DmC: Devil May Cry - Definitive Edition (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 14.03.2015

Review for DmC: Devil May Cry - Definitive Edition on PlayStation 4

In 2008, Devil May Cry 4 released and was a commercial and critical hit. Fans of the character-action genre hold Devil May Cry 4 and its predecessor, Devil May Cry 3, as very fine examples of hardcore hack 'n' slash action due to their high difficulty ceiling and challenging gameplay. Other examples of the kinds of games would be Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance or the Ninja Gaiden series. These have their strong following because of how tightly nuanced the combat systems are. Always maintaining a high and steady frame-rate, carefully balanced with the appropriate invincibility frames with snappy and fluid animation to keep the flow of action stable. To say this genre has a set of principles that must be fulfilled is an understatement.

The reason why Devil May Cry 4 was heralded as such a fine action game was because of its immensely deep mechanics and how expansive the combat can get with only a few buttons. It took a lot of skill from a player to master it, and the ending left people hungry for more adventures from Dante and the gang. Devil May Cry 4 was an early PS3/Xbox360 title after all and there was a lot of hope that the team would have more time for development and since they would be more experienced with the new (at the time) hardware, they would be able to craft an even more intricate and dynamic Devil May Cry game. In 2010, Capcom revealed DmC: Devil May Cry, which would be developed by Ninja Theory. When eventually released, it was met with a lot of fan criticism due to the lacking combat mechanics and unchallenging enemies, as well as a cast of unlikeable characters and overbearing plot. Sales failed to meet expectations and performed lower than Devil May Cry 4 and the Devil May Cry HD Collection. In December 2014, Capcom announced a remastered port of DmC: Devil May Cry for the PS4 and Xbox One with promises of all DLC, 60 fps, 1080p and tweaks to the battle system to cater to the hardcore audience. Does Ninja Theory's magnum opus strike out a second time? Cubed3 gives the definitive answer on DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition.

The team at Ninja Theory frequently made statements about how its story for the Devil May Cry reboot was going to be more "realistic" and how its version of Dante was going to be "better" and have more "depth" than the original Dante, oftentimes invoking comparisons how its game was going to be like Christopher Nolan's Batman movies in terms of grit and seriousness. There is no dimension in which the story in DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition is well thought out or executed with any shred of grace or dignity and it comes off like a fan-fiction written by an 12-year-old who is desperately trying to sound edgy.

All the initial concepts of reimagining characters from the Devil May Cry universe, such as making Mundus into a corrupt business CEO, is completely underutilised and, instead, the writers opted to go for the broadest strokes possible, coming off as a generic, bald, evil guy. There was an attempt to give Mundus some depth by making him care about his unborn child, but all it does is make him more sympathetic and makes the heroes of the story look like complete scum.

Speaking of the hero of the story, Dante's characterisation is probably the biggest misfire in the game's narrative. His personality changes constantly to what would be convenient to the plot. Never mind the flippant, try-hard attitude and poorly delivered dialogue - the writing in DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition is painfully awkward and contrived. Characters speak very unnaturally and it becomes difficult to discern if it is because it is poorly acted or just poorly written.

The storytelling is ham-fisted and beats gamers over the head to the point where it becomes comical and very distracting, thus pulling the player out of the game and is left scratching their head in bewilderment by how amateurish the events are playing out.

Screenshot for DmC: Devil May Cry - Definitive Edition on PlayStation 4

Before this reboot, Dante was a fun loving, cool guy, smooth with the ladies, showy and, most of all, heroic. In Ninja Theory's DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition, Dante has been made into a detestable and insufferable jerk, made to look like a homeless version of Justin Beiber and lacks any grace or style whatsoever. Dante here is also not above fighting a pregnant woman and taking her hostage or letting said pregnant woman be put in jeopardy for a girl he never showed interest in before. What is especially amusing is that Ninja Theory's lead writer/designer was frequently claiming how much effort was put into the narrative, despite the fact that it feels like they wrote only one draft over a weekend and didn't proofread it at all. New Dante has to curse all the time in a vain attempt to seem cool to kids, when the original never had to curse and was always deemed a cool guy because original Dante was above that.

Okay, so Ninja Theory's narrative for DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition is a steaming pile of schlock, but at least it's a very pretty steaming pile of schlock, right? For the most part, yes, it is fairly good looking and this highlights the team's strengths in the art department, although there are quite a few qualms about some of the direction it chose, with aspects that clash or are distracting. The team took very peculiar inspiration from the classic movie "They Live," for no other reason other than the game's director probably likes it - specifically, the way text shows up on ads to reveal a subliminal message. This is so derivative and distracting that it constantly reminds the player of the original source material and it becomes hard to get immersed.

On a narrative level, it becomes comical and silly to see or even hear the text narrated, which would have no meaning to the characters, and it comes off as the designers thinking the players are idiots and need the text narrated to them. Devil May Cry never needed to rely on outside references for its concepts and was always original with new and imaginative ideas that made the world feel richer. The constant references to "They Live" are not an isolated instance, either, since "Futurama," for some reason, is represented, too - what is supposed to pass for a "succubus" is actually the slurm queen from the comedy sci-fi cartoon. This sort of thing is not what would be expected in a Devil May Cry game - it is derivative, unoriginal, it isn't smart, but it is certainly highly distracting.

While DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition does have moments of creative inspiration, it is always falling back on popular culture to realise them, instead of coming up with anything new. For example, the Raptor News sequence and Bob Barbas are admittedly pretty imaginative visually - obviously a reference to Fox News and how biased and one-sided it is - but that is just the thing, Devil May Cry never had to rely on cheap and lazy satire. In other parts of the world, where people don't know about Fox News, it will be a huge and massive joke that that will go over their heads and is too steeped in Western culture, which is not what Devil May Cry should be about. It is no mistake that the most memorable and vivid sequence in DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition is the night club level, which was an amazing assault on the senses due to its colour and lighting effects.

Screenshot for DmC: Devil May Cry - Definitive Edition on PlayStation 4

When DmC Devil May Cry was first announced, it was going to be made with the Unreal Engine and would be running at a laughable 30fps. Ninja Theory and its shills would mock players openly about how it cared about frame-rate in a fast-paced action game. Interesting how years later, DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition proudly is boasting about its 60 frames per second. Unreal Engine was always a questionable choice, especially considering how Devil May Cry 4 was already a few years older and was running 60fps when Ninja Theory's reboot came out.

In Definitive Edition, some of the same issues its vanilla counterparts have, return all thanks to the Unreal Engine - issues such as long load times, poor hair rendering, and low enemy count/poly count. The original vanilla version may have had to concede to having some of these issues, but on the new hardware Ninja Theory could have added more enemies to fill the vast empty rooms, but it didn't. It did take the time to remove a line of sexually explicit dialogue, though, so at least it has its priorities straight in this mature-rated action game... Overall DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition is one of the nicer looking games made with the Unreal Engine and runs very smoothly, bar a few instances of mid-scene loading and unsynchronised audio.

When DmC first came out, it was one of the year's biggest disappointments. Its failure as an action game was further highlighted by how Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was released a few weeks after to resounding praise and by the sales of the Devil May Cry HD Collection, which were almost double the sales of Ninja Theory's reboot. Definitive Edition may be a looker, but it is terribly lacking in substance.

Ninja Theory demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the character-action genre when it first released the original game and, once again, this version was launched with all kinds of design flaws and poorly thought out combat mechanics that fail on a fundamental level. When Dante attacks, he has extended pauses that break the flow, making the whole game feel way more sluggish than it actually is. Even with the newly added "turbo" mode, which bumps the speed up 20%, it is still felt. Dodging lacks the appropriate invincibility frames, as well as it having an absurd input lag due to Dante's unresponsive controls because of the animation priorities.

On the game's hardest initial difficulty it is way too easy and enemies are just not very aggressive, which was probably a left over from when the game was on PS3/Xbox360, but on the new platforms there are no more excuses. As per usual with Ninja Theory games, Definitive Edition uses the same light, medium, and heavy based attacks as seen in its last two games. While this does have the potential to have a huge variety of moves, there are just too many useless weapons or attacks. Devil May Cry 4 managed to have far deeper gameplay with just two main attack buttons.

Screenshot for DmC: Devil May Cry - Definitive Edition on PlayStation 4

It should also be mentioned that Dante cannot taunt in this game, which is a series first. Taunting in Devil May Cry games was a great way to increase enemy aggro and to risk higher style points. With the new "hardcore" mode, there was promise that the game's style meter would be more like in the originals but this is deceptive and reality is that the hardcore mode will limit the player's creativity when trying to get SSS ranks because the ranking drops too fast to use most of the other weapons, so strategies become too limited, compounded by the broken/useless dodging mechanics.

Borderline useless weapons like Osiris are made even more useless and aerial attacks become pointless thanks to the fact the game's balance all leans towards ground-based attacks. There was no effort to rebalance anything in the hardcore modes and getting SSS ranks requires the most simplest of strategies of Drive x 3, million stabs, shredder or prop, trinity smash, buy in + tornado. The jump cancels don't add style score and/or reset style deterioration on moves when they should. These are simple balancing concepts, but the developer consistently makes the same errors in its games (Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West) and DmC: Devil May Cry Definitive Edition is constantly being bogged down just by how intricately poor the combat mechanics are.

It even gets worse, as players have to endure the constant interruption because of so many cut-scenes. Typically, they can be used to move the story forward or as a means to transport the player to new locations. Here, though, there is almost a scene after every fight. Ninja Theory has a lot of stock in its poor narrative to arrogantly put it above its (lacking) gameplay and to intrude on the player's agency almost every step of the way. Not only does the game create arbitrary roadblocks, it also prevents any backtracking so players can't go and re-check cleared areas for hidden keys they missed.

With all kinds of annoying, arbitrary and inconvenient design features, it actually is the lack of challenge and unimaginative boss fights that stick out. Usually, in character-action games, bosses are usually the highlight, but this has so few bosses and none of them are imaginative or even challenging. The game even lacks a real rival fight; a boss who is more or less an even match, like fighting Jeane in Bayonetta, Jetstream Sam in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Prince Vorkken in The Wonderful 101, or most famously, Vergil in Devil May Cry 3. These kinds of boss fights are huge moments in the genre and typically are the best boss fights in their respective games.

Now, DmC: Devil May Cry Definitive Edition does have something that somewhat resembles a rival boss fight at the very end, but it lacks the intensity and plays out more or less like a puzzle fight than a rival boss that demands the player's master of the systems. The fact that the final moments are punctuated by such disappointment can only express how almost every decision made by Ninja Theory's team was grossly miscalculated.

DmC: Devil May Cry Definitive Edition does at least provide a considerable amount of content for its $40 price point. There are some useless and unappealing skins for the two main demon/angel weapons, as well as some costumes/skins for Dante to make more/less appealing. Some of the costumes are somehow uglier than his initial get-up, but the inclusion of costumes that hearken back to the original Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 3 are a welcomed and much appreciated addition.

The newly added difficulties - "Gods Must Die" and "Must Style" (S ranks only!) modes - are actually pretty interesting and make for a good challenge (finally), but sadly the player has to unlock these features by enduring the tedious story mode first.

Of course, there is the headliner, Vergil, who has his own alternate costume, too. Vergil's DLC story mode, now part of the whole package, is a mixed bag. It lacks the production values of the main game and has many of its frequent cut-scenes depicted as sloppy-looking storyboard illustrations. That being said, Vergil is more interesting to play as than Dante, which is mostly due to the fact that his combat options are far more focused and has a nifty teleportation manoeuvre. Sadly, Vergil is relegated only to his short DLC campaign and he is not useable in the main campaign. Should anyone be able to look past the terrible gameplay and obnoxious story, at least they will be getting their money's worth on content and production value.

Screenshot for DmC: Devil May Cry - Definitive Edition on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition was a reboot nobody ever asked for of an already beloved franchise that set the standard very high for its respective genre. As a Devil May Cry game it fails to live up to the legacy that Hideki Kamiya pioneered when he created the original on the PS2. In its favour, Definitive Edition is a better game than Devil May Cry 2, but that isn't saying much since that game was the cure for insomnia. Even its nonsensical title is confusing and pointlessly makes an abbreviation followed by its name, "Devil may Cry Devil May Cry"? What is that even supposed to mean? As a reboot to attract a new audience, DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition fails in that regard as well. Being unable to tell a story competently and featuring a cast of loathsome and irritating characters, all compounded by the ill conceived combat mechanics, it is no surprise most did not accept this reboot. It is a shame such a stylish looking game can get almost every other aspect wrong in its execution, but style with no substance is meaningless. Too bad graphics can't make a game worthwhile, otherwise this might have been a recommendation. Easily one of the best-looking games made with the Unreal Engine, it does have a lot of razzle to its dazzle. DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition even has a fair amount of content that is impressive and even pretty glitch-free, but when the core game is so poorly thought out, it's best to just skip this altogether. Best to wait for Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition for PS4/Xbox One later in the year.

Developer

Ninja Theory

Publisher

Capcom

Genre

Brawler

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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