Great games don’t always get the appreciation they deserve, and that’s a damn shame. Look at 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot, which was a smash hit with critics and most that played it, yet somehow it didn’t meet sales expectations. It’s a top-notch production all around, with refined gameplay, stunning art design, and a story that ties every obsessed-over facet of the package together in a very meaningful way. In our eyes, it’s not just one of the best games on the Xbox 360 (and the Xbox One thanks to the Definitive Edition), but it even rivals the best installments in Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series when it comes to a grand, cinematic adventure ripe with exploration, puzzles, and style. Thankfully, Microsoft has stepped in and ensured that Crystal Dynamics can deliver the follow-up Laura Croft deserves with Rise of the Tomb Raider, a sequel that likely wouldn’t have been made otherwise.
But not all games can be so lucky.
In comes DmC: Devil May Cry, a reboot of Capcom’s beloved Devil May Cry series. Like Tomb Raider, DmC is another game that launched to impressive reviews yet was met with disappointing sales. Another injustice indeed, as DmC is something rare: it’s a combination of AAA productions values and deep, rich gameplay that can thoroughly satiate the appetite of even the most hardcore gamers (yeah, we said “hardcore gamers” – get over it). But lucky for us, DmC is getting another lease on life in the form of the "next-gen" Definitive Edition. To cut to the chase, it’s the perfect opportunity for those who haven’t played it to atone – but are there enough additives to warrant double dipping if you’ve already raised hell with Dante and crew once before? That’s the question of the hour.
Let’s recap some details for anyone that’s not up to speed. Developed by Ninja Theory, DmC is a third-person action game with intense hack-and-slash combat and trippy, mind-bending platforming. The plot centers around angels, demons, and a hybrid of the two races called Nephilim. You play as the smart-mouthed, seemingly always-sneering Dante, a Nephilim with a cloudy past and a devil-may-care attitude. Without giving too much away to those that have yet to play it, demons, led by an uber-powerful leader named Mundus, are essentially brain-washing and controlling humans from the shadows. They’re ruling the world by drugging humanity through soft drinks and manipulating them with propaganda-fuelled media. Dante, along with the aid of an organization called The Order (not to be mistaken with Sony’s werewolf-hunting gang that’s recently been in the spotlight), undertakes the task of freeing the planet of Mundus’ control.
Of course there’s also a bit of backstory, a few plot twists, and plenty of other details we’ve intentionally left out, but that’s pretty much the gist of it. Even though the story isn’t exactly Shakespeare, it’s wildly entertaining, largely thanks to a stylish and flashy cinematic presentation. What’s more, as we alluded to previously, the gameplay is bloody fantastic. The complaint that's primarily associated with games that are determined to share a movie-like and rich story, is that there’s too much style and not enough substance. But that’s not the case with DmC. It has both… in spades. The combo-driven combat undeniably has a learning curve that might turn away some players, though once you figure it all out, it’s incredibly deep and grants you enough freedom to develop your own style of play. Dare we say that it’s second only to Bayonetta? Oh, we dare say.
For the record, this is an extremely mature game with an in-your-face attitude, no shortage of vulgarities, and grotesque creatures that might not be to the liking of all audiences. We’re typically pretty immune to that kind of stuff, but we understand that others might not be. So there’s your warning.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to address what makes this definitive edition so definitive, and to find out if it’s been altered and beefed up enough to be worth revisiting. First off, the visuals have been given a bump up to 1080p and the frame-rate now holds at a constant 60fps. While the resolution doesn't make a huge difference during gameplay, the higher frame-rate does. Everything is now super smooth, and it makes the combat seem more fluid than ever, especially when Turbo Mode is activated. Applying this new setting increases the speed of the game by 20%. Believe it or not, it's a much more subtle difference that we anticipated it to be, but it's one that we couldn't go back from after a round or two. The enhanced speed feels natural and adds just a splash more intensity to an already rip-roaring time.
Ultimately, this re-package aims to please the audience that's chasing a serious challenge, as there are now many difficulty settings that serve to shake things up. Whether you prefer to slaughter your way through the game with one-hit-kills active or you think damage should only be dealt to enemies once S-rank has been reached on the style meter, there's a mode for you. You'll need to play through the game multiple times to unlock each of these advanced options, but they are there for those who've got something to prove. There's even a tab that allows Hardcore mode to be activated on any of the difficulty settings, which re-balances the Style Meter, enemy damage, and other elements of the game to be less forgiving. Other than how hard it becomes to earn any kind of S ranking (SSS being the highest), we like Hardcore mode, and preferred to have it on.
Not too long after the release of DmC on Xbox 360 came a two-ish hour piece of story DLC called Vergil's Downfall, and it put players in the shoes of Dante's twin brother for the first time. Vergil is faster than Dante, and his moves have an entirely different rhythm to them, which is the primary reason the DLC is worth playing. It's mostly just more of what you'll find in the main campaign, but with some obvious corners cut in the production. This DLC, along with a new Bloody Palace mode where you fight wave after wave of enemies as Vergil, have been worked right into the Definitive Edition.
DmC features other subtle tweaks, additions, and balances, many that returning players might not even notice. For example, there are now lock-on options that can be controlled with the right bumper. It's awkward at first and probably not something you'd want to use on every enemy you come across, but there's a real benefit to focusing your efforts during overwhelming battles, which, believe us, there are many. For the pros out there, there are extensive leaderboards, and they're tied to each stage and each difficulty setting. It's almost too much to navigate and comprehend, though it's hard to fault such an thorough inclusion for those who will appreciate it. If you care about what kind of attire Dante is dressed in, there's even a handful of costumes to apply; weapons, too, have a few visual alternatives. We doubt these changes and additions will mean everything to everyone, but to anyone that adores this game and wants to master its intoxicating hack-and-slashing system, they should go a long way.
And that's primarily what this Definitive Edition does: it provides fans with many reasons to revisit DmC for a while to come. That is, if you're okay with an incremental challenge. Is it worth reinvesting in? Well, it depends on how much you loved it the first time around. We can say with the utmost certainty that if you missed it back on the Xbox 360 and had even a modicum of interest, this is where you make time for it. It's still the same great game that it was previously, and now it feels even better than ever. There are a couple criticisms we can aim at the overall design, like the pacing can be too stop-and-go and platforming is occasionally clumsy, but these are nothing more than minor distractions when they occur.
DmC: Devil May Cry is one of the best hack-and-slash games out there, and now it's even better thanks to a higher frame-rate, fresh difficulty settings, and a slight speed boost. If you didn't get around to slaying demons with Dante back in 2013, now's your chance to do so. As far as return business goes, this one is deserving of a purchase if you simply want an excuse to revisit this adrenaline rush of a game. Don't expect radical changes or mass amounts of new content, though; instead it's all about refinements and improvements while offering a deeper challenge for those seeking it. Whether or not DmC ends up getting the sequel it deserves is still an unknown, but at least it's been resurrected on a new generation of consoles and given another opportunity to raise hell.