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DmC Devil May Cry: Right Game, Wrong Name?

2013 in Review: Mike takes a look at Capcom and Ninja Theory's reboot of the Devil May Cry series.

Article by Mike Williams, .

Sometimes it's good to have a bit of distance to reflect on a game. As a consumer, when a game is launched, you tend to rely on the early impressions of others to get a feel of a game. Is it amazing? Does it live up to the series' name? Does it have a few missteps along the way? Unless our personal hype is huge, we tend to wait for the group concensus before diving in.

I just started reviewing games in July of this year. I've been in the games media for a few years now as a second job, but that was on the business side over at our sister site GamesIndustry International. So when Capcom and Ninja Theory's reboot of the Devil May Cry series came out in January, I skipped out. Devil May Cry fans weren't happy with the game and my backlog was already crazy, so I passed on the game until it was on sale. Having dived into the game since launch, I'd have to say I'm a bit surprised. It's pretty damn good.

DmC: Devil May Cry is an enjoyable game saddled with the Devil May Cry name and all the expectations that come with it.

Fight Me

Let's start with the combat, which is the primary difference between DmC and its predecessors. The two big changes here are the removal of style switching and the lock-on mechanic. Styles in Devil May Cry 3 and Devil May Cry 4 forced the player into certain playstyles, like the melee-focused Swordsmaster or the dodge-centric Trickster style. These were intended to push players in different directions, but at the highest-level, most veteran players tended to use the defense-focused Royalguard. When combined with animation cancelling on certain moves, timed parrying, and the Release attack, Dante could put out some crazy damage and became nearly invincible.

DmC drops Styles and instead gives players the ability to use any weapon or form at the press of a button. This gives neophyte and average players a bit more versatility and freedom compared to previous Devil May Cry games. DmC is more about letting you do what you want, when you want to.

The lock-on mechanic in older Devil May Cry games also directly informed the moves. Without the assumption that the player can be focused on a single enemy, the game is pushed away from the classic Devil May Cry titles and towards something closer to God of War. Basic moves have a wider area of attack, so you'll hit multiple enemies and evading (which is no longer tied to a specific style) becomes integral to gameplay.

What you're left with in DmC is a more straightforward and easier game for players. The gap between low- and high-level play is still considerable, but the barrier to entry is lower. Weapon switching on the fly makes it easier for players to hit S rank with their combos, compared to the difficulty of hitting S and above in older Devil May Cry games. To make combat slightly more difficult, Angel and Demon weapon requirements were added, indicated by simple color coding. The weapon switching system is wonderfully fluid, you just don't need to switch weapons that much outside of the previously-mentioned weapon requirements. Enemies even telegraph their moves in larger flourishes to give players ample time to evade.

For veteran Devil May Cry players, the game is painfully easy, a fact made worse by Dante's upgraded Demon Evade. With a well-timed, last-second Evade, Dante gains an increased damage bonus with makes most encounters much easier, mirroring the Release bonus from DMC 3 and 4's Royalguard.

This is DmC's strength and weakness. The new system is great at making players feel like they're in control of their own combos; many players will feel awesome when they're playing DmC, while Devil May Cry asked for more out of the player. More timing and precision was required to feel like you were truly powerful. The problem is veteran Devil May Cry players no longer had the outlet given to them by the previous games. What you're left with is a reboot that doesn't appeal to Devil May Cry fans, but is more open to new players. If you're not looking for the high-level of Devil May Cry, there's still a lot here to enjoy, but your expectations have to be different.

Tell Me A Story

As with any reboot, Dante also has a new look and a new world to inhabit. Devil May Cry has never had the best story or dialog, and DmC does little to change that. The story here is more coherent than previous outings, but it doesn't particularly go anywhere and its themes are delivered in a heavy-handed way.

I'm largely fine with the new Dante. Ninja Theory steers him towards the crude side of "mature" at times and he's more serious than his predecessor, but there's a few nuggets of the original found inside of the new character. His path towards heroism follows the classic Hero's Journey and the other characters won't surprise you outside of one of them turning towards the dark side without any hints prior to the shift. This particular change just feels like checking off boxes related to the older games than blazing a new trail.

My small problem with DmC's story is a loss of tone. In previous Devil May Cry games, Dante was a outlandish character existing in a fantasy world that takes itself quite seriously. New Dante is closer to his world and I feel that something is a bit lost there. There was a lot of fun in the juxtaposition of serious fantasy tropes and melodrama alongside the crazy one-liners and cartoon-like tendencies of old Dante. Here's a Devil May Cry 3 cutscene to illustrate what I mean:

While Dante visited that that attempt at a serious tone sometimes in the older Devil May Cry games - he wasn't always exempt from the melodrama - the new Dante firmly lives in his gritty world, with small visits to the outlandish side at times. Another DmC could stick the landing, but the game missed my personal preference when it comes to the tone.

What a Wonderful World

If they missed the tone, one place where Ninja Theory got it absolutely right is visual design. DmC is a gorgeous game and absolutely outclasses the previous titles by a wide margin. I've been punctuating this article with some of the best high-res screenshots I could find to give you a taste of what's in the game.

Levels tilt, shift, and change around Dante, taking him from the real world to Limbo. Even in the overall murky world of DmC, the colors in the levels are bright and stunning. Reds, greens, and blues are in full effect. I can safely say that DmC is probably the best-looking game I played this year. That's high praise for a studio whose previous games, Heavenly Sword and Enslaved, I didn't have a chance to play. Part of me wants Ninja Theory to get another chance at DmC just so I can see what they can do with the improved baseline on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Note: All of these screenshots came from the same NeoGAF thread. It's literally the only thing that comes up when you look up large, high-res DmC images. Head there if you want to see the images in their original form; I had to shrink them to save you from downloading a ton of 2 MB images.

Stylish Finish

DmC: Devil May Cry was a game that was obviously made with a lot of love. DmC tells the story of Dante, son of Sparda and brother of Vergil. He wields the sword Rebellion and twin pistols named Ebony and Ivory. But that's where the similarities really end. The problem is if you wanted more Devil May Cry, this isn't that game. Its combat, tone, story, and art direction are completely different.

It's not the first game to get caught in that trap. Banjo and Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts is an underrated gem because players wanted more of the classic platforming gameplay, not the new build-a-vehicle system. Was it a bad game? No, just counter to expectations. There's the fine line between providing something different and really utilizing the franchise.

Will we get another DmC? Probably not. Sales didn't justify Capcom and Ninja Theory teaming up on the series again. DmC didn't reach Devil May Cry fans. It's also entirely possible that the Devil May Cry gameplay is inherently niche - Vanquish and Bayonetta didn't break records either - or a bigger IP is needed to boost sales, like Metal Gear Rising or Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.

But the differences in the reboot don't make DmC a bad game, they just make it a different game. I enjoyed every minute of my time in DmC. In fact, if you want to introduce someone to the Devil May Cry series, I'd say your best bet may be to start with DmC and then work your way back to the Devil May Cry HD Collection. Either way, if you can find it this holiday season for $20 - 30, DmC: Devil May Cry is a wild ride and one of my favorite games of 2013.

Note: If you're a technical player, pick up the PC version if you can. It plays at 60 fps, unlike its console counterparts.

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Comments 16

  • Avatar for SDC3 #1 SDC3 3 years ago
    This article is very well done, and captures a lot of the issues most people had with DmC. By most people I guess I mean most DMC fans.

    As a fan, I don't regret playing it. But I don't think it is a good Devil May Cry game, and I'm not sad that it sold poorly.

    If it were an original IP, it would probably have gone largely unnoticed like other Ninja Theory games.
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  • Avatar for sakicfan84 #2 sakicfan84 3 years ago
    DmC was one of my favorite games of the year. I played it right after playing Bioshock Infinite, and I thought the game play in DmC was leaps and bounds ahead. That being said, I never cared for the previous Devil May Cry games. While the changes definitely worked for me, I understand why long time supporters of the series would have complaints about the game.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #3 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    This article makes some good points, but I don't think it's stated strongly enough just how terrible the story of this game is. Previous games in the series are purposefully outlandish and goofy. They have a campy charm that makes the characters enjoyable, even though the story is stupid. This DmC is the first game in the series to have a painfully cringe-worthy story. It's still stupid, but it has none of the camp or charm, which was replaced by juvenille swearing and painful melodrama that is played way too seriously. The characters are all talky, smarmy, and unlikable.

    And then there's the gameplay. As this article explains, the only real addition this game has to the series is a general dumbing down of the gameplay mechanics. Not something to be proud of.
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  • Avatar for docexe #4 docexe 3 years ago
    @SDC3 That was my understanding regarding the game: It was a fantastic action game. It just wasn’t a good Devil May Cry game, which is all the difference for this kind of series. I will definitely try if I get the chance though.

    Sadly, as you say, it would probably had sold even worse if it was an original IP, instead of tied to an existing franchise. It’s curious: Despite how many journalists, critics and forum dwellers keep saying how tired and sick they are of the avalanche of sequels that get released every month, most new IP tend to fail in the market while those same sequels keep appearing on the top ten sales list.
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  • Avatar for danger.to.others #5 danger.to.others 3 years ago
    I can't wait to see what Ninja Theory can do with PS4/XB1. They've always been ahead of everyone with their graphics and animations.
    But as with all their games, the main story needs help.

    This whole article matches my experience. (And reminded me of how dumbfounded I feel every time I'm reminded Vanquish didn't sell. An unseen masterpiece)
    As it's own game though, I really like DMC. One of my favorite third person hack n; slashes in the last gen.
    It has a permanent home on my PS3 hard drive.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #6 Funny_Colour_Blue 3 years ago
    @docexe "It’s curious: Despite how many journalists, critics and forum dwellers keep saying how tired and sick they are of the avalanche of sequels that get released every month, most new IP tend to fail in the market while those same sequels keep appearing on the top ten sales list."

    A struggling/defunct middle-class-game industry can do that. This "HD era" of gaming was never particularly kind to new, creative IPs:

    With the PS2 era, I think games were still somewhat inexpensive to make, which meant publishers were more willing to take chances with new, creative IPs.

    So even if a new IP was received poorly it could still turn over a decent profit for publishers.

    But now that games are so expensive to make - with teams of 400 sometimes 600 people to a single game and the demand being so high - it's just not worth the risk.

    It's incredibly frustrating because I really loved middle class games. Games like "Black", "PSI-OPS", "CYGirls" or EA's "Freedom Fighters" for PS2 -Small, one shot entries that sometimes sold poorly, but had really interesting ideas.

    Some would say we should turn to kick-starter for new IPs. But I don't think a new IP would ever have a chance to really flourish and come into it's own under the weight of a kick-starter campaign.

    There needs to be a market where you can comfortable take those creative risks and still be able to recover your losses. There needs to be a way to re-establish that market for the "middle-class-game."

    Something has to change.

    !Edited 3 times. Last edited December 2013 by Funny_Colour_Blue
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  • Avatar for presidentcamacho #7 presidentcamacho 3 years ago
    Been a fan of DMC since the original, 3 easily being my favorite. I had a great time with DmC, with somewhere around 60 hours between the main game and the Vergil DLC (which I found the combat to be superior in, by the way- get it if you have DmC and like the DMC3 and 4). My biggest complaint with the game is the lack of challenge versus the old ones (we'll leave DMC 2, which I found painful to even finish with one character, out of the discussion). The enemies are too slow and lacking in aggression, the bosses are terrible (by DMC standards) and extremely simple (this should be obvious to anyone who played through DMC 3), and Dante is hugely overpowered once you unlock his complete arsenal. None of these would be big problems for a non DMC hack & slash, but that level of combat depth and intensity is what makes the franchise great in my eyes. That said such accessibility should have been a huge hit with people new to the franchise- unfortunately few of them gave it a shot since a) it wasn't an FPS, Madden, or FIFA, and b) the established DMC fanbase rabidly attacked this project from day one, which doubtless deterred some interested parties from giving it a shot.

    As for controls, I found the changes to be a mixed, but mostly positive bag. I wish they had left the R1/RB lock on in (evade could have been R2/RT, with angel/demon mapped to L1,L2/RB,RT, as this would have allowed more moves per melee weapon (ala swordmaster style) and kept the classic feel more intact for those who wanted to use it.
    I really liked how the weapon switching was done in DmC versus 4, you were able to use the whole arsenal simultaneously without the mixups 3 weapon switching delivered in 4. The loss of L2/LT firearm switching didn't bother me a bit after realizing the benefits of being able to smoothly switch between 5 melee weapons in one combo- particularly given the fantastic addition of weapon switching at combo pause points continuing the incoming weapon's combo from said pause point. I also enjoyed how the angel/demon system facilitated different "style" moves without the d-pad switching 4 brought. I was stoked about on the fly style switching in 4, but it turned out to be an unnecessary nuisance most of the time- consolidating the styles was a huge boon IMO. Removing the parry was a bad idea for hardcore fans, this could have been done Bayonetta style (tap towards attack with perfect timing) without eating up more controller real estate. All this said, I'm betting console RAM limitations were an issue, as I recall reading a DMC 4 interview that said they had to cut several moves for that reason.

    I really enjoyed the idea of an alive, malevolent world. I had no complaints about that element at all- it was much cooler than blocked doors that try to grab you. Very well done with beautiful graphics (though I wish I had been able to play it in 60 fps on a PC rather than 30 on a 360).

    Where Ninja Theory really dropped the ball in my view was the story. I'll take the cheese of the old ones any day over the cliche'd college know it all anti-capitalist hippie crap (complete with a literal corporate boogeyman) DmC provided. Some cool ideas involving the world itself, but overall it was supremely ham fisted and idiotic (which, again, should have appealed to many new college know it all hippie types), with none of the charm or occult atmosphere (a specific element that could have been made amazing with the level ideas DmC showed) 1 and 3 provided.

    Still, as much as I've bitched about various details, I did have a great time with it- it just didn't have the usual DMC depth. I can very easily recommend it to anyone, including established DMC fans, who I wish handn't pulled such juvenile shit from the start with DmC. I still have a blast with DMC3, 8 years later and probably over 200 hours in. DmC, while still plenty of fun and worth buying, definitely has not provided that sort of replay value. Hopefully the poor sales of DmC haven't killed the franchise, as not even Bayonetta tops it at its game.
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  • Avatar for presidentcamacho #8 presidentcamacho 3 years ago
    One more thing: the fact that Vanquish (and many other excellent Japanese games) didn't do well troubles me greatly. "Dudebros", unwilling to try anything beyond generic FPS, sports, Bethesda, and Grand Theft Auto/GTA clones have taken over an entertainment form that I have loved since I got my hands on an NES controller in the 80's.Edited December 2013 by presidentcamacho
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #9 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    This game has one more huge flaw that wasn't mentioned in the article... the soundtrack is complete garbage. DMC games have never had amazing soundtracks, but they've at least had their own charm. Ninja's Theory's DMC sounds like they are just playing some random metal underneath combat, with no thought or care at all behind it.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #10 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    @captainN2 I'm glad it sold poorly because I don't want anyone at Capcom thinking that giving the franchise to Ninja Theory was a good move. Now perhaps this could result in the series dying, and that would be unfortunate. But if Ninja Theory keeps making DMC games, the series may as well be dead, so the best alternative as far as I'm concerned is for this game to do poorly.

    This is just the nature of capitalism, we vote with our dollars. When a developer screws up, the only way we can show them they've screwed up is by not buying it.
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  • Avatar for christopherhughes97 #11 christopherhughes97 3 years ago
    Oh, please, there's no way that I'm the only one who saw that heel-turn coming a mile away. As soon as he walks on screen and says "Hey Dante, I'm here to answer every question you've ever had about your origins and give you a purpose in life." and Dante is like "I instantly believe you and will not question anything you tell me.", it was pretty obvious how this story was going to pan out.

    That being said, what the game lacks in story and complexity of theme, I really thought it made up for it with both embodying and laughing at its punk-rock attitude. They really took the name of his sword to heart in a way the older games never did, because every element of the game screams "rebellion", in a very western way. I thought this was a pretty neat idea, considering I'd never really thought about how much that same "rebellion" was part of the core of old Dante, with his red leather jacket, white hair, and rivalry with his brother who just so happens to care more about their family history and carry around a traditionally Japanese weapon. But I love how in DMC, every time Dante yells "Fuck you!" at somebody and looks really pleased with himself, as if he had just said something really clever, everyone around him just looks at him, and I have to assume they're thinking "does he think he's cool?" And I really kind of loved the fact that they were willing to go quite directly political with their world, so few games are really willing to take a stance in that way. Not enough games give me the chance to wail on a giant Rush Limbaugh-analogue's face. Hell, even Bioshock Infinite waffled pretty hard with that weird "Rebellion is just as bad as opression!", thing.

    The article also might have been a little harsher on the combat than it deserves. It's not as good as Devil May Cry 3 or 4, but that's an incredibly high bar to set, and we should not dock the game marks for not reaching it. That's really how I feel about the whole game actually. Even this article feels like he sets out wanting to praise DmC's accomplishments, but still comes across as harshly damning it with the franchise comparisons at many points.
    @brionfoulke91
    I'm not sure how you can feel so comfortable with invalidating an entire work like that, but that's a pretty rude and unfair position. While I would like it if they made DMC games in both the old and new styles, if the new style is all we're getting for now, that's far better than nothing.
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  • Avatar for Vasenor #12 Vasenor 3 years ago
    I enjoyed my romp through DMC and the backlash of the existing Devil May Cry fans really reminded me of the way NMA reacted to the new Fallout games. I'm a bit sad that this backlash hurt this, actually pretty good, game. Yes it is not a DMC3 as people have mentioned but as has been also said it's not a DMC2 either...

    I think Ninja Theory did about as good a job as you could hope for, for their first go out with such a storied franchise the last couple of games of which set the bar pretty high.

    It had a varied and engaging fighting system (a distinct step up from what they achieved in Enslaved which I again enjoyed but where the fighting was not the highlight...) truly stunning environment design and mocap/actor work. The story was no less sensical than what was being served up in previous parts of the series and what I was expecting to be the cheap shocker moment when initially described turned out to be actually something which helped bring several things character and story wise into focus (dear old Virgil not giving a damn about potentially getting a "close friend" shot if it could help further his agenda).

    Anyway, I think it's a bit of a shame the game has struggled as much as it has.
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  • Avatar for docexe #13 docexe 3 years ago
    @Funny_Colour_Blue Yeah, looking back at the entire generation, the HD era might have actually been more harmful to the console part of the gaming industry in terms of variety and creativity.

    Some analysts keep insisting that the rise of mobile platforms, browser games and F2P is killing the console market, when I actually think an opposite effect is in place: The death of the middle market in consoles is what prompted so many developers to migrate to other platforms like mobile. Unfortunately, even with the recent indie push and even with the rise of platforms like iOS, they still don’t provide a true alternative for middle games given their own limitations. It seems that nowadays developers can only go small or go ridiculously big.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #14 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    @captainN2 I'm actually 36. There's nothing juvenille about wanting it to sell poorly. It's not JUST because I don't think it's a very good game. It's more because it sets a very bad precedent. This game's big contribution to the series is to dumb it down significantly, and turn the story into overbearingly juvenille crap. Those are not good changes to the series.

    I wanted this game to fail because it's the only way to send a message to the developers that this is a very bad direction for the series to go in. How in the world is that "juvenille"? It's odd that you see any criticism of this game, even legitimate criticism, as "fanboyism," and I think that just speaks to how narrow minded you are and that you have a hard time accepting other contrary opinions to your own.
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  • Avatar for LadyTL #15 LadyTL 3 years ago
    I think the problem is that to some people DMC was a good game and to others is was a dirt sandwich. Now it may have been a very good dirt sandwich and on a pretty plate with nice bread, but that does not change that while others got a regular sandwich, some people had dirt in theirs.

    In other words they were sunk by being attached to the Devil May Cry franchise. If they gave it some other name sure it made have sold the same or worse, but there would be less complaints about how it is ruining a franchise.

    This comes also with people being glad it sold poorly because at the end of the day, most big companies only care about the bottom line. Lots of people saying anything doesn't change anything as demonstrated by the Mass Effect 3 ending debacle. Lots of people said something then but despite many people disliking the ending, it wasn't changed. All you can do is speak with your money.

    I hope further Mass Effect games don't sell well if they keep up with what they are doing with the series. If they change things like with Dragons Age, I'll buy them again. This does not mean I am a terrible person or anything else you want to sling. It just means I don't like where the games are going.

    If something sells well and is a bad product, the company is not going to magically wake up and make a better one. They are just going to make more of the same awful.
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  • Avatar for docexe #16 docexe 3 years ago
    @LadyTL Voting with your dollars is understandable and fair, and I agree that companies do not pay attention until their bottom lines are affected. The issue is that taking delight or enjoyment in some entertainment product (be that a game, movie, book, etc.) failing CAN come as petty or vindictive at times, particularly when the product in question is not necessarily bad, just different. It is obviously a case by case thing, some products are truthfully so awful that you can’t help it but be glad when they fail in the market.

    In the case of DMC, while I think the complaints about the game being dumbed down compared to prior Devil May Cry games are legit, the problem that I see is that many people didn’t wait until the game actually launched (and they actually played it) before decrying it to hell and back. And all that came mostly because of the game being a reboot and the change of appearance for Dante. Don’t misunderstand me, I also think Dante’s new design is terrible, but I can’t help it but wonder: How much of the failure of the game can truly be attributed to the gameplay, and how much it was a result of the prior backlash.

    Of course, I’m not trying to paint myself in a “morally higher pedestal” or judge anyone, because I have also fell prey of those kinds of visceral negative reactions when some franchise or series that I like receives an abrupt change that I do not agree with and I do become vehemently opposed to it (the most recent case for me, not in games but in comic books: Superior Spider-man). But I also try to be open-minded and judge things on their own merits most of the time. Sometimes, some changes that on theory sound baffling can actually turn out to be better than you expected (the most recent case for me in comics: Agent Venom. I’m truly sad by its cancellation, and I will be very annoyed once the symbiote changes owner again).Edited December 2013 by docexe
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