I like the new Dante. Actually, I prefer the new Dante. I feel I owe it to you get that out there early given the (unnecessary and silly) drama that surrounded the character’s redesign. If you still haven’t come around at all and have no plans to play DmC Devil May Cry for that reason, you’re robbing yourself of one of the best action titles I’ve played in years.

When Capcom put the series in the hands of Ninja Theory, the studio had a lot of expectations to live up to. The combat needed to be frantic, the enemy design needed to be varied and grotesque (though not offensively so) and the challenge needed to be dialed up (but not so high that newcomers would be put off). Not only did the Cambridge, UK developer deliver on all of those fronts, but they also wove an interesting story throughout. The narrative alone isn’t enough to cover the eight or so hour adventure (if you spend some time looking for collectibles), but the characterization of the principal players, hero and villain alike, works to complete the puzzle.

Dante evolves over the course of the story as he finds people and a cause worth his time and emotional investment. Each of the key foes is integrated so well into the world that encountering them in combat drove the pacing as a series of crescendos, each one peaking higher than the last. The dialog is often base, but it fits the personalities established through action. The script isn’t universally crass, which helps prevent it from feeling cheap and sleazy. The cutscene breaks are often brief and to the point, economizing the time away from the action.

Ninja Theory has done a fantastic job creating a combat system that adheres to Devil May Cry’s core emphasis on stylish combos. Dante begins the game with his sword, Rebellion, and his twin handguns, Ebony and Ivory. Over the course of the 20 missions, he’ll acquire two additional firearms and four melee weapons powered by either his angelic or demonic skills. These different modes are toggled by pressing and holding a trigger, and switching among the weapons each category is handled with a press of the D-pad. I found this to be extremely responsive, and there was no problem swapping out the speedy angelic Osiris scythe for the Aquila throwing stars or the heavy hitting demonic Arbiter axe for the Eryx fire gauntlets mid-combo. The controls do take time to learn (especially since there is no way to lock on to a specific foe) and becoming proficient with switching between modes is crucial when dealing with enemies that can only be harmed by one or the other.

There are a number of platforming sections throughout most levels, and these are largely handled well thanks to a responsive camera. Many of these involve air dashing and grappling, which is handled differently in angel and demon modes. Not only to they look great, but they are immensely enjoyable. This could have easily been a major stumble, but Ninja Theory handled the acrobatic moments quite well. Much of this enjoyment comes from the title’s silent character, the omnipresent realm of Limbo.

Narratively, Limbo exists as a hidden realm of demons just out of view from mortals. This isn’t a new concept. The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past and Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (among others) both used parallel realms as gameplay devices. Ninja Theory has progressed the concept in DmC Devil May Cry. The terrain is ever-changing, making for sudden and intense moments that forced me to stay on my toes. Collapsing walls, devastated streets and unexpected claustrophobia all keep the out of combat moments from becoming stale.

Ninja Theory has remarkably found a perfect balance in the aesthetic, marrying consistency with variety. There is a marked difference between the human world and Limbo. A creeping black ooze covers most surfaces, smaller objects like garbage cans warp and contort under the sickening weight of the filth. A red hue tints the entire landscape, and villain Mundus directs his minions with an omnipresent throaty growl and text superimposed on the scenery. City streets, office buildings, a night club and a decrepit mansion are just some of the environments that are at the same time connected by motif while distinct from one another.

From level to level, DmC is a series of refreshing experiences. The game play is switched up frequently over the course of the title, and the presence of hidden keys and secret doors (which give way to bonus missions), provide enough reason to come play through additional times. For those that have mastered the three default difficulties, Son of Sparda mode (enhanced enemy difficulty, Dante takes additional damage) is unlocked upon completion. Prove yourself a worthy heir by completing the game on Son of Sparda difficulty, and three additional options become available, including two different ones that knock Dante out in a single hit.

DmC is designed for replay, and the experience is engaging enough to warrant return trips. Most levels are paced well and the 20 stages are easy to consume chunks. I love that Ninja Theory opted for more, shorter levels. This provided me with a sense of accomplishment and progress rather than leaving me feeling bogged down while trying to get to the next obvious break point. Additionally, any completed level can be replayed. In combination with how things are parsed, returning for collectibles is hardly a chore.

The aesthetic quality and smart presentation are complemented by a fitting audio design. Sounds of combat are appropriately gritty with clangs, thuds, whooshes and the rumble of earth and pavement cracking underneath demonic pressure diverse and substantive. The soundtrack is filled with driving rock, thumping house beats and even a little dubstep (no, the fad isn’t dead quite yet). It won’t be winning any awards, but it does complement the rest of the package. The voice acting is universally great, and the dialog is written and delivered with less camp than previous entries in the series.

DmC Devil May Cry is in good hands with Ninja Theory. The new designs for familiar characters work well in the world created for this reboot. The enemies, from the tiniest nuisance to the largest of the hulking bosses, are well designed and memorable. The presentation is tied together with solid combat that leaves me yearning for a sequel. If the only thing standing between you and DmC is Dante’s redesign, swallow your pride. You’ll thank me later.

 

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Fantastic, diverse combat
+ Stellar presentation featuring varied visuals tied together with a cohesive design sensibility
+ One of the best uses of environment in gaming
+ Huge, hulking bosses are memorable and fun to fight
- A lack of lock on mechanism steepens the learning curve
- Some collectibles require return trips through levels, but the game never clues players in 

9 and 9.5 represent the pinnacle of the genre, a game that defines what that genre should be about. These scores are for games that you not only feel would be worth your purchase, but you would actually try to convince your friends to buy them as well.

DmC Devil May Cry was developed by Ninja Theory and published by Capcom. It was released on January 15, 2013 at the MSRP of $59.99. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.