Prima facie, DmC Devil May Cry seems like a rather risky reboot. The franchise possesses a deep legacy guarded overzealously by a legion of hardcore fans. However, this doesn't stop the reboot from making massive changes not only to the canon, but to the very essence of the franchise itself. The end result, I believe, is a competent hack-and-slash game that serves as a fitting reimagining of the series.
Unfortunately, old-school fans of the franchise tend to be resistant to change, which leads to much polarisation of opinions. That's exactly what happened when my colleagues and fellow DMC addicts, Nachiket and Ram, mulled over the place of reboot in the scheme of all that constitutes Devil May Cry. In case you're wondering, I'm Shunal, and what follows is an animated exchange between my belligerent colleagues about their diametrically opposite viewpoints on the reboot.
Ram: Now there's nothing wrong with being gay, but why on Earth did Capcom have to go and turn DANTE, of all people, into an emo brat? The over-the-top, Rajinikanth-esque, witty Dante all of us loved and admired now has none of his old charm and behaves like an apathetic, emo idiot. I'm not kidding! The new Westernised Dante uses bland, unoriginal expletives to taunt monsters and enemies, and has also started smoking in an attempt to look cool. The dark red jacket's been retained, as has the bastard sword, Rebellion, but that's where the similarity ends. Ninja Theory's efforts to make DMC more appealing to the masses through a westernised Dante has more or less alienated the franchise's older fan base.
Here's a token throwback to the old-school Dante
Nachiket: Where do I even begin?! For starters, allow me to clarify that although I love DMC3 as much as you do, there's a fundamental difference in the way we see the new game. While I approach the reboot with an open mind, your better judgement has been blinkered by a thick veil of prejudice and fanboyism. It doesn't take a genius to realise that the negative pre-release perception was primarily attributed to fans who were apprehensive or just resistant to change. However, the game has clearly proven its mettle where it matters the most.
Dante isn't remotely gay. In reality, the rumour precipitated from a pre-release trailer that was taken in the wrong context. His heterosexuality should be undeniable within the first five minutes of the game, especially when his impending threesome with a pair of smoking-hot ladies is cut short by the hunter demon. That is unless you use the homosexual reference figuratively to ridicule the darker, more emotional aspects of the reboot. If that is the case, you have sorely missed the point of the reboot.
Ram: Oh come on! I wasn't referring to the emotional fluff; Dante has turned metrosexual, and well, LOOKS gay. And if you find animated pixels hot, you need a life! Now the reboot's Orwellian plot seems to hold some depth at first glance, but it's quite linear and predictable—the antagonist Mundus has taken away poor lil' Dante's parents (Sparda, a demon and Eva, an angel) and controls most of the world through a huge corporation. Naturally, Mundus is after your life and Kat and Vergil find you to help with their rebellion. Frankly, the plot is quite ridiculous, but that's nothing new for this series. The characters don't have much to remember them by either. Dante's way less awesome and could learn some sarcasm, Vergil's too cold and distant to remember, Mundus is pretty predictable as the stereotypical villain, and the lead female (Kat) is a witch with daddy issues.
Nachiket: The franchise had hitherto painted Dante as an entertaining caricature of your typical anime-inspired video game badass. However, the reboot has simply taken a more mature route to the storytelling that's seated deeper in the realm of conventional logic. The anti-hero from the previous games makes way for a brash, anti-authoritarian Dante who's more interested in going about his hedonistic and rebellious lifestyle than ridding mankind of the demonic scourge.
DmC bears a remarkably strong and distinctive art style
The Rajinikanth-esque flair of the series has been replaced with a setting that deftly imbues the modern and the arcane in a plausible manner. The DmC reboot is quite like John Carpenter's They Live, albeit with demons instead of aliens hiding in society and controlling humanity through the economy, government and media. This is a great way of reimagining the franchise instead of treading along the same boring path to deliver DMC5.
I like the way Ninja Theory has turned the “excuse plot” of the franchise into a biblical battle between good and evil—all of which doubles as a clever allegory to the modern-day evils of censorship, political excesses, herd mentality and corporate greed. I mean, if your judgement hasn't been clouded by your fanboyism, you could have seen where I was coming from.
Ram: Again with the fanboy thing! Have you ever played God of War? If you haven't, well it's a simple, hack-and-slash title where you just have to mash a couple of combos and evade attacks to get through the game. Yeah, I admit it had a good plot and looked nice, but what about the gameplay? It takes barely any skill to destroy the unintelligent monsters the game incessantly throws at you, and there's barely any depth to the battle system. And that's quite a lot what DmC: Devil May Cry feels like: a new God of War with the style system from the original DMC quadrilogy, guns, a Westernised plot and a gay Dante.
Nachiket: Enough with the gay refrain; you're flogging a dead horse here! Let's not forget the fact that DMC released way before God of War (GOW). While the whole DMC franchise—reboot included—may look like a GOW clone to most casual gamers, let's just say that the DmC reboot is meant for GOW players who have outgrown their diapers. Make no mistake; I thoroughly enjoy the GOW games, but comparing them to DmC is a travesty. In the former, everyone can mash a few buttons and become Kratos, but do the same in the reboot and you'll get your butt handed to you.
The animations are fluid and segue well from one loop to another
Ram: Exactly my point! DmC Devil May Cry is disappointingly easy. In a bid to make the game more accessible, Ninja Theory has turned down the difficulty to the point that you rarely die in battle on the default difficulty mode. More importantly, the previous games were DIFFICULT. You had to work hard to even survive in the initial levels, especially in DMC3. The learning curve was steep, but once you got the hang of it, the gameplay was fun and never got boring. This made for good replay value as you could always do a combo better or master another style, which is invaluable in a hack-and-slash game. The higher difficulty modes in the reboot, which are unlocked once you complete the game, help make things a little better, but it would have been great if the game was a little challenging. The end result is a game that doesn't make you want to replay it unless you're a completionist and want to complete every one of the secret missions.
Nachiket: I won't deny the fact that DMC3 was exquisitely difficult, and that it was the rare instance when a mainstream game had the pluck and gumption to incorporate the level of challenge and gameplay depth usually found in a masocore indie game. Unfortunately, that only makes sense if you plan to target a niche. However, when you spend tens of millions on producing a AAA title, it's fair to expect the developer to make the entry point more welcoming to a wider gaming audience that isn't as twitch-endowed as its hardcore brethren.
Even if you really seek the same challenge as DMC3, the reboot's higher difficulty indeed delivers the familiar brutality and unforgiving difficulty that a hardened fan may crave. What's more, it even does that without making the game inaccessible to the average gamer. Therefore, I humbly submit that you seem butthurt by the fact that this is no longer the game that keeps out the majority just so that you can revel in your 1337ness. Face it: you only hate the reboot because it's no longer a prerogative of the privileged few. And, of course, because you're a sodding fanboy too.
Ram: What the [expletive redacted] man?! You just don't get it, do you? The difficulty and complexity are what make up the entire DMC experience! It makes you want to improve yourself and do things better. But we don't have that here. Even the boss battles are easy, and you won't die more than once per battle. I particularly missed the bosses from the older games, as the sheer satisfaction and relief of defeating one was enough to make you feel like you'd just received a raise. However, the new one's bosses come and go without you barely noticing them. All I found interesting was the boss levels' design.
The platforming segments are visually surreal as well as challenging from the gameplay perspective
Nachiket: When has frustratingly difficult boss encounters been a sole benchmark for excellence? What matters the most is the sheer imagination, scope, and set pieces involved in these boss fights. Why do you need to humour your masochistic tendencies when you have crazy, over-the-top villains taking you on in genuinely inspired fight sequences?
Brilliant encounters such as the battle with the wacked-out boss Bob Barbas showcases the game's creativity in capturing the media mogul's web of deceit and misinformation in a psychedelic digital arena replete with a faux live TV feed parodying the sensationalist news channels of the world. Then you have the encounter with Lilith, where music becomes an integral part of the boss segment, even as it has a profound bearing on the gameplay and level design. While the reboot lacks in unreasonably difficult bosses, is made up with superlative creativity and design. I believe that's the best kind of trade-off one could ask for. Unless, of course, you happen to be a fanboy.
Ram: Yeah, yeah. Go on. Insult me. But you know I'm right. Even if you ignore the emo looks, lame japes and the linear plot, the core of the DmC experience, the gameplay, just isn't as great as it could have been. To put it bluntly, the reboot's gameplay isn't much more than a mixed soup of the original franchise's gameplay elements. It brings nothing new to the table except a new way to switch equipped weapons and the two styles during combat, besides the angel and demon push/pull mechanic. The platforming segments are good, but there are too many of them. Also, there's a surprising lack of puzzles, which are replaced by quite a lot of secret missions. The melee combat is good, but the ranged weapons are a disappointment. Frankly, the guns are useless and you find no reason to use them, except to lengthen your combos.
Nachiket: What was that again, fanboy? I strongly disagree with you painting the lack of puzzles in the reboot in a negative light. I believe Ninja Theory essentially fixed the most annoying aspect of DMC3 by eschewing tedious puzzles altogether. These wanton monotonous interludes only served to break the pacing of what's essentially a fast-paced hack-and-slash button masher. The inclusion of secret missions, on the other hand, is a great nod to the original franchise's masocore roots with deviously difficult challenges. Since these secret missions are optional, they don't impose upon the reflex-impaired gamers among us. For someone who bitches about the lack of difficulty, it's rich of you to complain about the sublime difficulty of these challenges.
The transitions from Limbo to the real world and back keeps things interesting
I also don't understand why it's such a bad idea to borrow the best elements from the previous games. I mean, this is a reboot of the same franchise, so you might as well turn it into a “Best of” compilation of sorts by cherry-picking the most loved gameplay and design elements from the entire series.
More importantly, it's severely myopic of you to say that the reboot has no gameplay innovation. In my humble opinion, the angel and demon weapon class bifurcation is a radically game-changing addition. This adds a whole new gameplay dimension by classifying weapons as those imbued with either strong but slow demonic or fast but weaker angelic attacks assigned to either of the index triggers. This angel and demon business isn't just cosmetic: these powers must be chosen to tackle the appropriate enemy type, thereby bringing an additional layer of strategy to the mix. Slower, heavier demonic weapons such as the Arbiter axe or the Eryx gauntlets are crucial to break open enemy armour, whereas the faster angelic weapons are required when speed and reach is more important. Certain elemental enemies use ice and fire against you, which in turn can only be defeated by using angelic and demonic powers, respectively. DmC also borrows grappling elements from the last game, with the angelic grapple launching you towards enemies, whereas the demonic one tends to pull enemies towards you, and is also instrumental in stunning or stripping foes of their shields.
Ram: Call me a fanboy again!
Shunal: This is when I begged Ram to put the fire hydrant down.
Wow, that was entertaining! While both of these FANBOYS have raised some great points, none hit the spot. As a long time fan of the series, though, I say the new DmC is a great game that falls short. Ninja Theory would have been much better off by ditching the Devil May Cry moniker and making this a completely new IP. The new Dante is a rather bad shadow of the older one, and while the levels and visual design are great, the boss fights do end up rather lacking. Every single boss ends up feeling like a cakewalk, even on the higher difficulties. The fighting system, while great, ends up being hamstrung by the inclusion of Angel/Demon affinity enemies.
Getting higher score multipliers is rather easy
A game like DmC should be all about letting you go wild with whatever combos you may like, and when enemies like those pop up, all they do is force you to use only two out of the total five melee weapons you have. The weapon design feels downright uninspired too, especially compared to DMC3. Weapons either fit the mould of being fast but low on damage, or slow but high on damage. What happened to weapons like Nevan or Cerberus from DMC3? I also liked how the Devil Trigger in this game is so useless and unnoticeable that either of these idiots forgot to mention it.
By no means is DmC a bad game. It just fails to live up to the expectations that come with the Devil May Cry name. The game does many things right and the higher difficulties do prove that, but some things end up feeling out of place. The Mundus fight, for instance, feels a lot like it came straight out of a God of War game, minus the spectacle. But there was no way Capcom could make everyone happy. Old-school fans would end up feeling alienated no matter what, and we have to admit the old Dante’s time has passed. For better or worse, we only have this new Dante. He takes a little getting used to, but the game ends on a great note, and I'll be looking forward to Ninja Theory's next.
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Oct 25, 2016