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DmC: Devil May Cry
Graphics: 8.4
Gameplay: 9.2
Sound: 9
Control: 8.9
Replay Value: 8
Rating: 8.8

Reboots have been big this generation. In my humble opinion, however, Devil May Cry wasn’t one of the franchises that seemed to be in desperate need of a reimagining. The last couple of entries have offered fantastic action goodness and for the most part, the fans haven’t been grousing and grumbling. There may have been some slight technical stagnation but besides that, it seemed fine. However, now that I’ve played DmC: Devil May Cry, I realize that although it may not have been necessary, I really like this new look and feel.

We start with one of the more interesting categories, especially for PlayStation 3 owners. Graphically, the game won’t blow you away; there are some visual inconsistencies and minor flaws, and there’s a general lack of crystal clear clarity we typically associate with AAA productions. That being said, the fantastic design and artistry is undeniable and the animations are slick and smooth. The overall presentation is something special and pays homage to the excellent atmosphere for which this franchise has been so well known. It’s different but there’s that palpable current of vintage DMC that runs beneath those differences.

Side note: It’s unfortunate to note that the PS3 version may lag a tad behind the Xbox 360 version in terms of frame rate and general graphics performance. With the Unreal Engine, though, this isn’t exactly uncommon. And for the record, this is part of why the game doesn’t receive a 9.0 in my eyes; the 360 version might be slightly closer to that elite plateau. Just please bear in mind that the gap is nowhere near as bad as it was with Bayonetta. If you’re buying DmC for the PS3, you don’t really have to worry; the lesser performance output is minimal and likely won’t hinder your enjoyment. Well, unless you’re a stickler for such things.

Moving on to the audio, we’ve got some great voice acting, a kickin’ soundtrack, and a bevy of sound effects that accompany every absurdly fast attack Dante has in his prodigious arsenal. The acting represents an upgrade for the franchise (as does the story, which I’ll get to in a moment), which I anticipated from developer Ninja Theory. Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West proved that this studio only hires top-notch voice talent. The score is full of wicked heavy metal and other hard-hitting songs, which match the action perfectly, and those effects are both diverse and what I like to call highly “impact-ful.”

At first, I was inclined to frown on the story and style direction Ninja Theory had taken with this reboot. It started off predictably and with a little too much in the way of low-brow, sleazy imagery and humor, which doesn’t impart quite the right vibe. But it didn’t take long for the story to open up and when it did, I was reminded of just how cheesy and campy past plots had been in this series. And while we retain some of that cheesiness, it’s a little more refined, a little more stylish, a little more modern. “Modern” is a key word for this entire game and although I thought I’d be annoyed at that idea, I actually came around to the concept. Quick.

The story is good. It really is. That’s what was most missing in the franchise up to this point, and I’ve only just stumbled upon how important a decent plot and script can be. At the same time, the gameplay certainly remains the focal point of the game; it’s just that this time, we have the benefit of a worthwhile storyline. It’s not just about over-the-top action segments and flashy special effects. It’s not all about nasty monsters and crazy dudes who want to rule the world. And it’s not only about Dante being a bad-ass who likes to kick the crap out of anyone who gets in his way. New characters like Kat really help to flesh things out, and I’ll leave it at that (no spoilers here).

Interwoven among that more elaborate and more dramatic story is some of that old-fashioned Dante cockiness and absurdity. Therefore, we’re keeping that which defines the franchise without gimping anything important, like the gameplay. Speaking of which, the combat is wicked fun and those who designed this battle mechanic deserve a nod of praise and appreciation. The action purists might say it’s watered down in comparison to past entries – especially DMC3 – but I’m not sure I buy that. I mean, that may be true in terms of sheer complexity and intricacy, but there’s no doubting the depth of the combat in the new game.

This game has proven to me that accessibility can be properly mixed with a hardcore challenge. It doesn’t take much effort to rip off some awesome combos and even when you unlock new weapons and Dante’s arsenal begins to open up, you still don’t feel overwhelmed. Even amateurs can do some pretty amazing things; stringing together a series of unique strikes with different weapons isn’t that difficult, and it’s always entertaining. However, this does not mean that those who wish to become experts, those who want to become true students of the combat, won’t be satisfied.

On the contrary, if you want to pull down super-high ratings for your combos, you’re gonna have to practice. Novices will not be tallying a whole lot of SSS ratings, and the diversity and versatility of the weapons means constant experimentation is a must. So while it’s relatively easy to pick up and play, and while most should be able to feel like a complete powerhouse with just a little rehearsal, the hardcore aficionados still have plenty to be happy about. It may seem like this game doesn’t have a brain in its head but believe it or not, with the great variety of enemies, you’re going to have to continually adapt and improvise.

Combining the slashes of your sword (or the attacks of another primary weapon) with your guns (Ebony and Ivory have returned) has never been more intoxicating. It’s always a show. No matter what you do, what you fight, or how you achieve victory, you’ll always be smiling. At least I was. There’s this really great fluidity to the combat system and timing is essential; once you get into the rhythm and foes are meeting gruesome ends, you start to feel guilty. You feel like they’re just overmatched…but only for a moment. At that point, something tougher usually rears its ugly head, or maybe you finish a level to see that your rating is only mediocre.

And that’s part of the game’s solid balance. It all gels exceedingly well and the better-than-anticipated storyline adds to the appeal. Still, there are a few clear issues that prevent this game from reaching a loftier status: Firstly, the bosses just don’t cut the mustard. It almost seems like a completely different team handled the design of the boss encounters (as happened during the development of Deus Ex: Human Revolution), because they don’t reflect the depth and variety of the core fighting mechanic. You basically do the same type of thing over and over, and it doesn’t have much to do with your technique or combo-ing ability.

Although, I should add that the design of the bosses is freakin’ awesome, as is the vast majority of the character and enemy designs in the game. So that kind of overrides the lackluster boss fights. I should also mention that while the story is definitely a step up, there are times when it falters and doesn’t quite deliver the emotion that it initially promised. Lastly, despite the good control throughout, I think the platforming could’ve been a bit tighter and in truth, I’ve always wanted less platforming in the DMC games. Seriously, just focus on your strength, which has been – and thankfully will continue to be – the combat.

DmC: Devil May Cry is a rambunctious, thrilling, attitude-laden thrill ride. The design is slick and highly effective, the presentation is vintage DMC (while adopting a fresh flair), the combat offers fantastic variety and endless entertainment, and the story is a big improvement. The latter can still let you down, especially toward the end, the visuals are slightly disappointing strictly from a technical standpoint, and the bosses are underwhelming. But the end result is a fantastically enjoyable, can’t-put-the-controller-down brawl-fest, and that’s precisely what the fans want. Right?

The Good: Great overall design and artistry. Explosive audio effects and good acting. Fantastic combat diversity, from the arsenal to the opponents. Story is an upgrade for the franchise. Pacing is solid. Retains the spirit of the franchise.

The Bad: Graphics aren’t overly impressive. Bosses feel repetitive. Story doesn’t always deliver what it promises.

The Ugly: “The ugly is half the fun! The uglier it is, the more satisfying it is to kill it.”

1/15/2013   Ben Dutka