Devil May Cry has long been considered the premiere hack and slash action franchise, with 2005's Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening proving to be the high point.
Since then it has been surpassed by other action franchises such as Ninja Gaiden (with the exception of Ninja Gaiden 3) and Bayonetta.
However, 2008's Devil May Cry 4 proved to be lacklustre compared to previous entries and the genre in general. Feeling that the series was in need of a reboot, Capcom tasked western developer Ninja Theory (behind the good looking but short Heavenly Sword and the criminally overlooked Enslaved) with breathing new life into the series.
A new Dante for a new game
Trying to appeal to a younger generation of gamers, Ninja Theory (at Capcom's insistence) has changed the look of series protagonist Dante to be much younger and minus his trademark white/silver hair, much to the dismay of long time fans. Does this automatically ruin the game? Well, if you believe the numerous online petitions and forum rants, apparently it does. Me? I'm not so sure.
DMC: Devil May Cry sees Dante being a demon slayer in Limbo City, with no real explanation as to why demons are always following him and why he would choose this particular profession in the first place. You see, Dante has amnesia and is not able to remember much of his childhood. After a night of hard partying, he's warned by a young girl named Kat that his life is in danger. And that's where the narrative kicks off.
The story here is quite simple, but if there is one thing that Ninja Theory does well, it's storytelling. The narrative is taken to an all-new level compared to the previous games, with computer-generated and in-game cut-scenes that are well-acted and beautifully animated. It really elevates what is essentially a by-the-numbers storyline to something more special.
People don't play Devil May Cry for the story though - they want hardcore gameplay and, believe me, they won't be disappointed.
The all-important combat
Ninja Theory, with a little help from Capcom, has really gone to town on the combat system and, yes I said it, it's easily the best the series has seen. Dante's usual weapons (the sword Rebellion and twin pistols Ebony and Ivory) are now joined by Angel weapons Osiris (scythe) and Aquila (short-bladed weapon) as well as Demon weapons Eryx (hammer fists) and the Arbiter (axe).
If that's not enough, the shotgun is back (now known as Revenant) and a sticky grenade launcher known as the Kablooey. Dante also has grappling hooks that can be used in combat. Two different types are available, one for pulling you towards an enemy or object and one for pulling an enemy or object towards you. The best part is the fact that all these weapons can be linked together seamlessly to create some insane combos. Ninja Theory basically took what has been done before and turned it on its head.
The grappling hooks are also used during level traversal, needing quick reflexes to change between the two. But they're oh-so rewarding when executed flawlessly.
Speaking of the levels, their designs have to be seen to be believed. Limbo City is actually a living entity determined to kill you, it will therefore change and re-form its many structures to try to stop you in your tracks. This means that the level design can change on a whim, with the player not knowing what to expect.
This is possibly the most imaginative level design I have seen in a game of this type. It also doesn't hurt that the Unreal Engine 3 used in the game is quite well utilised, making some of the more eccentric stages look pretty.
The story mode is about ten hours long, which is quite short for a Devil May Cry game. Ninja Theory has, however, made sure that you'll be playing this game for a long time to come.
A return to form?
There are quite a few collectables to be found in the game, most notably the twenty secret challenge rooms and the keys to unlock them. Once unlocked, these can also be be played from the game menu. If this is not enough for you, the game has four additional difficulty levels that will gradually unlock as you play.
Completionists will need to finish the game about five times if they want to get most of the achievements/trophies. Fan favourite mode Bloody Palace is also forthcoming as free downloadable content in early 2013. Like I said, lots to keep you busy.
So is it still classic Devil May Cry? Yes, but with a breath of fresh air. The game still has the classic structure whereby the player will try to complete stages with the highest possible rank, mostly influenced by factors like uninterrupted combos, time taken to complete stages, amount of collectables collected, amount of deaths, etc.
The combat also still feels the same, but with way more options as far as combos are concerned. Storytelling, however, is the best the series has ever had. Dante himself is still the same cocky rogue we know and love, just slightly different.
If I had one gripe it would be this, it's with regards to the content of the title. If Ninja Theory wanted this latest Devil May Cry to appeal to younger gamers, why make the game so adult?
Unlike previous Devil May Cry games, DMC does have quite a bit of bad language and some sexual situations, which I feel is a bit unnecessary. I am certainly no prude, I just felt that it detracted more from the game than what it added. A minor complaint though, nothing serious.
Is it the game that hardcore fans wanted? Probably not. It is however an evolution of an already great series and I am really excited to see what Ninja Theory does next with the franchise. It could have been a bit longer (in comparison, Devil May Cry 4 took me about sixteen hours to complete), but the replayability is welcome. Fans of the series should at least try it for themselves and not listen to the hate-mongers on the internet. At least it will tide you over until God of War Ascension and Metal Gear Revengeance arrives.
Score: 8 out of 10