Impressions: DMC Demo

Devil May Cry, a series once quite popular, but a genre that has slightly fallen off of the gamer’s radar. Hack and slash titles can vary greatly in quality, and it is easy for the game to be complete trash, Bayonetta is the only recent title that managed to get it right. The series has been on a long hiatus since 2008’s Devil May Cry 4 but now Capcom and Ninja Theory (Enslaved, Heavenly Sword) are hoping to bring hack and slash back to the top, and fans back into the world of Dante; even if it is different than they remember.

DMC is a reboot/reimagining of the long running series, one that has been plagued with unfair hatred since its announcement. The first thing fans got to see of this new game was the retooled main protagonist, Dante. The original is a fan favorite, and this new incarnation was deemed unworthy of taking the mantle. (Although “fans” words were much more vulgar than unworthy) The backlash is so strong that even today, long after the reveal the “diehard” Devil May Cry fans leave scathing comments in articles related to the reboot.

I have never seen the problem, I have played and enjoyed the original Devil May Cry series, but I’m not overly attached to the white haired demon hunter from the originals. He was all flash and no substance in my opinion and this new portrayal is still a wise cracking showoff. Yeah he may be a little more of a punk, but he’s also young and his persona may grow and develop as the game progresses. But either way now is the chance for fans of the series to play the game, to look past the visual changes to the cast and see if the same combo heavy challenge the series is known for is intact. Ninja Theory released a demo last week and having put it through its paces a few times, I am glad to say that I am really digging it.

Ninja Theory is a small studio that has put out great work such as Enslaved and Heavenly Sword, both great games with close attention paid to character and story. Unfortunately they sold very poorly and now this team up with Capcom may be their last shot at getting a larger following. I am very interested to see fan reaction to the demo, as I think it captures all of the original core elements of Devil May Cry. The preview allows users to experience two stages, one a familiar series of tunneled combat sequences, and the other a boss battle.

The first stage see’s Dante following one of the members of “The Order”, a group trying to loosen the grip the demons have over the city, as they walk the city streets. Within seconds Dante and the player are pulled into Limbo, an area where the city itself actively tries to destroy them and demons rise up out of the ground. This is where control is given to the player, and where they may realize the game isn’t as different as they were fearing. DMC plays like a Devil May Cry game. The combat is fast and stringing together long chains is encouraged and graded with points being shown on the screen. The stage is quartered off into sections, with the long standing tradition of barriers materializing into the world holding off progress until the player finishes off all of the enemies in the area.

Dante’s sword Rebellion can change shape and take the form of a scythe and an axe in the demo, with more weapons announced for the final release. These options can be performed quickly and effectively while in the middle of a combo. Holding either trigger on the controller the blade effortlessly changes shape and you go from stabbing an enemy in the chest with your sword into flinging him high into the air and spinning him with your scythe, before pounding him into the stone below with the heavy axe. Dante also carries two pistols as before, and although they feel a little too weak to me right now, are still effective for dishing out consistent damage at long range.

Dante also has a spine like grappling hook that works much like Nero’s Snatch ability from Devil May Cry 4. Using this ability opens up even more options in combat and works to make it much more fluid and fast. Players can lash out and attach the hook to enemies, either pulling the demon in close to them, or using it to lunge themselves across the gap and deal damage directly at the enemies position. The grab can be used on ground enemies or used to get closer to the airborne demons that fly about the stage. Upon filling a gauge players can also pull off Devil Trigger, which causes Dante’s hair to turn white ala older games, and cause more damage and keep enemies in the air longer.

As mentioned earlier when in Limbo the city itself comes to life, doing what it can to detach Dante from the realm of the living. This element of the game is one of the more interesting and looks to be used in great ways to keep things fresh. In the demo players will see buildings breaking and collapsing, the roads tearing themselves apart, and entire alleyways crushing inward to stop Dante from passing through. The effect is awesome and gives the game a more interesting platforming element that heavily relies on the Snatch ability to get past huge gaps. The idea is especially well done in the church section that ends the demo’s first stage.

The second snippet is a boss battle that see’s Dante confronting a large slug like demon that doesn’t like his cocky attitude to much, as the two do a battle of words that comically boils down to cursing at one another; much like the internet. The battle is executed well enough, but still relies heavily upon common mechanics used in boss encounters. You will hit the enemy repeatedly, jump to another platform, do it over and then see the cutscene that indicates when to do something slightly more special.

The games graphics are pretty impressive, with Ninja Theory using a much more colorful presentation than most games this generation. The city environment beams with the suns glow, and the yellow’s and orange’s are balanced perfectly with Dante’s black and red trench coat and the demons dark browns. The animations are fairly smooth and diverse while cutscenes (a practice Ninja Theory excels at) hint at another solid outing from the team.

The sound design has me hopeful as well, with a nice mix of rock during battles and a more eclectic mix of dubstep and electronic during the boss battle. The voice work is done very well, with Tim Phillipps giving Dante a young brash attitude that fits the character well.

The demo isn’t too long, but does have a level of replayability and shows the new developers know what made the original games a hit. While fans may bitch and moan about the new aesthetic and attitude of Dante, they should be pleased overall by how the game itself plays. DMC mixes various elements from the past with a new direction that has me excited to play the finished product. The DMC demo is available on Xbox Live and PSN and should definitely be played by those even mildly curious. DMC releases in January, so it won’t be long before I have my copy and a review for the site.

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