DMC: Devil May Cry may be subject to the single most spectacular entitled-fan hissy fit in gaming history. Wah, Dante has black hair! Wah, Dante is skinnier! Wah, Dante touches boob!
It’s tempting to buy the game to just to wind up these basement-dwelling trolls. And it is worth buying… but at $60, whether or not it’s worth buying depends on what kind of a gamer you are.
The main problem here is that this game is only worth $60 to you if you are the kind of person who glories in learning fussy technical details. And it must be said that this game’s combat system is a thing of ridiculously complex beauty.
Essentially, Ninja Theory has designed a control scheme that remaps what weapons are used as you press the triggers. It’s an idea that’s headsmackingly simple and intuitive to grasp. You can start a combo with one weapon, continue it with another, and finish it with a third, all pressing the same button and different triggers. It also mixes ranged and melee weapons quite well, and you’ll never find yourself NOT using a weapon, unlike some games where the special weapons only come out to deal with the enemies that force you to use them. The system becomes quite layered quite quickly.
This does have the effect of the game feeling a bit slow and unoriginal at first, because it’s still introducing you to the mechanics. But stick with it: The fun stuff comes thick and fast after the first level.
It’s to the game’s credit that you don’t get lost in the weeds here: The system is fairly straightforward and you don’t really have to bother with it beyond using specific weapons for specific enemies if you absolutely don’t want to. The combat itself is smooth as silk dipped in baby oil, although platforming will be tricky at first, since Dante doesn’t “jump” so much as “suddenly doesn’t experience the effects of gravity for a microsecond”, and there isn’t much forward momentum.
That said, the gameplay isn’t all that complex outside of the combos: Whale on dudes, look around for items and stuff, whale on dudes, buy upgrades to whale on dudes in more damaging ways, get a grade at the end of the level. Sometimes there’s a time limit, for various reasons, but it really never gets far beyond that.
There’s strategy in the weapons you use and how you fight, and the game rewards you with more weapons the more complex your combos, and you will have to think about which enemies to tackle first. Make no mistake, it’s frantic with a lot of on-the-fly thinking and a lot of fun, but it’s the kind of fun where you play a level and decide “Yeah, I’m good until tomorrow.”
The level design rewards exploring, but don’t expect to find much in the way of alternate paths or to gain any tactical advantage by poking around. It’s strictly an item hunt, which is a profound disappointment considering how much thought went into the combat system.
As far as the aesthetic, it’s going for edgy in a lot of ways: The plot is essentially an updated version of They Live, with a lot of rhetoric about the One Percent and social inequality. And it’s witty and entertaining in its own goofy way, largely one suspects due to the presence of Alex Garland as story supervisor. The art design is a little cheesy, but the ongoing theme of crushing and destruction plays out quite well.
That said, it tries a little too hard sometimes and thus misses the mark, careening straight into van-art territory. It comes off like Ninja Theory is worried you’ll notice some deficiency in it, and so it screams at you relentlessly to distract you. It’s a lot like Lollipop Chainsaw in that respect, but unlike that game, there really isn’t any sort of gross problem here aside from being, well, a bit unoriginal at root. Beyond the combat system, it’s not pushing the third-person brawler to any new places. But so what? It’s still a lot of fun.
Finally, it’s a nitpick, but that feedbacky sound in the loading screens? That repeats constantly? That’s the sound that hate makes.
It’s a well-made game, undeniably, and it’s always enjoyable when you play a level. If the “fans” of the franchise would stop screaming about their pretty man and his pretty white hair, they might find that the game is exactly what they wanted, something that pushes Devil May Cry further.
But if you’re not into complex, technical combat, or are looking for a game that’s a little more complicated than just timing and button presses, this might be one to wait for a price drop on.