Dante's peak.

It’s been a long time coming, but Dante is finally back in the saddle in DmC Devil May Cry, a prequel that delves into the demon hunter’s origin story. This time, developer Ninja Theory has taken the reigns, and they haven’t had it easy. We all remember the controversy surrounding Dante’s new look and attitude, but Ninja Theory has risen above the violent fanboy backlash by well and truly delivering the goods. Honestly, I don’t see what all the fuss was about.

DmC, as already stated, takes place before any other game in the Devil May Cry franchise, and deals with Dante’s origins and his transformation from deadbeat lowlife to legendary demon hunter. Dante lives in the dystopian Limbo City, where the populace is kept under the watchful eye of Mundus, a demon who controls the city through debt and media manipulation. Once Mundus learns of Dante’s past, he sees him as a threat to his plans of world domination, and drags him into the alternate world of Limbo so his minions can put an end to him.

The plot itself is nothing out of the ordinary and follows a very basic film plot structure. For example, Dante starts off living near the bottom of the social hierarchy and is reluctant to join an organisation called the Order, a group of freedom fighters who oppose Mundus. After learning about his past, Dante has a change of heart and insists on helping them. Dante is assisted by his twin brother Vergil and Kat, a witch who is able to guide Dante through Limbo. While the plot structure is fairly simplistic, the story itself is a lot of fun and takes the player to several interesting locales. The dialogue is clever and occasionally funny, but is just as often laden with a bit too much exposition. Needless to say, the story serves its purpose and is more than suitable as Dante’s backstory.

DMC Devil May Cry hack n slash

Dante can still hack and slash with the best of them.

When you think of Devil May Cry, it’s hard not to conjure thoughts of ridiculous combos, twisted enemy design and unique locations. DmC thankfully nails all of these, retaining the satisfying combat system the series is known for. Dante’s sword (Rebellion) and handguns (Ebony and Ivory) make a welcome return and work as well as ever at dispatching the demons that will block your way. However, there are numerous new weapons for Dante to obtain. The Arbiter is a large axe capable of devastating amounts of damage, and can break through the defenses of enemies with shields. The Osiris is a scythe that attacks swiftly and is a good option for crowd control. These weapons can be upgraded at Divinity statues by defeating enemies and adding to your score. Upgrades include increased damage and attack longevity, as well as brand new combos to pummel your enemies with. Divinity statues also offer items which can be purchased with red orbs found by defeating enemies and destroying various parts of the scenery. These items should be familiar to DMC veterans, and include health replenishment and upgrades should you find the experience a little too challenging.

The combat system is themed around the fact that Dante is the offspring of both angel and demon.

Devilishly Angelic

The combat system is themed around the fact that Dante is the offspring of both angel and demon. Demonic weapons are the heavy-hitters, whilst the angelic weapons rely on speed and style. Each weapon type is assigned to a shoulder button and must all be used in conjunction with one another to obtain more style points, which will result in a higher grade when you finish a level. In addition to your weapons are two grappling hooks; the demonic hook will drag enemies towards you and can rip shields away from them, and the angelic hook pulls Dante towards his enemies for a quick takedown. The combat system is varied and gives an adrenaline rush not seen since the likes of Bayonetta. While DmC’s system is ultimately not quite as diverse as Bayonetta’s various armaments, the themed weapons and emphasis on mixing it up more than make up for this to deliver one of the most satisfying combat systems in recent memory. The absence of a lock-on feature is occasionally aggravating, especially when aiming your grappling hooks at specific targets, but it’s rarely an issue and hardly detracts from the quality of the game.

The world of Limbo will take you to all sorts of wildly imaginative locales while offering top-notch level design that constantly shifts and evolves around Dante. Limbo is a living, breathing world that makes sure to hinder Dante with every opportunity it gets. This is where the game’s platforming elements come into play. Dante’s demonic grappling hook can create new platforms out of various objects by ripping them out of their foundations. The angelic grappling hook can be used to traverse the world as it pulls Dante to his desired destination. There are numerous segments where Dante will have to use both in conjunction with one another, leading to some rather tricky, but never frustrating, platforming challenges. These balance out the fast-paced combat system nicely as the game creates a steady flow between action and platforming. This is all accomplished thanks to the amazing world Ninja Theory have created.

dmc devil may cry combat system

The uppercut is a favourite amongst the demon fighting community.

There’s plenty to do once you’ve finished the game as well. Additional difficulty levels will become available to you, including series tradition Dante Must Die mode, a brutal level of difficulty that turns the game into an act of sadism. The non-linear level design also hides away several keys that unlock challenge doors. These challenges will also unlock further content and add to Dante’s power, so it’s worth exploring every nook and cranny in the game. Naturally, some of these unlockable extras are very well-hidden, and it may take multiple playthroughs for you to see everything, but rest assured, the rewards are numerous and great.

Visually, DmC is an absolute stunner, and one of the best looking action titles this generation. There will be times where you’ll just stop to gawp at the beauty of the world, and at just how inventive the designers have been. Limbo is as vibrant as it is dangerous, and its twisted locales draw similarities to Killer7, God of War and Batman: Arkham Asylum, to name just a few. The inspired level design is only improved by the game’s visual fidelity. Character animation is on par, which is evident through Dante and his enemies’ movements during battle, but also through the game’s numerous cutscenes, which show off bodily and facial animations with a quality similar to something you’d see on television. The voice actors have also done an incredible job of bringing the game’s characters to life. This is all set to the backdrop of an incredible soundtrack composed by Noisia and Combichrist, and consists of pulsating dubstep and heavy-hitting death metal. Overall, DmC is as gorgeous as it is enjoyable.

In summary, DmC Devil May Cry is the perfect reboot to a series that was in danger of obscurity thanks to Devil May Cry 4. Skeptics should put their beliefs to bed as DmC is fast-paced, satisfying as hell, graphically stunning and simply a joy to play. Some design elements take some getting used to, and the omission of a lock-on is downright baffling, but the system in place still works wonders. DmC gets 2013 off to a great start and action lovers should not turn their nose up to this fantastic experience.

A review copy of DmC: Devil May Cry was provided courtesy of Capcom. The game was reviewed on PlayStation 3.

Putting Theory Into Practice