Thursday, January 24, 2013

Shatterblog!: DmC Review

As promised, I will finally be reviewing Ninja Theory's reboot of the Devil May Cry franchise. This met with mixed reactions, which I will not get into here to avoid raging. I will simply present my opinions of DmC: Devil May Cry as I do with all games reviewed here on PBD.

So punchable...
As any fans of the franchise know, the game centers around Dante, a half-demon son of Sparda, and his battles with demonkind. This one in particular is fairly early in Dante's life, beginning before he truly knows about himself. While it is a full reboot and not meant to tie in with the previous Devil May Cry games, it would be the earliest in the timeline. Dante is young and cocky and foolhardy, and in my opinion that's a lot of fun. He's an asshole, fairly unlikeable, and as Gabby will attest he has an EXTREMELY punchable face. However, you can't help but like him as snide remarks and foul language compose most of the dialogue. It can come off as childish, but it shows a lot about Dante's personality as the game goes on. The most obvious change between the story of DmC and the original franchise, and one that has a direct impact on gameplay (as you will see) is Dante is now half-Angel half-Demon, a Nephilim, rather than the human-Demon hybrid he has traditionally been. The character design was changed in a major way, but my personal opinion is that the new one is much cooler (although I generally find white hair to be pretty badass on a murder machine).

The gameplay is a lot of fun, with Dante having three "modes" of combat with some variations on that. Dante's standard mode uses his signature sword Rebellion primarily for attacks. On the Xbox gamepad, (Y) gives you standard attacks, (B) gives you aerial launches, and (X) fires your gun or guns, starting out with the signature pistols Ebony and Ivory. Naturally there are many combos in this mode employing short pauses between button presses, button holding, and movement on the analog stick to create an arsenal of fluid moves. By holding the Xbox's left trigger, you enter "Angelic mode" inherited from Dante's mother Eva. This mode starts out with the scythe Osiris. Angelic attacks are characterized by a larger area of effect but less damage, ideal for a lot of weak enemies rather than one strong enemy. Furthermore, by pressing (X) you use Angel Pull, pulling yourself to the targeted enemy. Once again there are several combos that can be unlocked (this will be discussed later) to allow more more fluidity. Holding the left trigger calls on Dante's father Sparda's powers for "Demon mode". This starts out with the large axe Arbiter. This mode focuses on slow attacks with high damage for breaking shields and hurting stronger enemies. It gives access to Demon Pull on the (X) button, which pulls the enemy to you. The simple holding of a trigger changes your whole ability set, and the three are very easy to swap between mid combat. You can create hundreds of unique combos just with the starting weapons, and you unlock more weapons as the game progresses. There is also Devil Trigger, which launches enemies into the air and increases damage and stuff. I never really got into using it. The fights ended too fast that way. With all the weapons, combat is a blast. It turns into a fun and smooth experience, and I regularly found myself wishing for fights to last longer as I drew ever closer to the SSS combo rank.

Which brings me to the next point. Being a spectacle fighter, style is everything. Using the same attacks repeatedly fills your style rank more and more slowly, so it is encouraged to mix up attacks and weapons. The combo progresses from "D" for "Dirty" all the way up to "SSS" for "Spectacular!". The more stylish your combos, the more points you get, which are tallied up at the end of each level for an overall rank and an allottment of upgrade points. You unlock damage boosts and new attacks for all the weapons in the game using these upgrade points. Unlike other spectacle fighters, each attack as you use it tells you the point value, letting you see what causes your ranking to rise. Getting hit knocks several full letter ranks off your current combo, so dodging is very important. It keeps the combat from feeling mashy, forcing you to switch up your attacks and dodge regularly. Enemy behavior is varied but predictable without being too easy. Enemies telegraph attacks somewhat, and if an enemy is off camera its aggressiveness is lowered to keep your "SS Sadistic" combos from getting ruined by a little cherub with a gun who's way off screen. I played primarily on the standard difficulty, Demon Hunter. Initially you can play Human, Demon Hunter, or Nephilim. You then unlock progressively harder modes, Dante Must Die, Heaven or Hell, and finally Hell or Hell. While the game is short and clocks in around 10 hours, the replayability for both score, challenge completion, and increasing difficulty means if you enjoy the game you can play it for dozens of hours. There were times that I felt certain attacks were too obvious and others a little too difficult to see coming, but it never really ruins the experience. It's also a bit more accessible, at least in my experience. It may just be my maturation as a gamer, but playing Bayonetta my combos were clunky and my rankings in each level low. With DmC I never got below an A rank on a level, and my combos tended to reach at least an A or S. I'm sure with a bit more practice I could start scoring SSS all over the place.

Don't like the nightclub level design? You're wrong/
One of the game's biggest strengths is the level design. Most of the action takes place in Limbo, and Limbo is beautiful. The regular world becomes warped and evil, with demonic words popping up on walls and a sinister voice belting out "Kill Dante" or "Dante must die!" on occasion. The nightclub level is particularly praised for gorgeous design, and I certainly can't fault that. Every environment is fun and gorgeous in its own mostly sort of horrifying way. Enemy designs are equally fun, although there is a little too much rehashing of the same enemy types for my taste. I would prefer to see more unique enemies than just have a million flavors of Stygian, but the groups are varied enough that encounters are in no way repetitive.

The story is fun and engaging, with little Easter eggs for long time fans as well as a great story for someone who tried to muddle his way through the original Devil May Cry in preperation for this one. Cutscenes are well rendered, and I regularly found myself impressed by the varying expressions on Dante's stupid punchable face. He emoted very impressively and appropriately in most scenes, and the voice acting captured the spirit of the dialogue, even if some of the dialogue was a bit uninspired (Dante and the Succubus shouting FUCK YOU at each other was pretty funny, but impressive writing that is not). I found myself actually caring for all the characters, something I very much didn't expect. In fact, spoiler free, the ending shocked me and actually gave me a big bag of feels to deal with. I expect that from things like Mass Effect or any show/movie/comic Whedon puts his wonderful heartbreaking hands in, but DmC I expected some brief justification for the following murder party, not sadness and excitement for the sequel (Which definitely needs to happen).

In case you missed my seperate review, the soundtrack to DmC may be my favorite non-Halo video game soundtrack (it seems Ni No Kuni will make an attempt to take that away).

The bonus missions are kind of a pain to get to but are fun nonetheless. There are various colors of keys and doors hidden throughout the game. Opening the door leads to some kind of challenge which nets you a health or Devil Trigger upgrade shard. There are also Lost Souls hidden in levels to kill for a bonus to your completion score.

Minor complaints involve a later level feeling artificially lengthened by periods of standing, waiting to be able to jump without being on fire. There is also a mildly annoying puzzle toward the end. The last mission is truly amazing though so you end the game on a good note. I loved Ninja Theory's other games and I am a huge fan of this one. I sincerely hope the sequel happens, and brings even more fun, flair, and "fuck you"'s to this fantastic franchise reboot. 9.25/10. Expect videos showing gameplay to go up in the future, I plan to begin my Son of Sparda playthrough fairly soon.

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