*For those who haven’t played either the original DMC Devil May Cry on XBOX 360, Playstation 3 and PC, or the new Definitive Edition on XBOX One and Playstation 4, this review contains story-related spoilers.*
[[Thoughts on the original DMC: Devil May Cry. For almost an entire decade, I’ve been a huge fan of Devil May Cry. It’s a series that I’ve had the pleasure of both endlessly joying, and seeing evolve across next-generation platforms. The games are vastly immersive, vividly fascinating, and, most important, consistently entertaining (besides Devil May Cry 2, according to other die-hard fans – I still haven’t gotten the chance to play it yet.)
So, it was a shame to find out that Hideki Itsuno (director of both DMC 3 and 4) heeded his recent role over the series in favor of allowing Ninja Theory to take over and reboot it. At the time, I didn’t find the change in personnel necessary (DMC 4, while dated in some areas, was a fantastic splash onto the PS3-XBOX 360 era of hack-and-slash action games, in my opinion), and I was afraid that Ninja Theory was not up to the task of re-capturing the spirit and energy of both Dante, his personality, and the world that surrounds his presence.
However, it didn’t matter how I felt going in when DMC: Devil May Cry was first released back in January of 2013, because Ninja Theory wound up putting together a video game experience that I didn’t see coming and didn’t know I wanted, either. It was the type of reboot very few fans were begging for, yet somehow proved to be of even more merit than almost anything the series represented in the past. Not only was the essence of Devil May Cry’s gameplay revitalized; the signature charm and arrogance of Dante from game’s past was overhauled in brilliant ways. It’s story had more character depth and structural context than the rest of the series combined (minus DMC 3, which in my opinion still has the best told narrative), and to top it all off, the genuine feeling of playing a Devil May Cry video game – the fluidity of combat, breathtaking mix of combos, cancels and parries, huge boss battles, insanely increasing difficulty levels – remained intact. I enjoyed DMC: Devil May Cry almost too much, and came away feeling more satisfied with the time put in to both soak in and master its depth more than I could have ever imagined.]]
Official DMC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition Review
Now, let’s pretend you’re a big fan of Devil May Cry, like myself. Let’s also pretend that you also enjoyed DMC: Devil May Cry (which I know you did, unless you’re clinically unstable or something.) Now, close your eyes for a good minute and envision what Ninja Theory would have to do both conceptually and visually for gamers to get the most out of their reboot if, say, they remastered it on a current next-gen console. The moment your imagination is drained of ideas and you open your eyes back up, you’re likely to see a copy of DMC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition staring right back.
Even despite spending well over a couple dozen hours traversing Limbo, I took the extra incentive to do it all over again, and that’s because the Definitive Edition is so goddamn good.Let me just say first that it’s a bit overindulgent, in a way, that we get the opportunity to experience an updated version of DMC on PS4/XBOX One. DMC: Devil May Cry on PS3/XBOX 360 was already a great game; it’s pros far outweighed its cons. It looked amazing, played exceptionally well, and carried tons of replay value. Who really needed this game to be improved? Ninja Theory certainly did, and for better or much better they’ve patched up a bunch of overlooked issues and made significant strides towards perfecting the game. Let’s look at what DMC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition adds, subtracts, and tweaks:
- Enhanced 1080p Graphics and 60fps Gameplay
- Turbo mode returns from previous DMC games, speeding up the gameplay by 20%.
- The combat system (parrying, combo canceling) and enemies have been completely re-balanced.
- The player can now tune and adjust the controls to their liking, which includes toggling an optional manual lock-on feature that was requested by the fans.
- All-new Hardcore mode grants enemies bonus damage, eliminates Dante’s Devil Trigger exploit where enemies float defenselessly in the air when it’s activated, and makes it tougher to both acquire and keep higher style ranks
- Dante can now damage color-coded enemies that could only previously be damaged with specific angel or demon weapons
- Angel Evade can now be used up to three times in quick succession, similar to Devil May Cry 3‘s fully leveled up Trickster Dash. Demon Evade has also been tweaked.
- Various game exploits have been removed, and bugs fixed.
- Items, Secret Mission Doors, and Keys have been redistributed
- All-new Must Style mode is an option where the player must attain a S rank or higher in Style before they can damage enemies.
- All-new Gods Must Die difficulty mode spawns enemies who are already in Devil Trigger mode. The player also does not have access to their items, and green orbs cannot be obtained.
- Vergil can now be used in Bloody Palace, and the timer has been turned into an option that can be turned on or off.
- The final boss battle with Vergil no longer has the glitch where Dante’s Devil Trigger must be activated in order to defeat him.
Instead of individually covering every new patch-up from the Definitive Edition, I’d like to discuss how they all affect the experience as a whole. Ninja Theory didn’t have to re-work this game – 60 FPS and 1080p would’ve been good enough for a remastering – yet they clearly chose to exhaust its potential to the fullest extent, leaving no stone un-turned. The result is a final product anyone would be more than happy with, as every single nagging issue and drawback is addressed, and all the new features and customization options come together to create something that feels fresh, regardless of how many times the player has beaten the original version.
Unsurprisingly, the bump in graphical detail and remarkably steady 60 FPS are the main selling points, and quite honestly they make a convincing enough case to go ahead and purchase DMC a second time. On the PS3 (the console I played it on,) DMC: Devil May Cry looked absolutely gorgeous on occasion, and was a visual treat throughout. Same thing goes here on PS4. The world of Limbo, along with the fantastical trappings of Vergil’s Downfall, glistens with an unwavering level of awe, and constantly impresses with a vast variety of clashing color palettes. The difference in graphical output is apparent all the time, especially when Dante’s outside leaping over collapsing landscapes, or Vergil’s walking along horizontal waterfalls while a gothic architecture drifts in the background. As the world bends, opens and falls apart, the game’s Unreal Engine 3 flexes its muscles, displaying the developer’s unique approach to Limbo with an overpowering artistry.
At one point, a particular character explains to Dante that “seeing things differently opens new paths.” (How fitting, considering the fact that those three missions spent developing said character happen to do this, while retaining the awesome color scheme and sparkling gleam of the environment’s vistas, better than any of the other seventeen missions.) More importantly, however, that never means that we don’t, as players, get to see or even envision what or how that original perspective is altered. Glimpses of the real world offer a relatively murky landscape that appears skeptical enough on the surface. However, once the demons spot Dante strolling down street corners, or Kat’s woeful Limbo magic goes to work, all forms of matter become fair play, and the perspectives change before your eyes. Building walls stick out, with tiny pieces of debris hovering around them in a flux. City blocks flip upside down, while the pouring rain follows suit at an inverted angle. Night clubs dismantle piece-by-piece, column-by-column, naked to the point of revealing the complexion of a flamboyantly flushed fighting ring. The sense of imagination is profound, but that does little if the execution isn’t there. DMC: Definitive Edition, with its graphical overhaul, has aesthetic swagger in spades, and it doesn’t even seem like it’s trying.
Even the little things from the original version have been significantly improved from a graphical standpoint. Character models look more defined, and their facial models are more realistic than ever (Dante’s hair follicles are way sharper, by the way.) Dante and Vergil’s gameplay animations are much more precise, and the cutscenes are enhanced by a more vibrant lighting system.
The game’s audio component remains largely unchanged, but that’s perfectly fine; DMC always had a dominant sound experience. Thanks to a soundtrack that’s appropriately mystifying during exploration, and properly heavy metal-centric during boss fights and enemy encounters, DMC is almost as much of a blessing on the ears as it is on the eyes. I say almost because, unfortunately, it’s not exactly consistent. Various audio cues that transitioned just fine on the original version have trouble keeping up with the enhanced game speed of the Definitive Edition. This takes a bit away from the cutscenes, especially if you’re playing the game for the first time, and at times is a little too baffling for others to ignore. More often than not, I did encounter this problem while speeding through missions in the campaign, however, so it’s not exactly a regular occurrence during casual play.
DMC: Definitive Edition doesn’t just look better. There are noticeable gameplay flaws in the original game that are ironed out here in service to the fans – pretty much for the sake of it.
The new Hardcore mode, for instance, adds an inherent immediacy to the combat that I haven’t experienced in a DMC game in years. Even when you are starting from the beginning on Nephilim, or running through the campaign a second time on Son of Sparda, earning consistently high style ranks is as great a challenge as making it through the mission itself. As someone who’s quite familiar with all the weapons and combos in the game, even I had a bit of trouble putting up a solid S mark during various stages of the first 3-4 levels, primarily because I was required to overextend my combo creativity with my limited arsenal. The style rank drains so fast that any time spent not dealing damage to opposing foes can be more of a detriment to your combat score than getting hit. Therefore, this new mode falls hand-in-hand with the overall score of each mission, but more importantly, it encourages exploration and efficiency. Because of the fact that higher scores grant more red orbs (for health and Devil Trigger items) and white orbs (for upgrading weapons,) it’s imperative that you strive to blitz through each mission, while simultaneously collecting as many secrets as possible. You can still revisit completed levels as a way to cheat and expand your moves/combo list for later ones, but those who decide to bum-rush through either Nephilim and SOS mode will certainly be in for a treat – as far as overall difficulty and rank scoring goes.
Where the new modifiers like Hardcore mode really impress is in the flow of combat. Enemies are now incredibly aggressive – particularly the stygians, knights and ravagers – as they all attack you at will, charging up and down the screen with reckless abandon. Fending them off in large groups is no longer a matter of how long you can keep them airborne, as their more urgent approach to fighting can disrupt and downright frustrate if you let your guard down at any given moment. This is especially true for Pathos and Bathos, the two baby-sized fiends that toss bombs and shoot balls of fire in the background during particular encounters. As the mindset of your foes has changed, so should your gameplan. Figuring out how to juggle smaller enemies in the air, while holding off the bigger baddies on the ground, now becomes more a true matter of skill and patience, and learning how to do so while keeping your style rank intact is no longer an easy feat.
Is it worth the experimentation, though? Absolutely. Even as DMC prides itself in throwing a vast variety of enemy waves at your feet, discovering new ways to conquer them in style becomes a tremendously more rewarding involvement than before. You can thank the refreshing enemy attack patterns for that, as well as the careful re-balancing (taking out angel/demon fiends is way more fun, for example), the already-impressive arsenal of hand-to-hand weapons and firearms, and the totally replenished approach to combat. Perhaps the best example for this is the way the game nerf-d the Devil Trigger, a huge part of the action in the latter stages of the game. Instead of abruptly turning the tides in your favor, it provides a slight, instantaneous advantage. You have to now learn to use it sparingly, and decide whether to drain it all at the beginning or the end of enemy encounters. Trust me, though; it becomes a blast to utilize with the rest of your repertoire once you get the hang of it.
The game’s other new modifiers do a fantastic job of tightening the experience. The new lock-on, for instance, streamlines encounters and allows players to jump from one particular foe to another through a simple stinger or streak strike. I was somewhat bothered by the Ninja Gaiden-esque style of fighting in the original game because I never had complete control of who I wanted to attack, but that problem is totally alleviated here. Turbo mode speeds things up at a ridiculous pace (one that, as of this writing, I’ve never seen falter to a slower rate during combat at any point in the campaign), and also sharpens your instincts. That last part is important, because the game’s faster framerate makes dodges, counters and parries a whole lot easier than they were in the original game, while making Dante and Vergil’s movements slicker. (with enough practice, you can almost literally dance around enemy attacks.) For that, I highly recommend playing DMC exclusively on Turbo mode; it’s impeccably responsive.
In regards to replayability, DMC: Definitive Edition is very old-school. While you can still rack up all the trophies you want, you’ll truly be coming back for more of the main campaign; something that’s not usually said of many current action games these days. No playthrough is ever the same, and with eight different difficulty modes, there are thousands of varying waves of demons waiting to skin you alive. When Hardcore mode is active, the upper-echelon difficulties (Dante/Vergil Must Die, Hell and Hell, Gods Must Die) require you to have a sweeping knowledge of all the weapons, moves, and enemy types. Those with years of experience (like myself – don’t mean to brag) will definitely get their money’s worth running through either brother’s story again under these circumstances, while everyone else may wind up having to buy a new controller – it’s that tough.
Moreover, this game is surprisingly deep in customization. The options menu allows for a ton of tinkering with both the controls and their inputs, and the aforementioned modifiers help range the degree of difficulty from obscenely easy to implausibly hard. Anyone with a few days of gameplay under their belt could jump in and play it the way they want, and chances are more people will become DMC aficionados because of that. Let’s not forget that there are also ten different character skins for Dante and Vergil, including their classic get-ups from DMC 3 (hopefully, this puts that premature outrage over Dante’s new look to bed.)
DMC: Definitive Edition also has all the DLC from the original game, so that means Vergil’s Downfall is also included. You’d be surprised how quickly his relatively miniscule campaign will grow on you, as his unique fighting style opens up a whole new world of combat-laden possibilities. I’ve played through it well over a half-dozen times already, and the chance to finally put my skills to test in his own Bloody Palace is icing on the cake. It is a shame, though, that Ninja Theory didn’t add more exclusive enemy types, because Vergil winds up facing a cast of foes that largely resembles those Dante fights himself. The story is also very sub-par, and the game’s attempt to mix in-game footage with animated footage in the cutscenes is very disorienting. These all bite into the replayability quite a bit, but at the very least this DLC serves as a worthwhile extension to an amazing video game experience.
Here are a few extra things I noticed when playing DMC: Definitive Edition:
- Ninja Theory added a bit more context to the happenings of the main story by including a subtle little cutscene at the very beginning of mission 16. The event that occurs before that in mission 15 wasn’t directly addressed by the characters in the original game, so it was a nice touch to see the developers tie that loose end.
- Gods Must Die is impossible to beat without beating the game in Dante Must Die mode. There’s a double meaning here. Of course, you can only play GMD mode if you beat the game on Dante Must Die, but doing so also grants you Dante’s super version (with unlimited Devil Trigger.) It’s an essential reward that, at least in my opinion, is necessary in order to conquer what I consider the greatest of difficulty settings.
- That second bullet point goes for Vergil’s campaign, too.
- I’m very disappointed that nothing was done to intensify that relatively dull ending to the main campaign. Besides the fight with Vergil in the last level, the last three missions still do very little to maintain the momentum of the previous seventeen others.
- There’s absolutely no way anyone on this planet can complete mission 4 of Vergil’s Downfall on Hell and Hell mode without dying (I.E. losing all four of their gold orbs) at least two or three times. If you so happen to have done it without: A) using Super Vergil or: B) dying; kudos.
- Am I the only one who noticed that Vergil doesn’t wear that silly hat anymore?
From the minute I popped the game disc into my gaming console, I have thoroughly enjoy, marveled at, and appreciated everything DMC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition has offered. It’s graphical improvements are breathtaking, its combat refreshingly refined, and its additions bountiful. It’s customization provides players the opportunity to play the game however they please, which eases newcomers in while also pushing seasoned veterans to their limits. It also injects a few extra months of replayability to the game, thanks in large part to a fighting engine that insists it be mastered.
Perhaps that last part is why I love this game so much; in-between moments of victory and failure, I constantly found myself hungry for perfection. The game constantly tests my mettle, and because of that I want to walk away playing DMC: Definitive Edition knowing that I put up the highest SSS scores the world has ever seen, even if they’re eventually conquered by someone else in the leaderboards. That won’t cloud my judgement of my experience, as this game, with all of Ninja Theory’s refinements, still isn’t perfect. (but no video game really is, anyway.)
Above all else, this feels like a title designed to put the player first, without yielding that “pull” that draws them to it. In an attempt to out-do themselves on a new console, they’ve created something every bit the equivalent of a universal love letter to DMC fans. DMC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition isn’t just an impressive special edition; it’s an overwhelmingly satisfying example of how a series can be rebooted, reinvigorate, and recollected in essence, all at the exact same time.
+ One of the greatest hack-and-slash fighting game engines ever, with a few more tweaks
+ Modifiers completely change the way you experience the game
+ Remarkably customizable
+ Buried in replay value
+ Great story, outstanding sound quality, and stunning 1080p graphics
– Boss fights are still generally boring
– A few audio lapses here and there