Monday, December 29, 2014

Game Review - DmC: Devil May Cry (Xbox 360, 2013)

On the list of franchises I expected to get a gritty, real-world reboot, Devil May Cry was pretty far from the top.  It does make some sense in retrospect: there's always a market for good third-person action games, and if you remove some of the the cheesy lines and smarmy protagonist and tie the plot more closely to the real world, you just might have a quality title all around.

In the end, I think DmC does a great job in both respects.  It's an impressively fun hack and slash game, and the story is a nice re-imagining of the Devil May Cry premise.  Here's why:

DmC follows Dante, handsome rogue and lady-killer, as he is drawn into a demonic plot to destroy the world.  You know, pretty basic stuff.

There are two pretty good reasons that the story is worth experiencing, though:

First, the demonic plane, Limbo, exists parallel to the world we all know and love.  The locations are similar, with Limbo being a generally perverted version of the same landscape, and changes in one world affect the other.  This setup allows for some interesting dynamics and plot points along the way (though nothing that has a significant impact on gameplay).

Second, the overall visual style is breathtaking.  Locations range from mundane warehouses to hopping clubs to molten hellscapes, and each has a distinct and impressive style.  Characters and monsters are similarly detailed, and while things can get a little weird at times, it's always fantastic to see.

Aside from those broad categories, nothing in the game's plot really stands out, good or bad.  It's a different take on the Devil May Cry storyline (with much of the character backstories carried over from the original), which I found cool as a longtime fan of the franchise.  For others, the storyline leaves a bit to be desired in a few places, but it was still interesting enough to keep me from getting bored during brief cutscenes between gameplay segments.

Speaking of gameplay, the real reason you should play DmC is the opportunity to slaughter thousands of demons in the most stylish of ways.

The basic gameplay of other Devil May Cry titles remains intact: fluid combat with a variety of weapons and combos for dispatching enemies.  As you progress, you'll unlock more weapons and related combat abilities, allowing for more complex combinations of moves.  You can even switch between weapons very easily during a fight, which lets you chain cool attacks together in exciting ways.

The combat system is really deep and executed very well.  It's incredibly satisfying.

I really only have two complaints.  First, the camera can be a huge pain in the ass.  There's this lock-on system the focuses your view on one enemy.  It's really nice most of the time, but when you're fighting half a dozen demons and need to change targets on the fly, it can get really awkward.

Second, I found some of the combos to be rather hard to pull off.  I'd love that added difficulty if they were more powerful or beneficial in some other way, but that didn't seem to be the case.  The result is that I ended up using the same set of combos pretty frequently for most enemies.  It was still a pretty diverse set of combos (using only one combos for each of the five melee weapons still yields a nice spectrum of attacks), but there was really no incentive to explore the rest of Dante's combat skills.

Still, it was tons of fun fighting my way through the game, which took me around 7-8 hours to complete.

Like previous Devil May Cry games, however, there are many additional difficulty modes to tackle once completing the story the first time.

Two of the additional modes increase the difficulty, but not just by making monsters stronger.  Instead, they change the composition of enemy groups.  These changes require you to change tactics instead of just becoming more precise, which makes playing these difficulties a different experience than your first playthrough.  It's the best kind of replay value.

The other two additional modes provide a unique twist.  In "Heaven or Hell" mode, Dante and all enemies die in a single hit, changing the dynamic of the game considerably.  It's much easier than the main game, but it's another unique experience.

"Hell and Hell" makes Dante as fragile as in "Heaven or Hell" but leaves his foes at their normal power level - you'll die in one hit, but the demons won't.  It's definitely the biggest challenge the game has to offer and yet another new perspective on DmC's gameplay.

All told, running through the additional game modes can bring the game clock up to 30+ hours, with a fair number of challenges, if you're up to it.

DmC is overall a great game with tons of replay value.  There's nothing groundbreaking, but its smooth execution makes for a very entertaining game with more longevity than most single-player games on the market these days.  It's definitely worth a look.

My Rating: 9/10 - awesome.