This edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to the Ninja Theory-developed franchise reboot DmC: Devil May Cry, which reviewers describe as "a hectic, beautiful ballet of improvised brutality." DmC currently earns a score of 86 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.
Josh Harmon at Electronic Gaming Monthly scores DmC at 9.5 out of 10. "Ninja Theory has expertly deconstructed the franchiseís formula, tweaked and trimmed the component parts, and rebuilt them into a experience that improves on its predecessors in nearly every aspect," he praises. "The end result is a stylish, polished, and absurdly entertaining title thatís easily one of the best action games of the last decade."
"The only aspect of DmC thatís a truly drastic departure from the norm is the visual style, which replaces the gothic architecture of the previous games with a gritty contemporary backdrop and a hefty dose of surrealism," Harmon notes. "But looks will only take you so far, and the real meat of DmC is the stellar hack-and-slash combat.
"As in previous games, Dante has access to both melee weapons and firearms, and thereís an onscreen Style Meter that judges your performance based on how well youíre mixing up your attacks -- though itís admittedly a bit easier to nab a high rating here."
Harmon finds that one specific addition changes the combat system for the better. "The biggest change is a new system that allows you to access your three currently equipped melee weapons on the fly," he explains. "Hold down the left trigger, and [Dante's sword will] transform into an Angelic weapon with its own set of combos and abilities. Hold down the right trigger, and itíll become a Demonic one. It takes a bit of time to wrap your brain around, but once youíve mastered it, the combat possibilities it opens up are absolutely staggering."
"Above all else, the game does a phenomenal job of pacing itself, constantly introducing new weapons, skills, and enemy types to keep you on your toes," Harmon writes. "For the first few levels, youíll hack away at enemies without much finesse, but by the time the credits roll, youíll be stringing together combos between all of your weapons, parrying and dodging like a madman, and chaining between dozens of foes without ever touching the ground. Itís a hectic, beautiful ballet of improvised brutality. Itís art."
IGN's Ryan Clements rates DmC at 8.9 out of 10. "While the relationship between [Dante and Vergil] hit a high in Devil May Cry 3, it takes a different form in DmC: Devil May Cry," he notes. "This troubled brotherhood -- and the divine battle waging around it -- finds more realistic footing in DmC and gets a seething booster shot of style and substance. The result is a smooth, shocking, and supremely intelligent entry in this legendary line of demonic death dealing."
"In order to progress through each mission Dante fights in 'human' form by default, wielding Rebellion and a selection of firearms in high style," Clements explains. "Even if human mode was the only one available to players, Dante still has an ample supply of techniques at his disposal to dispatch opponents. Flurries of sword strokes and gunshots make every combo an exercise in extravagance, satisfying to execute but also easy to understand.
"But Dante also has a demon form and angel form, both of which grant him instant access to a weapon other than Rebellion. While his demon weapons offer slow, powerful attacks, his angelic weapons provide fast, effective crowd control for larger groups of enemies. There's no limit to switching between these forms, and players need only hold a trigger to maintain them. This means that a single combo can not only incorporate every weapon in Dante's arsenal but also continue on endlessly, assuming he doesn't run out of demons to fight!"
The formula isn't without flaws, however. "Without a dedicated lock-on button, dealing with large groups -- especially fliers -- and grappling specific enemies can be troublesome," Clements recalls. "And while the camera bravely attempts to keep pace with the action, it will fall behind or swing around to a poor angle on occasion. [...] More concerning is the length of the story itself, which -- on the first run -- only takes 10 hours or less."
"Long-time Devil May Cry fans unsure of Ninja Theory's treatment can abandon their fears," Clements assures. "DmC hurls Dante into a newer, better world, complete with a glorious combat system and enough style to make old Dante proud."
Philip Kollar at Polygon gives DmC a score of 8 out of 10. "DmC: Devil May Cry is a case study in why many fans are wary of reboots," he begins. "It takes a series known for being light-hearted and goofy ó even in its most serious moments ó and attempts to infuse it with a darker, grittier tone and something resembling social commentary."
The resulting game excels in unexpected ways. "Ninja Theory has demonstrated a talent for story and writing in the past but has struggled to execute on gameplay," Kollar writes. "Despite the studio's history, the slow, cynical story is DmC's weakest part. More surprisingly, the fast-paced, bombastic action surrounding the story is strong, sometimes even brilliant."
"When it's not desperate to be counter-culture, DmC's story settles for being crass," Kollar warns. "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."
Kollar is particularly impressed with the depth of DmC's combat. "It's difficult to fall back on mashing the same combo over and over in DmC," he says. "The game eventually introduces enemies who can only be harmed by angel or demon weapons specifically, but they're used sparingly, often mixed In with larger groups. These encounters force you to refine your tactics and try new things."
"The game's tone falls apart as it fluctuates between deadpan and dopey, but the action never falters," Kollar concludes. "Fights are fast, intense and fun, and they're aided by a world where nothing is what it seems and nothing stays the same for long. I just wish Ninja Theory had matched the mesmerizing level design with a character who I actually want to spend time around."