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DmC: concerns from a long-time fan (an open letter to Ninja Theory)

The new Devil May Cry game (nicknamed "DmC") has been a point of contention since its announcement. In this post, I will address certain aspects of what we have seen so far from the perspective of a long-time DMC fan. No need for a long introduction. Let's get down to business. If you would like to comment, please do not hesitate. I would love to see every point of view.

First-off, I will not talk about aesthetics of the game in this post. I do not like the art style or character design thus far, but that is largely unimportant compared to gameplay. As the dedicated DMC gamers have generally agreed, if Dante's hair were the only problem, there would be no problem. I will limit this to concerns about the mechanics (as of Gamescom 2011).

1) The Juggles

Across the web, there have been many comments about how the combos "look exactly the same as before". This is simply not true. There are air combos, as we've seen in the Gamescom trailer, but they do not look like combos from DMC 3 and 4. They look easy. Dante stays in the air for upwards of five seconds, with what looks like minimal effort. Of course, I could be wrong. If Maurice or anyone else who saw the gameplay would like to correct me, I would be thrilled.

Another point that has been raised through many game publications such as Destructoid and Gamepro suggest that this game now greatly focuses on aerial combat, and that this deviates from the Devil May Cry's of the past. This is additionally not true - ask any hardcore DMC player what "jump canceling" is and they will show you one of the myriad of gameplay / combo videos online that demonstrate significant hang time by stringing multiple aerial attacks together with Enemy Steps, weapon switching, and Style switching. Please refer to the linked video below for an example.

2) The Frames Per Second

In many types of games, this would be unimportant. However, in DMC, 60 frames are necessary for precise play. Tameem has said that they sacrificed those frames in order for the environment to interact in different ways. We haven't seen these environmental features yet (unless the church falling apart is an example, which would be incredibly disappointing), but they should ideally be game-changing and incredibly fun to utilize, considering the immense sacrifice. What is being sacrificed or hampered is the following, among others:

* The smoothness of being able to perfectly Royal Guard enemy attacks, as the number of frames for a "perfect block" has been cut in half.
* The ability to cancel out of attacks at key opportunities and link into subsequent moves that would be normally not possible without more frames (look up any example of "jump canceled Helm Breaker")

However, the fact that the team decided that environmental changes were a worthy replacement for 60 FPS is a sign that this game is going in the wrong direction. The only way I will be wrong is if the environment adds a new layer of depth to the game. I hope this is the case.

3) The Slow Motion

In DMC, speed is key. The mixture of smooth visuals and crazy combos is what made it what it was. What you need for that is sheer speed. With the large amount of slow-mo in the new installment featured during supposedly "hard hitting" attacks, this speed seems to be completely gone. Before, the camera never zoomed in after a kill, slowing down and patting you on the back like in God of War. It kept the speed high, letting the player continue his combos and decimating the room full of enemies. It seems Ninja Theory has given up on style (indicated also by the style meter only being somewhat there), and resorting to telling the player "good job!" every time he or she does a "powerful attack". The only thing the previous games used was a passive gauge that never interrupted gameplay. Adding to this, the Devil Trigger is now apparently a single-use, which turns into a QTE (another alarming fact), while previously, the Devil Trigger served to recover health, increase speed, increase power, and provide the player with access to additional attacks and abilities.

4) The Controls

a) "Form" Switching

It was revealed that you will control Dante's "angel, devil, and human forms" with the triggers. This is identical to Heavenly Sword, a game that was severely lacking in terms of combat. This is not inherently bad quite yet, but worrying. This, when following up DMC3 and DMC4, which contained 7 and 6 Styles, respectively across all playable characters, represents a significant step back in sheer variability of gameplay.

b) Dial-a-Combo?

In Destructoid's article "Impressions: DmC", there was a tidbit that I would like to discuss (I was lucky to find it again amidst the jabs at people who know more about DMC than Maurice does):

"Some melee combo attacks see Dante shoot out shockwaves that hit multiple enemies that were unfortunate enough to stand in a row."

If this is worded correctly, this means that DmC will have largely canned combos, similar to Ninja Gaiden and God of War. Earlier DMC games did have preset combos, but this appears to be different. I will take a moment to highlight the difference.

In DMC, there are some simple combos built into the weapon (/\ /\ /\ or /\ /\ - pause - /\ on PlayStation), but the majority of combos the player does are self-created. This is because the game gives them a large variety of one-off moves (High Time, Stinger, etc.) that they can chain together as they please.

In Ninja Gaiden or God of War, most of the combos are preset ( [] [] [] /\ for Izuna Drop, as an example). This limits creativity in the player, and makes every combo wholly unimpressive.

This is why there are so many combo videos for DMC*; the game gives you many single moves and says "go for it", instead of many canned combos. My point is, Maurice's description of the combo in DmC indicates that it will be dial-a-combo (maybe [] [] /\ or something, for the shockwave). This doesn't mean that the game won't have individual moves that you can combo from, as that is possible to do. Bayonetta is a good example of a game that has both many preset combos and a swath of individual moves, and that game is also capable of style**.

That's all I can think of at the moment. I will write more... when there is more to write about. There is nothing I would love more than for Ninja Theory to read this, though judging by Tameem's recent comments, that isn't likely to have much effect. There is a way for everyone to win here. The game can keep its aesthetic design if it offers deep and rewarding gameplay - something that was promised by Ninja Theory.

I will reiterate that if Maurice Tan or anyone else would like to correct me on any of my assumptions, they should feel free. I would never be so happy to eat my words.

* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjsuGB3S92Q - An example of a DMC4 combo video. Note that this game should be all this and more, as it is being released many years later and should be evolving. Download the high quality version here (and note the smooth FPS necessary for some of the tricks): http://www.mediafire.com/?qnwqzwmju1w
** http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdQAHbS9c44 - An example of a Bayonetta combo video.

EDIT: What follows is a series of combo videos ranging throughout the series (barring 2, of course). Note how the game evolves and the complexity (and by extension, combo opportunity) increases.

DMC1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCG4AUV76Cs
DMC3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OacXRCtOGx4
DMC4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVv5NL5oq9k
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWGRPriSRS4 (there's some DMC3 in there too)
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About Andyman067one of us since 6:44 AM on 09.19.2010

PSN ID:Andyman067


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