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January 28, 2013

Let’s discuss DmC: Devil May Cry (Part 2).

Before we go any further, let me give you a little rundown of the plot -- and with it, the “plan” of our “heroes”.  In this game, Dante is a self-serving slacker who’s no stranger to beer and strippers on a nightly basis.  However, his life gets flip-turned upside down when Kat appears at the doorstep of his trailer -- and after a close encounter with some demons in Limbo, Dante agrees to go with her and join The Order, an Anonymous-style rebel group spearheaded by the white-haired Vergil.

Vergil explains the truth to Dante: that the two of them are brothers -- nephilim, born to a demon father and an angel mother -- and the only ones who can defeat Mundus, the demon king that killed said mother and banished said father.  But that’s not all; Mundus -- while posing as Lex Luthor a human banker -- is leading a secret operation against the human race, using Virility to placate them (probably), the media to scare them, and the power of debt to strangle the president and the world alike.  So -- as is the standard -- it’s up to the rebels to take down the establishment and give the people freedom.

The plan, as such, is a simple one.  Mundus is effectively immortal and invincible as long as he’s in his ridiculously-ornate HQ, because it ALSO contains a Hell Gate that feeds him power -- more specifically, it’s in his office.  So going for a direct attack will do Dante and Vergil no good; they have to lure him out of his HQ so they can deal the finishing blow.  So like good little rebels, they opt for subterfuge; they’ll target the Virility factory, Raptor News (a Fox News pastiche spearheaded by fellow demon Bob Barbas), and hope that it’ll get Mundus riled up enough to make an appearance.

Now, if you’re anything like me you’re probably wondering “So what, does Mundus never leave his office?  How does he meet people?  What happens if he has a meeting abroad, or just wants to go out and eat dinner?”  But trust me, that’s the least of this story’s problems. 

You might want to grab a snack, guys.  (I recommend a nice honey bun.)

WARNING: There are going to be a LOT of spoilers in this post, likely enough to ruin the entire game for you.  If you have any intention of experiencing this game’s story for yourself with a clear mind and no influence, you should NOT read this post.  You have been warned. 

On a related note, I still miss Old Dante.

Part 2: The Story
(Or: And You Thought the “Fill Your Dark Soul with Light” Scene was Bad…)

Let’s start by getting the brontosaurus out of the room.

1) Dante is a bad character.
Well.  Here we are.

We were told to wait.  We were told to have faith.  We were told to believe.  We were told that the final product would have everything we need.  And for a lot of people -- myself included -- that was enough.  It’s one thing to judge based on screenshots and trailers; it’s something else -- and something far wiser -- to judge once you have the full story in your hands.  There was plenty of evidence, but in the end it would be up to the full story to win over fans.

A shame, then, that DmC -- thanks largely to Dante -- has all the charm of a swamp filled with hippopotamus farts.


Dante does nothing to prove that he’s anything more than an asshole, confirming gamers’ fears since the day the first trailer appeared.  He’s aggressive.  He’s selfish.  He’s callous.  He’s so incredibly smug that even in scenes where he’s ostensibly supposed to be distraught he’s still got this cocky smirk on his face.  The game goes out of its way to remind you how much of a pissant he is at every turn, having him go “Yeah!” and “Sweet!” when he does piddling actions.  It’s almost poetic justice in that his voice makes him sound like a loser posing as a tough guy; not once did I feel like Dante was anything more than an insecure bully.

“Oh, but he’ll go through character development to make him less of an asshole, right?” you ask.  Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.  But really, there’s not much of a difference between start-of-game Dante and end-of-game Dante; the biggest change is that his alliances sort of shift from himself to…well, I’ll get to that.  But even if Dante’s character arc was pulled off perfectly (and it isn’t), there’s an inherent problem with it: it’s kind of stupid.  Dante is supposed to be this tough loner who doesn’t trust anyone but himself.  Sooooo…does that mean that up to this point he’s been completely alone?  Have his interactions with other people been so fleeting, trivial, and useless that he’s completely written off the rest of society?  Am I the only one who thinks it’s annoying that the point of Dante’s story arc is to realize “Golly, I guess people aren’t so bad after all!” with no embellishments or twists on that hoary old arc?  Furthermore, how are we supposed to believe Dante has learned the merits of humanity if the only one he consistently interacts with is Kat?  Isn’t it kind of insincere to have him learn the errors of his ways just because he spends a day or two in the company of a girl wearing hot pants and a low-cut shirt?

There is an attempt at a story arc here for Dante, but it’s such a bland and token one that there might as well not be one.  And part of the reason for that is because…

2) Dante doesn’t struggle against anything.
There’s a demon in this game named Phineas who you meet at about the halfway point of the game.  While trying to infiltrate Bob Barbas’ prison in Limbo’s undertow, he runs into the old demon and retrieves the other half of his head.  (Yeah, demons are weird like that.)  Phineas opts to use his retrieved eye to help Dante get into Barbas’ prison by twisting the area’s platforms around -- and more importantly, paves the way for Dante to head to a new area and get the item that’ll allow him to use his Devil Trigger.  I would argue that Phineas is probably the best character in the game, because he’s got a history and backstory worth investigating, sheds some light on the conflict between the species, and can paint the story in more than broad black and white strokes.  So of course, after Dante gets his Devil Trigger and heads off, we never see Phineas again.  Smaaaaaaaaaaaaaaart.


I was going to make a point about how much wasted opportunity there was with Phineas, but if Ninja Theory can’t be arsed to give him the time of day, I guess I shouldn’t either.  So I’ll switch gears and say this: pretty much everything Dante’s earned in this game is given to him.  The axe, the scythe, the grappling hooks, the gauntlets, the throwing stars, the shotgun, the…whatever the Kablooey is supposed to be, and the Devil Trigger are all things given to Dante in cutscenes.  No boss fight.  No puzzles solved.  No ridiculous sidequests only possible via walkthroughs.  It devalues both the tools and the game at large, gameplay-wise and story-wise.  You would think that Capcom would have stepped in and suggested as much to Ninja Theory, given that they’ve got a legacy of games built on the concept of beating bosses to earn strange yet powerful weapons that allow for even greater stylish-crazy action.  You know the series I’m talking about, right?  Of course you do.  It’s in the title. 


But the bigger issue is that throughout the entire game, there’s no one out there that can test Dante’s skills.  No one to push him to his limits.  No one to make him question his motives, his actions, his past, or his resolve.  Even in action games where the hero is supposed to be an unstoppable badass, there have been times where someone just as badass (maybe more) has been there to ram a sword through our hero’s gut.  It ups the tension.  It evens the balance of power.  It gives the characters a chance to reflect on what’s gone down, and what will go down.  DmC’s level of tension is far too flat; it needs the spikes provided by true adversaries and true struggles to justify the story, and by extension the stylish-crazy action gamers are hungry for.  Without them, it’s just one bland cutscene to the next.  Dante’s struggles are completely impersonal, and the game suffers because of it.  The problems he faces aren’t his own, but rather those of his new BFF (and undoubtedly more) Kat.

And therein lays another big problem.

3) Kat is a non-character.
If you’re reading this and you know Ninja Theory’s games intimately, can you help me out with something?  Isn’t this company supposed to be respected for creating strong female characters?  I mean, I haven’t played Heavenly Sword or Enslaved, but I would have figured that those two games did an admirable job, right?  And surely the lessons from those two would carry over and let DmC be the strongest game yet, right?  Surely it would avoid the trappings of video game clichés and make its lead heroine more evolved than circa 1980s Princess Peach, right?


I don’t think there’s a “nope” big enough to express my point.

For the life of me, I cannot peg Kat’s personality.  I can use adjectives to describe her, like “determined” or “reliable” or “informative”, but that’s about it.  I can say that she’s got a dark past, but then again who doesn’t, especially in gritty tales like this?   I can say she’s been scarred and wounded by said past, but again, who hasn’t been -- especially if you’re a female character in gritty tales like this?  She’s a lot like Ion from Tales of the Abyss: she’s pretty much just a walking, talking lock pick that we’re supposed to feel sorry for…and of course, someone Dante has to rescue.  Also fanservice.  The camera goes out of its way to highlight Kat’s ass in at least one scene.

I’m not wholly convinced that Kat is even close to being a strong female character.  Ignoring the fact that she has no personality, she doesn’t seem all that competent, independent, or even intelligent.  There’s a sequence where The Order’s HQ gets stormed by a SWAT team, and Kat is rendered completely helpless and terrified.  Dante ends up having to save her from Limbo, giving her emotional support and tugging on glowy bits until the bad men all go away.  Now, I’m not saying that Kat shouldn’t be allowed to show fear and worry, because that’s NOT what being a strong female character is about.  But here’s my issue: why does Dante know exactly what to do and Kat doesn’t?  Kat has been a member of The Order for who knows how long; wouldn’t she have contingency plans and defensive measures prepared, or at the very least an escape route if The Order HQ ever got stormed?  Why is she taking orders from Dante, someone who has ZERO experience being a rebel?  Why is she completely helpless without his advice?  Why is his advice the right advice, given that he’s shown zero ability to think for himself or act in a way that would serve anyone but his nephilim-empowered self?


I think the point where I had to raise a hand in objection was one of the last cutscenes, though, where Dante explains that without Kat, their efforts would have failed ten times over.  That’s highly-debatable, of course.  Kat’s duties as a lock pick could have been done by virtually anyone else, considering that A) Vergil showed her how, B) the spells are done via spray cans, and C) even if Kat is some kind of witch, I sincerely doubt she’s the only one of her kind.  Dante claims that she “saved” his life, and I’m still baffled as to what event he’s alluding to (I guess it was the first boss fight when she threw a Molotov cocktail at the Hunter to make it vulnerable because…because).  Dante’s the one who gave The Order a fighting chance, not Kat. 

And the thought that Kat is supposed to be a key player in the storming of Mundus’ HQ is downright silly; Mundus isn’t going to be anywhere else but his office because that’s where the Hell Gate is, which Kat should know already (or alternatively, because videogames), and I don’t need her laying out a path in a linear action game like this.  More importantly, how does she know the layout of Mundus’ HQ so well?  How does she know to avoid the 105th floor?  How did she get all this information if she was kidnapped and held hostage?  On top of that, if the narration she gives during that level explaining the plan is supposed to be a conversation from the past, why does her voice chime in and tell Dante to go higher from the 105th floor that he’s only on because he got off at the wrong floor?  How could she have possibly known that he would screw up, and then as soon as he cleared the floor of demons give him instructions on where to go next?  Why is it that the more I think about this game, the more I start to completely despise it?

All right, enough of this.  Let’s move on to the next point.  Maybe then I’ll have something happier to say.

4) Oh, Vergil…
Okay, never mind about the “something happier” bit.

You know, I don’t mind Vergil’s redesign.  Not as much as Dante’s at least; I still think there was nothing wrong with the original, but for what it’s worth looking at Vergil doesn’t make me want to ram a mailbox into my face.  And to my surprise, at the outset of the game it looks like he’s got everything he needs to be its best character.  He’s motivated, he’s determined, he’s reasonable, he’s charismatic…I didn’t care if Dante’s bro wouldn’t get in on the action (despite being a nephilim himself and also entrusted with weapons from his parents); he had a role to play, and could act accordingly.


A foolish assumption on my part.  To think of Vergil as a bold and admirable leader of The Order would imply that he actually accomplishes something.  He doesn’t.  At least, not on-screen; all his “heroics” are done off-camera, to the point where I can’t help but wonder just what The Order actually managed to do before Dante partnered up with them.  Vergil says that they fight a war with intelligence and propaganda, but the player never gets to see that.  Only hear about it.  I want to believe that The Order is this big nasty group of terrorists, but there’s no evidence to believe that they’re anything beyond a bunch of angry posters on internet forums. 

Outside of one news broadcast at the start of the game, I would never have guessed The Order did anything to begin with -- and likewise, that there are any other members besides Kat, Vergil, and a few redshirts to get killed in a cutscene.  Part of the problem is what I mentioned before about the “emptiness”: without a handful of minor characters or even extras to respond and react to events, the impact gets hamstrung.  Another part is that Vergil, as the leader of The Order, is supposed to lead by example…but he doesn’t.  He doesn’t do much of anything besides pull files from some servers, and do some hacking near the very end of the game.  And the last part is one that plagues pretty much the entire game: the narrative is so far up Dante’s ass that we never get to see or feel any aspects of world-building, or the consequences of either his or The Order’s actions.  If we could SEE the consequences, then I guarantee you that I would have a much better opinion of this game; as-is, it’s as empty as can be.


Oh wait -- I’m supposed to be talking about Vergil, aren’t I?  Well, it’s not as easy as I would have hoped.  Much like Kat (and to a similar extent Dante), Vergil isn’t as much a character who acts, feels, moves, and responds as he is a slew of ideas and concepts strung together.  Kat doesn’t get any character development besides falling in love with her savior coming to respect and appreciate the presence of Dante in her life, and Vergil doesn’t fare much better.  You would think that the introduction of a nephilim brother in Dante’s life would bring more than a “meh” response from our leading man, but alas; they only have a couple of scenes together to cement the bond and develop either of their characters, and most of those are crammed hurriedly near the end.  (It’s also worth noting that when The Order HQ is getting ransacked, Dante keeps saying things like “I hope Kat is okay” and giving zero fucks about his newfound brother.)

This has the unfortunate effect of making Vergil’s betrayal come right out of nowhere.  Sure, you can see it coming because, you know, it’s Vergil, but on the other hand it’s jarring to see the guy who’s been on your side since the beginning turn on you after one little disagreement.  It’s doubly-jarring when you realize the message left unspoken.  That kind, understanding, intelligent guy who’s trying to help humanity?  Pfft.  Total douche; don’t trust him, because he’s secretly the bad guy.  That selfish, cocky, needlessly-aggressive and self-satisfied asshole with NO plans on how to help humanity besides “FREEDOM!” and “ANARCHY!” and “KILL ALL DEMONS!”?  THAT’S the guy you should be rooting for.


 It’s almost heartbreaking to think that not one, not two, but three characters are this half-baked and unsatisfying.  But here we are.  And I’m afraid it only gets worse from here.

5) The Trade is…wait, what?  What the fuck?
And so we come to this scene.  Oh boy.  This scene.  If you’re reading this, and you haven’t read or played any of DmC up to this point, then…well, you’re in for something very interesting.

Let me start by giving you a little context.  Kat’s been kidnapped, and The Order HQ is in shambles.  Desperate and on the ropes, Dante and Vergil opt to even the odds; if Mundus has his hands on Kat, they’ll have to get their hands on Mundus’ mistress, Lilith -- the woman (or demon, presumably) who’s carrying his child.  After storming Lilith’s nightclub and beating her in a boss fight, Dante takes her hostage and demands a trade.  So they organize the handoff, and…well, just watch.

Fair warning, though: don’t watch if you’re the type to get a little…uh…indignant.


All right.  Sooooooo…let’s talk about this scene.  Because I can think of a number of problems with it, and not just the obvious one.

But let’s go ahead and get the obvious one out of the way: why is this even in this game?  People in every rung of the gaming industry, from its corporate bigwigs to the lowly players, have just barely managed to handle and recover from the sexism issue -- a heated debate that rages to this day and is constantly re-sparked by industry shenanigans -- and now all of a sudden you decide to have a pregnant woman taken hostage, have her womb shot to pieces, and then blast her in the head?  Why?  What is the point of this sequence besides shock value?  The internet is already alight with fury over this scene, and rightfully so. 

First off, this scene completely nukes the characterization of our heroes.  Vergil never gives an adequate reason as to why he did what he did, and neither Dante nor Kat call him out on it to any extensive degree.  Why?  Hell if I know, but outside of a bit near the end when Dante brags about the act to Mundus to make him mad (because Dante), the act is never discussed.  No one pulls Vergil aside to say “What were you thinking?”  No one suspects that Vergil’s not what he seems.  Vergil’s lack of justification only makes his eventual betrayal of Dante look like something he did on a whim; this could have been a chance to show that Vergil and Dante’s mindsets were different, and foreshadow his actions more effectively.  But nope.  Nope, nope, nope -- never brought up again.

Second, it completely changes the tone and context of the story.  You can’t -- you CAN’T have something like this in a game designed to be a spectacle-driven power fantasy, and DEFINITELY not in a story that switches off between schoolyard swearing matches and clichés so worn even Michael Bay would shake his head in disgust.  A scene like this is something you have to talk about.  Something you have to justify.  Something you’d damn well better handle with some class.  You have to treat it -- the scene, the story, and especially the audience -- with respect.  Throw this in and fail to flesh out the consequences, and people are going to have plenty of fuel for their fires.


But Ninja Theory, Capcom, and all couldn’t be bothered.  Which brings me to my third point: this sequence was not only pointless, but detrimental in the grand scheme of things.  Remember, the point of the plan is to bring Mundus out into the open.  To get him away from the Hell Gate.  Stealing his woman and his child, and then killing both of them in one fell swoop is a surefire way to piss him off, yes…but it’s not enough to get him away from the Hell Gate.  All you did was make him angry enough to tap the Hell Gate and wreck the city with one monstrous burst of energy; you’re no closer to killing him than you were at the start of the game.  If anything, you’re even farther away because he has you in his sights, he’s using the Hell Gate to wreak havoc on a massive scale, and you now have absolutely zero leverage to get him out in the open.  If you have Lilith and the child, tweak your demands so that Mundus comes out in the open.  If he doesn’t show up, then the plan is a failure.  Don’t murder his family where he can see you and expect everything to go exactly your way, you dumbasses.

Now, look.  You could make the argument that it doesn’t matter if Lilith and her baby die because they’re demons.  They’re villains -- and they did just try and slaughter Dante not one level ago.  We’re not supposed to feel sympathy for them, because they’re out to wreck and plunder Earth.  (Doubly so because our heroes are young, svelte, and attractive, while our villains are all crusty, wrinkly, and awkward looking…though everyone looks kind of nasty thanks to the Unreal Engine at work, and it’s hard to tell if Lilith is supposed to look like she has a lion-face on purpose or if it was an accident.) 

But here’s the thing: Dante and Vergil aren’t human either.  The former is a rebel without a cause drinking and demon-slaying his way through life, while the latter -- as it turns out -- is only trying to unseat Mundus so he can rule over humanity, preferably with fellow angel-demon hybrid Dante by his side.  (It certainly doesn’t help that he’s a one-percenter, albeit by virtue of being a self-made genius millionaire.)  We’re not supposed to root for Mundus and Lilith, but I find it hard to root for Dante and the gang as well, especially after The Trade.  This is the problem with bad gritty stories: if everyone is supposed to be this amoral, self-serving sod whose only justification is a rough past or token attempts to make them look nicer, who are we supposed to root for?  In a game designed to let the player be someone admirable by virtue of their abilities, who ends up being admirable after carrying out such heinous actions and a general disregard of decency?

Urrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.  All right.  That’s enough of that.  There has to be something better I can talk about now, right?

6) Everyone in this game is an idiot.
Why do I even bother?


Remember what I said about how the more I think about this game, the more I come to despise it?  Yeah.  Sleep on DmC for a few days, and it just starts unraveling at every seam.  So for your consideration -- and enjoyment -- I’m going to do something I haven’t done in a while…with the proper music, of course.

--If Mundus is immortal thanks to the Hell Gate, why does he need an heir?  He’s going to live forever no matter what, so wouldn’t introducing a son into the mix just create a power struggle, especially if said son tries to steal the power of the Hell Gate for himself?

--If Mundus runs the show in the demon world, and has done so for more than nine thousand years, why does he need to take over the human world through subterfuge and financial shenanigans?  If he can turn into a skyscraper-sized lava demon, why didn’t he just do that and send his armies stomping across every continent?

--So if Mundus can have any woman he pleases, why would he choose someone as…uniquely-styled as Lilith?  Wouldn’t it make more sense for him to take reality’s most beautiful woman as his own instead of a lion-faced woman wearing a wig?  Or is that just what gets him revved up?

--So if Mundus can apparently sense Dante’s presence and the death of one of his high-ranking demons, why can’t he sense Vergil’s?  Shouldn’t he have been able to tell that there were two nephilim?  Similarly, how did he never figure out that Sparda, his own brother, had two sons instead of one?

--Why did Mundus have to send his demons after Dante in the first place?  Dante was content with spending his days in a drunken stupor and killing the occasional demon.  Couldn’t he just leave well enough alone?

--What happens if someone walks into Mundus' office and sees that swirling nexus of demonic energy just laying around unprotected?  Isn't that the kind of thing the janitor might notice?


--How is it that Mundus managed to send his demon forces after Dante immediately after his late night tryst with some strippers with pinpoint accuracy, but never again throughout the entire game?  Again, shouldn’t he have been able to detect Dante’s presence immediately?

--How is it that in spite of Mundus using Raptor News and various cameras throughout the city, he’s never able to figure out where Dante is?

--How does Mundus never suspect that Vergil is also a nephilim, considering that Vergil reveals himself, white hair and all?  Did he just think Vergil was a handsome eighty-year-old man?

--Why does Mundus use the Hell Gate from afar to blast the city and Dante’s crew, but when Dante walks into his office he tackles him halfway across the city and into a building miles away from the Hell Gate?  Why did he have to put so much distance between himself and the one thing keeping him alive when all he wanted to do was try and dig Dante’s heart out of his body?  Was that something he really needed to do atop a distant skyscraper?

--Why is it that Dante and Kat are able to pretty much walk into an off-limits area of the Virility factory without so much as a security guard asking them for ID?  If every security camera in the city is monitored by Mundus, wouldn’t that tip him off immediately?  If the people in the city are drones that are unfeeling, unthinking, and act almost-uniformly, wouldn’t that make their presence stick out even more?


--Why is Dante’s mother called a whore?  Is it because she bore Sparda’s children?  Why does that make her a whore?

--Why is Kat called a whore?  Is it because she’s an enemy of Mundus?  Is it because she wears short shorts and a low-cut top?  Is it because she’s a girl?  Why would any of those things make her a whore?

--Now that I think about it, why does Kat’s backstory have to strongly imply that she was “attacked” by demons?  Isn’t that one of the most generic backstories given to female characters?  Isn’t that something else that you need to handle with delicacy, and not with the dexterity of a tranquilized octopus?

--Why is Dante completely undetectable and unnoticed by all, the villains included, in spite of living in a trailer lodged smack-dab in the middle of an amusement park?  Isn’t that something the police would want to investigate?

--What does The Order do besides make veiled threats on TV and the internet?  Why are they so fearsome if prior to Dante’s partnership with them, they’ve accomplished jack-all in Operation Beat Mundus?  If nobody is listening to them thanks to Raptor News and Virility, why does Vergil even bother delivering a message to the populace telling them to wake up (besides just having something to use in trailers for the game)?

--Maybe I'm just being naive here, but how is it possible for Vergil's claim that Mundus/Raptor News controls every media outlet, news and entertainment alike?  What about the internet?  Does that mean that they instantly and immediately control every web show that pops up?  Is Fox News secretly slipping subliminal messages into every episode of Game Grumps?


--Why did it take this long for The Order to find Dante?  If they’re so reliant on and skilled in information gathering, shouldn’t they have been able to find Dante from the outset?  Especially since Vergil knew about Dante?  And he’s the lynchpin of their plans?  And Dante’s done nothing to stay hidden?

--Why does Dante say that he’ll never forget what Mundus did to his mom after he’s gotten over the bout of amnesia that made him forget what Mundus did to his mom?

--How did Vergil get over his amnesia -- i.e. the mind-wipe carried out by Sparda?  Did it just wear off?  If it was a trip through the family’s abandoned mansion and acquisition of special weapons that helped Dante recover his memories, then who restored Vergil’s, and how? 

--Why do Dante, Kat, and Vergil -- in spite of being terrorists pined after by Mundus and his forces -- walk around in broad daylight even though the bad guys know who they are?  Why does Vergil wear the same getup as his masked terrorist persona (sans mask) while he’s strutting through the streets?  Why are these people surprised when Order HQ gets found and ransacked?

--Why is Phineas one of the only characters in the entire game who wonders about the far-reaching consequences of The Order’s actions?  Why doesn’t Dante pay any mind to the question of “who will rule after Mundus” until AFTER Mundus is gone?  Why doesn’t Kat question anything, or bring up the possibility of “what happens next” to Dante?  Are they both so blind to everything except ruining the demons’ day?


--Why are a soft drink and news channel the key means to control humanity?  Are they supposed to be real-world parallels?  What happens if people don’t drink Virility, or watch Raptor News?  I don’t drink Coke every day, or even a kind of soda -- so is the key ingredient of Virility slipped into every drink?  If that’s the case, wouldn’t that mean there are multiple factories and multiple demons that need to be killed?

--Why does all the action in this game take place in one city?  How are Mundus’ actions carried out across the world, given that it’s world domination he’s pining for?  Does Raptor News air worldwide?  Are people watching it?  What happens if someone is an extreme democrat, and can’t be bothered with Bob Barbas’ bullshit?  What about the global impact of both Raptor News and Mundus at large?  Even if he’s “controlling the world through debt”, would anyone approve of him putting up his video cameras?  How is he even getting up those video cameras?  Is it Barbas’ domain?  If that’s the case, then how is he getting up those cameras?  Are they all controlled by demons?

--Why is America treated like the center of the universe in this game?  Why is one city in America treated like the center of the universe in this game?

--Where are the angels throughout all of this?  Supposedly there was a war between angels and demons, but I would have figured that they hadn’t been completely wiped out.  What’s their role throughout all of this?  What are they supposed to represent?  Does that mean there’s a god in this universe?  If that’s the case, then where is he during all of this?  Why would a god -- and presumably, overseer of Earth -- let Mundus just go to town?

--If white hair = Devil Trigger/nephilim powers fully awakened in this universe, why is Dante -- someone who's just awoken to the potential inside him -- able to wreck Vergil's shit as a child and as an adult?  How could Vergil so consistently be on the losing end?

--Why does Vergil need to cap off a cutscene by declaring that “his dick is bigger” than Dante’s?  Is that supposed to be character development?  Is that just something brothers are supposed to do? 


--How many of these questions have I asked up to this point?  How many of them have a better answer beyond “because the plot says so” or “because the developers didn’t think of it”?

7) Limbo is poorly defined, and the game suffers because of it.
I was going to include this in the Great Wall of Nitpicking, but I figured that I’d take a moment to probe Limbo a bit more because it’s so important.  Now, I don’t mind not knowing where Limbo came from (partly because I stopped caring about this game long ago), and I can deal with the chief explanation being “parallel dimension, lol” and moving on for the sake of expediency.  But the rules of Limbo seem to change from one scene to the next, with no explanation why.  It would be fine if it didn’t affect the story too deeply…but of course, it ends up making an entire section of the plot completely unnecessary.

It’s explained in the first hour or so of the game that actions taken in Limbo have an effect on what happens in the real world.  While Dante’s in Limbo, he points his guns at Kat, who’s in the real world; she panics, throws her hands up, and tells him not to shoot, because even though she’s acting as a medium at the moment Dante’s bullets will still hurt and even kill her.  (It’s worth noting that during this scene Kat’s standing in the middle of the street and explaining all of this -- loudly -- to Dante, and no one even bothers to glance at her.  Also, she makes a Molotov cocktail and throws it…and nobody notices, I guess.)  And when the first boss attacks a Ferris wheel and sends it rolling, the real world equivalent goes tearing through the streets.  “Okay, this is interesting,” I thought to myself.  “I bet the game’s going to use this dual-world relationship in some neat ways.”


It didn’t.  In fact, the game actually backpedals on how Limbo works, for reasons that I can only assume start with “because we didn’t” and end with “think of it.”  Kat’s kidnapping is entirely preventable; if Dante can be a lethal threat to Kat even while he’s in Limbo, why can’t he be the same for the SWAT team bearing down on her?  Sure, you could argue that it’s because Kat’s acting as a spirit medium and Dante would have shot her astral projection or soul or whatever, destroying that and not her body.  But I just spent a good chunk of that level pulling out stone blocks and computers and blocking their path; why can’t I do the same to save Kat when she needs it most?  Why can’t Kat escape into Limbo and stand alongside Vergil?  Why does she not have an emergency store of spray paint or sigils just in case the HQ is under fire?  And while we’re on the subject of Vergil, why is it that the terabytes of information he needs for their “plan” is stored in Limbo, but the self-destruct sequence can only be activated in the real world?  (Also, how long does it take to arm a self-destruct sequence?  The way Kat acts, it takes about ten minutes…but then again, Vergil says he needs two minutes to get the data, and it takes him just as long.)

I’m also a little unclear as to why Dante gets pulled into Limbo when he does.  I would have figured that the demons were behind it, but if that’s the case, why doesn’t his adventure end right there?  Ignoring the fact that he should IMMEDIATELY be located by Mundus and his forces, bear in mind that Limbo is a shifting, transforming world that regularly contorts to bring his progress to a halt.  But in the context of the game, that doesn’t mean anything; rather than making it completely impossible for Dante to do anything besides stand around and twiddle his thumbs (or use a little ingenuity to get out of an impossible situation, like a good writer would have him do), it basically comes down to just finding a glowing angel/demon wall to smash open, or a glowy bit to grapple.  Hell, Lilith even lets Dante get within spitting distance of her, in spite of her Limbo zone being a club under her control…this, in spite of her being an expecting mother and he being a practitioner of demon genocide. 


This game sure has a lot of bad decisions in it.

8) Vergil is the last boss because…because.
This should come as a surprise to no one.  Mundus is a big crusty bald guy; Vergil is a handsome gentleman sporting a katana at nearly all times.  Now, granted, it would be much less of a surprise if the revelation of Vergil’s true intention was in any way paced correctly or properly foreshadowed in the context of conversations and themes, buuuuuuuuuuuuuut I guess that’s too much to ask.  All you need to know is that his name is Vergil and because of it, he and Dante will go at it somewhere along the line.

So here you go.  Have yourself the final mission -- the cutscene leading up to it, the boss fight, and the ending.  Keep it close at hand, though, because we’re going to talk about it in a minute.


I can’t remember the last time I had a more disappointing boss fight (and no, Halo 4’s QTE-based finale doesn’t count because that’s obviously not a boss fight).  I was on autopilot for most of the fight, spinning Osiris to deflect the sword shots, slamming with Arbiter, and making liberal use of the Stinger and Trillion Stab to absolutely decimate Vergil.  And unless you’re an expert at video games “decimate” is the absolute LAST adjective you want to use when describing a boss fight with Vergil, let alone a boss fight in general.  But I could smack around my fellow nephilim with ease, with barely a gap in between one cutscene of him getting flung aside and the next.  The only time I had to reconsider my strategy (and I use that term lightly) is when my brother told me I had to have my Devil Trigger activated to end the fight -- something the game neglected to tell me, natch, but luckily I had an item to refill my meter.  And after that, all it took was one sword slash to bring the fight, Vergil’s ambitions, and DmC to an end.

And on that note…

9) Dante is now the protector of mankind.  How about NO?
“I thought we were fighting for freedom.”

Kat…seriously?  I mean…fucking seriously?  You don’t even know what you’ve been doing this whole time?  Was anyone in The Order paying attention?  Did anyone stop to think about what would happen once Mundus was gone?  What was the point of even introducing Phineas if no one pays attention to his words?


Let’s come at this from a different angle.  Apparently, after defeating Mundus, Limbo and the real world fuse together; the truth is revealed, the masquerade is broken, and mankind can not only see the demons that have existed parallel to their world, but watch in terror as these creatures start wreaking havoc on an unprecedented scale with no understanding of what they are, where they came from, or how to stop them.  In other words, Dante, Kat, and Vergil have single-handedly unleashed chaos across the entire world…all in the name of freedom.

In this case, Vergil actually has a point in that cutscene.  Humanity might not be as weak or stupid as he suggests (though opinions may vary), but they need someone to lead them.  Someone to guide them and protect them.  Someone to make sure that society continues unabated -- because if the trappings of daily life falter, more chaos is bound to follow.  And now that demons are running rampant -- and because this city where EVERYTHING apparently takes place is now in ruins -- mankind leads a leader now more than ever, and someone to instill order.

So of course, Dante tells him off, kicks his ass, declares that he’ll protect mankind, and lets Vergil saunter off into a warp hole he created by…uh…because. 

Do you see why we might have a problem here?


Dante has no plan.  None.  Nothing.  Zero.  Say what you will about Vergil, but at least he had something in mind.  At least he wasn’t about to subjugate and enslave humans like Mundus was; with his resources and smarts, he could have made a fine leader.  But Dante?  What has Dante done in the context of anyone but himself?  He hasn’t helped anyone.  He hasn’t talked to anyone.  He doesn’t know the struggles of anyone.  All he can do is faff about and kill demons.  Is he going to do that on a global scale?  No, because he can’t.  He’d need something like an organization, or a police force.  Is his demon-slaying going to ensure that people have food, and shelter, and education, and warmth, especially with monsters running amok all over the place?  No, because again, he’s just one guy -- doubly so because The Order’s no more, and triply-so now that Vergil’s gone and rage-quit on humanity.  Dante has rammed his sword right up the ass of the human race, and he only did it under the generic battle cry of “FREEDOM!”  And he only did it because he JUST NOW learned that, hey, maybe other people aren’t so bad -- a lesson he would have taken ten times longer to learn if his teacher wasn’t a supple young lady showing off a generous amount of skin.

It’s not only selfish and stupid of Dante to make this massive change to, but hypocritical too.  For all his talk of freedom, Dante sure hasn’t done much to give the people a choice; he and his clubhouse buddies in The Order have done all the decision-making, talking, gallivanting, sabotaging, and murdering without so much as a peep from the people of the city.  He’s just as bad as Mundus in a way; he’s not putting anyone under his heel, sure, but he’s not letting them decide what they want to do.  And he’s just as bad as Vergil, in a way; Vergil wanted to protect mankind just as eagerly as Dante, albeit with a different sort of rule set in place.  Who is Dante to say that he’ll protect humanity?  How is he going to do it?  How will he give them order and peace when he’s the “speak loudly and slaughter with a big sword” type of character?  Furthermore, what happens when the demons really start running amok?  They’ve proven themselves at least semi-sentient; what about them?  What do you do about loyalists to Mundus?  Are you going to become the new demon king, Dante?  Are you going to rule over them?  Are you going to separate them, or have them integrate with society?  What sort of damage will fusing the real world and Limbo do to Earth?  What are you going to do if the angels come knocking on your door?  What are you going to do if the angels are pissed that you’ve wrecked the planet?


But no.  No.  No, no, no, no, no.  We don’t get anything.  We don’t get closure.  We don’t know where Vergil went.  We don’t know the full effects of Dante’s actions.  We don’t see the consequences -- neither the adoration nor resentment of the people.  We don’t know what Dante plans to do next, or what Kat plans to do next, or the people, or the demons, or the angels.  No.  You see, our ending focuses not on the world that’s ostensibly wrecked, but Dante’s sudden identity crisis.  “I don’t know what I am anymore,” he says.  And of course, Kat is there to caress and consul him.  And then, it’s on to the credits.  Game over.  Congratulations.  Thank you for playing.  Please purchase the DLC coming soon. 

And be sure to remember what’s really important, kids: FREEDOM!

10) What is this game? 
If you watched that video, played the game, or heard or seen some of the alternate costumes, you might notice that Dante gets white hair.  And his Devil Trigger temporarily gives him white hair and a red coat.  And even if you don’t get the costumes, by game’s end (by virtue of Devil Trigger abuse against Vergil), Dante’s hair turns pure white.  And then there’s this little scene.


A lot of people have interpreted that scene as a shot at the fans -- a way of saying “Old Dante is gone, so deal with it.”  And like it or not, that’s a valid interpretation.  Still, it’s just as easy to see it as foreshadowing, saying that before game’s end Dante will get the white hair we all expect of him.  But you know what?  I honestly wouldn’t have minded -- and maybe even preferred it -- if Dante kept the black hair throughout the entire game.  This is supposed to be a reboot.  A fresh start.  A chance to free the universe from the canon and expectations that constrict it.  So the immediate question I have is this: why flip-flop from “no white hair, get over it” to “oh yeah, sure, he’ll get his white hair”? 

Similarly, what was the point of making the achievements/trophies references to the Devil May Cry games?  Why pick and pull quotes from those games and completely remove their context?  Similarly, why have all the power-ups and upgrades and some of the move names, but none of the mechanics that made them fantastic while simultaneously removing plenty more attacks from Dante’s repertoire?  Similarly, what’s the point of putting names on these characters that we’ll recognize, but immediately cry foul of when -- with the memories of said characters fresh in our minds -- we’ll compare and align with the past versions far more than the new ones?   I guess what I’m getting at here is a single, simple question:

Why call this a Devil May Cry game if the point has been completely missed?


Nobody asked for this.  Nobody clamored for a game with half-assed themes and a shallow world.  Nobody asked for a colorless story and world that manages to tell maybe three jokes in some nine hours of gameplay, and delivers absolutely none of the high-octane madness we’d have expected from a game daring to be “stylish-crazy action.”  Nobody asked for token, bare-bones characters, piddling story arcs, and an ending that zooms in more on the “hero’s” face than the city he helped destroy.  Nobody asked for sloppier, more frustrating combat.  Nobody asked for enemies that make you play Simon Says.  Nobody asked for virtually-nonexistent difficulty, with most hits coming from sneak attacks, an inability to control the crowd, and fired-off shots from across the screen.  Nobody asked for more platforming.  Nobody asked for more NPC-following.  Nobody asked for levels where you pull on glowy bits.  Nobody asked for an “epic, cinematic experience” with faces fresh out of the worst a fever dream can produce.

All we wanted was a game.  A game where you get to laugh, and cheer, and feel like you’ve accomplished something.  A game where you’re free to hone and perfect your skills, and take it to the next level.  A game where you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride -- and have sweet memories you’ll keep with you for years.  DmC doesn’t have any of that.  You know why?  Because it’s not a Devil May Cry game.  Not even close.  It may try to be like one, and it may try to act like one, but put the two in a race and DmC will lag far, far behind, sputtering and choking for air. 

But you know what?  I’m okay with that.  Remember what I said at the start?  DmC is not a game you should get angry about.  It’s not a game you can stay mad at for long.  The reason for that is simple: it’s bland.  It’s boring.  It’s forgettable.  It’s contradictory.  It’s full of holes.  It’s frustrating.  It’s shallow.  It’s ineffective.  It’s clichéd.  It’s by-the-numbers.  It’s confusing.  It’s full of wasted effort.  It’s devoid of substance.  It’s sillier than the games it cribs off of.  It’s sorely lacking in self-awareness.  It’s quick to squander its potential.  It’s eager to show off how sloppy it is.  It’s juvenile, it’s narrow-minded, it’s misguided, it’s self-important, it’s heavy-handed, it’s mean-spirited, and most of all, it’s bad.


And yet, in spite of all those words and phrases, I feel like I can’t quite define DmC.  Not yet, at least.  So I’ll try something different.  See, there’s a school of thought that says you can define something by what it’s not; if that’s the case, then maybe I’ve got this game pegged.

…Yep, I think I’ve got it.  DmC: Devil May Cry isn’t just a bad game.

It’s not stylish.

It’s not crazy.

It’s not action.

It’s not worth remembering.

And in the end, that’s all there is to it.  So thank you, Ninja Theory.  Thank you, Capcom.  Thank you, Dante, and Kat, and Vergil, and Mundus, ad Lilith.  I think it’s about time for me to wrap this up, and give you the sendoff you so deserve.  And just so you make sure you get the message, I’ll say this in terms the lot of you -- and readers alike -- can understand.

Maybe somewhere out there, even a devil may cry when he loses a loved one. Don't you think?

10 comments:

  1. A least 28 unexplained details in a nine hour game? Impressive. We truly are in some kind of writing crisis.


    Some of the scenes shown might have been good if only continuity and universe laws (like Limbo) were maintained through the entire story. Of course all of these were out of context too, so the scenes are only bad because the rest of the game brings it down. Kat being kidnapped might have worked... if there was any buildup to Dante's relationship with her (which you described is nonexistent). Vergil and Dante's fight might have been tense if they were developed and the staked were high (again, they were not). And the game just... ends after that fight? Really? Even Halo 4's boss fight wasn't as anticlimactic. How can there be no epilogue? ... Or is that asking too much for an already crappy story?

    I found "The Trade" sequence to be pointlessly shocking, but I had no emotional reaction to it. Many people [not to be singling out, but mainly guys] cried at how indefensibly f'ed up it is, but I remained objective and thought, "What is that trying to add to the plot?" According to this analysis, it's nothing. Maybe it's because I'm so desensitized by pointless torture in our culture and media, but I was not offended in the slightest. Just... intellectually confused. Does that mean I'm mentally insane? 0.o

    The only positive out of DmC I can find is that the music is pretty awesome. Still not worth $60. After a few more tries, the demo has not changed my "meh" perspective. This, however, is enough to tell me to watch a walkthrough on Youtube, because at least it takes less time and is free.

    Anyway, this was a great, detailed multi-part analysis, sir. Your sanity appears to be in check and that is all that matters now. You need it for... other things.

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  2. "How can there be no epilogue? ... Or is that asking too much for an already crappy story?"

    Oh, but there is -- or at least, there might be. In a little while, there's going to be DLC where the player takes control of Vergil. Presumably, THAT'S going to be the epilogue, or at least do some setup for a sequel. Narrative closure? Pshaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaw!

    But I hear you on The Trade. It's designed to be this big, shocking moment, but falls completely flat. It feels like the kind of thing that's supposed to piss you off, but it's impossible to get pissed because it's there and gone in an instant with no genuine repercussions. It's pretty much just a Big Lipped Alligator Moment down to the letter -- the type of thing a scene like that should NEVER be.

    There's just so much incompetence throughout this game that I'm starting to wonder if Capcom -- Capcom, of all developers! -- would be better off writing the story themselves before passing off the duty to Ninja Theory. Kat is completely undercooked, and her relationship with Dante is token at best; the two of them only have a couple of scenes together to try and "bond", but it's so bland and fleeting that it never amounts to anything substantial, and as a result hurts both their characters. Still, the biggest problem IMO (as you might have guessed) is that this is a story that aspires to be large in scale and intensely personal, but fails triumphantly at both -- the former more than the latter. DMC3 was a significantly simpler story, and as a result kept a tighter -- and personal -- focus, and delivered more of an impact. DmC doesn't. At all.



    So yeah, watch on YouTube; don't buy. If the gameplay hasn't won you over yet, it never will -- and the story is something I'd prefer not to speak about if I want to keep my blood pressure down.


    Now then, let's see how Metal Gear Rising turns out...

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  3. God. Even having not played the game and just seeing a few of the cutscenes I could probably write a damn thesis on how badly "The Trade" was presented and how mangled it made the characters, even in universe without any comparison to their previous incarnations -- although said comparisons just make it even worse, really.

    Even at the most groundless level of "zomg, Vergil used a gun" there's still issues with just how bad it clashes with the preconceptions about the character that almost every fan of the series is going to have going in. Even the fact that he honestly looked both surprised and a little gleeful that what he did worked, it's all wrong.

    Also, considering that both him and Dante in this storyline are people that have had their family taken away from them, it could have worked as both vehement justification and counterargument as well. Vergil could have easily cited revenge for what was done to Eva and Sparda, showing that despite his aloofness that he has some deep seated resentment of Mundus for what he did. Dante could have gone the same root, or he could have noted the utter callousness that Vergil destroyed another family with, even if said family was evil.

    I think that in the cutscene where Dante goads Mundus with the death of Mundus' child that he was supposed to come off as conflicted about using such a vulgar method to raise Mundus' hackles. Thanks to the lacklustre acting though it just comes off as the same detached bullshit that Dante always spouts.


    It could have, or rather should have, been a point of so much conflict and potential character exploration and growth. Instead, nothing is ever made of it, except that Mundus is now almost justified in wanted to rip Dante's head off. You know a game's story has gone way off the rails when you start feeling sympathy for a character that's supposed to be irredeemably evil.

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  4. ~I don`t play Dante`s Inferno, but OMG that picture of him smiling made me laugh! Its so creepy... yet funny at the same time... I wonder how that works?

    ~Also, you`ve been nominated for the libster award!! ^^ Here`s the link to more details on the award :
    http://riverstardust.blogspot.com/2013/01/liebster-award.html

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  5. Oh man, don't remind me about the whole "Vergil using guns" thing. That facet alone makes DmC a slap in the face to both the Devil May Cry franchise and its devoted fans. There's re-interpreting a character, and then there's just slapping the name atop a completely different character...which would be all right if Vergil was developed or had a chance to do anything substantial, but alas. It's as if Ninja Theory was so focused on making Dante cool and enjoyable and admirable (or at least trying) that they forgot to make everything else -- Vergil well among them -- memorable, weighty, or even thought-out.


    I can't say what, exactly, but SOMETHING has gone wrong with Ninja Theory and DmC (the apparent off-hands approach of Alex Garland is probably a key factor). I was willing to let the company and the game surprise me, but...well, here we are. It's just baffling that there could be so many holes and mistakes -- and almost shameful that your alternative sounds much better than an end product with untold millions of dollars thrown at it.


    *sigh* Videogames, y u so videogames?

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  6. Face-rendering technology is...well, not quite there yet when it comes to video games. It seems like the more companies go for realism and use motion-capturing, the more often the end result ventures into the uncanny valley. DmC got hit hard by this (even when he's supposed to be angry, Vergil still looks like he's smiling), but it's not the first. And I doubt it'll be the last.

    As for the Liebster Award...thanks for the nomination, but I already got one of those a while back, and I'd assume that you can only win one at a time. (Should probably get around to displaying that icon one of these days.) But still, thanks for thinking about me and Cross-Up.

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  7. At the risk of sounding overly pretentious, I just found out that The Trade video you just posted fits perfectly with Mozart's 40th symphony, from the 3:30 mark onward.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTc1mDieQI8

    Try it out for yourself. Other than that, I like your hate-articles dude.

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  8. Honestly? I feel kind of bad about hating DmC. Ninja Theory and Capcom wanted a reboot, and they got it (for better or worse); they tried to inject some new life and new ideas into a series that hadn't been touched in years, so I have to give them applause for at least taking a risk.

    But then I remember that the game they put out kind of sucks, and suddenly, I don't feel so bad anymore.



    I only hate on games that absolutely deserve it. Halo 4 is one of them, and FF13/13-2 are two others. And now I have to add DmC to that list because their reboot is not only a severe example of "missing the mark", but completely fails at justifying a reboot. And not just because of the gameplay or story; from what I've heard, old versions of Devil May Cry -- the HD edition chief among them -- are selling more than the new game. And DMC4 has sold double what DmC has in the same 1-month time frame (supposedly).


    The sheer level of failure here is unreal. It's irritating, but in a few months' time, DmC will be little more than a patchy memory.


    On a more positive note, that song really does fit. Makes me wish that was in the actual game somehow...

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  9. It was actually a piece written by Mozart that was supposedly inspired by his love for his spouse. It was, in a nutshell, his swan song.

    I find the idea that this piece fits perfectly with a scene where a pregnant woman witnesses first the death of her unborn and then her own to cosmically ironic.

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  10. Oh ho! Interesting...very interesting, indeed. That only makes me wish the song was in the game even more. It'd certainly add a bit of class to the proceedings.

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