DmC and the Origins of Evil

DMC Forever Red

15 “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—
You are grown fat, thick, and sleek—
Then he forsook God who made him,
And scorned the Rock of his salvation.
16 “They made Him jealous with strange gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
17 “They sacrificed to demons who were not God,
To gods whom they have not known,
New gods who came lately,
Whom your fathers did not dread.
18 “You neglected the Rock who begot you,
And forgot the God who gave you birth.

19 “The Lord saw this, and spurned them
Because of the provocation of His sons and daughters.
20 “Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them,
I will see what their end shall be;
For they are a perverse generation,
Sons in whom is no faithfulness.
21 ‘They have made Me jealous with what is not God;
They have provoked Me to anger with their idols.
So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people;
I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation,
22 For a fire is kindled in My anger,
And burns to the lowest part of Sheol,
And consumes the earth with its yield,
And sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.

– Deuteronomy 32

Well, DmC from Ninja Theory finally arrived. Does it surprise anyone that the critical reception and the user scores deviate so violently?

The fanbase cry out like wild banshees out of the depths of the underworld. They hate this new Dante with an utter passion unreserved for any reasons. They’ve not fought a real conflict or believed in something so much as Dante, versus Dino/Donte of the alternate universe DmC. The fervor on display astounds the casual observer – or, more case in point, the video game journalist/reviewer. Why go to such lengths to kill a reboot of a popular franchise? Why do I like it so much, and the gaming public seems incredibly uneasy over the whole situation?

Perhaps the demon fetuses and frequent sexual references within the game count for more than people realize. Or the aesthetic fails to make Dante “cool” except in the sense of some Euro-trash dynamics. Or maybe the game mechanics fail to inspire like previous games. As for myself, I find video game reviews lack historical insight on the subject.

Or a lack of tiny demon cherubs with crossbows. You decide.

Or a lack of tiny demon cherubs with crossbows. You decide.

Ever play the first Devil May Cry? When I first placed the disc in my sixth-month old PS2, the game completely blew me away. Here, Castlevania turned into an 80s action film with anime cutscenes. Here, stylish action reigned. Here, stylish action still required skill to perform and score, and skill to survive. People loved Devil May Cry’s meat-headed stupidity, its incredibly macho, gothic, and cheesy metal-head imagery, and Dante’s awful one-liners. Anybody that could stare a giant flaming spider in the face and not even flinch definitely held quite a pair (if you get my meaning).

Greater still, you played it. You performed the actions and determined the flow of the action. You made everything look better than just a simple spamming of an action button. You developed spatial awareness, evaluated relative threats, and made decisions relevant to said threats. At the same time, you used Alastor to Stinger your way to a Marionette, perform a three-hit combo, lifted it up in the air using High Time, juggled it in the air with Ebony and Ivory, those two wonderful pistols, and then Helm-Splitted the demon into the ground, smashing it into tiny bits. Then you thought of something cooler, something more stylish, and did that to the next enemy. At the same time, you dodged perfectly and you took no damage. Now THAT satisfies. That removes any pretense of doubt that, in fact, you became cool because you played the game. The game even rewarded you for being cool by providing currency to buy more moves to make you more cool (yes, I realize that wasn’t a very good sentence).

Somehow, Capcom doesn't think this Dante's cool enough for the modern world.

Somehow, Capcom doesn’t think this Dante’s cool enough for the modern world.

Even in the worst game of the series (in general, the second game holds that honor), Devil May Cry’s formula remained the same: make the player look cool, but make him earn that aura. Force him to learn the mechanics of the scoring system, and he/she will become a demon hunter of the highest caliber. Throw obstacles that seem nigh impossible at first without practice, yet strategies form and allow said player to conquer. Even if not a 1:1 ratio with classic arcade games (the degeneration of video games, in a sense, came from consoles), Devil May Cry attempts a translation of the same style and mostly succeeds. If angels can fly because they take themselves lightly, then Devil May Cry may as well fly into the sky on wings.

Why change something so successful, so adept at providing the player with a unique experience amid a host of angty war-time military shooters? Why make the light-hearted (if a bit violent) fun into a hodge-podge of political paranoia, unnecessary sexual references, and a wholly unlikable protagonist? What a question! The greatest irony of this whole rebooting process? If sales give us any indication of the game’s success, it would appear the same people who hated the game (i.e., hardcore DMC fans) bought the game, while the casual players Capcom wanted to capture stayed far, far away. I imagine the same circumstances envelop the game in the United States market as well. The only people I know with even a small interest in said game remain the same fan Capcom ignored in the reboot process.

Of course, Capcom did not show interest in the fanbase. Remembering the recent revival of Street Fighter, you saw Capcom reaching out to fans, asking what they wanted and what would create a better game. However, the company found itself puffed up with its own successe, unfortunately. A reboot of DmC couldn’t become anything other than a risk; who knows why they even tried for it. The allure of money, however, remains a powerful incentive. Instead of a competent, well-made project injected with a deep history, we got a broken combat system with a rather perfunctory game to go along with it. And some shock value!

Capcom saw the promise of the practical. They did not think a cheesy 1980s styled character could “cut it” in the current market space. So, instead of embracing their shining beacon of all things over-the-top and dumb, they dumbed him down to the level of everything else. They made Dante just like a traditional rebel. And, in the process, they made him a practical protagonist.

Apparently, smoking is cool again? And being a criminal also? Must be a European thing.

Apparently, smoking is cool again? And being a criminal also? Must be a European thing.

Say what? An evil lurks inherent in the very idea of this reboot. None of its weird juvenile transgressions form a part of that evil. Rather, the compromises made to the design of everything that DMC represented reveal it. Making Devil May Cry appeal to a vast audience showed a confidence that simplification of the premise and appealing to the mass market would create a success. They were wrong, of course, but they could have just as easily been correct.

Think of it like this. Some (like me) see Christianity as truth, but let us be honest: it seems, at first glance, as an utterly impossible solution. Hence its salvific power meaning all the more to human consciousness. Evil, on the other hand, deals in practicalities. Realities. Things that are tangible, to our mind anyway. It says “do this, and get this in return”. It is the very definition of risk/reward.

If you apply this to the earliest human societies, you begin to see such a trend. Mythology wasn’t so much believed as a be-all, end-all. Rather, it was fun frivolity, discussing things far beyond comprehension. The pantheon and the innumerable Hindu gods, or the variety of Shinto deities demonstrated a desire, yet a known divide. Human beings cannot interact with such powerful forces of goodness and creation. Evil forces, on the other hand, had a real sort of power to them. That’s why people did the most disgusting things imaginable to summon them up and get them to a contractual basis. But nobody wants the devil to follow up on his end of the bargain when things go wrong.

Think of this in the sense of Mayan and Azetecs; their culture may as well have been based on the worship of demons of a sort, and sacrifice was their means to get there. Do you find my judgement of human sacrifice offensive? Somehow, I doubt anyone will make a judgement call on me for this. Go ahead if you like. Carthage was even worse, using child sacrifice to satiate their demonic god Moloch. And evil must believe that death remains stronger than life, for what else could bring demons but death? What has an eternal permanence, in our material eyes, but death? Death is tangible; resurrection, new life, is not. And that is where the crux of evil makes its attack on us in the modern world.

And yet, these civilization, whether by God or by other means, someone were wiped from human existence. They perished. In the case of Carthage, this especially make no sense; Hannibal had crossed the mountains. He would destroy Rome. Yet, at the last moment, Carthage asked him to give up reinforcements for civil defense, impeding his victory over Rome at every turn. It’s no coincidence that the Roman Empire became the perfect breeding ground for the Church. It became the perfect circumstances for it to breed and grow. Even pagan cultures could see the worship of demons as an absolute wrong, a line not to be crossed.

In that sense does evil cross into “reason” of a sort – that of the modernist age. Good requires hope beyond comprehension; evil embraces practicality. Good embraces the old and the new, tradition and experience. Evil tells us that everything is wrong and must be fixed. It must be changed. This is why mythology has faded away in general; Christianity has made it irrelevant. God is no longer far away, but close. Yet evil persists. And why? Because, even with Incarnation, evil still remains close to us. And that is the impulse one fights against every day, to be good rather than evil, to revive rather than destroy, to hope without guarantees even in despair. We fight against the practical; we fight for the impractical. We fight for paradox, for the weird eccentricities of human life; evil fights to constrain everything to its will, to bring us down from the heights of heaven to the depths of hell.

DmC doesn’t provide us with the levity of angels; it gives us the practicality of demons.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.
  • loringted

    I remember hearing a comment once about Satanism, that it was the only truly honest world view.  They said that at least they were fully honest with themselves about their evil condition and openly acknowledged that they were “in it” for their own personal gain.  So in that sense, I can definitely follow along with you that evil tends to be more practical.  I haven’t played any of the DMC games before.  They are too hard for me!

    • @loringted Satanism’s an interesting beast. It takes Christian symbolism, but doesn’t actually believe in any particular gods. But yeah, you pretty much hit the nail on the head there.
      Have you tried the lower difficulties? They do have really easy ones, along with modes that basically do all the fancy combos for you. I admit I used those when I was growing up, so all’s equal here!

      • loringted

        @Zachery Oliver  @loringted OK, I did it.  I drove 45 minutes to a used game store that had the PS2 orginal DMC.  I have played the first level.  I kept wondering where the difficulty choice was going to be, and found it interesting that I was only given the option for easier mode after completing the first mission.  I (of course) took that option.  I kind of like this game and feel like I sold myself short for not trying it sooner.  Thanks for the recommendation.  Now, if I can only get past that lion door in the second mission, I might make some progress.

        • @loringted The game will also give you the option if you die a few times on the first mission. I am pretty sure that’s what happened to me (almost like the game was taunting me because I was bad at it, though I guess I was too young to pick up on it).
          Although I forgot to mention: there’s a lot of puzzles in the first game, mostly because it was originally supposed to be a new iteration of the Resident Evil franchise (also accounts for the prerendered backgrounds, fixed camera angles, etc.)
          I’m glad when someone plays a game they’d never even try before; hope you’re enjoying it!

  • Wow! I didn’t realize the audience opinions on the game were so divergent! It’s just like Dragon Age 2! Game critics give thumbs up and the user community floods Metacritic to pan the game. I wonder how much of those negative reviews are remotely reasonable. Regardless, I was pretty sure this wasn’t the game for me when I saw Dante got “serviced” by stripper angels and that there were highly sexualized enemies. It makes sense given the subject matter. I mean if you’re going to show principalities of darkness, show them in all their prostitutions (the bible does that). But to be forced into the shoes of a purveyor of it all? Problem.
    As for the original, I bought it, played it, and was greatly disappointed by the idiot meathead character (and plot) and the unexpectedly extreme difficulty. I just couldn’t beat some of the bosses. The meathead goth plot and characters were an added problem for me because I knew so many teens who wanted to be Dante. They even dressed like him. The fact that this was a stupid joke was lost on them. But go ahead and try to tell a teenager that without coming off as a pretentious prude! I dare ya! Haha. I’m just kinda glad that at least that dated goof troop has been put to rest and the immitators of the world can go back to more grounded things. Like listening to crap they hear in Rock Band (which, to my chagrin still includes Disturbed). Now, I really sound like a pretentious prude.
    Interesting thread at the bottom of your post about evil and Carthage. Not sure I have a lot to add to that other than to question how you feel about Christianity breeding in Rome. Do you see that as a mixed thing with good and negative? Purely good or negative? I’m a little of the predisposition that “Rome” is synonimous with “Babylon.” But that could be my prejudice.

    • @Mjoshua I was surprised, but I think the community response would seem to tell the tale. Most of them actually offered pretty reasonable opinions on the subject, and echo a lot of my complaints on the Substance TV article. I will play this – just not new, and certainly not for sixty dollars. MGR:R, on the other hand, may make its way into my collection sooner rather than later.
      Your reaction to the game sounds like you! It’s meant to be “cool”, or at least Kamiya’s idea of it, and the hilariously cheesy nature of it really shows an ironic side to the whole thing. I love it because it’s absurd, and what other place can you get away with it? I’m not so sure it’s a stupid joke so much as an archetype, and that’s why people think it’s cool. I still do!. I hope to see the old Dante back after this reboot, but fat chance, I suppose (also, Disturbed makes solid tunes, at the very least. They were just caught up in the rapcore scene for a while).
      As for Christendom (as I would call it), I find the Protestant rejection of it wholly unsatisfying. It’s like hating a hero for saving your life; without the leadership structure and the ability to spread the faith far and wide, most historians doubt Christianity would even exist today. Leadership structures DID keep it alive, much to our chagrin. Things don’t always work out in the diversity of life according to a fixed law or principle.

      • @Zachery Oliver I was going to give this a response, but you lost me when you started defending Disturbed. Haha.