine. Yeah, I know the game takes eons to load and the “30fps isn’t fast enough” cronies are just going to loathe the fact I said that but again I can see why Ninja Theory thought its use was the most expedient way of achieving the game’s intended look.
Of course, to those beating the DmC vs DMC war drums I doubt the game’s environments really mean much next to the “watered down combat.” When it comes to past games I have to admit the gameplay was much deeper than the control scheme would have you believe, but at the same time I think there was a lot of “illusionary depth” in that equation that was more-or-less an invention on the part of the players. This isn’t to say the skill level of the seasoned player wasn’t/shouldn’t be rewarded… but I don’t feel the gap between DmC and DMC’s combat is as wide as DmC’s detractors claim. However, it’s not a real easy comparison to make to begin with because while the aim and feel of combat is meant to be the same there are many maneuvers that come off differently because of the controls.
The controls in DmC strike me as an area that would have been discussed more had people not been raging over Dante’s personality. Personally after experiencing the game, I would have liked to have seen more conversation about this because seeing the game in action gives you little idea what Ninja Theory did differently than Capcom. Knowing Capcom like most of us think we do, the controller setup is a lot like the game’s environments where the ideas seem somewhat alien. Still, with all this talk of control, the obvious question is does it all work when put into play? For the most part the answer is yes – even if the vast number of button combinations makes it seem a bit convoluted. The only real victim in the control scheme is dodging. In the heat of the moment it is very hard to drop your attention from your alternate weapons on the back triggers and make the small leap up to the front triggers. To those reading this may sound silly, but in all honesty I can’t think of any other game I’ve played recently that puts a controller through its paces quite like DmC which is kind of a compliment and is not at the same time. As for the dodging problem I don’t really have a suggestion on how I’d even begin to address it but it feels like the kind thing that would eventually iron itself out over time and multiple playthroughs because a single playthrough – coming in at eight to nine hours – isn’t enough time to get over such a hump.
Still, if there is one thing that annoys me about combat in every Devil May Cry game it’s the fact that we’re always reduced to slapping around the same fifteen to twenty enemies the entire game. Well, it’s more like ten if you start excluding reskined and recolored adversaries but why does this problem still persist in this day and age? I know this is more of a genre problem than a real flaw with this specific game or series but can someone tell developers this is a trend that has got to go? Looking a little deeper, DmC kind of compounds the problem by having enemies that can only be defeated by certain types of weaponry. This alone isn’t an issue but when you’re attacked by two enemies of opposing disciplines and have to stick with one weapon for crowd control you’re probably going to be on the receiving end of some cheap hits when your attack hits the wrong target, is reflected and parried. Frustrating as that is, the biggest disappointment has to be the boss battles that fail to highlight and reward the skill of the player unless they are tackling the final boss.
Such flaws aside, I’m sure some out there want to know just what the hell my opinion on Dante’s characterization is. Well, this is a tricky question because while you spend the entire game controlling him Dante is really one of the tale’s least interesting characters. I myself wasn’t too interested in him compared to some of the other prominent NPCs so I wasn’t really picking apart what made this Dante so “wretched” in the eyes of most. Some may see that as “ignoring the problem” but at the same time I couldn’t help but think there wasn’t one to begin with. While some will strongly disagree considering this is a reboot that wants to indirectly build off of what came before it I have no problem treating DmC as its own individual entity. When I’m playing it I’m not endlessly comparing it to the previous games to the level others are. It’s not really what comprises Devil May Cry that makes or breaks it but the mentality of the person experiencing it.
This begs the question, what should future generations take away from DmC’s history? Where should the failure and blame be directed? The answer to that question is something I’ve alluded to many times throughout this review, and I’m sure some don’t want to hear it, but the fact is Capcom is saddled with the negative results for grossly misguiding the maturity level of their customers and this is a shame for a form of media that still trying to grow out of its infancy. DmC is not a bad game. It’s a misdirected game but that’s an entirely different issue. Anyway, while others will obviously disagree, I am glad Capcom took the risks associated with this game as it was beyond interesting to see another take (or perspective) on the franchise even though it didn’t exactly pan out. If you’re not anal retentive over change and have an open mind I recommend giving DmC a whirl. I know such a plea will obviously fall on deaf ears for more vested players, but I hope that younger generations will give this game a chance… a chance it never really had.