And yeah, that might not be a totally fair assessment, because 1. There aren’t that many great ones to begin with, and 2. it gets a lot of its mechanics and DNA from the original, Japanese Devil May Cry games, so it had just about the best foundation an action game could ask for. But still, I think the people over at Ninja Theory did a surprisingly good job building upon that foundation to give us a competent, mechanically solid, and stylish hack n' slash title.
To start, the swordplay is sick, the move animations are satisfying, and every time you hit something it has weight and impact. That might come off as standard, surface level praise, but don't underestimate how important that is in a game like this, and how many other games get it wrong. I've played too many games with melee combat systems that feel floaty, lumpy, clunky, awkward, and I'm so glad Ninja Theory didn't drop the ball here. I also love the selection of weapons, it's not the best arsenal Dante has ever had but it's still a blast to play with. Some of my favorites are Arbiter, a formidable meaty axe with a devastating pause combo, and Aquila, a set of chakram-like blades that's great at drawing in enemies to set up some wild moves. Dante also has a grappling hook this time around, sort of like Nero's demon hand except you can choose whether you want to pull in enemies or be pulled to them, which is neat and convenient. It's also used as a tool for platforming, which is simple but actually kinda fun. All in all the core combat system here is very addicting, it kept pulling me in for more. I thought I'd do a playthrough and leave it at that, instead I've probably done the equivalent of 3 playthroughs to SSS rank every mission on Nephilim, the highest difficulty available from the start. Though I admit, it was surprisingly easy because collectibles count towards your mission rank, which was a baffling decision.
Anyways, compared to other western action games, I don't really think there's much out there that competes with this, other than the God of War trilogy. Darksiders games are fun but the combat is kinda just a mash-up of ideas, so it can feel unfocused and generic. Prince of Persia games, great platformers, but even at its best in Warrior Within/Two Thrones the fighting wouldn't have carried the game alone. As for newer, critically-acclaimed titles like Ghost of Tsushima, God of War '18, and Jedi: Fallen Order, even if they may be better games overall, their combat just isn't on the same tier as DmC in terms of depth; they're not dedicated hack n' slash titles in that way. So yeah, for whatever it's worth, I'd say this is one of the best melee combat systems to come from a western game dev.
Buuut it's not perfect. DmC doesn't have a lock-on (I'm playing on PC, so this wasn't Definitive Edition which does have it), which means directional moves no longer exist, outside of having just one for each weapon, that you get by double-tapping forward+attack. Air combos also aren't as satisfying anymore either, there's not much skill to it now as its ridiculously easy with the grappling hooks (not much point either because of how Style ranks work, but I'll get to that). The game's attacks, despite my praise of how well they felt, also had a tendency to be a little sticky and magnetic, as is common in western melee combat: something I've heard Matthewmatosis call "move assist". Not as much as an Arkham game, not even close, but certainly more than the mainline DMC games, so that could also be a little problematic due to the lack of lock-on if you're not hitting who you want to. Other than that it felt just fine.
There were three other things that really bothered me though:
One is that they took out Styles entirely. They did try to make up for it somewhat: Instead of Swordmaster we get "heavy attacks" I guess, instead of Trickster teleports we get the chain pulls, but Royal Guard is just… gone. I felt lacking of it the entire playthrough, even a dedicated parry button would've been nice. So the only ways to defend yourself stylishly are sword clashes and charged Eryx punches.
The second thing is, something is wrong with how this game calculates your Style ranks. I can't put my finger on what exactly. But I suspect this game's ranking system values the actual damage you're dealing far more than how stylish and varied your attacks are. Wailing on one enemy using all sorts of crazy air combos will just keep you around A or B rank. But simple Demon Weapon combos, or consistent crowd control, will rocket you up to SSS faster than feels warranted.
Finally, they totally gutted Devil Trigger. it's just a win-button now. No cool enhancements to your movelist, no super-nuke moves, no crazy mobility; everything just suspends in mid air and is at your mercy. Come on guys.
I don't wanna end on a low note, but let me get the most obvious complaint out of the way before I end this: The story, the characters, the dialogue, hot garbage. Dante is insufferable, Vergil is anon hackerboy, Kat is… whatever, and Mundus looks like Dana White for some reason? None of the charm remains, every taunt and insult was written by an 11 year old who just learned to swear. Anyone who's even sorta familiar with the reception of this game knows all this. But the 90% of the time I was just playing the game and nothing story-related was happening, I didn't care. The 100% of the time testing out combos in training mode, or replaying missions skipping all cutscenes, I didn't care. As glad as I am that we got the OG DMC charm back with the latest entry (and believe me I am GLAD, DMC 5 is one of my favorite games), I don't think any of this has to take away from just how mechanically sound and downright fun Ninja Theory's reboot is to play.
It's been said a thousand times before, but I'll add my voice to the choir: if this game wasn't called "Devil May Cry", it would've been regarded as one of the great action titles of the 7th generation. It has flaws, but if you're an action game fanatic, and the only reason you haven't tried this is because of the new tone and characters, do yourself a favor and give this a shot anyways. It's not that bad, I promise! Though I won't blame you if you skip the cutscenes.
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- DmC: Devil May Cry (w/ Vergil’s Downfall)
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