Devil May Cry: A Game Review

Devil May Cry

image courtesy of Capcom

Devil May Cry: A Game Review
| published February 18, 2015 |

By Isaac Fink
Thursday Review contributor

The Devil May Cry series by Capcom is one of my all-time favorite video games, and with the recent announcement of DmC: Devil May Cry Deluxe Edition and Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition, I was inspired to replay through the series in order of release, and compile my thoughts on each of the original four games, as well as the 2013 reboot of the series.

The original Devil May Cry, released in 2001 on the Playstation 2, is a hack-and-slash title that's loosely—very loosely—based on Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy: Inferno, first published in the 14th century. “Dante,” the main protagonist of the game series, is the child of a human woman, and a demon man who rebelled against his own kind for the sake of humanity. When Dante was a child, his human mother was killed by demons and he was separated from his twin brother, Vergil, while his father disappeared for reasons that are never explained in the game. As a result, Dante grew up with a thirst for vengeance and became a demon hunting mercenary.

The game opens with Dante receiving a request from a woman named Trish, who looks just like his mother, to do a job for her. Though he is initially reluctant, he agrees when he learns she wants his help to kill Mundus, the demon king who was responsible for his mother's death. She takes him to Mundus' castle on a remote island and the game picks up from there. The player, in the role of Dante, must battle through hordes of demonic puppets, grim reapers, and giant spiders, using a combination of guns, swords, and intricate combos, as well as traversing puzzling Gothic environments. The game still holds up great today, as the only problems I found were the camera and the cheesy early 2000's voice acting. The action-packed gameplay has remained the same in later games in the series, only becoming more refined in each iteration. The game was originally released on the PS2, but it is more readily available in this day and age as part of the Devil May Cry HD Collection for PS3 and Xbox 360, which also includes the second and third games.

Devil May Cry 2 was released in 2003 and done by a completely different team of developers at Capcom, with the creator of the original game not even knowing of its existence until very shortly before its release. This is pretty noticeable from the get-go, as the game is very bland and uninteresting compared to the predecessor. While it presents some interesting ideas, the game was a critical failure, and not received well by fans of the original. That said, the core combat is more or less the same, and thus some people may still find it enjoyable.

For Devil May Cry 3, the team that created Devil May Cry 2 wanted to try to go back to what made the first game so good and emulate it. The result is generally considered by fans to be the best game in the series, as well as one of the best action games of all time. Devil May Cry 3 is a prequel to the original Devil May Cry, focusing on the relationship between the younger Dante and his twin brother, Vergil.  In addition to the fantastic gameplay, Devil May Cry 3 is also the best written game of the series, with a small yet relateable cast of characters with different reasons to root for each of them. The game is also famous for being one of the most difficult games ever made, making it very popular with the hardcore gaming crowd. The game also rewards players for completing the game on higher difficulties by giving them alternate costumes for the characters, (Vergil is playable as well), that unlock new abilities and powers. Overall, the game is excellent and worth a purchase by itself, but it can be found in the HD collection along with the first 2 games for a low price.

Devil May Cry 4 was released on the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC in 2008 and was developed by the same team as the 2nd and 3rd games. It features a new character named Nero who uses a demonic arm to fight enemies. It further expands upon the gameplay of Devil May Cry 3 and is the most streamlined of the games. While it is extremely fun, the game is fairly barebones, with very little to unlock or do after you have completed the main story. Thankfully it can be found for under $10 at most retailers that still sell it. For those who want a richer experience though, the Special Edition version will be released this summer on the PS4 and Xbox One and will feature new content involving Vergil, as well as a massive graphical and performance upgrade.

The most recent game in the series is DmC: Devil may Cry, a 2013 reboot of the franchise done by western developer, Ninja Theory. Capcom hired NT because they felt that fans were getting tired of the series and wanted to try to reach a bigger audience. This move was met with a great deal of fan resistance, due to the drastic redesigns of characters and Capcom seemingly throwing the entirety of the original story out the window. Unlike most fans, I tried to go in with an open mind and give it a chance, but I was severely let down by the result. The gameplay, music and presentation all felt like pale attempts at imitation of the original. Worst is perhaps that the action the series is known for only takes up about 10 percent of the actual gameplay, as most of it is instead spent jumping from one floating platform to another. The game also suffered from several performance issues like frame-rate dipping, making it an overall unpleasant experience.

But by far the worst thing about the game was the developer's take on the story. Dante is a rebellious young man who joins an organization called “The Order” which is very obviously based on the real life group, “anonymous.” Together they use a combination of cyber hacking and magic to battle demons who control the populace through the media, food, and debt. Essentially the developers turned the game into a metaphor for current political issues and its lack of subtlety makes the analogies painfully obvious. A demonic anchorman (clearly a parody of Bill O'Reilly) controls people through propaganda in the news, while a hideous succubus makes people, “fat and stupid” using a soft drink manufactured from her demonic fluids, and Mundus, the demon king from the original series is a banker who rules over every corporation. Essentially, instead of doing anything interesting or original, the story presents the same tired narrative that we've seen in every other medium; the media is evil, junk food is evil, and corporations are evil. It's cringe-worthy at times how hard the game tries to appeal politically and socially to a hip young audience, yet still manages to completely misunderstand them.

Another detractor would be the depictions of the characters. While Dante's redesign raised many red flags for fans, the real offender is Vergil, who in the original series was a dark and complex character and served as an anti-hero with understandable motivations, was reduced to a hacker and a nerd who incapable of fighting a regular enemy and hides behind a magic wall while Dante has to protect him. Another drawback: their father, Sparda, who in the original series defeated Mundus and saved humanity and continued to fight demons until he disappeared, apparently was unable to do so in the reboot, instead becoming Mundus' “gimp.”

While the deluxe edition is coming out in March and is sure to fix many of the performance issues with the game, the story is beyond saving and I cannot recommend this game to anyone.

All in all however, while Devil May Cry 2 and the reboot may be lacking, the majority of the series is excellent, and with DMC4: Special Edition on the horizon, there's never been a better time to get into the series. If you enjoy stylish action, challenging gameplay, and amazing boss battles, Devil May Cry is the series for you.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Gamergate, Politics & The Culture Wars; Isaac Fink; Thursday Review; February 13, 2015.

The True Art of Video Games; Isaac Fink; Thursday Review; July 12, 2014.