At a Capcom press event last week we were finally able to see the new Dante in action, and later were able to play a bit of DmC ourselves. Are things different? Yes. Definitely. But different doesn't have to be bad. I know there are concerns, but I think DmC has a lot going for it. Loyal franchise fans were foaming at the mouth at the changes shown in the game's debut trailer, and I get that, but I think they're going to like what Capcom and Ninja Theory have put together.
DmC: Devil May Cry (PS3, Xbox 360)
Developer: Ninja Theory, Capcom
The 'new' Dante is hilarious, especially in DmC's beginning cutscene. It opens with him sleeping in his little trailer home, passed out from a drinking bender the previous night. The television is on, and a news broadcast wakes him up with a report on an order responsible for mysterious attacks over the last several weeks. He begins to take a swig of some booze to wake up, but is interrupted by a knock at the door from a woman who says he's in danger. He answers the door naked, with the frantic woman taking a peek at his crotch while warning him that the Hunter Demon is onto him.
Something comes from the sea just beyond Dante's little trailer home, which is situated along the shore beside a amusement park. This demon grumbles and the ground shakes as it moves inland; the woman warns that Dante will have to fight his way out of this mess. Waves come crashing in from the sea and wash up to the waterside amusement park and everything around it, including Dante's trailer home. A grappling hook shoots from the demon's arm, hooking to Dante's trailer. Angered, he yells, "Get your filthy fucking claw off my trailer!"
Of course, the demon does not listen. It pulls the trailer forward, ripping it apart, sending debris flying everywhere. Chaos erupts. Still nude, Dante jumps away from danger, flying in slow motion as a flying piece of pizza conveniently covers his crotch, and he somehow glides through his pants and shirt, seemingly dressing himself in "bullet time." As the demon approaches, Dante's sword magically appears on his back. As silly as this sounds, it still manages to somehow come off as cool at the same time.
DmC is set in the real world, current day, but Dante sometimes suddenly ends up in a parallel world where demons live, called Limbo. People in the real world aren't aware of Limbo, but sometimes feel its effects. Dante has no control over his appearing in Limbo, but does his best to survive in it when he's caught. The problem with this place is that world of Limbo is alive, and it sees Dante as a foreign invader in its body, spawning enemies and traps to fight against him. So, in DmC, Dante is literally fighting against the world. Through his journey we'll find out why he ends up in Limbo, why he has such a bad attitude, and why he hates demons so much.
DmC's gameplay centers around the free combination of sword and gun action, with a focus on chaining combos in an open system that invites creative attacking. There seems to be an emphasis on aerial combat, though you'd get by just fine on the ground, mixing up slashing and shooting. Beyond guns and swords, Dante's angel half gives him access to Angel Weapons that put him behind a scythe called Osiris, which doles out lots of spinning attacks and juggles, or a fiery axe, which makes up for its lack of speed with harder hits.
The combat? Soooo good. If you take nothing else away from this preview, at least take away that the combat in DmC feels really, really good as it features a crazy-fast response time on all attacks, making Dante's various moves seem like they're flying off your fingertips. I found myself playing through the demo stage a few times, mostly because the combat felt so nice -- it's so tight and responsive that I wanted to try it again and again.
I found that it's quite enjoyable to pull yourself up in the air and slash at an enemy relentlessly with the game's push/pull grappling system. The same system lets you draw enemies toward you, doing more damage in close range. The most rewarding use of this system is to pull yourself up to flying enemies, pummel them with close-range attacks, and then, as you begin to fall, pop them up even higher in the sky, pull back up, and slash again. With good timing, this can be repeated continuously, keeping movement upward, with the camera pointing upward into the sky as Dante slashes the shit out of baddies, dramatically backlit by the sun. This all feels just as satisfying as pulling off an aerial rave in a fighting game, so much so that I feel like Ninja Theory has taken some inspiration from recent fighters for DmC's combat system.
Even frantic mashing feels and looks good, though working to clean up your combo-ing rewards you with score multipliers as well as more focused attacks. Every single move is rated through the game's ranking system in real time, with instant feedback in the form of words and phrases (for example, "dirty," "cruel," or "sadistic") as well as multiplier numbers. Anyone can jump in and keep the attacks continually flying for big numbers, but the those of you who dig down deep and get into advanced techniques, like jump canceling and parrying, will be greatly rewarded. Though maybe a bit more accessible, Ninja Theory made it clear that the combat in DmC is not dumbed down. Through experimentation and score feedback, they hope that players will eventually learn the intricacies of the combat system and see all the work they've put into it.
DmC's gameplay is combat-heavy, but smaller platforming segments are interspersed to keep things interesting. With Limbo out to get Dante, the ground can crumble at any point, walls can bend inwards, and enemies can appear out of nowhere, making for a sort of funhouse type environment. Dante's grappling ability can be used to pull himself up onto higher ledges, or pull out platforms to jump toward. His Angel Boost move lets him get a bit more distance out of each jump, with some platforming segments requiring precise timing to land on platforms.
These moves all came together in one early segment where Dante was tasked with taking out demonic security cameras that watched him. I had to use his grappling ability to pull out platforms from walls, grapple to them, jump from them, and for one particularly far jump, I had to double jump and then immediately hit an Angel Boost to make my way across. Later segments had floors tricking Dante, with rooms continually elongating to make his journey that much rougher, and anything outside precise jumps and boosts had me falling to my death. I was fine with the platforming, but its lean toward exacting timing and landings may put off some of the new user base that they're looking to attract.
On Dante himself, I fear that some may find that he's a bit too abrasive. While this preview session offered only a limited look, from what I saw I still think his character may be in danger of crossing the line beyond irreverent and going right into asshole range. DmC is supposed to give us a look at Dante's early years and explain his motivations and background, but with this short preview the picture isn't clear enough yet, and he just seems like a dick. Dante was hilarious with his wisecracking (he joked after being trapped in a church that it "just seemed to drag on for forever") and wang bearing, but there's this underlying anger that could be in danger taking the desired character type too far. Have you ever met someone so mean that even their wisecracks seem scary? I think this new Dante is headed down that path. Let's hope not.
Overall, the takeaway here is that DmC has nailed an evolution in gameplay for the series, offering up a very satisfying combat system that begs to be explored. I can't promise that purists are going to like Dante's new look and attitude, and it may be too early to call the direction the story is headed, but I think anyone with an openness will really get into DmC's fast and flashy fighting. I don't think anyone doubts that Ninja Theory can pull of a great action game. At this point I think it's safe to expect a great game with DmC, even if it may not fall exactly in line with what diehard Devil May Cry fans are expecting.
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