As someone who has played through the DMC series to date, and also really enjoyed both Heavenly Sword and Enslaved, I had high hopes and anticipation for DmC. As the hours rolled by, I found myself enjoying and appreciating the game more and more. Not only was is it a lot of fun and a perfect fit for the series, DmC is also well balanced and has a great art style, which isn’t too surprising given Ninja Theory’s slogan is ‘beautiful gaming.’
DmC begins with Dante waking up after another hard night on the town with liquor and women. A massive demon, known simply as a Hunter, has found him, and is intent on killing him. Dante doesn’t know what this is about, but he leaps into action with his classic infinite-ammo pistols, Ebony and Ivory, and his sword, Rebellion. Kat, a female protagonist key to the story, helps him begin to figure out what’s going on, although Dante’s loner attitude is reluctant to accept any help or advice. Slowly, this attitude changes as Dante, who agrees to hear Kat out and meet her boss, becomes aware of what is going on.
While the media paints them as an underground terrorist organization, The Order, headed up by Dante’s twin brother Vergil, is in fact a small cell that is trying to bring down the demon king named Mundus. In the human realm, or world, Mundus seems to be nothing more than an extremely wealthy and powerful media mogul. Just beneath that veil though, in Limbo, lies the truth. He’s got the humans enslaved thanks to a worldwide sensational soda pop named Virility that is spiked with the secretions of a Succubus demon, and his grip over all forms of media, including news and entertainment. Mankind is enslaved and doesn’t even know it — it’s destined to fail completely, but Dante could care less, until he experiences and thus learns the story of his past, which he had not known about due to memory loss.
I’ll avoid any spoilers for you, but suffice it to say that Dante joins up with Vergil, Kat, and The Order and becomes their aggressor with the goal being to stop Mundus. The story itself is pretty good and somewhat predictable. I had more issues with some of the story-telling than the story itself, more on that later. So, you control Dante through twenty missions, taking him through a modern day metropolis but experiencing those areas in both the human realm and in Limbo (mostly in Limbo). Seeing the effects of actions in Limbo on the human realm is one of the game’s strongest story elements.
As you enter the final missions, Dante wields his familiar pistols and shotgun, plus a new ranged weapon (which I didn’t find all that useful, but it was nice to have it). There are also five melee weapons — Rebellion, Arbiter, Osiris, Aquila, and Eryx, two of which are angelic and two that are demonic. All of these weapons, guns included, can be upgraded multiple times, and you can also try and remove upgrades at will, so you’re never locked in. I’ll add that I didn’t find many of the upgrades all that compelling, and there were times where I just passed on doing any upgrades at all. Ultimately each upgrade is useful, but not necessarily interesting, if that makes sense.
The controls for these other weapons and special attacks are all similar, so it’s easy to transition between them. Fast switching between weapons is essential for high style points, plus many enemies will force you to constantly switch between weapons. Switching weapons is all done in real time with the d-pad and by using L2 and R2, no pausing required. After completing the game, I looked at my stats and I had spent exactly the same amount of minutes with angelic weapons as demonic ones, which may give you a sense of how balanced the combat felt to me. By the way, nailing a Dreamrunner with a Fireworks attack at the instant he pops back into reality never gets old!
Your combat style is scored constantly and tallied at the end of each mission on a scale of D to SSS. This is classic DMC gameplay through and through. Dante enters a key area, the exits are sealed, and you’re tasked with dispatching waves of enemies using a combination of weapons, special attacks, and aerial juggling. Expect over a dozen different enemies, ranging from the pesky aerial ones to tank-class. Fallen enemies and some obvious environmental objects release various orbs used to replenish health, fill your upgrade and Devil meters, and purchase items at Divinity Statues or in between missions.
Playing on the default difficulty, seasoned DMC vets aren’t likely to experience much problem. I died about a dozen times and completed the story, along with several of the secret missions, right at the twelve hour mark according to my savegame time. I thought Ninja Theory did a good job of not wearing out the ‘arena’ style combat and also spicing things up with fun platforming, or traversal, sequences.
I was also impressed with the variety in art design for the different levels. While mostly linear and corridor-based, the vertical plane and the sheer variance in art style was great. One of the earliest levels takes place in a broken mansion, which just feels fitting for DMC. Later, you’re in the bowels of a factory, with a long, vertical platforming sequence to go through. Later still is an awesome “upside down” prison area, and a nightclub themed stage will dazzle — if not slightly annoy — you with it’s wild colors. I really liked the blending of the human realm and Limbo, especially in the final missions where there are numerous black silhouette images of humans flickering in and out of sight, floating or falling repeatedly; it’s very cool. Through all this, the framerates didn’t flinch.
Excellent visual style and appeal are complimented by a solid audio presentation. Voiceovers are well done and match their motion-captured facial expressions perfectly. Some of the dialogue is thin, but it’s spoken well regardless. A band known as Combichrist did the music, or at least the metal that plays during combat, most of which sounds very good and some of which includes vocals. My first reaction to this was one of concern, but once more tracks were played I looked forward to them firing up at the outset of the next fight. Sound effects were a big positive; I loved the bassy boom-boom-boom of Ebony and Ivory and of Reveant, the shotgun. The little cue sound you hear when you have charged Overdrive is great, as are the desperate cries of the hidden trapped souls.
The trapped souls, something you may recall from other DMC games, can be found and freed for more red orbs and points upon completing the mission. I freed forty-four of these souls in my play-through, I think there are roughly sixty to be found, though. Some of these, as well as the other keys and secret missions, require you to go back to earlier missions with your new-found weapons to get through environmental barriers. There are twenty-secret missions and four different kinds of keys. The secret missions include simple eradication style where you have to kill so many enemies within a minute or two. There are also traversal missions, where you have to use your platforming skills to get through a enemy-free zone to get to the finish line. Other variations include being restricted to using either demonic or angelic attacks. One of my favorites was the “displaced skirmish” mode where you can only deal damage to enemies when they are inside of these green circles that quickly get smaller and disappear, forcing you to relocate and pull enemies into the circle with you to beat the clock.
Of the boss fights, two really stood out to me as great and memorable, but some, including the second to last one, felt tedious and a little awkward. Speaking of awkward, DmC does have several areas, like practically any action adventure game, where your common sense will take offense. In other words, there are those times where something you would consider obvious is overlooked by characters in-game, or you’re left thinking “why/how the hell?” I’d like to tell you which two boss fights I liked the most, and specifically mention some of these ‘face palm’ events, but not at the risk of spoiling anything. Let’s just say that this isn’t a deal-breaker problem, but without these story-telling goofs, the story and immersion factor would have been significantly bolstered.
DmC on the whole gets most everything right, though. And after the credits roll, there is reason to go back. For completionists, there are other keys, secret missions, and trapped souls to find. There are also additional upgrades you can unlock. The Son of Sparda difficulty mode is unlocked that promises mixed enemy tactics and placement. Beyond that are three other modes that just sound too brutal to be worth playing, but hey, some folks will pursue them. These include Dante Must Die, Heaven Or Hell, and Heaven And Hell modes, the latter two drop Dante’s health down to a single-hit kill. Additionally, you can chase leaderboards on a mission-by-mission basis or go to the PS Store to purchase new skins for Dante and your weapons (you can actually do this at anytime, not just after the first play-through).
With that, let’s get to the summary…