Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: DmC Devil May Cry

The one thing that captures the attention of any potential buyer is what's on the box. As much as people bang on about looking up reviews and trailers, a cover can sometimes seriously speak volumes about what a game will contain. Having Devil May Cry on the box with some black haired guy who has the same fashion sense as Dante from that series made me think "hmm, awesome, we get to play as somebody completely different". But then I remember long before the game came out that the guy on the box... is actually a redesign of Dante because Ninja Theory, the developers Capcom trusted to continue the Devil May Cry lineage with, wanted to inject a different flavor to the franchise because a more western approach was necessary after Devil May Cry 4 turned out to be nowhere near as good as Devil May Cry 3 and had too much anime shit in it to be a coincidence. One way to do so was to change Dante's hair from anime silver to a more realistic shade of black. So with a change in designs and mood, how does Ninja Theory execute this game? Well, it's not bad as it has a solid combat engine, but there are a few too many missteps

In this reimagining of the Devil May Cry universe, a place known as Limbo City is secretly controlled by devils, advertising soft drinks and all this other shit to keep the population under their control. Dante, a really cool guy who isn't at all a Gary Stu or anything, is haunted by the demons inside his subconscious, but it doesn't stop him from going to nightclubs having sex with heaps of chicks. According to a mysterious woman in this nightclub known as Kat, Dante is in danger because she can see Limbo for what it really is. She's a part of a vigilante group that fights against the tyranny of the devils and wants Dante to join the fight. When the rest of the group meet him, they basically tell him that he's basically the only one who can save them from the government conspiracy. From there, you stop giving a shit about the story because what it winds up having is a grade school level of understanding of conspiracy theories like the media brainwashing us and there being a secret higher power controlling us.

That, and a main character whose dick is constantly sucked by every other character under the sun - I mean holy shit, the other characters treat Dante as their lord and fucking savior! What's so special about him? Oh, because he's powerful? Aren't the rest of this rag tag group of rebels strong too? But wait, then they can't inject their deepest personal fantasies into the story! See, Dante is Temeem's self insert character. He's a bad boy who says "fuck the government" flashing dual middle fingers on either side while having sex with girls left and right, but they insert some inner demons to try and make him more relatable. The problem, however, is that he's just a giant douche. Granted, Tameem's a giant douche whenever he talks shit about Japanese games while talking up DmC as the next big masterpiece in gaming so I guess it makes sense to make Dante like this, but when you aim to make a character relateable, you can't really turn them into complete pricks. His personality suits the story very well... in that it's got the kind of writing you'd expect from a kid who's just discovered atheism.

I don't know what's sadder - the fact that I just dedicated a paragraph to our main character or the fact that I have little to nothing worth saying about the other characters? Nobody else really shines as anything other than an accessory to stroke Dante's ego more often than not, and when they're not stroking his ego, they're unloading exposition about the big bad government conspiracy. People can criticize the old Dante for being a one dimensional character, but he's a GOOD one dimensional character. He wasn't trying to be relatable; he's too busy kicking ass and dispensing one liners to really care about relatability. New Dante? Well, he does roughly the same things... just not as well, especially his one liners that are more cringeworthy than cool in that "SO BAD IT'S GOOD" kind of way. Oh, and he tries to have depth that winds up being shallower than a fucking kiddy pool. Yes, the old DMC games have shit stories too, but they don't focus on it so much. They introduce and then end each level with cutscenes. That's it. Here in new DMC however, the cutscenes are longer and far more common. The more space a story takes up, the better it ought to be, and considering its lack of being any good, well, it's really crap.

But I can't spend all day ragging on the shit story so let's talk about how it plays. It seems to play a lot like the older Devil May Cry games, but with some big differences. Instead of having a variety of weapons that you'll switch on the fly every now and again, you'll have three types of weapons at your disposal that you can use in tandem with one another to create some interesting combos. You have your usual Rebellion sword and Ebony & Ivory pistols, but there's also Osiris the angel scythe (which is faster) and Arbiter the large demon sword (which is slow but very strong) to keep things interesting. You can also use the Angel chain to pull yourself towards objects and the Demon chain to pull stuff towards you. Being able to use all of these together makes for some potentially interesting combat scenarios.

Unfortunately, there are enemies that'll be immune to either an Angel or a Demon weapon, and this is where we start having problems. Because of how hypnotic style experimentation is, it undermines how mediocre combat really is until you're arbitrarily limited to only being able to use two weapons. Most enemies, when they don't get stuck in a loop or just stand there, really aren't that hard to read and counter. The only time you may have trouble is when learning the control scheme as it is tricky to get the hang of, having to hold certain buttons to use certain attacks and styles. Beyond that, they're basically slicing bags and hardly ever offer any challenge. From there, I expected the bosses to at least make up for that, but honestly, these are some rather underwhelming bosses. They're not terrible as they do work in a technical sense, but again, it feels like the combat engine has gone to waste on what basically amounts to mediocre bosses. The basic idea is to dodge their attacks and hit them in the weak spot. Most action games can still make things feel frantic and exhilerating under those circumstances, but only half of DmC's bosses really do that and even then, none of them are all that challenging if you have any hand eye coordination. If my only issue was the lack of difficulty, this would still be a good game, but the bigger problem here is that every enemy and nearly every boss are all just a complete chore to fight. You have this brilliant combat engine that's ultimately wasted on even bosses that feel more like cannon fodder than an actual interesting challenge.

What's this, there's a Heaven Or Hell difficulty mode where everything dies in one hit including you? Oh okay, so there's one difficulty mode that offers even a modicum of challenge as you have to make sure to avoid getting hit by anything and everything. What's that, Dante Must Die mode is here too? Well, that's fantastic, and it's actually somewhat challenging too as enemies dish out more damage and I've also noticed that they aren't as stupid as they are on the hardest difficulty mode that's initially available. And what is this that I'm hearing about Hell And Heaven mode where you die with one hit but the enemies all have full health and adopt their difficulty patterns from the Son Of Sparda difficulty mode? I'm crazy enough for this challenge! The only problem, however, is that you need to play through this game first on one of the initial difficulty modes, and then the Son Of Sparda difficulty mode before unlocking Dante Must Die, Heaven Or Hell and Hell And Heaven. So basically, you'll have to play through a game with boring piss easy enemies and bosses TWICE before you can play in a mode where shit actually gets interesting? Son Of Sparda, by the way, isn't that much harder than the initial three difficulty modes, so this second playthrough also feels like a chore. Maybe not as boring of a chore, but by that, the initial appeal of the combat and designs has worn off on you and you see everything for what they truly are - mediocre, if not maybe a cut above it. It's really when you finally get to play through the harder modes that this game truly shows how fun it can be, and it's... moderately fun. Now, I can understand getting newbies into the swing of things, but for Christ's sake, this feels like wasted potential for everyone else!

I've mentioned designs a little while ago and I feel like I need to explain why they're something worth a damn. Well, let's just say that DmC is a very nice looking game. Not perfect by any means - Dante looks pretty goofy if you ask me and sometimes, the colors become a bit too saturated and actually hurt my eyes after a while - but Limbo City and the various foes Dante has to take down look pretty fucking good. The various twists and turns Limbo City makes to mess with you via screwing with the buildings and terrain gives you the feeling that not all is as it seems, and the further into the game you go, the less far out they'll seem when you're at abysses and inside mainframes. No, not inside mainframes like in a Deus Ex game - more like the inside of broadcast media. There are plenty of interesting things to be seen here and the textures are good as well. The enemies and bosses are pretty twisted too as they take many different devilish shapes and forms. They're rather creative and it's a shame that for the most part, that's the best part about them - their designs. But a word of advice - install it onto your HDD because this has a habit of freezing if you don't have it installed.

The sound design is also pretty good. The voice acting works about as well as it could when given the crap writing and actually, these guys manage to make the most out of it. Dante definitely doesn't sound all that silly, which is a surprise after looking at him and reading some of his dialogue, but his voice actor at least tries to make his cringeworthy one liners sound campy. In fact, everybody tries their hardest to either be serious when necessary, or silly at other points, and I give them points for doing a good job of that. When it comes to the soundtrack, it's a good mix of dubstep and metal to pump you up during the game, which makes sense - Capcom's Devil May Cry games had a gritty industrial soundtrack to pump you up as well, and Ninja Theory's DmC manages to accomplish the same thing. I'm not normally a dubstep fan, but it's clear that it has its places - nightclubs and action scenes where adrenaline is absolutely necessary. Overall, the sound design is great.

It's easy to point my finger of frustration towards the immense amount of hype generated by Ninja Theory and all of the good press it's getting from "professional" "reviewers", but really, it's how much potential it had to actually live up to the monolithic amount of hype and the failure to reach such potential that resulted in my frustration towards this game. In its current form, it's got some mad potential because the combat engine is great and the designs are brilliant - I love Limbo City and how it warps around like it does at times! But I can't sit here and lie to you guys... actually fighting enemies and bosses feels like a chore until you unlock the hardest difficulty modes, and at that point, it's too little too late because while I admired the designs during my first playthrough, not much else really did anything for me. It's not so much the hype that let me down, as much as it was the potential to be a fantastic game because if they followed through with their designs a lot better, the 8s and 9s and even Tameem's boasting would be justified, but as is... it's worth a rental, but nothing more.

6/10 (Above Average)

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