maanantai 27. tammikuuta 2014

REVIEW - DmC - Devil May Cry | PS3 | 2013

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: January 15, 2013
DEVELOPER(S): Ninja Theory

While Devil May Cry 4 was a huge commercial success, Capcom ultimately found themselves in no position to compete, and competition was hard. So, they decided to reboot the series, and formally announced DmC in late 2010. Impressed with Ninja Theory's breakthrough hit Heavenly Sword, they chose the British developers to present a new Devil May Cry story from a Western perspective, and hired a group that had worked on the previous games - including long-time director Hideaki Itsuno - to supervise the development of combat mechanics. Everything else was pretty much up to the new developers. The public was very critical towards the game from the beginning, mostly due to the whole new character design which they felt took the greatest toll on lead protagonist Dante, who had now adapted a dirty emo look in contrast to his slick, stylish and shiny look, and through him, immersion. Although Dante's characterization still remained a pet peeve of many critics once the game came out, it was hailed by tons of positive reviews and named one of the most unique and interesting games in a genre that had grown stale, pioneered by the original Devil May Cry 12 years back. And, finally, it got the blessings of many people who had worked on the classic series, including creator Hideki Kamiya. What's there to think about? Satan goes West!

"Fuckin' demons."

Tim Phillipps : Dante
David de Lautour : Vergil
Sage Mears : Kat
Louis Herthum : Mundus / Bob Barbas
Robin Riker : Lilith
Lou Beatty Jr. : Phineas
Race Davies : Succubus
Richard Ridings : Hunter
Rebecca Blackstone : Eva
Susie Mortimer Bull : Dancer

Dante, a young man with no memory of his past tries his best to lay low in Limbo City, a metropolis largely controlled by demons in disguises. Armed with special powers himself, he defends himself when needed, and does it good. As a child, Dante was able to escape an onslaught by the demon lord Mundus and his cohorts, with the help of his father, the demon knight Sparda, who the demons know as a traitor to his kind. Now, Mundus, acting as an "honest businessman" bent on getting full control over the world economy, has set his sights on this "loose end". Mundus deploys a pack of hunters to drag Dante to their dimension - known simply as "Limbo" - and deliver his head to the demon lord. Faced with his toughest challenge yet, with no exact understanding why the hunters are after him, Dante gets unexpected help from a group of anarchists known as The Order, who have also been looking for him for quite some time.

I've never seen a game of this caliber released to so much anti-hype. I remember standing on the frontlines with my friend who absolutely loves Devil May Cry. He was willing to give a whole new story a chance, while everyone else on the net was turning their backs on the game even years before its release, just because Dante "didn't look right". This Dante was not of Japanese design, and he looked like washed up white trash, a mix between a hobo and Jared Leto. I saw an interesting story coming along, and I felt my receptors light up like wildfire for this game despite completely ignoring the series for years. I'm not too much into Japanese design, nor am I into all-American design all that much - I prefer the latter, though, but I think that when you want to make a reboot, call any British dudes you can think of. The British are fucking awesome at this stuff. Ninja Theory proved it by delivering the best Devil May Cry game ever - seriously.

Let's talk Dante. Me, I loved him from the opening cutscene. Assuming you've played any Devil May Cry game before - except for Devil May Cry 2 where characterization stands for air - your initial take on him will surely be somewhere between mixed and pure hatred. I think that's why his character development in this game is so quick, and why they do those early references to the original series, to calm people down. Yeah, the story progresses much faster in the beginning of the game than it was probably meant to. Of course players of the original series know the outlines of the plot already, but new players will probably have some difficulties to keep up with what's happening. After an hour or so into the game, we know everything worth knowing about the basics of Dante's past and character, starting out with nothing except that he's foulmouthed white trash, living in a trailer, drinking like a sponge, listening to industrial rock, and humping strippers. Sound like your Dante? Didn't think so. I love this guy!

Clashing through a commercial nightmare.
The story might be a tad too fast, but in every other way, I find everything relating to storytelling, characterization and cinematics just amazing, and particularly an amazing facelift to this franchise. Dante's character is still well over the top - but while the Japanese think it's cool to have the son of a legendary dark knight going around telling everyone who he is, how great he is and delivering a tacky punchline before shoving his pistols up a priest's ass, and dressed fine while he's at it, the British think differently. Dante - sporting a wifebeater with a dirty, worn out longcoat on top, lives in seclusion, trying his best to keep out of the spotlight, with a faint scent of fear in him; fear of the past he can't remember, and very obvious distrust in everyone and everything but himself. In short, he just wants to disappear into the crowd while his Japanese counterpart wants all attention to himself - that's why I relate to this new version of Dante much better. Fans of the old keep telling me that the immersion's gone, I'm just getting started. Besides, the punchlines are still there, it just takes a while for them to kick in - and they rock.

So, once more to make it clear: despite a different synopsis found on most sites and promotional material, DmC's plot is a rewritten version of the original Devil May Cry backstory, and it also features rewritten stuff from the first and third games. It's a collective new vision of the series' most popular plot threads, with the sibling rivalry of Dante and Vergil at the front, smacked into a whole different setting - an alternate dimension parallel to the real world. While the citizens of Limbo City go about their daily business unknowingly controlled and watched, Dante runs among them as a shadow, kicking demons' asses in a parallel dimension. Everything that happens in this dimension happens in the human world too, without a visible cause - and the authorities (the demons at the core of the Dante-killing operation) keep covering up for the sudden destruction of public areas, explaining them as cruel terrorist attacks devised by The Order, a cult actually trying their best to keep demons the hell away from humans. It's a fucked up world - a really interesting one. I knew I was going to like this game, and I knew I was going to like the new Dante, but I wasn't sure if the story and setting would hold. They do. DmC is a brilliant game, and when it comes to the two big reboots of early 2013, I think it's even better than Tomb Raider. Time to move on, I think; let's go the core of this baby boy.

The graphics are what you'd expect. Nothing more, nothing less - but the parallel dimension schtick allows the use of some heavily surreal effects that might outright stun you, as they did me. Now I'm not a huge fan of industrial music - a fact I've been painfully reminded of by the previous games in the franchise - but the soundtrack really works, it just goes with the dark, dirty and surreal atmosphere so well. The licensed songs are performed by a Norwegian group called Combichrist, whose vocalist Andy LaPlegua actually ended up supervising the whole ambient soundtrack mostly composed by a Dutch band named Noisia. Look up a Combichrist song called "Throat Full of Glass" on YouTube to get a feel of the music - it's the main theme of the game, and it works even outside its confines. There are some heavy romps throughout which I like very much. The voiceover work is very good; the story just takes some occasional dives of uncertainty, and all of the verbal exchange is not that strong.

Yep, the world's most popular newscaster is
not only a fuckin' dick, he's a fuckin' demon.
What you need to know about the contrast between this game and the old series comes down to two things: the world around you, and what Dante is. The world of Limbo is very surreal - a dark and twisted reflection of the real world, and about 1% of gameplay in this game takes place in the latter. You'll want to rush through that 1%, too, since there's nothing of interest in the real world in this game. There's not one single physically legal level in this game, and that's what bugs me the most about it, personally. I used to love the occasional LSD trips in video games, but then they became a standard for just about every adventure game ever made, and a stale and predictable attempt at diversifying gameplay. And now we have a game that IS that sort of trip. Oh well, it does explain the missing populace of the city - or that populace which appears as a group of faint shadows throughout the trip. And it allows for some exciting designs. Not always too clear cut, and not always too entertaining, but always exciting.

Hideki Kamiya's Dante was the spawn of a demon named Sparda and a human woman named Eva. The British came to the conclusion that the child of a demon and human wasn't interesting enough - so Eva was rewritten as an angel. Now think about that. The marriage of heaven and hell. Now that's awesome. Give us a child - here comes Dante, who is now indeed a nephilim, a creature blessed with tons of perks from both sides, including being able to walk between different dimensions effortlessly, and more as he goes, remembering his origins and beating the shit out of the core members of Mundus' government. How to enable the use of so many different weapons and two different fighting styles, you ask? By mixing together the weapon toggling system from God of War, and the blue/red trigger system from Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, of course. The triggers are obviously swiped off Konami's megahit, it's made even more obvious by the fact that during one single move, you might need 'em both. For example, during many jumps, you need to pull obstacles out of the way with the red trigger (Demon), then maybe boost (glide) your way to the next one with the blue trigger (Angel), and then finally, pull yourself up to the final platform with the blue trigger. You start off with your sword Rebellion and the twin handguns Ebony and Ivory as you always do, but in time, you'll gain access to a total of six extra weapons; one can be set to each trigger at a time, and you simply use the digital pad to change the setting, and as tradition goes, Ebony and Ivory can eventually be replaced with a shotgun or a kind of a grenade launcher, in this case a portable cannon that fires explosive needles. Yeouch.

Now imagine this: better, faster, stronger than ever before, and with the best controls in the whole series. A whole horde of different enemies coming your way: both weak and strong, flying bastards, and finally, huge enemies who only take damage from a certain type of weapon and maybe have one single weak spot you must try to exploit while taking it up the ass from another enemy. If this was Devil May Cry 3, for example, this would've been the waterbreaker. Not with those controls, or that old scheme, uh-uh. The controls in DmC are extremely tough to learn, and it's also tough to learn to place your fingers just right so that you would have access to every combo you can possibly think of to raise your Stylish rank, if you're interested in that sort of thing. In addition, the camera pulls some occasional pranks on you, and what also seems to be a huge problem for many is that there is no targeting system of any kind. I have had surprisingly little problems with that, only with projectile attacks actually, and I don't use 'em all that much. After all, DmC is all about contact, I think.

A footprint on that face only makes it prettier.
Anyway, back to the situation I just described; you can survive those predicaments in under a minute once you're experienced enough. Not by the laws of the game, but once you've learned the controls and grown accustomed to 'em. Once you pull off a perfect sword/axe/scythe/gauntlet/shuriken/gun combo without any breaks and with "SSS" lighting up in the corner of the screen and manage to nail a few lasso moves and perfect evasions in the between, maybe lure those bastards in for a few hails of friendly fire, you can pat yourself on the back: you've got nothing essential left to learn. Be warned, though: don't stay off the game for too long or you've most likely got to repeat the learning process all over again. Advanced control is unforgivingly hard. In a bit of good news for casual players, simply beating the game isn't. To compensate for the smooth ride of its easier difficulty levels, including Demon Hunter (Normal), there are a total of FIVE harder difficulty levels, only one of which is unlocked from the beginning; Nephilim, Son of Sparda, Dante Must Die, Heaven and Hell, and finally, what sounds like my favourite pastime in the world, Hell and Hell. You want that classic challenge and perhaps then some? Just keep playing the game - and get the Bloody Palace DLC. It's free of charge. And before I forget... welcome to hell, bitche(r)s!

On top of being so God damn good and - let me capitalize - IN EVERY GOD DAMN WAY, THE BEST GAME IN THE FRANCHISE, DmC has tons of replay value, as is custom in the genre nowadays. DmC is not only out to beat the previous installments to a pulp in this category, but also every hack 'n' slash there is. It doesn't work out quite THAT well, but it does work, and makes going at the game on a higher difficulty level that much more intriguing. Where do I start? Well, first of all the game has a lot of secrets hidden behind walls that you can break with just one single weapon in the style of Metroid, Castlevania, and most recently, Batman - the acquisition of which might easily be ten missions away. You can return to any mission at any time - it's advisable that you do it between missions so your save file stays safe, of course - and nail that secret (or those secrets) down. Then you CAN leave and go back to whatever you were doing, but that's not always the best option. See, since your equipment is now better, you have better completion stats, and you know how to get ahead, you might want to consider beating the whole mission again to get a better total rank for it. It's easy to get an A, it's not that hard to get an S, getting an SS is cool, but getting an SSS, now that's an accomplishment. A really rewarding one - introducing white orbs, which are the upgrade currency in this game, stepping in for the Proud Souls in Devil May Cry 4. Like before, you get more of those the better your rank is. Red orbs are still used for buying items - and by the way, the game is really stingy with those throughout the line. One does not simply max out his health bar, if one is not into some heavy, repetitive grinding.

To live and die in Limbo. Mostly die.
Lost souls are out there waiting to be harvested; these ugly torsos pushing out of walls. There are 80 of these howling freaks all across the game and you don't need to spot each one, you need to listen to their cries for help (?), which start echoing when you're close enough. Sometimes they're hidden really well in plain sight; you might run around in a narrow space for several minutes before you actually spot the spirit. Then, there are keys, four different kinds. And this brings us to what I've always hated about secrets in Devil May Cry - and how that problem stands fixed. The keys are used to unlock corresponding hidden doors in each level, and behind these doors, classic secret missions await. The more valuable the key, the harder the challenge, and these have an impressive range. For example, one challenge could be a deathmatch with tough stipulations, such as the enemies taking damage from just one certain combo, one could be about Dante dying from one hit, and one could be a simple run/jump/glide race through a tricky level. Now for the best part: in previous Devil May Cry games, you had to replay the main missions (if it was even an option) to get to retry a secret mission. Not anymore, that's what those keys are for. You literally unlock the missions, to compile 'em to a list outside the confines of the main game. You don't have to beat them to have them add to your completion percentage, just unlock them. You can go back to the list at any time to try to beat those missions, and any rewards you might get are saved to your story file. Yes! This is how a smooth and entertaining game works.

If I truly have to come up with a true weakness, I must say that I've had better collectives of boss fights in these types of games. There's a distinct strategy which works best for each boss and keeps you off any additional help from items or Devil Trigger, but if you don't care much for your performance and just keep mashing buttons and wasting items, that works a little too well, too. The additional downside to hack 'n' slash bosses in general is that no one can really top Kronos in God of War III - nothing impresses me anymore. Not even a huge demon baby with its mother sticking out of its crotch, and not the other way around. Since I mentioned it, the Devil Trigger is also very awkward. It's not the simple god mode it previously was, it's kind of a step into yet another chaotic dimension, in which the demons are helpless against an overpowered Dante. Regular enemies are lunged high up into the air, and bosses are slowed down. It's very hard to reach those airborne enemies, and the damage you do to bosses under the Devil Trigger's influence is not that much higher than normal damage. As a sidenote, what's funny is that during Devil Trigger, Dante looks a lot like his Japanese counterpart, and after "embracing the devil within" for the first time, Dante's black hair gets a permanent white spot to calm people down a little further. The ending of the game should please everyone.

Stuck in yet another strange dimension, tasked
with freeing a creepy but oddly familiar
statue-like dude from his shackles.
The last thing I'll mention is the difficulty of the game, which I kinda mentioned already, but I want to juggle with it a little. Let's go back in time - the original Devil May Cry started out easy, and kinda different than what the rest of the game eventually turned out. The difficulty spiked through the roof from time to time, only to be followed by easier bits that lasted for hours, a penultimate boss that was a frustrating pain in the ass 'cause you had so little space with the boss filling up the whole room and the game's lousy camera ravaging your ass, then some easy bits again, and then an overpowering final boss fight which turned casual players to sand. Devil May Cry 2 was a fart tube of a game - straightforward, immensely boring, and extremely easy. Devil May Cry 3 was pure murder from the start, it showed no mercy. Devil May Cry 4 was decently balanced in terms of difficulty, but it was a boring game. DmC is a great, exciting game with great pacing (after the fast start), and most importantly, progressive difficulty. It holds your hand through a time, tougher enemies and different weaponry come along at just the right times, and once it's made completely sure that you are aware of how the weapons and equipment work, and of the behavioral patterns of enemies, you are left on your own in a new form of classic Devil May Cry challenge, which makes you fear how it all ends. The last missions are trouble, I assure you - but you always have the chance to go back and grind. Which is good, I'd hate to restart the game at the final boss as I was forced to do in the case of the original first one.

Calm down. Keep calm and fuckin' play DmC. You're going to love it. If not as a Devil May Cry game, then as just a game. I could've never imagined getting this much kicks out of a game of this particular brand; it's not revolutionary, but it is a damn tasty pile-up of everything that's so consistently great about this genre. It has disturbingly surreal level design, the boss fights could use some imagination, and advanced control is extremely hard to learn and master - physically hard and damaging on the controller, too - but for the most part, DmC is an amazing hacker, a surprising gem, and definitely the best game in the Devil May Cry series. Capcom hasn't formally closed up on the original series, but I hope they do and carry on with what they have going on here - it's good.

+ The new Dante - you hate, I love
+ A good story with slight mudslides
+ It's hard to be audiovisually surprising in this day and age, but DmC has some impressive effects in store
+ Good (though borrowed) tactics and solutions for diverse gameplay 
+ Good progress tracking...
+ ...That comes with tons of replay value, which is good considering there are SEVEN different difficulty levels!
+ It's enough to unlock secret missions during the game, you don't have to beat them at once and you aren't bound to 'em in any way
+ Apart from the first part of the storyline which progresses uncomfortably fast, the game has great pacing and progressive difficulty

- Tough advanced controls, literally; my controller is bleeding
- The boss fights are a little unimaginative
- The consistently surreal level design is bound to get on your nerves sooner or later

< 9.1 >


Aww. So depressed.

DmC had DLC? What's a dime without a rhyme? After conquering Dante's main scenario and feeling pretty damn happy about it, I was going to do it all again to tie up some loose ends, but then I remembered that there was actually a story DLC available, one that's supposed to elaborate on the ending and extend the DmC experience. Vergil's Downfall, it was called, and it starred the broken and beaten Vergil on his path to becoming this universe's dark knight. Despite having such great potential, aggregate ratings for the 2 GB package weren't very high. I had no idea what I was heading into, how could be it be so much worse than the game? I loved the game so much that 8.95 € was a small price to find out. Or so I thought... Vergil's Downfall is basically the very same thing as the add-ons for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow were: a totally pointless gap-closer between DmC and the potential sequel, with hand-drawn concept art-like cutscenes. But, unlike the Lords of Shadow add-ons which were at least reminiscent of the main game in terms of gameplay, Vergil's Downfall is nothing of the like.

Severely wounded from the battle with his brother who "betrayed" him, Vergil makes his way to his parents' graves and apparently falls dead. He ends up wandering aimlessly in a space between heaven and hell, guided by his mother and a mysterious figure who are both offering him a second, different chance at life. As he zooms through this strange dimension, Vergil has strange hallucinations of Dante which only fuel his anger towards his twin, and his will to rise again and defeat him.

First and foremost of our problems here - Vergil himself. "SPOILER", I'll tell you where it ends. In the last 10 to 15 minutes of DmC, it is revealed that Vergil, who already has shown signs of antagonism and patronizing attitude towards mankind throughout the game, but has nonetheless faithfully stayed by his brother Dante's side on his pilgrimage to slay the demon king Mundus, never intended to free mankind through his actions as leader of The Order - but be the next "god" to control it. Perhaps not in the same way as the demons, but nonetheless control it, denying them of the complete freedom Dante thought he was fighting for. Vergil's trying to justify his actions by saying that humans are hopeless by themselves. After failing to make his brother recognize and accept his cause (go figure!), he challenges Dante to a fight to the death. Dante prevails, comes this close to killing his twin in his Devil Trigger-induced rage, until he is stopped by Vergil's abused, betrayed and heavily insulted, but still merciful protegee Kat. Vergil whines a little and teleports hell knows where... and that is where Vergil's Downfall begins. "SPOILER" ends here.

So, now he's suddenly hand-drawn, limping to his parents' gravesite, and even succumbing to his wounds and falling dead on the spot doesn't stop him from whining like a bitch. About how his family was stolen from him and how Dante betrayed him, never stopping to think of the possibility that he might simply be a selfish asshole! That's exactly what he turned out to be in the end of DmC, and here he continues being one, not in the most loveable way either. He's painful to listen to. The add-on was obviously made so that we would realize that if there will ever be a direct sequel to DmC, Vergil's going to play a very important antagonistic part in it. Well, we knew that already. We had the earlier games to tell us - and the ending of DmC spelled that out very clearly. We didn't need this add-on. Oh, well, despite the cinematic differences and a good character who however does not make for a good playable character, not in the mental state he's in, this is an add-on to DmC. That means fun times, brutal combos, great touch... right? ...Shit me a pile of ick.

The controller feels like a rock, all of the levels
are made of rock, and the ineffectiveness of
those combos makes me feel like the enemies
are made out of rock as well. Now I'm depressed.
Playing as Vergil is just as painful as listening to him speak. It's like you're trying to control a character from the previous Devil May Cry series, who has travelled through time and space to star in the latest game. Vergil's general movement is extremely stiff, his range is amazingly short, his combos are boring and ineffective, guns are replaced by that stupid and floaty "sword illusion" stunt, and his trigger moves and evasions are based on his teleporting ability, which does not translate to gameplay nearly as good as Dante's physical abilities. It's really hard to keep combo chains going, as Vergil oddly pauses after almost every combo, standing perfectly still as perfect projectile fodder. Then there's this new enemy who would've been a fun addition to the cavalcade of demons in the main game, but here they're simply not fun to fight and you'll grow to loathe them once they start appearing in packs.

And, the final cap on this poor deal - from tiringly surreal to tediously boring level design. Five out of six missions take place in identical levels, mountains of rock swirling in emptiness. Overshooting jumps and glides, and even evasions, is even likely as once again, the teleporting Vergil vanishes from sight during an evasion, making it hard to determine where he'll stop, and the levels just aren't built with thought. Falling down a pit still won't kill you, but eats away at your health extra quickly in this case. There's exactly one boss fight included in the whole pack, and it's perfectly enough 'cause by that time, any sane player who just finished the main game won't have the time and the patience to worry about strategies too much. And you don't have to if you're playing on any sane mode, he's very easy to beat.

Anyone waiting for any climaxes on the gameplay's side of the bed, you just bought the wrong DLC. Storywise, Vergil's Downfall is OK - although I would've been fine without thinking of Vergil as a COMPLETE asshole instead of a semi-asshole - but it does very little to surprise anyone who was into the original series. Some details are different and will surely poke some folks' interest, but casual players should be fine with the mere knowledge that it's got the basics of Devil May Cry 3 written all over it. I'm still anxiously waiting for a sequel to DmC, but I never want to play as Vergil again.


Ei kommentteja:

Lähetä kommentti