Since farming out development of its franchises to Western developers, Capcom has had mixed results. For every Dead Rising 2 there’s a Bionic Commando rearing its ugly head. But since there isn’t a series Capcom wouldn’t entrust to a western developer, Ninja Theory has been tasked with reinventing Devil May Cry, now branded DmC: Devil May Cry. Much like the previous example, the quality of the series has been all over the map, culminating in the disappointing Devil May Cry 4, which saw Dante upstaged by a whiny clone named Nero.
The biggest, and most controversial change, has been the redesign of Dante himself. Previously, Dante had been a campy figure saying lines that were as cheesy as the pizza he regularly scarfed down. His over-the-top persona matched the frantic action, so it’s jarring to see a Dante that isn’t regularly doing something ridiculous in every cutscene. This is a Dante that’s a bit more antagonistic towards his enemies and less obsessed with trying to be cool. His scruffy appearance and punk aesthetic makes him the antithesis of the old Dante. Not to mention he cusses a lot more now.
DmC‘s overall story has changed as well. Limbo City is in fact controlled by demons, unbeknownst to the general public. A resistance has formed, dubbing themselves The Order and led by Vergil, Dante’s twin brother, both of whom are the spawn of angel and demon. Branded terrorists, Dante and The Order make their way through the streets of Limbo in the demo’s opening level. It isn’t long before the terrain shifts into a bizarre, twisted version of itself with buildings jutting in odd directions and abstract substances strewn about the environment.
It doesn’t take long for Dante to get into a punch-up with some enemies after being spotted by a demonic security camera. The controls mimic those of previous titles, with a few exceptions. Air-launches have been given their own button instead of pulling back when attacking and weapons can be selected by holding the shoulder buttons versus cycling through them. The left switches to a scythe, good for reach, and an axe that’s good for slow, heavier attacks. Gamers will be well-acquainted with Rebellion and his twin guns Ebony and Ivory. Another new addition to the control scheme is a whip that can pull Dante towards enemies or pull them towards him, which is good for getting shielded enemies off-guard.
The three melee weapons and guns can be charged for additional damage, and there are a handful of combos for each. Rounding out Dante’s abilities is a button for evading (good for the ground and air), a mid-air dash, and a double jump. The Devil Trigger returns, turning Dante’s hair to its trademark white and his coat to classic red, along with all of its other perks. There’s a lot to manage with the control scheme, and it can be very easy to get overwhelmed by everything.
Style is just as important as it ever was, and players are constantly ranked by how flashy their fights are. This is accomplished by using a variety of attacks instead of doing the same combo, and switching weapons mid-combo is key. Start slashing with Rebellion, then launch the enemy in the air with the scythe, pepper them with bullets, use the whip to pull yourself to them, and send them crashing back down with the axe. Think you can do that?
There’s a bit of platforming to be done as the structures in the level shift about, and a segment where the buildings are literally trying to crush Dante. Shades of people obliviously walked the streets can be seen before dissipating, and messages such as ‘KILL DANTE’ will appear, adding to the sense that the city itself is alive and will do everything in its power to thwart Dante. It has a vibe similar to the movie They Live, with only a handful of individuals aware of the malevolence lurking under the facade of normalcy.
A bit of exploring the level yields keys that unlock arena-style challenges such as enemies that only take damage in the air and so forth, reminiscent of previous games. Lost souls can be sought, and finding all the secrets in a level guarantees an SSS ranking.
The other level included in the demo is a boss enveloped in the shell of what appears to be an enormous demonic caterpillar. Dante pierces the creature with a few verbal barbs (and F-bombs) before doing so with his weapons. The boss is dangling above a pit of acidic goo, held back only with a few wires that can be pulled off once he’s dealt enough damage. It mainly attacks with its four hands and a shriek that pushes Dante back. After a while it’ll cover the platform in damaging vomit, forcing Dante to use his whip and swing to another platform. This is repeated several times until the boss falls into the pit, and Dante quips “You’re dumped.” One more encounter is teased before the demo ends with a teaser trailer.
Four difficulty levels are available, replacing weaker enemies with deadlier versions for those inclined to see if they’re worthy of the title Son of Sparda. The red gem system of currency remains the same, as does the items that Dante regularly uses for extra lives and replenishing health. Even so, it’s still not easy and the demo doesn’t hold your hand beyond conveying basic information.
Ninja Theory has replicated the combat system incredibly well, and anyone afraid that the game would be stifled by a truncated move list, easy enemies, QTEs, or regenerating health need not worry. While developed by westerners, Ninja Theory gets what makes the action work and isn’t about to needlessly westernize the gameplay. DmC is Devil May Cry, through and through. Despite the aesthetic changes, this is still the same action series fans fell in love with in 2001.