DMC Impressions- Doofuses May Cry, But This Game Rocks

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One of the worst- and woefully dated- things about Capcom’s Devil May Cry series is Dante. Sorry to send those of you who still think that a guy with white hair in a red trenchcoat is “cool” crying into your Trigun cosplay jacket, but Dante is a bad character that really ought not appeal to anyone over the age of 16. It’s that charmingly clueless sense of whatever Japanese “cool” is that’s kept him afloat all of these years, and the fact that he’s starred in at least three great action games that all have their share of clunk and junk ranging from terrible writing to bad pacing to unbalanced design.

So after all of the fan rage over Dante’s makeover, we’re left with the new title in the franchise, DMC, and a host of things that Ninja Theory has done with this long-running brawler franchise. I’m just a couple of hours into the game, having just ushered what the game calls a Succubus to a rather gruesome death in the bowels of an energy drink factory, but I’m not hesitant to state that the new game is the most refined, slickest game in the series. It’s by far the best-written, it’s the best looking, and it is the most seamlessly fun.

I’m going to shoot down any kind of comment about Ninja Theory “dumbing down” DMC right off the bat. The Devil May Cry games are as a whole incredibly fucking dumb. But they’re dumb, rock n’ roll fun, and that’s a good thing. In DMC, when the Z-grade Fear Factory cover band they got to do the soundtrack kicks in and you’re juggling bad guys, spinning around in the air with guns blazing, and hearing the new, chic-er Dante proclaiming awful one-liners it’s just as much fun as the first, third, or fourth game could be. Sure, it’s easier- at least on normal. The combos are simpler and it’s kind of shocking to fight the first boss and never get hit one time. But I’ll be damned if I’m not enjoying it more.

I’ve been constantly surprised by the game, in particular that I actually like the story and not in an ironic “oh, those crazy Japanese writers” way. Hell more or less controls the world with energy drinks and subliminal messages, Dante and Vergil attempt to stop head demon Mundus. It’s really overblown, ridiculous trash- but it’s at least self-aware, smart trash that bites enough from John Carpenter’s They Live to make adolescent-friendly messages about, like, the government and stuff, man.  All of the eye-rolling nonsense about angels and demons getting it on and spawning bad-ass swordslingers is present, but the sense is that it’s a game written by folks smart enough to realize that the original games could be both playfully mocked and reverently respected with a single stroke of the pen. Oh, I’m 100% sure the writers (one of whom is apparently screenwriter Alex Garland) were very aware of how terrible some of Dante’s comments are.

I’ve also been surprised by the platforming, which is actually not terrible at all. This time out, Dante’s abilities are split between angel and devil ones and each has a whip associated with it. Angel whip is a grapple, devil whip pulls things. There are some rather nifty jumping sequences that use both of these, and there are plenty of opportunities to explore or wonder if maybe there was an argent key up that way that you didn’t go. Fortunately, it’s a game built for replay so there’s always next time. Challenge rooms, multiple mode unlocks after completion, pursuing the higher rankings, and beating folks on the leaderboards gives this game far more legs than is usual for AAA action titles these days.

I’m also really pleased at how the game is developing in terms of gameplay. New weapons, abilities and concepts are unlocked almost constantly, and it seems- so far at least- that there’s always something new to do around the corner. This is a very accessible game, yet it is not at all a dopey button masher. I love that I can try-before-I-buy all of the upgradeable abilities for every weapon- you can get a feel for how Roulette or Stinger fits into your rhythm before dropping the ability points. Don’t like it? You can respec any time.

It all comes back around to the fighting, and man, is it good.  At first, there was a bit of an adjustment period and I didn’t feel like the game was as smooth as the past games. But once I found my particular flow, I was hitting the S rankings and feeling like a total killing machine. It has been disappointing that the enemies are pretty dull and repetitive, but the big boss fights have been memorable if not quite up to the standards of some of the others in the series. That said, at least you don’t have to retry fights 50 times to get it right.

So yeah, DMC turned out really damn good. Probably the biggest surprise of all is that Ninja Theory actually made a really great game, particularly after the sub-mediocre Enslaved. I’m really happy that the team had enough respect for and understanding of the original Capcom designs to look at what worked best, what had grown long in the tooth, and what needed to be completely changed. I’m sure there are still old school Dante fans claiming that this game is some kind of sexual assault or that eeeeevil Capcom is at it again, but for those looking for a great, highly stylized and very modern action game this is your first stop in 2013.

Now, the ultimate question. Is it better than Bayonetta? The answer- absolutely not.

11 Responses to “DMC Impressions- Doofuses May Cry, But This Game Rocks”

  1. Dorkmaster Flek January 24, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    The phrase “crying into your Trigun cosplay jacket” just made my day. Thank you for that, sir. I’ve never played any of the DMC games, but I did enjoy Bayonetta and the God of War games. I also keep hearing that this game is way better on PC since the framerate isn’t locked to 30 FPS and the textures and draw distance are better. I just built myself a new rig over the holidays after about 5-6 years and I’m finally getting back into PC gaming, so this is tempting to pick up.

    For now, I have too much other stuff to play. I’m still playing Dark Souls after starting a new character to play a pyromancer instead of warrior, and I’m on the second playthrough with my warrior. I also went back and grabbed Demon’s Souls on the PSN as a digital download since I missed it, but that’s on hold while I play The Cave, which is hilarious and awesome. But if I see it on sale on Steam in the future I’ll probably bite.

    • Michael Barnes January 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

      It’s funny because it’s true.

      Yeah, this is definitely a game I’d buy on something like a Steam sale…I still don’t know if I’d drop $60 on it (although I think the long-term value is there), but if you can grab it for under $30 there’s wagonloads of fun to be had.

      No prior Devil May Cry experience necessary.`

  2. OnePompousPenguin January 24, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    So what you’re saying is if I did not care for Bayonetta’s gameplay, I would not likely enjoy this game? I remember really liking DMC 3 & 4, but that was a while ago. Maybe my tastes have changed.

    Is the combat system as overwhelming as in Bayonetta? I felt like their were too many moves and the combat was kind of hectic and fast. So I was never really able to get into a groove where I could remember what certain moves did and subsequently use the best move for each situation. Thus, I buttoned mashed, which is great and all but I never really felt in control. As opposed to something like Batman, where each button press meant something to me, causing me to feel awesome about each encounter (as if I were in fact Batman).

    • Brandon January 24, 2013 at 11:48 am #

      I don’t play brawlers, and I did not find this combat to be overwhelming. The fact that the same button presses carry over between weapons really helps. For example, Forward, Forward + Y lets you dash forward and stab a dude with your sword, dash forward and do a whirlwind attack with the scythe, take a step back and do a shorter dash forward and then punch with the demon fists or send the axe forward as a ranged attack. All of these (and I’m missing one for the glaive things) translate into some sort of dash/ranged attack, and all have little quirks to be mindful of, but they’re all similar enough to know that if you would use one in a situation, you’d probably use any of the others too.

      It’s really easy to learn a set of moves early on and then just add a trigger pull to use the angelic or demonic equivalent of that move, which leads to bigger combos, more style bonuses and more health/experience gained from killing enemies.

      • Michael Barnes January 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

        Yes, it’s definitely more accessible than Bayonetta. Moves are kind of standardized across weapon types and there applications for normal, angelic, and demonic weapons throughout the game. It’s easy to switch seamlessly from each in the middle of combos, and it becomes pretty easy to sort out what patterns/rhythms work best against particular enemies. It’s not as fluid as Rocksteady’s Arkham games, but it’s a tight system that cuts out a lot of guff.

        The game does pretty well with imparting that “awesome” feeling while you’re fighting…I mean, you’re not going to feel like you’re Batman, so it’s not quite _that_ awesome…but still, there’s definitely a sense of empowerment.

        • OnePompousPenguin January 24, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

          Hmm, alright, I think I’ll throw it in the wait until it’s cheaper and have nothing else to do category. Thank you both.

  3. angryogre January 24, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    I was one of those fans who was angered by the first few trailers – both by the redone Dante (it looked to me like a Warrior-Within-style emo makeover) and by combat that looked slow and stilted. After reading this and Brandon’s earlier piece, however, I might have to check it out anyway. To me the essence of DMC has always been great combat and so-dumb-its-funny dialogue from Dante. If the new one preserves that much, then its already passed my expectations.

    • Michael Barnes January 24, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

      I think you’ll be surprised. It’s definitely NOT a Warrior Within thing, and the combat is anything but slow and stilted.

      They’re kind enough to throw the “white hair or bust” crowd a bone- a couple of jokes, some unlockable skins, and…well, watch what happens when you Devil Trigger.

      • Dorkmaster Flek January 25, 2013 at 10:44 am #

        Yeah, I kind of get where people are coming from about the redesign, despite never having played any of the DMC games myself. Just looking at the two designs, I have to say I like the wacky flamboyant white-haired one better from a pure aesthetic standpoint. Capcom literally said we need to appeal to a younger audience, and that the old one was designed from a Japanese perspective while the new one is from a Western one. When I saw the rebooted version, it just looked way too super serial. I’m so tired of these “I’m a gritty badass” dudes. I know he’s supposed to be super cool, but come on. Boooooooooring. So boring. I don’t care if the red and white look would be comical in real life. If he’s that cool, he doesn’t give a shit! Women want to bang him anyway!

        • Brandon January 25, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

          I wouldn’t call DmC gritty. It definitely has a sense of humor.

          • Dorkmaster Flek January 25, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

            Fair enough, but like I said, I haven’t played any of the DMC games yet (although I do want to try this reboot). I’m just talking about the pure aesthetic design of the characters. I prefer the wacky Japanese take myself.

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