‘DmC: Devil May Cry: Definite Edition’ (Xbox One) review: Stylized beatdowns

Latest ‘Devil May Cry’ a welcome breath of bloody fresh air

My knowledge of the “Devil May Cry” franchise is pretty limited, strongest when it comes to the broadest strokes of who and what and why, weakest when it comes to specifics. But I do know enough to say the series needed a reboot or a change in focus if it was going to continue attracting fans new and old. “DmC: Devil May Cry” does that in spectacularly bloody fashion.

(This review covers the 2015 “Definite Edition” for Xbox One, which comes with a few upgrades from the original 2013 version; we’ll address those differences in a bit.)

The reboot of “Devil May Cry” by U.K.-based Ninja Theory doesn’t so much re-create the wheel as just just change the direction that wheel is going. The seemingly eternal battle between Dante (the series’ protagonist, who makes a return with an altered and controversial character design) and his brother, Vergil. (If you’re getting hints of Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” already, don’t worry: That’s the point.) The bond and strife between the two Nephilim, born of angel and demon lineage and powerful warriors in their own right, shifts from a more never-ending sort of existence to one that doesn’t quite exist at all — at least not yet.

The premise of “DmC” centers around the two brothers coming together to take on the demon king, Mundus, who wields control over the world through debt — and energy drinks. Dante and Vergil are capable of seeing the damage Mundus has wrought on the human world, piercing through to see how demonic influence permeates, normally in gorgeous shades of reds and blacks in consistently stunning environments.

Vergil, ever the more responsible brother, seeks Dante’s help in getting rid of Mundus. Along the way, Dante uncovers more than a few secrets relating to his past and his future. The revelations serve as the game’s story arc, dragging you to the depths of Limbo with Dante in addictive fashion. (I may have finished the game in just two sittings).

Of particular note is Dante’s reimagining. This version of Dante, while still possessing that “devil may care” attitude, is actually likable. His interactions with his brother and human Kat show a side to him that normally isn’t there. It was a treat to know that our hero, if you can call him that, actually has a personality. And while some may not have appreciated the new character design, I did; the style update fits in nicely with the hyper stylish game.

The story’s end is clean in its own way, but it clearly leaves a path open for sequels, which I would celebrate. But while it’s compelling on its own, the real strength of the game lies in its combat.

One of the best reasons to play a “Devil” game is for the outright carnage you inflict as Dante in the most stylish way possible. “DmC” continues this trend, equipping Dante with a slew of powerful and useful weapons that augment whatever mode he happens to be in: human (normally the default at a mission’s start), demon or angel. Each mode comes with unique techniques that are handy in particular situations (demon doles out damage, angel does crowd control, etc.). And yes, classics Rebellion and Ebony & Ivory return.

As for the battling itself, “DmC’s” game play mechanics (utilizing the Unreal 3 engine) are superb. Fluid from start to finish, you rarely feel as though you can’t master (or at least fake your way through) whatever weapon or skill you’re granted. And the ability to swap between fighting styles and human/demon/angel mode is lightning-fast. Even the vertical dimension to the game (there’s plenty of flying baddies just itching to annoy you) is done well, both with weapons that propels you up and forward and your jumping abilities. It’s chaotic nonsense from the opening sequence to the final battle, and I mean that as a compliment.

And for those who crave validation for their battle prowess, the point system makes a return. Basically, the more creative your fighting style is, the higher your points go; the higher your score, the better ranking you get at mission’s end. (Other metrics affect your score, as well, including deaths, time to completion, restarts, etc.)

Though, to be honest, if you happen to secure that coveted SSS ranking (the highest in the game), you deserved it. Even on easier difficulties, this game is not easy. That’s not to say it’s unfair or programmed to be unrealistically brutal. In fact, the balance between your skill as Dante and the enemies’ skill stays in sync for most of the game. I never felt I was completely outmatched despite proper leveling. If I lost a fight, it was because of mistakes I made, not the game.

‘Definitive Edition’

As with other “Definitive Edition” games of late, the major attractions are updated graphics and being playable on current consoles. The game runs at a smooth 60 frames per second and in 1080p resolution, and now it’s available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Basically, it’s an upgraded version of the original game, which may not be enough for anyone to play it again, but it’s more than enough reason for newcomers to drop the cash for it.

Also, this version has a lock-on system. A little research shows that the lack of a lock-on ability in the original version didn’t go over well, so it’s clear to see why it was added here. And it’s a nice ability to have, especially since the camera can fall behind because of the sheer amount of chaos on the screen.

In the end, “DmC: Devil May Cry” may have lasted only 10 hours, but it’s was an excellent way to spend half a day. It comes with an intelligent combat system and intriguing story in equal doses, a rare feat for a hack-and-slash game. Its striking art style is just that, earning my praise in nearly every sequence. I’m sad that I missed playing it when it first came out, but this version more than made up for it. So here’s to humanity, and the little voices over your shoulders that make life more interesting.

Four “I need to learn sword skills” stars out of five.

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