If it's crap ... We'll tell you
My first new videogame to play for 2013 and wow, did this cause a few tangled undergarments among the masses on the Interweb. Even before the demo had been released, people were complaining that it was the end of the series as we knew it, and scorned Ninja Theory for even thinking about making a new version of the classic PS2 series. But upon first impressions, we saw the same combat mechanics in play along with a slick and stylised videogame. And thus the conflict continued....
Now, for those who have not played the original series, you are in luck, because this new game pretty much is a re-thinking of the game's universe. And so we get an origin story for you to get behind. The main character here is Dante - a slick acting, foul mouthed sort of protagonist that seems to just live his life out in excess and late night endeavours. But we soon find out there is more to him than it seems, as he is attacked by a giant Demon Hunter and thrown into Limbo, an area where the Demon and Human Worlds collide. He meets a young woman named Kat, who can apparently see both worlds and guides him to safety. She tells him of how the Human World is being run and manipulated by Demons, the leader of which is Mundus, who control everything by mind crushing soft drinks (no surprised there) and keeping an iron grip on the world's finances.
She claims to be part of an underground group named The Order led by a man named Virgil, whose goal is to take down Mundus and free the humans from their invisible and un-noticed tyrant. Dante also discovers along the road that his past has been cloaked from him, and his history connects to the present matters in a bigger way than he could ever have imagined. Thus the mission takes on a more personal theme for him, as he aids The Order in freeing the humans.
Those familiar to the original series will recognise some of the names mentioned here, and despite this being a reboot, the roles of the characters remains quite similar too. But the difference here is in the details of how everything plays out, intertwined with the rather political and media-orientated story. Staying with this it is a bit of a mixed bag of sorts, the political overtones are a bit too heavy handed at times, but the overall idea is one I enjoyed seeing. It provides an interesting background to both the progression of the plot, as well as the visual aspects of the gameplay. In any other game this would have been used to death but here, it is used just enough... most times at least.
The characters though were difficult to like or even want to see. I thought the voice acting was excellent and some of the details to their design were unique, but they are almost all unlikeable to increasing levels. Dante has lost the happy-go-lucky sense of humour and feels more "grown up", but just like the old games, I just wanted him to shut his face after the first few one-liners. There are points where he gets one or two laughs during boss battles, but that's really it. And is it just me, or is his face the generic design for 2013? Have a look at the cover of Bioshock Infinite and tell me they're not similar. Kat and Virgil and some of the other characters here are again, well designed but lack any sense of an engaging script. It isn't anything on a bad scale, just kind of bland and expected of this genre of game. It's like they were never sure whether to be serious or cheesy, and so wound up in an uncomfortable spot in the middle.
So, the story and characters are different, but quite like the old games. How about the gameplay? Well, here is where things begin to pick up happily. I was genuinely taken back at just how much thought and creativity went into the artistic style to the levels, they look very impressive. The Human World has a very believable feel to it and contains everything from abandoned mansions, to sweeping side streets and run down theme parks. But Limbo turns all this (in some cases) quite literally on its head, as you watch the pavement tear apart in front of your feet, and the buildings close in in a foreboding manner. The city takes on an evil force that almost becomes a character to fight against; it was by far the most creative part in the entire game. And when all of this is accompanied by a bad ass, energised soundtrack, it only amplifies the atmosphere that bit more.
And on to the most important part of a DmC game... the combat. The old series had that great ranking system, that rewarded you for not being hit, and also for being as stylish and creative with your combos as you could. It was the selling point that made so many of us rate it so highly. Here, they haven't exactly made it "better" but it is certainly much more balanced and intuitive. The increase in the ranking system is faster, and doesn't collapse so brutally when you are hit. So one mistake isn't going to ruin the chances of getting a high score at the end of the level. But what really works are the weapons. The D-pad switches between which one to equip, and the L and R shoulder buttons chooses which weapon you use to fight with. For example, hitting Circle uses you standard sword to knock the enemy into the air, but holding R2 at the same time switches to the heavy weapon which causes more damage. This means you can juggle between three weapons and your guns extremely fast. And using the D-pad to pick a new weapon gives you even more combos to utilise. The limits are almost boundless in this system, and although it takes time to get used to at first, you soon find yourself feeling like the most awesome warrior on the planet.
Along with this is an extensive upgrade system to improve health, unlock new combos, and other beneficial perks. You also get two grapple items that aid in chaining attacks together, and in the platforming sections to get to hard-to-reach areas. In fact, there are only two things I dislike with the combat. First of which is the Devil Trigger, that morphs you into a heightened mode of strength and defence. But it sends the enemies flying into the air and become very hard to reach, so it never feels like you are actually doing more damage than you normally do. The second is the emphasis on weapon-specific enemies - for example, enemies that can only be hit with Angelic (light attack) weapons. Very few times in the game are you let loose to just cause havoc, and instead you constantly have to struggle to concentrate on one bad guy in the group. It isn't a big complaint, but I just think it happened too often throughout the story.
There's more good news to mention here - the boss battles are both epic in scale and in the satisfaction of defeating them. The main one you expect to be the final battle is easier than you would expect, but still leaves you wide-eyed in awe. There's secret missions to discover and beat, there's a shit-tonne of difficulty levels so even the most hardcore gamer can have a challenge, and there's plenty re-playability in finding hidden items to further increase your stats. Sadly I found a pivoting point where I just got tired of the repetitive levels and stopped playing the game, but I'm sure that plenty fans won't have that issue at all, and will get many hours from this title.
And now for the verdict, and the online bashers and pre-assuming haters were quite wrong about DmC. Sure, it still isn't perfect by any standards due to the poor dialogue and slightly confused visual design. The atmosphere from that castle in the first game isn't here. But I do need to give Ninja Theory a pat on the back for taking the series in a new bold direction, and one I enjoyed being part of. The level visuals and mechanics are simply outstanding, almost God of War good, and the combat is both slick, and extremely satisfying to use. The ending is very much telegraphed but leaves room for a promising sequel to follow in the future. Sure, Dante is no longer the white-haired, swaggering Pun Book on feet, but is that really the worst thing ever? If you want classic Dante, buy the "Devil May Cry HD Collection" and enjoy the classic games in lovely hi-def. But this game is very much worth your time too, and it will remind you of what really made you love this style of action game in the first place.
I'm going to give this a deserved 8/10, the flaws hold it back from being great, but it still has a hell of a lot going for it. Not a bad way to start 2013 at all, and a surprising success on the whole.
Thanks for reading! ^__^