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PAX Prime 2012: DmC hands-on

Devil May CryPAX Prime 2012

There’s been a lot of animosity about the Devil May Cry reboot, but as a passive fan of the series, I never cared what color Dante’s hair was, nor who developed it. What excited me was the prospect of a new Ninja Theory game, a studio that I adore, despite their history of great narrative work and only okay gameplay.

Seeing Ninja Theory’s new vision for the first time in person, DmC is a gorgeous looking game, unsurprisingly following the lush apocalypse of Enslaved. The level I played took place in a softly lit rustic town, populated by demons and the shadows of people that bled in and out of the surroundings.

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After a few fights, it’s easy to say DmC is already the most accomplished Ninja Theory title in terms of combat. The new Dante is realized with an appropriately slick assortment of animations, highlighted by his Angelic and Demonic attacks. Sword swipes are easily chained together with gunfire and juggles, just like the series is known for. Though I’d say DmC felt a little bit slower than my memory of Devil May Cry titles past, the last one I played being DMC3.

Using the triggers I was able to modify Dante’s attacks with the aforementioned Angelic and Demonic modes. Demonic attacks replaced Dante’s sword with an oversized axe, which Dante struggles to control during swings. The deliberate attacks add a welcome touch of humor and punch, as the axe satisfyingly connects with its intended target, punishing their guard.

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Like previous Devil May Cry titles the demo isn’t about overwhelming the player with enemies. With only a handful of opponents at once I was able to experiment with the combo system and the new hookshot-like ability that allows Dante to grapple with enemies and his surroundings. Air units can be pulled to the ground using the Demonic grapple or Dante can pull himself to an enemy using the Angelic variant, creating an exhilarating form of enemy-to-enemy traversal reminiscent of the PlayStation 2 Shinobi, while requiring an impressive bit of controller dexterity.

Mixed between the standard bits of arena combat, DmC sprinkled in some light platforming and puzzle solving. Platforms in the environment that glow blue or red – Angelic or Demonic respectively – can be grappled, creating new paths for Dante to explore. Near the end of the demo the town began to collapse and fall in on itself. As the stage’s footing gave way there was a mad dash to jump, glide and grapple through the area as quickly as possible. Normally this sort of quasi-chase sequence can feel staged and boring, but the inclusion of the grappling mechanic injected an unexpected dose of Bionic Commando to the proceedings.

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As the demo ended, following an exhilarating, trippy cathedral sequence, I couldn’t help but want more. DmC is shaping up to be a worthy extension to the Devil May Cry family. The action is similar enough to please longtime fans of the series, but different enough to interest the passive enthusiast such as myself. DmC ships next year for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and I can’t wait to see what else Ninja Theory has in store.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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