DmC: Devil May Cry – Xbox 360
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Ninja Theory
Release Date: Jan 15, 2013
Genre: Action
Reviewed by Mark Smith

Review Score: 4.5 of 5

I’m a big Devil May Cry fan and have been playing the series from the very beginning, so I was extremely interested when I heard that Capcom was rebooting the franchise with DmC; even more so when I learned that Ninja Theory was going to be developing this next-gen reimagining. Sure, faithful fans of the series may balk at the subtle tweaks to characters and events, but at the core of DmC lies the insane and stylish combat and mind-blowing action we expect from a Devil May Cry game. Ninja Theory delivers all that and more…

We meet up with Dante after a wild night at the club. A bang on his trailer door quickly turns into a tutorial level to beat all other tutorial levels as a Hunter demon pulls Dante into Limbo and destroys his trailer. Thankfully, Dante manages to put on a few clothes in a classic Mike Myers (Austin Powers) “hide-the-naughty-bits” cutscene, the first of many humorous pop-culture and even self-referencing bits of comedy.

The tutorial does a great job of easing you into the basics of combat, both for your sword, Rebellion and your dual-wielded pistols, Ebony and Ivory. But you’ll constantly be learning as you add more satisfyingly vicious moves to your repertoire and bolster your arsenal with new weapons like the Arbiter, Osiris, and Eryx just to name a few. About six hours into the game you will be switching weapons and cycling through new ones in mid-combo for some of the most creative chaos in recent memory. Stringing together lengthy and original combos fuels your score and your Style ranking, just one part of your overall score and rank for each of the 20 levels in DmC.

With so many weapon types and so many uses for those weapons it can all seem a bit overwhelming, so I was surprised to find just how flowing and intuitive the combat ended up being, even when you throw in some of the more powerful and nastier creatures in the rogues gallery. Your grapple-like device has dual functionality, both in level navigation as well as combat in that you decide whether you want to pull something toward you or pull yourself toward it. This is great for grapple-swinging through areas or yanking a shield away from an enemy, or even launching yourself straight up to fight a Harpy on her own turf.

Weapons have multiple combos with various button sequences that can be triggered from the ground or in the air and then combined with other attacks or even other weapons to create cool combos, and your pistols can be used to extend those combos into some startling scores. And as much as the left and right triggers determine the “polarity” of your grapple, it also chooses your Angelic and Demonic slant to combat; an important factor in some battles as some elemental enemies take more or less damage based on the type of attack. You can yank an enemy toward you then quickly kick him away or launch an enemy straight up then jump up to flurry him with sword slashes or yank him down to the ground and perform an aerial ground pound attack. The options are truly endless, and for the first time in a fighting game I was never relying on any one set of “favorite” tactics. The combat is always evolving dynamically with each encounter.

While combat controls are virtually flawless the same can’t be said for navigation. The camera has a mind of its own and requires constant tweaking as you navigate these eerie 3D worlds. Grappling is made easy by a blue and red color coding system, and for the most part ledge-hopping is easy enough until you factor in the air-dash move, which for some reason is not nearly as responsive as it should be and ends up responsible for numerous death falls, retries, and missed collectibles. Something as easy as jumping from the top of a fountain to free a second-story Lost Soul from the wall shouldn’t take more than 12 attempts, but it did.

DmC is surprisingly long. My initial 8-hour game session took me to level 13 with seven more levels still ahead – not bad for a 3D action-platformer in this day and age, and keep in mind that is just my first pass. By design, many of these levels are going to need to be revisited as you collect keys, weapons, and new abilities that will grant you access to previously inaccessible areas of the levels in order to find more collectibles like keys, secret doors with mini-game challenges, and Lost Souls struggling to free themselves from the environment. And of course, each level is scored and ranked so you can compare your performance with that of your friends or the entire world on the Xbox Live leaderboards.

What DmC lacks in next-gen visuals is more than made up for with one of the most stylized graphical presentations since the cel shading in Borderlands or the fantasy art style of Darksiders. Your time in the “real world” is usually limited to cutscenes and story bits, with most of the gameplay taking place in the ethereal world of Limbo, a world overcast in radioactive reds with all sorts of haunting special effects and the occasional smoky image of someone from the “other side” trickling through if you stand still long enough. Even more interesting is when the game periodically reverts back to the real world and you can see the results of your actions in that world. Dante and the other members of the cast all look like they stepped out of a gothic graphic novel. Their art design is only trumped by the expert motion-capture used for animating Dante’s endless list of combat moves that somehow bring a physicality and weight to his swinging of a sword or skidding to a halt after landing an air-boost leap.

The soundtrack is great if you love death metal and head-banging energetic rock accenting all your bloodletting. There are few moments of quiet that reveal creepy environmental effects, but even when the game takes a dramatic twist the music maintains a certain level of demonic and evil influence. The voice acting is superb; even the intentional over-the-top bits, and I loved all the quips from Dante, both internal dialogue and one-liners directed toward the enemy.

There is no multiplayer for DmC and I am fine with that. While I see a possible co-op game in the future, perhaps featuring Dante’s twin brother, Vergil, this was not the time, and I for one applaud the choice to release a quality single-player experience rather than try to cram some awkward multiplayer modes into the package. With a 12+ hour initial pass and potentially twice that time lying ahead for total completion, achievement hunting, and score competition, DmC will keep you busy for the better part of a month.

DmC is just a few control refinements away from perfection. The combat is massively complex in scope and refreshing intuitive in execution with so many options and so many stunning visuals that sometimes it’s hard to believe you are responsible for what you are seeing on the screen. The evolving combat can quite literally get away from you and take on a life of its own. Normally, by the time you get to the end of one of these games you are just muddling through to see the story resolution, but DmC is one of the few games in the genre that is just as fresh at the finale as it was during the introduction. Whether you are a longtime fan like me or even if this is your first Devil May Cry game, DmC is the first must-play game of 2013 that no action gamer should even consider skipping.