DmC Devil May Cry is a reboot of a beloved franchise. It’s a retelling of main character Dante’s origin story set amidst a contemporary background. Fans were up in arms at the original announcement just because the hair was different. I’ve never played a Devil May Cry game before. I didn’t even know what genre of game it was when it arrived in the mail. I put it into my XBOX 360 knowing almost nothing about it. So I can’t judge it as a reboot—I have to judge it as a new game.

And it’s an incredible one.

It probably helps that the game was developed by one of my favorite companies: Ninja Theory, a company known for creating compelling, well-drawn characters set against a thrilling narrative with a fluid, seamless combat system. They’re responsible for games like Heavenly Sword and Enslaved—games that few people played, but those that did (like me), walked away impressed.

If you’ve played a game like God of War or Darksiders before, you’ll feel right at home with DmC. You’ll get a mix of sword and gunplay, with abilities and skills that turn your sword into other weapons like the Arbiter (a demonic axe that can deliver massive blows and break through your enemy’s shields) and Eryx (powerful demonic gauntlets that can parry strong attacks and bash through barriers/the floor).

Dante has no respect for authority or society. At the beginning of the game, he already knows he’s not human, but also knows he’s not a demon, many of which he’s already fought against in his life before the game even begins.

The game right away tells you you’re in for an unrealistic, but fun ride, as Dante, naked, flies through the air to dodge a demon’s attacks only to see a slice of pizza protect his privates as he does so. He’s a self-assured protagonist to be sure, but the emotions he displays and decisions he makes later feel earned thanks to smart and clever writing by Ninja Theory.

Eventually, Dante teams up with his twin brother Vergil, who is the leader of the anti-establishment group called The Order. Both are the child of a demon and angel, and are the only ones capable of defeating a demon named Mundus that has enslaved humanity. (I’m told Vergil is a beloved character from the franchise.)

Humanity has no idea of the existence of demons. Frequently, Dante will be “dragged into Limbo” which is like a parallel world where physics don’t necessarily apply and demons are plentiful.

It’s in Limbo where you’ll see the creativity of the developer. One of the most inventive sections involved defeating a boss that’s a news anchor. As you fight him, you’ll be sucked into news footage and have to control Dante from a helicopter-like camera angle. It’s ridiculous, it’s insane and yet it’s incredibly rewarding because it’s so different than other games.

(Speaking of the camera—this has to be the best use of a camera in a game that I’ve seen in a long time. It was never in my way and almost always, it knew where I wanted it to be.)

Combat is incredibly fluid and you’ll often forget you have so many options so early in the game. For instance, once I learned how to pull an enemy towards me, I almost always opted for that first when battling my enemies. However, you’ll want to vary your attacks as the game is constantly scoring you on the variety of how you use your skills and abilities—you can then unlock additional ones based on how you do mission to mission.

The writing is especially strong and the plot, while seemingly nonsensical, takes itself seriously enough to carry you forward. All of the secondary characters have true motivations and well-developed personalities—you’ll never want a cut scene to be over, and while you may see the ending coming, it’s still earned and enjoyable to watch play out.

There’s twenty “missions” to play through and on normal, I wound up finishing the game in about 7-8 hours. Interestingly, I didn’t “die” for the first time until level 18. (You can have an object known as a gold orb to resurrect you; I used those twice before I die “died.”)

I have no idea if Devil May Cry franchise fans will enjoy this game. I just know that I, as a newbie, couldn’t have had more fun and can’t recommend this title enough to be the first new one you play in 2013.

DmC Devil May Cry is out on Tuesday for PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360; it’ll be out on PC on January 25.

* Disclosure: A copy of DmC Devil May Cry for XBOX 360 was provided by publisher Capcom for the purposes of this review. *