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DmC Devil May Cry Hands On Preview

Get over the new look: Dante is far more interesting now.

It’s no secret that many gamers fear change of any kind, flying into nerd rage anytime one of their hallowed franchises tries to mix things up. At the same time, they hate things to stay the same, quickly getting bored when a series doesn’t add enough new to a sequel. This is the rock and a hard place that Ninja Theory is trapped between with their gutsy take (don’t call it a reboot) on the Devil May Cry series. With the internet already ablaze with hate for the makeover of the popular antihero Dante, the sentiment has been that the game had better feel like Devil May Cry…or else. From the outset I’ve been behind Ninja Theory, happy that they’ve gone in such a bold direction, but even I have asked if the game will live up to my Devil May Cry memories. My recent time with the game tells me that the franchise is in good hands, even if I have new questions to replace my old ones.

I’ve never gone to the Devil May Cry series for story. Yeah, Dante is a cool character, what with the wisecracks and confident swagger, but the narrative in the games has always just been a loose backdrop to let him go wild. So it’s with a serious tilt of my head that I say DmC appears to feature a story plucked right out of current world events that gives a surprising weight to the action.

This time, a group called The Order is aware that demons exist, and these demons control information, the world banks, and even the food industry. It’s a direct nod to real world groups like Anonymous and conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, and I’m impressed to see a game—a Devil May Cry game, no less—go there. Dante gets wrapped up with The Order, and is branded a terrorist by the mainstream media. Dante attempts to do battle with a force that quite literally spies on his every move via tech like surveillance cameras to more arcane methods.

It’s a huge departure for the series, one that I’m increasingly curious about. Ninja Theory once again employs some impressive facial animation to bring Dante to life. No, he doesn’t have that glorious mane of white hair anymore, but in return we have a much more relatable character. His design reminds me a lot of the first reactions to the casting of Chris Pine as Captain Kirk in the recent Star Trek reboot. From a distance, Pine seemed all wrong for the role. Once people sat down to watch the movie, however, opinions changed. I think once people see the new Dante in action we’ll see a similar backpedaling of opinion.

I’m a little concerned with the way the game plays, however. It’s been a long time since I played a Devil May Cry game, but character action games have evolved since Dante made his debut in 2001, and I’ve come to expect a certain level of parity with controls for this genre. Dante’s melee attacks are mapped to the Y (triangle) button, with his trusty pistols on X (square). This was very jarring for me, especially coming off of a recent run through the God of War trilogy. Launching enemies in the air is taken up by a whole button, which also feels counterintuitive when compared to similar games. Obviously, this is a preview build and any control scheme takes time to get comfortable with, but for a game that hinges on its combat I would hope for a more elegant set up.

It also seems like DmC is throwing a lot of battle mechanics at the player. Dante employs attacks based on the duality of his parentage—that of angel and demon, of course. The triggers toggle between these attacks and moves: left for angel and right for demon. Dante can pull enemies and objects towards himself with his devil side and pull himself towards those same enemies and objects with angel moves. Each side also has unique moves: angel seems to be faster and more combo heavy while demon is all heavy power attacks. Having all of these moves available in the demo felt overwhelming, and I can only hope that the final game does a better job of rolling these abilities out at a good pace.

DmC is a gorgeous looking game, and for the second time in less than a month I have to ask myself if we really need the next generation of consoles just yet. There are two worlds in DmC: the real world and the demonic shadow world of Limbo. The real world is drab and washed out, looking right at home with the grey and brown games of the current generation. But Dante does his dirty work in Limbo, which is a vibrant world with so much color that the screen almost bleeds with it. It’s very reminiscent of Ninja Theory’s most recent title, Enslaved, and a welcome change from other action games. The demons do their damnedest to stop Dante’s progress, shifting and crushing the world around him. It’s an impressive display of environmental art that has to be seen to be fully appreciated.

Capcom has been one of the most aggressive Japanese companies when it comes to reaching out to Western developers. That hasn’t always been successful for them, but I applaud their efforts to keep up with current design trends, and from what I’ve played and seen of DmC, Capcom has made a good choice. DmC: Devil May Cry hits stores January 15th, with a demo available now for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.


 

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