DmC: Devil May Cry was a decent game, but it was probably the biggest letdown of 2013 for fans of the series and genre, so can we expect the same from DmC: Definitive Edition?
When rumors of an HD remaster began to stir, many fans were justly annoyed. At the time, HD remasters and ports of recent games were more numerous than actual good games for the PS4 and XB1, and arguably still are. DmC was essentially a flop, so why would fans be happy with an HD upgrade?
Fortunately, Capcom has been forced into a dire straits that require them to do things right. DmC: Definitive Edition is not an HD Remaster, it’s an overhaul. Just look at the list of upgrades the reveal trailer boasts: 60fps, 1080p, re-tuned and re-balanced combat, new skins, new game modes Gods Must Die, Hardcore, Must Style, and Turbo, manual lock-on, Vergil Bloody Palace, and all DLC bundled. All are nice bonuses, but some stand above others as they can fix a character action game.
So, Could DmC: Definitive Edition save the franchise?
I’ve done this song and dance enough times before to know that no matter how many points I make or how well I make them, many fans of DmC will accuse me of hating the game because of the new artistic direction. I’m going to make my case again though, there’s a chance that DmC: Definitive Edition fixing these things can salvage a great game from vanilla DmC. The flaws with DmC, as it currently is, are 30fps, a broken style system, absence of manual lock-on, and color coded enemies.
I may think the new Dante doesn’t look great, disapprove of the soundtrack, or think the character and arc of Vergil is absolute garbage, but someone else may love the whole package. A good story is subjective. A good character design is subjective. Good music is subjective. The flaws I listed however, are objective. There’s no situation where they can be perceived as a good thing.
Being capped at 30fps was the first major complaint many had for DmC, disregarding the art direction. 30fps is never a good thing, but there are genres that can get away with it. The character action game is not one of those genres. When a game is about lightning quick combos and perfect dodges, 30fps isn’t just an aesthetic downgrade, it’s something you can feel. Luckily, this is promised to be remedied with DmC: Definitive Edition.
What is a defining trait of the character action genre you ask? A style system, or something similar, to rate a player’s performance and provide feedback. DmC really dropped the ball here. Ninja Theory, and western developers in general, failed to grasp that in this genre, good combat is essentially its own reward. The whole point is for players to orchestrate a fight scene that looks like it was ripped from an over-the-top, action anime. Players are then judged on their performance taking into account variety of moves used, speed, damage taken, etc..
The problem with DmC is that the style meter can be rapidly pushed to SSS, then cheesed throughout the rest of the encounter with no penalty whatsoever. For example, by doing a perfect Demon Evade and following up with few swings from Arbiter, SSS rank is reached and the rest of the battle can be done by fleeing from the enemy while shooting or spamming Stinger, as long as the player doesn’t get hit the SSS rank remains. This goes against what that made the DMC franchise great.
Even if the style system weren’t broken though, there were design choices made that are counter-intuitive to making a good character action game. A constant issue is the lack of a manual lock-on. It’s hard to believe Ninja Theory messed up so badly that manual lock-on, a standard feature in the genre, was listed as a selling point for DmC: Definitive Edition. The soft lock-on in DmC was terrible. One of the most annoying moments in combat is when performing an aerial combo and Dante Angel Lifts to the wrong enemy instead of pursuing your target. Manual lock-on not only removes the possibility of this happening, but also fixes some camera issues be focusing Dante on the target of your choice.
The purpose of this style of game is to perform insane, varied combos. Making it so that only certain weapon types work on special, color coded enemies means you’ve removed over half of the entire move list from a player’s methods of attack. Who thought that was a good idea? Furthermore, Demon and Angel weapons all share a theme with the others of their element. Simply put, Angel weapons are weaker per hit but swing faster and have wider area of effect than their Demon counterparts. Angel shielded enemies take longer to kill because all of Dante’s power moves are off limits, and Demon shielded enemies restrict Dante’s crowd control attacks because grazing the shield will leave him wide open. Thankfully, DmC: Definitive Edition is correcting this and allowing Dante to deal damage to shielded enemies with any weapon. Players are finally free to style on enemies as they please.
It’s really nice to see that Capcom is salvaging a decent game that could have been great, and putting in the effort to help it achieve that greatness. DmC is the best video game Ninja theory has made by a long shot. It was just undermined by its name and their inability to grasp the genre. DmC: Definitive Edition can fix most of what ails of the vanilla version, and additions like Must Style and Turbo modes help stomach what can’t be changed.
(Too bad it was immediately overshadowed by the surprise ending to its own reveal trailer.)