The human population exists above a plane of existence they never see. News reports on terrorism in the name of god. Energy drink Virility has endowed the populace with obesity, and the inability to question what they are told. People are calm and unbeknownst to them, under control of a calculated regime. It’s chaos without knowledge.
Mundus is the power here, not any government or political figurehead. Mundus runs it all, a corporate giant and symbol of capitalism at its worst… and he is a demon. He works in Limbo, a spacious, often rebellious netherworld where the dead are not allowed to die. Instead, they work as underlings, supporting Mundus and supplying the humans with the meaningless existence they are stuck in.
One of the key creatures is a Succubus, a despicable foul creature that secretes Virility. The relevance to our own existence is not lost. The monster is mouthy for a bag of puss, unrelenting in a verbal assault as a half human, half demon Dante begins to shred the sickly creature in DmC’s highlight.
Dante’s momentum is both personal and heroic. His journey is one that sees development and growth, turning from a cocky 20-something into an aside for the human race. That sense of character is never lost. Dante lacks the stylish cool of his predecessor, controversially or not, replaced by someone still mastering the craft of demon expulsion. His named weapons begin with Ebony & Ivory pistols, and a sword named Rebellion. The name fits.
Rebellion is a clumsy if strikingly sharp weapon. Dante’s leans into the last hit of his basic Rebellion combo string, sending him tumbling forward. It is enough to display the inexperience of a young, destiny-filled demon hunter without a loss of player control. Weapons grow in strength, combo, and types, DmC readily aware of the potential for repetition inherent in the genre. Passive and aggressive weapons take on the color of their style: Blue for a more widened, weakened assault, red for raw brute force.
Kinks in the mechanics keep DmC fresh, with enemy types sporting shields, teleportation, or weaknesses to specific styles. Combos stay within a complex, hardcore reality, producing wildly spectacular maneuvers driven by face buttons, the triggers, or the d-pad. Developer Ninja Theory is not shy about the use of tutorials, down to even each earned combo to create mastery over the weapon transitions. Attack strings can often feel endless, even against the monument to this game’s design: the bosses.
Despite more Western leanings in terms of narrative and dialogue, the progression is wholly Eastern. Boss fights are trumpeted for the stunning scale they produce, and play out with varying challenges. Each cycles through a number of forms, capping the beautifully paced and story-driven level design.
DmC mixes Limbo and reality as we know it, Dante able to phase between both with the help of a young girl who is a human that accepted her ability to see the demons as something more than twisted visions. That allows for grand variances of the real world’s droopy grays, or the acidic skies of Limbo. While these two realities intersect, Limbo brings with it a number of saggy jumping puzzles. These become more repetitious than the combat, which while often locked to arenas, produce nearly every possible enemy horde combination. Each battle, thanks to both the consistently fresh weapon introduction and mixing demon roster, is its own.
Capcom trusted Ninja Theory with not only a key franchise but also a political statement. High production values strike back against the manipulative news sector of cable TV, and slam the makers of chemical-laden drinks. DmC was not cheap, and leaning towards a more modern liberal stance is daring. The revolt against Dante’s unkempt appearance is secondary to the assault on capitalism and the devastation of the world economy while news anchors do, “gods work.”
However, that narrative relationship is what bonds this refreshed look at Devil May Cry to the wider audience. While the search for an increased customer base often comes with control caveats, simplification, or weakened difficulty, DmC finds its new structure with clear, concise written material. The often nonsense story structure of Japanese action games – as glorious as their gameplay typically is – fights to resonate and often loses the charm.
DmC does not leave itself out there to an attack blindly. Within the story is also a means of finding one’s self, Dante unaware of his past. His mother and father were slain, and he was separated from his brother. Dante, in some respects, becomes the player’s voice. His admission to Limbo is equally jarring to him as it is the player, even if his experience with demon slaying is intact.
It is hard to forget DmC, preposterously high production values lending the game a visual soul that extends for the entirety of Dante’s mission. Each step towards Mundus is greeted with new elements to soak in, a fresh color palette to blend with the emotional pit stops, and a look that never repeats. As Dante battles a hundred foot Mundus to close this renewed chapter of Devil May Cry, an entire city is crushed under foot and in front of the player. It brings brothers together with a rare, satisfying closure that still allows for the sequel.
Devil May Cry has never been stronger.