Previews// Devil May Cry (DmC)

Posted 14 Dec 2012 09:35 by
That Dante. What an a$$hole. I do mean it in the brat-ish, American sense, too. Knows how to make a mess of things with a sword and a couple of guns, though.

I'm DmC's target audience. Hiya! I like hackin' and slashin' sorts of games. I don't have a problem with Japanese games, but neither am I a Japanophile. And (sorry to have to tell you this) I'd never played a Devil May Cry game before. Which means I'm precisely the kind of chap Capcom is looking to get the attention of with this Ninja Theory-led reboot.

The emphasis here is on a 'grittier' style. This is not so evident from the moment Dante first dresses himself in mid-air as his trailer gets knocked over and gets sucked into limbo to fight a massive demon. It may be that what's really 'gritty' about DmC is the fact that Dante looks like he'd be at home with the cast of Skins.

While DmC gleefully forgoes any serious grab for realism, there is something dirtier about the design than previous games (Yes, I did research). Things are grimy. You get the feeling that if you fell over in the world of DmC you'd graze your knees. The 'real-world' sections have a darkness to them that's pleasingly dystopian. You still have to deal with a runaway Ferris wheel as monsters slash at your heels in the first five minutes, though.

Initially the level design looks a bit disappointingly-reminiscent of Shadows of the Damned, but it quickly becomes apparent that there's more to the game than this. Ninja Theory soon starts flexing its muscles. While it's not all staggeringly original, the style of the Limbo stages is dynamic, and atmosphere seeps from the environments. There are also familiar elements such as the odd European streets seen in earlier games (and in Bayonetta, for that matter).

Little touches such as the gorgeous lighting and floating platforms that rock and give way when you land on them elevate the level design above standard fare. And, while Dante looks a little too much like he got rejected from One Direction for being too hairless, seemingly inconsequential animations such as when he staggers after delivering a heavy blow put him on just the right side of 'believable' (as far as these things go).

The game follows Dante on his quests to a) save the world from its demon overlord and b) get to the bottom of his parentage. Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later) has had his hands on the script so comments on the media and consumer culture abound. It's not exactly the most incisive social commentary, but... well, you didn't come for a textured, multi-layed narrative, did you? And, while Dante is portrayed as a brat-ish dick, there are a few well-executed character moments.

Of course, it's all about the combat, really. Dante's sword, Rebellion, and his pistols, Ebony and Ivory, are all present and accounted for. They're joined early on by Arbiter, an axe that comes out when you use the right trigger to activate 'demonic mode' and delivers heavy attacks. On the other trigger we have an 'angelic mode', which brings the faster Osiris, a scythe that's handy for ranged attacks, to bear.

Both turn into a whippy-chainy thing that will either pull you towards enemies or pull them towards you. Plus, there's... well, there's more. But listing it could soon get tedious.

The point here is: you have plenty of weapons and methods of attack to play with. As you go you'll unlock certain moves and earn upgrades to acquire others. It all might sound like it can get a bit overwhelming, but it doesn't.

The learning curve is pretty much spot-on. You'll occasionally realise you've got a move you forgot about, but by and large it doesn't all come at you at such a pace that you can't handle it. If you like your Devil May Cry super-hardcore, though, you're catered for by four nails-hard difficulty modes.

While there's a reasonably substantial moves list to be picked up, though, the game really isn't about complicated button sequences. It's about how you tie together the different moves at your disposal. As in previous games, you're rewarded with style points that are dished out for unbroken chains, not taking damage and, of course, variation. Hammering away with one weapon will only get you so far.

In fact, hammering away with one weapon probably won't even get you through a level. Different baddies will respond to different sorts of attacks. They lurk at different ranges, they have different resistances to different weapons... different different different. Variation and strategy are your keys to winning the day.

Platforming sections can niggle a little. As well as using your regular jump and your ability to swing from/pull on certain parts of the environment, you can use an 'angel boost' move to push you forwards in mid-air. Given that platforming doesn't work that well in 3D games at the best of times, this can leave you over-shooting a little too regularly, but this might be tweaked by the time the final game is out.

It's all shaping up rather well, frankly. It doesn't have the brains of Ninja Theory's previous offering, Enslaved, but it's an intelligent brawler nonetheless. I can't speak too well for existing Devil May Cry fans, but I suspect there's enough of the series' DNA in here to keep them happy. And I suspect the rest of us are in for a treat.

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