When the first details of DmC: Devil May Cry emerged, controversy ensued. Ninja Theory, the newly appointed developer to the long-running Capcom series were dealt angry backlash from dedicated fans who felt their beloved Dante had been bastardized. Casting aside the smooth, ivory-haired poster boy of demon-hunting in favour of a reckless “emo” sporting Goth hair who bears no resemblance to the protagonist of the same name was always going to be a hard sell, but Ninja Theory continue on, steady and true to their original design.
A surprise late inclusion, the DmC: Devil May Cry Captivate-based code was the title I wanted to have my hands-on time with more than any other at the pre-E3 event. Had Ninja Theory managed to breathe new life and resurrect a franchise that was fast on a downward spiral, or would they be responsible for dooming the series to an eternal limbo?
Firstly and most importantly, we need to get one thing clear - DmC: Devil May Cry is a reboot and not a prequel. The teenage Dante seen in DmC is Ninja Theory’s interpretation on the young slayer with their own imagined storylines. Although aspects of DmC may tie-in with the overall scope of the series, it’s not to be confused as a prequel to its predecessors and exists in its own universe, playing by its own rules. A good comparison would be the Hollywood Batman movies – familiar hero, different director.
Putting aside any preconceptions of the Devil May Cry series, DmC is a remarkably well constructed hack-n-slash action-fest. The hands-on demo I sampled plonks Dante into the alternate dimension of ‘Limbo’ in which he is attempting to escape from. Limbo is a realm on an altered plane existing in the same reality, like what happens to Frodo when he puts on the ring in The Lord of the Rings. Yeah… kind of like that.
The landscape is a washed with a saturated hue and the general populous strangely evanescent with only their shadowy silhouettes offering any clues of their existence. Limbo is a fragile place, the world twists and warps as if submerged underwater, at times tearing apart to stop Dante in his tracks. Littered throughout the city are peculiar demonic sentry cameras supposedly monitoring Dante’s every move. Part of the objective during the hands-on demo involves destroying each of these demon eyeballs which Dante takes to in creative fashion through a series of cut scenes. Similar styling cues to Shadows of the Damned displaces the Devil May Cry traditional environments, reinforced further by the neon signs lingering in the backdrop instructing residences of Limbo to inflict bodily harm on Dante.
Combos have always been the draw-card for the Devil May Cry series and thankfully DmC has retained this particular element of its heritage. Stylized sword swinging and stringing combo chains together up-close with melee combat is deeply satisfying as moves are tallied up and given a rating for both style and damage. I noticed the less-experienced Dante throws around his demonic blade more wildly and with an unorthodox approach compared with his older self, a nice little touch on Ninja Theory’s part.
Gun-toting pistol action also makes a return with dual-wield, long-ranged shooting to mix up the pace and action. Trigger-happy fans will enjoy the rapid-firing with the ability for harder hitting projectiles through charged trigger shots. Launching hapless enemies into the sky for air juggling is still a part of Dante’s repertoire, where gunplay, quick slashing, or using both in succession will keep them in suspended animation above.
DmC: Devil May Cry introduces a new versatile grappling hook mechanic, similar in concept to Nero’s ability from Devil May Cry 4. Capable of serving multiple purposes, in battle it helps Dante to grasp hold of enemies, dragging them closer to him, or pulling himself towards his target to invade their personal space so Dante can continue performing combos that would normally be out of his reach. The Captivate demo features an abundance of platforming ledges where the hook is a necessity for manipulating the environment to reach unexplored areas for progression. Again, it has duel functions for ripping out ledges from walls, and then propelling Dante towards them. Dante is agile as ever, able to perform double-jumps and dash moves which needs to be mastered for crossing between large gaps greater distances than the norm.
The conclusion of the demo culminates with Dante storming through a church but not all is as it appears. Preventing his escape, the church begins to tear apart, shattering the very fabric of reality. Dante is prompted to muster all the platforming prowess learnt up until this point before the whole structure collapses. Not so easy as first impressions would suggest with the building seemingly comes alive, stretching far off into the distance doing everything it can in an attempt to swallow up the adolescent demon hunter.
DmC: Devil May Cry certainly re-invigorates the series and Ninja Theory doesn’t appear to be afraid to give the foundations a good solid shake-up, but it’s far from bad as the hardcore fans would have you believe. Much of the core of Devil May Cry is retained with fast-pace gameplay very much in line with the previous titles from the series. The drastic changes rest in the design direction and aesthetics rather than mechanics and if Ninja Theory were to dress Dante in his original threads and appearance, most would have little qualms at all. In fairness, I’m not a huge fan of the new-look Dante but if sparking renewed interest in the franchise is the target objective, I’d say Capcom and Ninja Theory have done what they need to do.
DmC: Devil May Cry is still in development with an expected release date for January 2013 on both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.