By Michael Quartly-Kelly
Reboots are a tricky business at the best of times and updating a popular franchise like Capcom's gothic horror actioner Devil May Cry was always going to be a big ask.
There's so much character in the original PS2 game and subsequent follow-ups, that fans have become whole-heartedly attached to the demon hunter Dante and the shadowy urban netherworld he occupies.
New studio Ninja Theory, previously known for Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey To The West, have bravely taken up the torch and provided us with a rollicking ride from start to finish.
In this re-imagining Dante is a Nephilim - the spawn of a Demon and an Angel - able to employ powers and weapons from both heaven and hell.
Players start the game as Dante, naked, attacked and dragged into Limbo by nefarious forces. A mysterious girl soon arrives to aid you in your fight and provide you with the trajectory of the rest of the game.
As much as the mythology has been massaged to fit the new story, lots of the old elements are still present. You will run into franchise mainstays like your competitive brother Vergil, the Demon Lord Mundus and references to your dear old father - the legendary Sparda. Dante is still as unflappable as ever, side-stepping falling buildings with nonchalance and mowing down demons in a hail of bullets or a storm of sword strikes in equal measure.
The story, presided over by novelist and screenwriter Alex Garland, sees Dante and allies up against demons in the guise of corporate leaders, media doyens and pop stars, who have enslaved mankind with energy drinks and television propaganda.
Discovering more about his forgotten past, Dante finds he must fight to free mankind from demonic influence and take vengeance on the Demon Lord that destroyed his family.
All this can be accomplished through a number of combat-heavy strikes against a selection of demonic institutions. Combat is a matter of chaining together air and ground attacks to form combos and can yield some impressive full-screen carnage. The mechanics are solid, allowing easy shifts between weapons and special attacks. The combos are less convoluted than most brawling games, with basic timed button presses seeing you through most skirmishes. Enemies are many and varied, but offer little challenge once you acquire the right weapon for the job.
Your arsenal of weapons is expanded as you progress through the story mode. Extra armaments range from close quarters, high damage gauntlets to long range explosive firearms to multi-targeting slashing blades.
There's a premium placed on varying your attacks in combat and you are rewarded style bonuses for thrashing enemies in a number of ways.
Style points, level speed and completion percentages also go towards your overall score for each mission and this translates to upgrade points at the end of the level. Upgrades can be spent on special abilities or new moves for each weapon. In a handy twist you can rearrange your selected upgrades between missions, allowing you to take a stage on in a new way with a different set of moves.
Limbo, where most missions take place, is a hellish reflection of the natural world, more unstable and subject to wild physics and distortions in time. Navigating through this landscape is lots of fun, as you jump, zip-line and smash your way through environments. The later stages are a joy to explore and there is a collectible component of the game involving hidden keys and doors leading to bonus missions.
These bonus levels are set against the clock and provide a nice change of pace mid-mission. Replaying levels lets you increase your permanent score and add more upgrades to your arsenal, as you keep all your newer powers even when returning to an earlier level, often allowing you to access new areas with your learned abilities.
On the surface the game might be just a series of hyper-kinetic battles strung together with some jump and run platforming, wrapped up in a standard good vs evil storyline - but the fundamentals are so solid, the characterizations so strong and the writing so witty, that it all plays like a beautiful, if ultraviolent dream. Definitely a notch above most combat oriented platformers around.
DmC: Devil May Cry
:: Publisher: Capcom
:: Developer: Ninja Theory
:: Format: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
:: Rating: R13