Monday, 25 February 2013

Review: DMC - Devil May Cry (360)

Re-launching an established franchise is a very difficult path to go. You need to simultaneously draw in new fans and not alienate your fan-base. Too much pandering to the old franchise and newbies won't have a clue as to what's going on. Too many new elements and the returning fans will be angry that the original attraction is gone.

Developer Ninja Theory has done an impressive job of re-imagining the franchise. They took the basic combat system as their new core and then went to town on everything else. With this change, DMC is just as controller-throwing frustrating as its predecessors without being bogged down by the previous history.

The protagonist Dante is a man caught between worlds, a Nephilim: the spawn of a demon and angel with the powers of both he's rejected by both worlds and he's hunted by the demons in power on earth. Dante's exploration into his past yields the tools that he'll need to fight the demons hunting him. Besides the usual sword and gun combat that we've been used to in the past, Dante now yields two Heavenly and two Demonic powers that will allow him to either carve up the strongest enemies or fly around the combat area with the speed and precision of a starling. Dante travels around the city of Limbo drawn into another world to fight Mundus' hordes – this world lies parallel to his own and is a twisted representation of the "normal" world. As dramatic as all that might sound, the sense of humor and light-heartedness of the protagonist are still there, even if the red duster and white hair aren't.

Much like any Devil May Cry fan would expect, the combat system is the highlight of the game. Allowing for quick change between both aggressive attack and precision, the variety of style that you can employ quickly takes the tedium of battling through hordes of enemies and instead turns it into an eerie dance of skill and carnage. The combat system is equal parts simple and hard – the basic movesets for the Angelic and Demonic powers flow naturally over the basic controls using the bumpers on your controller.

While the context for using each of the moves is pretty straight-forward and the level design early on is appropriate for you to easily learn how to incorporate those moves, the true mastery will take repetition until you are able to start to hit those Triple SSS style scores on combat. As points through combat are spent to learn new moves – you can continue to power up individual moves and combos. Those additional points are not locked in – the designers allow for any additional points spend after unlocking to be freely moved as you like – so after a while using the Angelic Scythe you decide that you'd rather have more power on your primary weapon – you can move those skill points without any penalty!

The difficulty level is mercifully change-able, with the higher skill levels being as controller-throwing frustrating as they've always been. Perhaps not as tough as say Ninja Gaiden… but brutal enough that I couldn't play with the girlfriend in the room. (She couldn't appreciate that the stream of expletives streaming from my mouth was a sign that I was actually having fun.)

I won't claim that my manhood wasn't a little tarnished in some sections when I had to lower the skill setting to progress, but dammit I have a review to write!

The boss fights are easily my favorite part of the game.

We've seen crazy fights between protagonists and enemies that dwarf them but DMC goes to great lengths to have Dante fight them directly, instead of in sections like most designers would implement.

Here's a good example – old school mentality: fighting a boss 3 stories tall – attack the feet until you've done enough damage to move up to a higher position to attack higher up on the enemy. The enemy probably won't move a whole heck of a lot despite the fact that he's bigger than you. DMC mentality: THAT 3 STORY TALL GUY IS ABOUT TO HIT YOU, MOVE DANTE! MOOOOOOOVE! Now go slash the crap out of him.

Negatives? Well the frequent use of platforming could just be thrown out. I know you are trying to add some variety to the game, but seriously how many times have I run across a slowly collapsing bridge? Or jumped from one nearly impassible path to another with pitfalls in every direction… It's a major comedown from the beauty of the combat to have to deal with stupid high frequency death sections. The environments take a huge fidelity dive during gameplay; the characters look as good as possible while the textures around them seem like a grainy pixelated mess during high action.

All in all, DMC was a fun surprise to review and one of the best games released this year.

- Tazman

The Good:
- Much better blending of different combat styles than we've seen before
- On the fly re-skilling of skill points

The Bad:
- Platforming sections are just tedious
- Some seriously bad looking environments

Score: 8.5 / 10