Originally Written for FlickeringMyth.com
DMC: Devil May Cry originally came out on 360, PS3, and PC just over 2 years ago. The game did well with critics (currently averagng at 85 on Metacritic) but didn’t exactly break any sales records. Thankfully this fantastic game has been given a second chance to hit big with DMC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition.
Developer Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Journey to the West) was tasked with giving new life to the franchise. What they created is something between a reboot and an origin story. There is far less of the Gothic architecture of old as most of the game takes place in an alternate version of modern America, in a world run by Demons. Disguised as humans, they rule over the land using their powerful demonic influence. DMC‘s proto-Dante is a bit less Japanese tough guy and a bit more anarchy in the U.K. But even though he might look different, he is fundamentally the same character.
All of the fighting and platforming in the game takes place in Limbo, a twisted destroyed version of reality. There is some really fantastic level design here. When Dante is pulled into the world between worlds the environment is filled with vivid colour, and is broken apart into platforms for you to traverse and fight on. The team have been very creative in their use of the existing assets to create this abstract playground.
Obviously for any hack’n’slash action game the combat system is key, and Ninja Theory have done an amazing job creating something very fluid and versatile. You can chain together combos using a variety of unlockable weapons. To begin with there is Dante’s standard sword and double pistols (Ebony & Ivory), but over the course of the game you gain a selection of angel and demon weapons, these can be used at will by holding one of the shoulder buttons while attacking (like having an Angel and Devil on your shoulders). For the most part the demon weapons are slow and powerful, and the angel weapons are fairly weak but fast, but the developers have done a good job of giving each one a distinct feel and use in combat.
This elegant combat design has also made this probably the most accessible Devil May Cry game to date. But in the last-gen version this came at the cost of depth for die-hard fans of the genre. Now, thanks to those same fans, Ninja Theory have tweaked the game to appease the hardcore, while somehow still keeping that same accessibility that made the original so easy for new players to pick up. The team have added a whole bunch of refinements such as rebalancing boss fights, fixing some of Dante’s moves, and adjusting the style system. For the most part, if you’re a more casual fighting game player you probably wont notice these changes, but for the initiated they are literal game changers, and puts DMC up there with some of the best in the genre.
In addition to the fine tuning they have also added a bunch of modifiers for each difficulty level to add another layer of challenge. There’s hardcore mode, which gives you stronger enemies, and changes the devil trigger and style ranking to be more in line with the classic games. Must style mode makes enemies invulnerable until you gain at least an S style rank. Then there’s Turbo mode that increases the game speed by 20%. At first it feels blisteringly fast, but once you go turbo you never go back. You get so used to it that in the end the game feels almost sluggish when turned off.
The main expectation with these next-gen re-releases is a graphical upgrade. Now while it definitely does look better, it’s not as much of a jump as you might be hoping. The overall resolution is improved (now running at 1080p), and the colours are deeper and more vibrant. But it’s how it runs that has got the most attention. Like all previous Devil May Cry games, DMC is now running at 60fps, which really adds to the smoothness and speed of the combat. I also wonder if additions like Turbo Mode would have even been possible without this increased frame rate. They’ve also added all previously released DLC and character skins, and made them available from the get go. So if you weren’t a fan of Dante’s redesign you can play through the game in his classic look, or even his costume from the first Devil May Cry game.
Part of this packed in DLC is Vergil’s Downfall. A 6 level story mode where you play as Vergil in his journey through hell. Playing as DMC‘s version of Liquid Snake is fun, but due to him only having one weapon his moves feel less distinctive than Dante’s. In the end it actually become fairly repetitive. I also had a bit of an issue with his teleporting moves. Instead of using a grapple whip like Dante for platforming and zipping around in combat, Vergil just uses teleportation. So while it looks cool, it can make Vergil’s jumps as well as elements of the combat hard to judge, because you don’t see him move or really react to your action until he appears next to his target. It also takes a while getting used to the lack of double jump. I lost count of the amount of times I fell to my doom while getting over, what for Dante would be, relatively easy jumps.
Finally there’s the Bloody Palace. 101 levels of increasingly difficult battles to test your skills. You can play this as both Dante and Vergil, but Vergil for some reason only has 60 levels. Getting far in this mode is a real challenge, you can play against a timer, but just staying alive through the seemingly endless waves without any health items is tough enough. One minor annoyance is that if you fail there isn’t an option to restart, instead you’re just taken back to the main menu. Either the developers never wanted to re-play the mode, or it’s just a random oversight in an otherwise polished experience.
As Bushnell’s law states, video games should be “easy to learn, and difficult to master”, and that is definitely true for DMC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition. The brilliant combat system can make low skill players feel like badasses, but also give veterans a satisfying challenge. So if you’re a fan of action games and missed out on this the first time round, or you like the sound of a refined version Dante’s most recent adventure, do yourself a favour and buy this game. You wont regret it.
Alan Heath – Follow me on Twitter