Critical Consensus: DmC: Devil May Cry

Ninja Theory takes on Capcom's storied franchise - and wins

Nostalgia is the AAA console developer's closest ally and fiercest enemy. When failure means the loss of millions of dollars and redundancies by the dozen, a recognised and revered brand can be a helpful short-cut to finding a large enough audience. But that very reverence is primed to backfire, exploding in a cacophonous din of inconsistent criticism tainted by the press and public's personal recollections.

Ninja Theory learned this the hard way when it unveiled its take on Devil May Cry. Where was the series' characteristic humour and sense of the absurd? Why did Dante look like a My Chemical Romance reject? Why had the title been reduced to a stylised acronym? In the time it took to watch a two-minute trailer, the game's target audience had decided that DmC wasn't what they were looking for, even if they didn't necessarily know what that was in the first place.

"With attitude in spades and a clutch of killer lines, there have been few better reinventions of a classic character than this"

Rich Stanton, Eurogamer

According to the Daily Telegraph's Ashton Raze these early criticisms were all smoke and no fire. In a glowing five-star review, Raze dispels the rumours that the iconic Dante has been reduced to a clutch of miserabilist clichés. Ninja Theory's DmC: Devil May Cry hits the ground running, confidently toying with the widespread belief that it was poised to drop the ball.

"At first, Dante seems reluctant, petulant and a bit of a moody chap (perhaps a play on the 'emo Dante' claims met by the redesign)," Raze says. "But within two missions he's evolving into a newer, hipper take on the Dante of past games, and it might surprise some to realise just how much of the wisecracking humour has been retained.

"The dialogue and character progression is simple but fantastic, and perfectly suited to a game primarily focused on hacking up demons with style. Despite being an American character, Dante's 'Britishisms' are spot on too, with even a Brass Eye reference cropping up at one point.

As indicated by his five-star score, there is very little in DmC that Raze didn't like. Ninja Theory has gifted gamers "a blistering start to 2013" that retains the core of the series while skilfully folding in lessons from Bayonetta. However, not every review is so ecstatic, and, as with every case of a prestige franchise changing hands, the reasons for disappointment vary wildly and often directly contradict one another.

Philip Kollar's 8 out of 10 review for Polygon is a case in point. To Kollar's critical palate, DmC's Dante is far from the paragon of simple, effective character building described by the Telegraph. Rather, he is almost exactly what everybody feared after the game's initial unveiling, the sulky, irritating heart of a "crass" story that pushes the sex, violence and swearing to new extremes for the series.

"Dante jokes about having a bigger penis than one character, and his most common retort to bosses is a simple 'Fuck you'," Kollar says. "The game attempts a small character arc, but it feels forced. The Dante at the end of the game isn't all that different from the Dante at the beginning. It's easy to get drawn into his struggle against demonic forces. It's a lot harder to actually like him."

"The Dante at the end of the game isn't all that different from the Dante at the beginning. It's easy to get drawn into his struggle against demonic forces. It's a lot harder to actually like him"

Philip Kollar, Polygon

Kollar acknowledges that, "you don't have to like Dante for DmC to play well," but his irritation with its protagonist and Ninja Theory's clumsy attempts at satire is difficult to ignore. For Eurogamer's Rich Stanton, however, opinions on the game's personality are less important than its skilful presentation. Whatever can be said about Dante's attitude, there's simply no denying the lithe elegance of his movements.

"A wiry powerhouse that runs on flair, every arc and sweep of this Dante's blade oozes over-confidence to the extent that it sometimes leaves him stumbling. But only for an instant," Stanton says. "The animation throughout DmC is exquisite and Dante is the showcase, his hundreds of potential moves stitched together into the most incredible extended sequences. With attitude in spades and a clutch of killer lines, there have been few better reinventions of a classic character than this."

That's another gold-star for Ninja Theory, then, and a possible sign that Kollar just wasn't in the mood for Dante's potty-mouth the morning he sat down to play DmC. Frankly, for two reviews with exactly the same score at the end, Stanton's has far more nice things to say. There are a few dull platforming sections and some misjudged boss battles, but Stanton is unrestrained in his praise for certain aspects of the game's design - particularly its shifting, stylised environments.

"The levels show a visual imagination that few other games can match, channelling everything from Escher to Soylent Green and back via Bayonetta," he says. "The settings are often so beautiful and so odd that you spend long stretches between fights just panning the camera. It's not just a still kind of beauty, either. DmC's levels shift and warp as you move through them, often violently twisting into new forms as you progress."

Importantly, Stanton is also won over by the combat. DmC isn't quite as tough as its predecessors - not until you unlock the "Son of Sparda" difficulty level at any rate - but the mechanics encourage the same "sublime" flow for which previous games are admired. This point is hammered home by Destructoid's Jim Sterling, who praises the refinements in the gameplay even as he warns that they won't be to every Devil May Cry fan's taste.

"The bottom line is that DmC: Devil May Cry is a beautiful, bold and supremely enjoyable videogame in its own right"

Jim Sterling, Destructoid

"DmC is a quicker game overall, its combat is less methodical and precise, though not as deep as a result," Sterling says in his 9 out of 10 review. "Progression through a chapter is likewise lacking in obstacles and puzzles, but instead emphasizes swift traversal and platforming. As much time is spent navigating ever-twisting corridors and chasms, grappling and gliding through the air, as it is hacking demons to pieces. Again, this will disappoint some gamers, but others - myself included - shall appreciate a title that feels overall less ponderous and more fluid."

Sterling suggests that the negative voices around the direction Ninja Theory has taken diminish the very games they claim to love. There is more than one reason to admire Devil May Cry, and those who are itching to accuse DmC of soiling its legacy are doing so from the blinkered perspective of their own personal experience. The series' flamboyant, swash-buckling soul remains intact, and beneath it all is a game made with considerable flair and expertise.

"You can argue DmC's merits as a Devil May Cry entry all the live long day. You can bicker over whether or not it deserves the share a name with the series' frankly spotty past. This, however, is not an argument I choose to indulge, because the bottom line is that DmC: Devil May Cry is a beautiful, bold and supremely enjoyable videogame in its own right. It deserves to be praised.

"Action games may come deeper and harder than this, but few are as pleasurable."

More stories

The Bleeding Edge of multiplayer design

Creative director Rahni Tucker on how the Xbox brawler will ensure Ninja Theory keeps one foot in the action genre

By James Batchelor

Ninja Theory launches mental health R&D effort

Hellblade studio's The Insight Project aiming to "help mental health treatment to go mainstream"

By Brendan Sinclair

Latest comments (12)

Tameem Antoniades Creative Director & Co-founder, Ninja Theory Ltd9 years ago
Extremely proud of the team :)
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Spencer Franklin Concept Artist 9 years ago
I say congrats to you all as well! As a fan of the originals, and of the anime series, I totally was looking forward to getting this title after 5 minutes in the demo. And for what it's worth, my daughters think that this version of Dante is "soooooo sexy.." lol
Congrats again
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Mbuso Radebe Producer, Electronic Arts9 years ago
Congrats to you Tameem and the rest of the Ninja Theory team! The game looks great!!
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (12)
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 9 years ago
This is the most beautiful revenge of sorts on all those who wanted the game to fail (for what reasons, I have NO idea). Thanks for not getting knocked down by all the haters, Tameem and Team NT! I was sold with that first trailer and artwork and the demos at press events had me grinning.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Pete Leonard , Amiqus9 years ago
It's an effort to be proud of for sure. DmC was always known for having an extremely tight and robust combat system (well relative to the time periods and console platforms of course - the first would not stand now if released today:)). And the same goes for many Far East combat action games.
Just look at what Platinum managed (Vanquish one of the best games of this generation and is about as responsive as combat systems get IMHO).

But NT seem to have been able to compete in this market with every game they release - a genre historically dominated by the Japanese.

That will not come easy.

So well done Tameem at al - the demo looks and plays great, and the level design looks very inspired from videos - great cutscene character performance delivery by the looks of what's in reviews (although I might be biased after Enslaved).
I'm genuinely looking forward to it!!
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
David Radd Senior Editor, IndustryGamers9 years ago
It's really hard to reboot like this when you have such resistance from some people, but that Ninja Theory has managed to do it and do it well... all credit to them. I've been cheering for them because of their great work on Heavenly Sword and Enslaved... I hope the acclaim for DmC is equal to its sales success!
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Matt Walker Production Coordinator, Capcom9 years ago
Although I only got to meet them once, it was an absolute honor getting to work with the excellent team at Ninja Theory. They are a class act and I wish them all the success in the world.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jed Ashforth Senior Game Designer, Immersive Technology Group, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe9 years ago
Tameem, please pass on congrats to all the team. Looking forward to getting this, it's sounding great (and it looks beautiful). :)
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tameem Antoniades Creative Director & Co-founder, Ninja Theory Ltd9 years ago
Thank you so much everyone - it was certainly a hard fought battle to the bitter end but so worth it. :)
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
senar koraltan Product Owner (with game/digital design, project management & commercialization skills) 9 years ago
It was a brilliant experience working on DmC, I'm glad its getting the praise it deserves :D
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Ian Brown IT Developer / IT Infrastructure 9 years ago
Playing it now, very impressed and keeps the feeling of the original without being stale.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Hideki Kamiya Mustard Lookin' Mustard! 9 years ago
Motherfuckah! You ruined my game! Ya gay ass mustard lookin mustard!

Take your mop head Donte and go bomb your hipster hair cut through the floorboard along with your shitty sales.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Hideki Kamiya on 20th February 2013 8:25pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.