M-rated games generally earn their "mature" labeling thanks to foul language or an unhealthy dose of gore or by pushing sexual boundaries. Then a few will add in some pretty twisted spirituality. But Capcom's new DmC: Devil May Cry starts with the twisted stuff, then brutally kills all the ors in that statement, replacing them with ands.
A New Start for an Old Mess
A reboot for the 12-year-old Devil May Cry franchise, DmC doesn't really pull much from past games, other than labeling its protagonist, Dante, as a Nephilim devil hunter. He and his twin brother are the spawn of an angel and a demon who once fell in love and bore a family. But opening cutscenes make it clear Dante is one of a brash new breed of devil killer. A booze-swilling, foul-mouthed, adrenaline-fueled guy, he's quite accustomed to hitting on nearly naked pole dancers during his evening clubbing routine, then taking them all home for a night of sleazy group sex.
And he's the "good guy," by virtue of the fact that most of the rest of the cast are either execrable demons in human disguise set on ruling and tormenting humanity, or hellish, slavering hordes of various revolting stripes. The worst of them all is a demon named Mundus, a befouled fiend who keeps the oblivious human masses under his thumb through a drug-laced, libido-pumping soft drink. This devilish big-business tycoon has been using his great wealth and netherworld contacts to slowly take control of the world's debt-strapped governments. And with time we learn he's also the evil being who long ago killed Dante's angel mom by ripping open her chest and devouring her still-beating heart.
Mundus' world-dominating and mom-killing ways are ultimately what pull Dante away from his playboy lifestyle and drive him to start hacking away at all the evil around him. And when that happens, the game's objective quickly become simple: Jump through whatever hoops are necessary to reach the honcho demon and wreak revenge.
A Thousand Combos to Kill By
Gameplay can be pretty easily defined as well. There are 20 different missions, each consisting of an opening cutscene mini-movie, a series of breakneck-fast battles against scores of foul flying or land-bound monstrosities, and then a level-ending big boss battle. Wash, rinse and repeat.
No, really. I mean that. You'll seriously need to wash your hands and your mind after each one of these "outings." We'll get to that in a bit.
The only real adjustment to the structure as play progresses is that Dante continues to upgrade his acrobatic leaping/dashing, ripping/slashing and bullet-blasting skills. Button-mashing combos abound. And, of course, as Dante becomes more skillful, his demon attackers evolve into more and more ferocious, flat-out horrors.
One big boss battle, for instance, features a woman who "gives birth" to an enormous and bulbously ghastly "baby" who stays connected to her by an umbilical cord attached to the mother's head. As the battle ensues, the lumbering grotesquery pulls Mom up inside its gut with that slimy cord until Dante can summersault, hack, stab and weaken the mutated thing enough to yank her back out.
Sound grisly? It is. Whether through use of Dante's standard sword and pistols, a spinning "angelic" scythe that juggles foes up in the air while it carves them into chunks, or a heavier demonic ax weapon that pounds and pummels opponents into pulp, battle is focused on over-the-top, sometimes slow-motion-emphasized carnage. This is a game truly all about scores of speedy moves, points for stylish splatterings and bloody bragging rights on the leaderboard.
Tears of Pain and Rage
If you haven't already figured it out, let me come right out and say that DmC also packs a contorted and mocking view of God, religion and spiritual warfare. Dante may be fighting demonic minions, but you won't find anything resembling scriptural truth here.
In fact, you won't find anything even resembling basic human decency … never mind godliness. Obscenities are rampant, with a near constant spew of foul language and vulgarities (f- and s-words at the fore). Raw sexuality includes implied fellatio, clothed yet realistic intercourse, demonic impregnation and images of near-to-full breast and backside nudity.
This hack 'n' slasher is a monster to play, difficult beyond many in the genre. But clearly the real monstrosity is its content and ethos as it delivers a twisted tale far more hellish than heavenly. DmC's demons aren't crying over that. But families should be.