Thursday, November 7

Game Review: DmC: Devil May Cry

Genre: Hack and Slash
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Release date: 15/01/2013 
Developer: Ninja Theory

DmC launched early this year year after much vitriol from fans of the Devil May Cry franchise, a series which started life on the PS2. DmC marked a reboot for the series and rather than being developed by Capcom, the reins were handed to Ninja Theory. This decision perplexed me. Ninja Theory had released 2 games Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. In these games the story, characters and location were extremely unique and interesting, and in particularly in the case of Enslaved, the characters were well written. However were Ninja Theory faltered was with gameplay, in particular combat. Heavenly Rain featured a lack of intelligent combat, where you could mostly button mash your way through the game even on harder difficulty settings. Enslaved used a slightly better combat system, but it was plodding and slow and enemies had far too much health. So what would be the product of a franchise were the gameplay is combat centred, when the developer's weakness is combat?

Like its fore-bearers DmC is extremely combat heavy, the majority of your play time spent battling demon spawn. The rest of your time will be spent exploring and watching cut scenes. In this sense Ninja Theory have stayed true to the series, there is no grand overhaul of the core components of the Devil May Cry series. But where the game fumbles in its in the combat, Ninja Theory's consistently weakest point. Your main attack consists of using your sword and using directional input and button timing to generate a variety of devastating attacks and combos. Your secondary attack fires your guns and you have access to additional melee weapons; one which delivers slow powerful attacks, and the other fast, sweeping attacks. Enemy attacks are negated with by dodging or deflecting attacks by timed weapon strikes. At first glance the combat is similar to previous Devil May Cry games, however there are a few differences which aficionados will immediately pick up on, if not revile. For instance High Roller has been remapped to a single button press and renamed 'High Time'.

The combat manages to be serviceable but never truly engaging. I started the game on the hardest available setting and only died a few times due to my own carelessness. I feared for my life, which left me lazy and button mashing my way through fights. Enemies had too much health, which lead to a sense of monotony. One major pet peeve I had was the use of enemies exclusively vulnerable to one type of weapon; angel or demon. This significantly reduced combat variety as you are forced into using one weapon. These encounters can become pretty tedious, especially using the angel weapon since it does so little damage. Finally the variety of enemies is pretty poor for the most part, and rarely do you have to adjust tactics. Its only at the last few stages were combat becomes challenging with a variety of demons, but by this point I was already jaded. Some of the boss battles were well done, in particular Bob Barbas, which I really wished lasted longer as one of the few times in DmC I really enjoyed myself.

Such enemies only serve as cannon fodder. Cannon fodder which are present in most of the games encounters.
So if the combat isn't great, then how about Ninja Theory's usual staple characters and world? Well the world of DmC is bland. The most obvious misstep is Dante's character. Dante is an infantile, unlikeable character who doesn't get any better through out the game. For instance when he wants to enter a club but is refused entry, he knocks out the bouncer, then writes "Fuck you" on the guest list. Dante never experiences any character growth, nor is he an anti hero, he's simply an edgy shit. The rest of the cast don't do much better, the villains are two dimensional "I want to take over the Earth!" types and your companions are dull. The world itself never manages to illicit interest and I found myself nitpicking details like the ridiculous 'limbo' and why demon's are inherently bad and angels inherently good yet demons are allowed to roam the earth and angels don't even feature in the game.

Visually the game looks acceptable on PC, but it certainly doesn't push any boundaries from a technical level or art direction. Its serviceable and doesn't detract or add the experience. The only highlight is the game's motion capture which does make for quite realistic facial movements. The music of the game follows the rest of the game's generic theme, its not bad but doesn't rise above good either.

DmC is the product of a franchise given to the wrong developer. While no feature of the game is terrible, the core component, the combat, falls well short of what is needed. The reminder of the games is composed of a shallow story and ill written cast of characters.