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Saturday, 11 April 2015

DmC: Devil May Cry.

I'm getting this post written early on account of working most of tomorrow, but it should be up at the regular time. Key word being 'should', so if you're reading this four or five hours later than expected, my apologies. 

DmC: Devil May Cry.

There aren't all that many games as controversial amongst its own fans as DmC: Devil May Cry. Created by British developer Ninja Theory, DmC is a reboot of the popular stylish hack-n-slash franchise Devil May Cry, taking a purportedly darker and edgier look at the over-the-top, absurdist universe of Devil May Cry. 

The game follows Dante, a young man with demonic abilities in a Limbo City, a city secretly controlled by demons. After being contacted by a young woman named Kat, Dante is drafted into The Order, a rebellion led by his long lost twin brother Vergil, as they attempt to take down the demons controlling the city, including their leader, Mundus, who killed their mother and imprisoned their father when they were but wee bairns.

Which they are not any more.

I'm going to come out and say that I do enjoy this game. As someone who got into Devil May Cry with the also-somewhat-controversial-amongst-fans fourth game, and only later played the very popular third game, I am perhaps not as wedded to the franchise as others, so Dante's redesign didn't bother me, and while I'm usually against darker-and-edgier-ing franchises (a phenomenon henceforth referred to as Bomberman Act Zero Syndrome), I was willing to give it a chance and was glad to see that it wasn't nearly as ridiculously dark and edgy and Milleresque as marketing had suggested (although not necessarily for lack of trying, and we will get to that later).

But I can understand where the chagrin comes from. Re-envisioning Dante and the world of Devil May Cry is the kind of thing that makes sense if you're a marketing executive who - as it seems is often the case with marketing executives - was raised in a laboratory and never interacted with actual human beings, but it kind of misses the point that people enjoyed Devil May Cry as a ridiculous, laughable anime-fest, and were not secretly wishing that it would get a total overhaul. 

But it is a fun game. It's pretty, it's colourful, the hack-and-slash gameplay is varied and enjoyable enough that it never really gets dull (although as with Bayonetta, it could do with being broken up some). I like Dante's redesign, and I felt that it was suitably over-the-top and silly enough that it was a worthy entry into the franchise.

Huh, cool boss.

However, it was not without its problems - and those problems are mostly plot-related, not gameplay related, the gameplay is good. For starters, while Ninja Theory isn't pushing the dark-and-gritty as hard as they very easily could have, they do spend an inordinate amount of time pushing how adult this game is meant to be, to the point that it's silly. Any attempt to assert how mature and adult your product is comes across as silly and juvenile to me, but when you have cringeworthy lines about taking the world by its hair and bending it over, and swear words peppering the dialogue nearly constantly, it reaches a point beyond silly and juvenile and becomes akin to a thirteen year old boy attempting to impress people with How Super Grown-up He Is.

Another problem is that its treatment of women is shocking, and I'm saying that in comparison to other games in the franchise. None of the Devil May Cry games are especially good with their treatment of female characters, but I can, at least, count one female character with agency and their own goals and agendas in each game in the series, except DmC. In DmC, we have precisely two major female characters - Kat, who is astonishingly passive and really lacks any personality; and Lilith, who is a grotesquely misogynistic caricature who doesn't really do anything and exists only to die and provide motivation for the villain.

Which isn't great. 

I would struggle to describe Kat's personality to you.

Still, the game is a prime example of marketing departments apparently not taking five minutes to think about what their core market wants, and the backlash that can come with that - a backlash so strong that I know that people have been harassed just for saying that they enjoyed it, which is odd given that while it is certainly not without fault, it is an enjoyable romp if you want to spend a few hours swinging bladed weapons at a wide variety of demons. 

It's unlikely that Capcom will make another game in this setting - not when they could rake in the cash by announcing a return to the standard format, but it was moderately fun while it lasted. Currently, no next game in the franchise has been announced at all, so we'll see what happens there, I suppose. 

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