DmC: Devil May Cry [Preview] – Red vs. Blue11 May 2012
The reaction of long-term Devil May Cry fans to Capcom choosing Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West) has not been one punctuated by praise and optimism. Indeed, quite the opposite. Devil May Cry is a series about perfecting combos and unlocking an enemy’s weakness, whereas Ninja Theory are known are making games primarily concerned with aesthetics. That has been the general consensus of the fan base so far.
This is the first time we’ve got our own hands on DmC: Devil May Cry (just DmC from here on out), and we’re happy to report that while, yes, the aesthetics are certainly fancier, the series’ ideals are still in place.
Our demo begins with a cut-scene in which the new look Dante walks past an advertising board for Virility energy drink. Virility: Fitter, Smarter, Sexier, the advert reads. And that’s exactly what Ninja Theory and Capcom are aiming for with DmC; something that’s similar but bigger in every respect. So, where’s the ‘fitter’? Well, in true Devil May Cry fashion, things begin and end with the combat system.
Combos are still the theme of the day, although there are some new options within the moveset. Guns and a sword remain Dante’s primary weapons, with the former still doing very little other than act as a means to lengthen your combo between bouts of melee. New to the party are angel and devil moves, which adds a scythe of either blue or red to the arsenal.
Press right trigger and Dante harnesses the devil powers, allowing for slower but more powerful swings and stabs. Left trigger enacts angel powers, greatly increasing your attack speed but reducing the amount of damage per hit. The manner in which you mix your three attack modes (normal, angel and devil), based on the enemies onscreen, determines your success in any given battle. Some enemies are more susceptible to fast attacks to prevent them going on the offensive themselves, while others (particularly those with shields), require the power of the demon to vanquish.
Dante can also pull himself towards enemies with his new powers which, if used correctly, reduces moments of down time. Pulling yourself to your foes becomes essential when dealing with flying enemies, and if you time it right you can jump between enemies and keep yourself in the air until they’re all dead.
On the level we played, flying enemies took the form of warped cherubs with attacks so weak that they would struggle to crack an Oreo. However, their point isn’t to hurt your health bar, they’re there to reset your combo meter. Combos in DmC can only be broken by taking a hit, forcing you to keep a close eye on enemy position and number. Of course, you might not care about your combo rank. But if you feel that way you’re probably not a Devil May Cry fan.
So, that’s fitter. It could also be argued that the revamped combo and combat system is smarter, too. But that’s a conversation better left for closer to review time.
Sexier is subjective, but the subject is there in full force to be judged. Most obvious is the makeover that Dante himself has been given. He’s leaner, seemingly taller and darker of feature than the Dante of old. He’s also more commonly trendy, sporting an action-hero vest top and black-with-red-trim overcoat emblazoned with a Union Jack on one sleeve. Nothing says fashionable punk-rocker more than a Union Jack, right? Or it may simply be a reference to Ninja Theory operating out of the UK.
The environments are certainly striking, too. Our demo was set within the tightly woven, sun-baked streets of Limbo City; a world existing between the realms of the living and the dead. This has given the art team plenty of cause to play up the dramatic-impact factor. As you walk and run through the streets you’re accompanied by flickering images of people walking past, paint and plaster being stripped from walls and sucked into oblivion and blood red scrawls of ‘Kill Dante’ projected throughout the world.
These are all supposed to represent the fragile place Limbo occupies between the two realms, both life and death struggling to penetrate it.
When death gets a grip it literally turns the world against you, giving you another enemy to think about. Narrow streets lined with terraced houses slam together in a bid to flatten you, gaps lengthen mid-jump and force you to employ Dante’s glide ability and the whole place can shift up or down a level without warning.
In essence, the morphing world added a strong platforming element to the level we played and gave Dante’s pull ability another use – turning it into a grappling hook of sorts. The platforming was fast and frantic, a race against the clock to reach your destination and escape as your world tumbles and warps around you. It’s exciting stuff and there’s no denying that it looks highly impressive. What happens if you die is unknown (because we, and the other journalist in the room, completed the section first time around), but if it follows the same rules as combat then a generous checkpointing system will prevent too much backtracking.
No matter the looks, though, it’s the gameplay we demand from this series. Right now it seems fun and rewarding, but the depth is something we’ll not be able to weigh in until we’ve given it a full playthrough. If Ninja Theory really can marry their flair for visuals with an engaging combat system that offers plenty to learn and explore then DmC could turn out to be a bit of all right.