DmC: Devil May Cry isn’t just a reboot of the Devil May Cry franchise; as the abbreviated title suggests, written as a hyper-stylized graffiti tag, it’s a streamlined and hip new entry in the series. Which isn’t to say that there’s less to DmC: If anything, though it does away with individual combat stances, there are now seven different weapons to cycle through, as well as a grappling feature that provides more options for juggling enemies into the air and racking up the game’s so-called “stylish” combos than ever before. It’s more that DmC is the svelter, sleeker version of itself—and it’s downright elegant at times, which isn’t to say that this younger Dante has lost any of his exceedingly profane swagger, nor the psychotic tempo of his combat.
It’s also extremely focused: There’s only one puzzle to be found in the entire game and the majority of the game’s 20 missions are extremely linear, forcing you down corridors packed with waves of enemies. Midway through the game, after unlocking all of Dante’s skills, some backtracking is encouraged to pick up previously out-of-reach keys (which allow players to challenge the series’s signature, ultra-challenging, technique-straining Secret Missions), but beyond that, the game plays like the film Crank: a nonstop adrenaline rush, with the occasional surreal interlude or two. This is all for the best, as it keeps the emphasis on combat and helps each mission feel unique.
That individuality is the biggest asset in DmC’s enviable arsenal. Yes, it’s a reboot, and the core mechanics are thankfully still there. But it’s not a retread, as Dante’s journey feels new. Big and monstrous bosses are still there: a filth-spewing Succubus; a grotesque demon fetus that sucks its own mother into its stomach; and the giant, disembodied head of a Republican pundit (which should give you an idea of the game’s light politics). But they’re more of a rarity, less the sort of palate cleanser you normally get at the end of a level. Likewise, Dante’s environment is no longer confined to a series of gothic towers or rustic cities. The modern setting pokes fun at demonic locales like boardwalk carnivals, industrial warehouses, and strobe-filled dance clubs, and then goes a step further. Limbo, the Escherian shadow version of these environments, is where Dante spends the majority of his time (think Silent Hill meets El-Shaddai, with a dash of Shadows of the Damned’s whimsy). By turning even the backgrounds against Dante, the Ninja Theory design team has found a way to spice up the light platforming that connects enemy wave A to enemy wave B; watch out as floors suddenly crumble apart, corridors twist to block your passage, and entire areas invert.
In fact, there are so many solid decisions made by Ninja Theory that it’s as if they surveyed Devil May Cry fans and haters and then provided to cater to both. The controller-breaking difficulty is still there; you just have to beat the game first to unlock it and the more challenging mixes of enemy types it brings. A lengthy set of moves, combos, and weapons are available to purchase and upgrade, but they can now be swapped on the fly and skill points can be reassigned at key points before and during each mission. The storyline is still filled with ridiculous moments (a SWAT team’s raid, a hostage-negotiation gone bad, a beat-’em-up game show called The Devil Has Talent), but they’re now connected to a solid plot, with the amnesiac, half-angel, half-demon Dante being enlisted by his twin brother Vergil to draw out and destroy the demon lord Mundus. There are crude quips (to a monster being shredded by a fan: “I think you’re all mixed up”), but also some clever zingers, such as the revelation that you don’t have to battle through five flights of hell—you just need to stomach the muzak that plays as you ride the elevator up.
There hasn’t been a reboot this strong or a 3D brawler this invigorating since Castlevania: Lords of Shadows, and if Ninja Theory gets the warm reception they deserve, those crafty devils won’t have to worry about crying anytime soon.