While I was in the process of editing the video for DmC: Devil May Cry last year, I found myself dabbling back into the game to replay certain sections and levels. Some of my thoughts and opinions about the game’s overall design changed, but I was too far into the process to correct or edit my script. Fortunately, my thoughts didn’t deviate in a way that my overall feelings towards the game changed, and thus the video was completely valid.
After having completely replayed the game with the DmC: Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition released on Playstation 4, I’m now confronted with the desire to go back and completely George Lucas that video up.
Not so much in regards to gameplay, though. While I’ve certainly picked up on a couple of new tricks, my thoughts towards the game’s design are the same. While making the game easier has certainly made it more accessible to a greater variety of players, it is still only accessible to a limited market. There’s an awful lot going on with the combat and the different weapons that I’ve only discovered due to my expanded time with the game’s mechanics. It’s a rich and deep experience, and more experienced Devil May Cry players likely won’t be satisfied with the default settings, but it is still a well executed game.
The addition of hardcore and turbo modifications to the game’s difficulty may be enough to assuage the desires of the more “traditional” Devil May Cry fan.
What I’ve really wanted to rethink is the game’s story. I was pretty brutal to it in my video analysis, and in particular of the characters Dante and Kat. Or rather, their execution. In truth, what I realized is that DmC: Devil May Cry does nothing but make one giant bad first impression.
Dante is a dick. The intent is to introduce him as some sort of anti-hero, that he simply hasn’t had any truly great purpose to fight for. Perhaps that he has just given up. With the exception of throwing a shot glass at the reflection of a demon in a mirror, a very swift cut in the opening credits, there is no hint that Dante isn’t enjoying his life. In fact, the smile he gets seeing the barely clothed dancers at the club, the smile that the camera focuses on, indicates to the player that Dante is enjoying his life.
The reality, as revealed at the Virility manufacturing plant, is that Dante has been fighting a long time. Once upon a time he cared about fighting demons. He merely gave up at some point, though it is never really explained why. Kat and Vergil, together, give him that purpose. They restore his memory and give him a target, one that could actually accomplish something in his fight. It is this purpose that then drives Dante’s development, and with this history in mind, his actions throughout the rest of the game make sense.
If it weren’t for the first hour or two of the game, I would actually believe this version of Dante was a well developed character. That opening sequence completely ruins him, just as Kat’s absurd and nonsensical outfit completely distracts from her overall purpose. While she is physically, and even emotionally, portrayed in a manner designed to appeal to a traditionally masculine sensibility, Dante himself points out how useful Kat had been throughout the entire game. Without her actions, Dante and Vergil would never have defeated Mundus. That she must first be captured and beaten, relying on her old trick of escaping into limbo to minimize the trauma of torture, is harsh. However, it is that trick that allows her to enact her own agency and map out Mundus’ lair.
Whether she is a person or a mere tool, a debate that I’m certain can be had amongst the gaming community, is then had between Dante and Vergil. This final conflict perhaps sets a wonderful stage for where the series can go now that it has been freed from this “edgy” re-imagining. I’ve grown to like the dynamic between Dante and Vergil, and their relationship here has the potential to make Vergil an interesting antagonist in future entries of the series, were Capcom to continue with this continuity.
Unfortunately, the Vergil’s Downfall DLC turns Vergil into a much less interesting, much more generic villain. In a state of near-death, Vergil finds himself confronting that final encounter and conversation with Kat and Dante, and he projects his rage and frustrations onto them. He makes antagonists of them, and removes all emotions but anger and a lust for power. Rather than face Dante with a contest of conviction, neither sibling wanting to slay the other, Vergil is now a big bad angry brother seeking his own revenge.
Any excitement I had for a sequel was essentially sapped with that DLC. So I suppose the low possibility of a sequel may be a good thing after all.
It’s not just the story that makes a bad first impression, though. The game’s mechanics are introduced rather slowly, and that first hour will be a very simple and even uninteresting introduction to the game’s basic mechanics. Very few enemy types are available early on, trickled in slowly as the game introduces new weaponry and abilities at a snail’s pace. If all of these elements were dropped into the player’s lap throughout the first level, then the player would have been able to jump in much more easily.
Consider, for a moment, the first level of Halo: Combat Evolved. In a time when users weren’t used to first-person shooters on a console, Halo introduced players to its basics with two separate enemy types, two different grenade types, and four different types of guns. While there were plenty of other Covenant and weaponry to introduce later on, there’s enough variety in the foes, level design, and armaments that the player is immediately entertained.
While a shooter relies more on level design and artificial intelligence to help provide its more interesting scenarios, Halo still managed to introduce twin-stick movement and camera control to new players with very little in the way of tutorial or explanation. It then became one of the most successful games on the market.
DmC: Devil May Cry does not trust its players to be intelligent enough to pick up on new skills and concepts quickly. There’s too much time to practice, and without giving the player a real taste of what to expect for the rest of the game, players will assume that the game is actually quite boring.
I would say, of all of DmC: Devil May Cry’s flaws, its inability to make a good first impression is perhaps its greatest. The characters and story feel juvenile and poorly written, the characters seem pandering or even despicable, and the gameplay feels slow and simple. By the end of the game, each of these assumptions will be false and untrue.
How many players will stick around to find out?