The new Devil May Cry’s been subject to a whole heap of controversy. Much beloved demonic protagonist Dante had been given a makeover by someone that clearly lives in Shoreditch, and development duties were given to Ninja Theory, best known for enjoyable but flawed adventure games Heavenly Sword and Enslaved, both starring Andy Serkis. It caused a right old kerfuffle everywhere, and fan forums prolapsed in fury. Could Ninja Theory do the legendary franchise justice?
A few missions into DmC, and it’s readily apparent they have. Admittedly it doesn’t have the depth of previous entries, but in no way is it a God Of War style mash-along either. It’s much easier to pull of some pretty dazzling combos now without having to painstakingly learn the fleet fingered tricks used in the other games. This’ll doubtless be horrifying news for the kind of people that talk about ‘jump cancelling’ and ‘invincibility frames’ but to mere mortals it’s quite nice to be able to have Dante go postal on demon scum without looking like a tit. It looks stunning too, with an art design inspired by the likes of Inception and possibly 2011’s underrated Alice: Madness Returns.
The plot and characters are a lot more palatable than in previous instalment Devil May Cry 4, which was like a kaleidoscopic night terror experienced after watching too much creepy, awful anime. Dante was a fun character in 1 and 3, but in 4 he was so over the top he made the Ninja Turtles look like they should be in Downfall. New Dante is less silly, but he’s still a trash-talking loon at heart, and still finds the time to taunt demons with copious amounts of bad puns and swears (there’s even a Brass Eye reference).
Dante was a half human, half devil hybrid in the original story (hence the insane silver hair), but in this he’s half demon, half angel (nephilim). The world’s all to cock, and demons have control of the general populace by keeping them benign through the media and, bizarrely, soft drinks. Dante doesn’t really give a toss at the start of the game, indulging in revelry and the odd threesome (and who can blame him), but one demon attack later and he’s locking horns with a litany of gnarled beasties, including a potty mouthed version of the Slurm monster from Futurama and an inspired send up of an infamous Fox News broadcaster. It’s a bit on the nose with its allusions to current political and socio-economic crises but it does the job, taking cues from The Matrix and They Live, although there’s no equivalent of the brilliant dust up between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David. Shame, that.
It’s an Ultimate universe version of Devil May Cry really, and it’s arguably reinvigorated interest in a franchise that was narratively stagnant. Original Dante was so stupidly overpowered by the time Devil May Cry 4 came out that his story ceased to be really compelling. After all, he basically beat Satan up in the first one, so a slightly evil Pope (a tautology?) and his mad cult are going to seem anticlimactic after that. Though it’d maybe be great to see him come back refreshed in a future game (and let’s face it he will, he’s far too iconic), he was in need of a break.
But for now, let’s bask in the fact this is a stylish, compulsive and fun to play return to form for the series. The original and the incendiary Devil May Cry 3 are still the best, but that’s no knock on Ninja Theory, who have delivered not only their best game (and one which is a giant improvement over Devil May Cry 4), but an action title worthy of the name Devil May Cry. Sniff!