Thursday, March 24, 2016

DmC: Kill monsters and pose like a badass

When I first heard about DmC, the Devil May Cry reboot, my initial reaction was skepticism.  I had not played much of the original games, but I knew that Dante was a white-haired, red-jacketed, ultra-cool demon-slayer. Who was this punk kid they were calling Dante?

Well, I'm glad I got DmC, because I really enjoyed it. I ended up liking this new Dante a lot, and I found the gameplay hugely enjoyable. The game is designed to make Dante look like a badass at every chance, and as a result, the player feels like a badass, too. Every fight ends with a slow-mo shot of the final blow, inevitably ending with Dante in some awesome pose. That's why I came to think of DmC as a kill-monsters-and-pose-like-a-badass-simulator.

This review contains some spoilers, but you're probably not playing a game like DmC for the plot anyway!

I know that not everyone liked the direction DmC took Dante, but I thought they hit the exact right mix of cocky swagger and likable charm. In that way, he reminded me of Spyro from Spyro the Dragon and Razputin from Psychonauts. His facial animation (he looks a lot like Chris Pine) and his voice work both do a good job of making him seem like he's a badass and enjoying every minute of it. I read some reviews of DmC on Steam before writing this post, and I saw one reviewer complaining about an exchange where Dante is talking to an enormous, bloated demon. After trading insults, the demon gets fed up and tells him, "F--- you!" Dante gives a cocky smile and responds with a gleeful "F--- you!" The demon, now completely losing it, screams out "F--- YOOOOUUUU!!!!" The reviewer hated it, but honestly, it is one of my favorite parts of the game.  It sums up Dante perfectly: fearless and irreverent in the face of supernatural danger.

Dante only works as a badass if the fighting system is satisfying, and I thought that the fighting system worked very well. By default, Dante fights with his iconic sword and pistols. If you hold down one of the triggers, his sword changes into an ax or a scythe as long as you hold the triggers, and his gun becomes a grappling hook he can use to either pull enemies toward him or pull himself toward enemies. This kept fights moving at a good pace, while giving Dante enough control of the fight to keep them from becoming overwhelming frenetic (most of the time).

Not everything about the combat is perfect. Later in the game, Dante acquires additional weapons that have to be selected using the D-pad. Switching between weapons in the middle of combat tends to slow things down, and it could be frustrating when surrounded by enemies. As with most third-person fighting games, there are some issues with the camera, but nothing more egregious than what is typical of the genre.

As much as I liked Dante, some of the other characters leave something to be desired. Dante's brother Vergil makes his inevitable appearance, but his costume makes him look like a Gestapo hipster. The only advantage to his ridiculous costume is that I laughed every time he showed up on screen. Another character, a witch named Kat who helps Dante, seems to exist only to give exposition and instructions while wearing very short shorts. We later learn that her character's backstory essentially boils down to sexual abuse at the hands of a demon. She didn't even save herself: she was rescued by Vergil. I'm not saying that abuse can't be used in a character's backstory, but in this case, Kat comes across as a victim, not a survivor.

Luckily, Dante carries the plot, and his charm and swagger keep the story engaging. Players can replay levels to unlock secrets and earn new abilities, which increases the game's replay value. Last but not least, there is a part of the game where Dante enters an alternate world based on fearmongering right-wing television, culminating in a boss fight against the floating head of a Bill O'Reilly-type newscaster. If that doesn't sound like a game you want to play, well, f--- you.

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