The first time I tried to write about DmC Devil May Cry after finishing it, this is what I ended up with:
The most “amusing thing” about DmC is that I don’t even know where to begin to attack the game. Thematically? Dumb as rocks. Mechanically? Just as dumb as rocks.
Here at Hinge Problems, not knowing where to being doesn’t mean we aren’t going to just begin, so…
Man, this game is just bad. Not just bad in comparison to other Devil May Cry games, but bad in comparison to other similar action games. Part of this seems to come from an unwillingness to really stick to any one of the three basic templates for 3D brawlers, which are:
- Devil May Cry
- Ninja Gaiden
- God of War
Yeah, I could probably make some other branches too, but whatever. The point is, DmC doesn’t want to pick a branch and stick to it. It obviously wants to be a part of the DMC branch, but it worries that the complexity and difficulty of that branch will alienate too many people, so it veers more towards God of War, with most weapons having similar movesets and the overall difficulty being nonexistent. It wants the platforming focus that sometimes dominates Ninja Gaiden (to its detriment, in my eyes), but again, the challenge might become too much, so it highlights exactly what you should do constantly. In DmC’s near-need to convey a certain brand of machismo, it certainly gets towards God of War at its least tongue-in-cheek moments.
The problem is that in none of this hopping does DmC ever really decide who it wants to satisfy. It’s too complex for God of War, yet not complex enough for DMC. It wants the movement options of Ninja Gaiden, but it still feels somewhat married to the limited movement of the DMC series. It comes out feeling half-assed, like a game designed for someone who couldn’t really bother getting good at original DMC, but wanted everyone to think he was.
The scoring system in the game furthers this idea of the game’s target. DMC has always featured a ranking system, both during stages and at the end. During stages, the game ranks your style, giving you bonuses for not reusing moves, and taking away rank for waiting too long to move or getting hit. In this game, your rank just sticks around until you either get hit, or the game decides that fight is over. Similarly, certain moves, such as a specific smash with the axe/hammer, will drastically increase your rank, and only are slightly hurt by repeated usage. All it takes to get even a decent combat rating is an ability to press dodge when the enemies telegraph their attacks (something that they can mostly only do if they are on screen, more on that in a bit).
The end stage ranking further highlights the lack of skill necessary in the game. Your score for the stage is largely based on 3 things: style score total, orb collection, and completion. Lest one think completion is “how many secrets did you find on the way through”, it is actually a mark of how many secrets you have found for every time you have played the stage, which is to say you only need to find a secret once, and it will be checked off on completion every time you replay the stage. And some of those secrets cannot be gotten until you’ve completed later stages and come back. In effect, this turns a large chunk of your stage score into a collect-a-thon that even Rare might wince at a bit, instead of the mostly skill-based affair of previous games.
However, the completion aspect of the stage rank only seems to lock out a player from scoring the highest rank. On my first (and praise whoever, only) playthrough, I only got lower than an A rank on one stage, and that was because I ran through the stage avoiding every single enemy. Otherwise, I was easily able to S or SS almost every stage, while playing like crap because I had no reason at all to learn to do any better. The ranking system that was supposed to incentivize my better performance communicated that I didn’t need to be good, and that I couldn’t get the highest grade anyhow so why bother.
To make the ranking business even sillier, the combat system features some comedic bullshit, in case you were finding things too hard. My favorite is the general inability of enemies to attack you if they weren’t on camera. There was always a complaint from people who hadn’t learned how to manage enemies and the camera in the old DMC games that enemies could attack you from off camera. One would imagine the solution to this, if not to rely on the player, would be to fix the camera. DmC tries this, but its camera somehow manages to be a bit clumsier than previous DMCs, no small feat. The other “solution” they implement is just so silly, so amazing, that it is hard to explain.
Enemies can’t attack you unless they are on screen, and they fight like hell to get on screen. If you ahve an enemy off screen for more than a second or two, they give up and go on about their merry business, which is silly enough. However, during that few moments before they give up, they will try every dash/roll/whatever to get on screen, so they can attack. This led to a few tiems of enemies in the background, as I was fighting, dancing to get on screen as I rotated the camera intentionally to keep them off. Camera management like this doesn’t really belong anywhere near this kind of game.
Honestly, this all just feels like a mediocre to bad brawler game, wrapped in some decent graphical technology. What really pushes it into “bad game” land, however, is everything else.
Tameem Antionades, the chief designer at Ninja Theory, and the guy everyone said looked suspiciously like neo-Dante, had this to say about the theme of this game:
“It seems that games are perceived to be for kids and should never tackle themes a Saturday morning cartoon wouldn’t. It would be pretty depressing and limiting if all developers accepted that as the status quo. Our games are being played by intelligent adults, so there is no reason why we can’t treat them as such.”
Oh, Tameem, if only such were the case. What are these themes in DmC, supposedly written to be played by “intelligent adults”? Well, the core conceit is basically just the plot from John Carpenter’s They Live, only without any of the subtlety or tongue-in-cheek of that game. Additionally, they tack on some incredibly limp attempts at satirizing Fox News, and take the plot of a Futurama episode seriously. Missing the humor in influences seems to be a running thing with NT. The game tacks on some “hate the rich” with the main villain being a rich real estate mogul/demon, and the Resisitance being led by a clear Annonymous rip-iff, in an attempt to attach some relevance to the recent political movements. Finally, the game ends with a Twitter hashtag spreading the word of the fall of the demons, which of course includes Tameem’s actual Twitter account, because apparently being the main character wasn’t enough for him.
If all this sounds like a cliche videogame attempting to do something “serious” or “satirical” and failing, that’s because that’s exactly what it is. It reads like a college freshman’s understanding of anti-consumerism, but simplified so that demons are doing it all because thinking about humans doing it is too difficult. It almost make Bioshock’s “criticisms” of Ayn Rand look nuanced, which they never were.
But as if that weren’t enough to make you laugh at Tameem’s suggestion that this game is “intelligent”, the game has MAJOR issues with women. Just watch that video, and know that I left out two major characters, Dante’s Mother (always referred to by the moniker “whore”) and his sidekick, Kat. I am working on a video of the problems with them, but let’s jsut say they mostly come down to issues of agency, which neither character is ever allowed to have. Kat in particular is there mostly to open the occasional door for Dante, and then to be beaten before the player’s eyes in an attempt to supplement any sympathy she might have earned with her cliche tale of abuse/rap/rescue-by-dude earlier in the game.
It’s ugly, no way around it. It pushes the game from being a mechanically boring, mediocre brawler into being something downright offensive.
So, in short, fuck the game companies who made this, fuck the game journos who praised it, and most especially fuck the gamers if they reward this kind of behavior. That is the lesson of DmC Devil May Cry, at the end of it all.
Well, that, and fuck silly titles that explain their own abbreviations.