CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- From the moment it was announced, many die-hard fans have railed against Capcom's "DmC: Devil May Cry," a game that reboots the popular "Devil May Cry" franchise with a new origin tale and a fresh look for the series' protagonist, Dante.
But gamers willing to look beyond Dante's new exterior and changes to the combat system will see that "DmC" retains much of what made the "Devil May Cry" series so successful in the first place, while adding an engaging, coherent story that serves to set the stage for a new generation of demon-slaying adventures.
Indeed, it is the story -- not the combat -- that takes center stage in "DmC." Developer Ninja Theory, who's resume includes criminally underrated works such as "Enslaved" and "Heavenly Sword," explores the relationship between Dante and his brother, Vergil, in such a way that the human side of these these half-angel, half-demon siblings shines through. As Vergil begins to help him unravel the mysteries of his past, we see Dante grow from a brash, obnoxious loner to a somewhat less-obnoxious hero committed to working with Vergil's anti-demon group to bring down the demon lord Mundus, who murdered their mother and imprisoned their father.
As Dante learns more about his past, he gains new powers to battle the demons both in his world and in their own realm, a twisted reality known as Limbo. It is in Limbo that much of "DmC" takes place, with this stylized world quickly becoming a character unto itself as it is manipulated by Mundus to impede Dante on his quest for vengeance with streets vanishing beneath his feet and walls constricting to crush him. The world of Limbo also allows Dante to show off some sweet platforming skills and offers plenty of hidden secrets to discover.
Most of all, though, Limbo serves as a battleground for Dante in his war against the demons. Using his newly discovered Demonic and Angelic forms, along with his trusty sword, Rebellion, and dual-wielded handguns Ebony and Ivory, Dante is an imposing force. Combining the various weapons and attacks in Dante's repertoire to string together combos is a blast, and even though the pace of combat isn't quite as fast as previous "Devil May Cry" titles, the fluidity with which he operates here is unmatched. Switching between the lightning-quick Angelic weapons and the slow-but-powerful Demonic weapons is as simple as holding down a trigger, and a training mode exists to allow you plenty of practice time to memorize the myriad of combos available for each item. The only real issue I have with the "DmC" combat system is the inability to lock-on to a particular enemy, something that I sorely missed during some intense sequences. The auto-lock feature performs admirably for the most part, though, save for a few frustrating exceptions. The same can be said for the camera, which manages to be in the correct spot to keep the focus on the action in front of you most of the time, but on the rare occasion is slips up, it can prove costly.
Despite Dante's dizzying array of weapons, "DmC" retains the series' trademark level of difficulty, which extends from overly easy at the lowest end to brutally hard on the highest. But with nearly a half-dozen difficulty levels to choose from, players should have no trouble finding the right challenge for their skills during the course of the roughly 10 hours it takes to reach the final credits.
At the end of the day, the biggest hurdle facing "DmC" may well be getting long-time "Devil May Cry" fans to simply give this new vision of the franchise a fair shake. But that is the inherent dilemma facing any reboot, be it a video game or a film -- just look at the drama surrounding last summer's "The Amazing Spider-Man." Those who go into "DmC" with an open mind will be treated to a great action game set in a unique world populated with some excellent characters. And those who refuse to look past their devotion to the original "Devil May Cry" and embrace this new vision for what it is will be missing out on the first great game of 2013.