Devil May Cry

Thank God for pizza.

Specifically, thank God for the slice that manages to hide the naughty bits of “Devil May Cry” protagonist Dante as he floats, naked, in slow motion through his whirling mobile home.

Of course, by the time Dante lands, safe from the demon’s attack, he’s fully clothed and ready to carry out his unique brand of divine intervention.

Ninja Theory’s reboot of the famed hack-n-slash action series, “Devil May Cry,” carries on the games’ trademark flamboyance and ups the already damned absurd ante.

Players take the role of Dante — an arrogant exercise in one-liner master craft — a character who’s impossible to identify with and one who’s only occasionally entertaining. In one fell swoop, he learns that, as a child, his memory was wiped, he and his newly discovered twin brother, Virgil, were born of angel and demon parents and the whole world is actually run by an evil demon, Mundus.

As players may suspect, a stream of inane, trite and generally useless dialog propels a plot that, at best, suffices to present new environments for the true star of “DmC” to stretch its incredibly fulfilling limbs.

Swords, scythes, fists, pistols, hammers, shuriken and sawed-off shotguns serve as appendages — their free-flowing, instantaneous cooperation is the core. Each features its own combinations of attacks and pages of improvements and unlockables gained by slaying demons and completing missions.

Outside of these combos’ individual purposes and stunning animations, a ranking system provides another reason to keep playing. “DmC” scores players based on how fast they complete missions and, most importantly, how stylishly those levels are completed.

Style, flair, panache: it’s the backbone of the series and the reason Dante is more concerned with his leather coat than his safety. This is the reason to play “DmC.” Each attack acts as a brush stroke, painting one of the most visually compelling and physically satisfying games in a long time.

Where games like “God of War,” — a series heavily influenced by “DmC” — succeed in narrative thrusts and the scale of gameplay, “Devil May Cry” excels through flexibility and the sheer amount of possible variations in combat. Even the loading screen reads, “You can review all currently known combos by pausing...” Currently. Known. Combos.

“DmC” also possesses some fantastic level aesthetics. The alternate reality, Limbo, in which most of the game takes place, distorts the normal universe into a twisted exaggeration of itself. Players traverse three-dimensional pundit news graphics in one mission, Tron-esque dubstep audio-waves and an all-around demonically-coated world.

It’s unfortunate Ninja Theory has squandered an opportunity to develop a cohesive package. In one instance, the narrative, laughing at itself, promises a knowingly silly parody; the next turns serious, melodramatic and, more than anything else, poorly written.

Yes, we know your name’s Mundus. You don’t need to declare that so bombastically.

The game’s version of social commentary – conservative media moguls as demon boss-battles, the use of the words “trillion,” “debt,” and “Mr. President” — ultimately goes nowhere. Other than its simplistic themes of good vs. evil, “DmC” fails to execute in any realm beyond arbitrary references. It’s baffling.

This is a game a person pauses when someone walks in the room, not for its gnashing blends of black metal guitars and drum and bass (D&B), not for the outstanding visual design and its visceral combat, but for an embarrassingly handled tale of revenge and oppression.

Maybe a mouthful of that pizza is needed to shut the characters up too.

on twitter @dnartsdesk

Grade: B-

EDITOR'S NOTE: Reviewed on PS3, also available for Xbox 360 and PC