or Why DmC: Devil May Cry would be Shot Dead by Call of Duty
A disclaimer: DmC (as it shall be hereupon be referred to) is the first game I have played in the Devil May Cry series, aside from thirty minutes or so with Devil May Cry 4. As such I won’t be comparing it to the preceding series at all because, frankly, for all I know about Devil May Cry I might as well compare the new game to the inside of Sophie Ellis Bextor’s knickers. Besides, that’s not really the point of this piece.
Got it? Good.
Bayonetta was my introduction to Spectacle Fighter games: a backflipping, thigh-flaunting, bullet-riddled masterpiece that sparked a virtually insatiable thirst for the genre – and an itch for new experiences in the genre – that remained unscratched until DMC plopped onto my hallway floor and found its way into my PS3.
DMC and Bayonetta are very similar: both are biblically-themed, both contain cocky, overly sexualised protagonists who never need to reload, and both games alternately assault and delight your senses with insane imagery, mad music and a sense of pace that F-Zero would struggle to keep pace with.
DmC, however, has two things that set it apart from the sainted Bayonetta: the ability to pull enemies towards you and yourself towards enemies as a central part of both combat and travel, and… well, something that probably demands a little more discussion.
DMC is, at least in my interpretation, the most anti-Western game to hit the video game charts in an extremely long time.
The central conceit of the game is that capitalist America is, in fact, the work of a malevolent god who controls the country’s populace in totality; in body through drinks laced with additives and hidden nasties, and in mind through TV and media laced with propaganda and bias. It’s heavy-handed and somewhat obvious as far as satire goes, but it’s the first time I’ve seen such a sentiment expressed this nakedly in a Triple-A game. DmC is a game that hates the grubby grasping of the West, a game that can see capitalism clutching its own stomach as it continues its financial self-disembowelment, and isn’t afraid of expressing its disgust at how we’re all drowning in offal as it bleeds out.
An example: towards the end of the game you find yourself in the finance department of the corporation run by the game’s chief antagonist, and as the tortured souls in that office flail spasmodically around chairs snapshot-frozen in mid air, the very walls are emblazoned with thick block capitals; mantras of demonic greed that have become ingrained in the walls themselves. Debt is Divine. Obfuscate. OBFUSCATE. OBFUSCATE.
DmC doesn’t hide what it thinks of the multinational conglomerates and neoliberal economics that both constitute and sustain the Western world, and for a game that topped the post-Christmas charts that’s really quite surprising. Especially so in a world of pro-MERICUH games like Call of Duty; games that task you with defending the same values and opinions that DmC tasks you with destroying. It may be overly hyperbolic to say so but DmC feels like a terrorist mastermind of a game; its showy graphics and incredible combat serve as a VHS tape sent out to international press to catch the world’s eye, thereby delivering its message to the masses.
Whether this sentiment (or at least, the sentiment I drew from the game) is due to DmC‘s British development team is a question I’m not equipped to answer. However, if DmC does represent the views of Cambridge-based Ninja Theory games I wouldn’t be hugely surprised. As the UK slides into a triple-dip recession (which is absolutely nowhere near as fun as double-dip sherbet lollies) an-ever growing tumour of political discomfort has taken root in the lungs of the UK, and the story team at Ninja Theory could well include of those rogue cells.
I hope that this is a correct reading for two reasons. It’s nice to see a game hit the charts that dares to be a little bit subversive. It’s even better to see that Triple A video games are prepared to do something like this at all.
Yes, it’s done a bit heavy-handedly. Yes, it’s an overdone idea. However, the fact that at least one big development team are wearing subversive politics on their sleeves is excellent news for a medium that seems to have only recently realised it can be used to make a point. This is a huge step forward. Gaming is a medium that is has only relatively recently become mature enough (and whose audience is only now becoming comfortable enough) to realise that it can be more than just a celebration of mechanics; that it can be a blank canvas for political discourse, for artistic expression for… shit, for anything it fucking well wants to be.
For these reasons I believe DmC is important and exciting. It’s a big budget game that comes with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from your standard mega-hits but in at least one context it feels dangerous, new and exciting. Django Unchained is a blockbuster that dared to shove faces into the ugly side of a revered part of America’s history, and DmC is its contemporary video game counterpart: exposing the seedy underbelly of the fat pig at the heart of the American Dream whilst begging you to take a spear and drive it deep into the beast.