DmC: Devil May Cry has received its first public demo from Capcom and Ninja Theory. VG247’s Dave Cook goes hands on to discuss why we shouldn’t be getting hung up on looks.
They knew that they had a good game in the making, they just couldn’t get it into your hands to prove it. But thanks to the demo that launched on Xbox 360 today, everyone has a chance to try it for themselves and make a more educated evaluation of the game’s quality.
It’s a sad day when a developer is savaged by the internet populace for how a game character looks. DmC: Devil May Cry is being treated as a reboot after all, suggesting that even Capcom felt that Dante and his world of demons, smack-talk and blistering combos was in need of change.
That change comes courtesy of Ninja Theory, and when the studio revealed its first trailer with a younger, scrawnier and raven-haired Dante in chains, the internet went bat-shit crazy.
Fans volleyed off death threats towards the studio and its publisher, vowed to boycott the game and more – all of this before a single second of actual gameplay was shown. Can such premature evaluations be justified without actually sitting down to play the ruddy thing?
I’m not so sure that they can, but then again I’m a ‘benefit of the doubt’ kind of guy. I’m happy for developers to surprise me, and even if ‘new’ Dante’s appearance caught me off guard a little too, I’m always excited to see what happens when a new studio takes over an existing IP.
I’ve interviewed Capcom twice regarding DmC: Devil May Cry – check out my first chat with them here – and it’s sad to see how down the developers were with the reaction to Dante’s appearance.
It’s sad because they knew that they had a good game in the making, they just couldn’t get it into your hands to prove it. But thanks to the demo that launched on Xbox 360 today, everyone has a chance to try it for themselves and make a more educated evaluation of the game’s quality.
Some may still hate it, and that’s fine, because at least then they will have actually tried the game and based their conclusion on something tangible – instead of the colour of someone’s hair, or the way they dress.
The hack ‘n slash is a big favourite of mine, and Bayonetta is confidently one of my most-enjoyed games of the generation, so I was keen to try the demo for myself and see how Ninja Theory’s effort stacked up.
Split into two missions, the first is called ‘Under Watch’, and this is the same mission Capcom has been showcasing at game expos recently. It’s a tutorial of sorts, giving you a broad idea of the many tools and tricks Dante can use to decimate his foes and get around the environment.
It opens with a cut-scene that lays out the state of the demon world, which is being ruled by crippling propaganda, drug-laden soft drinks, surveillance cameras on every street, and a brutal financial divide.
Shortly after the demo begins Dante is dragged into Limbo, a parallel dimension that exists alongside reality. It’s here you must fight your first enemies, and it’s surprising how quickly the old Devil May Cry mindset comes back into play.
One button unleashes sword attacks, another performs launchers, and a third lets rip with Dante’s pistols Ebony and Ivory. Just like the original games it’s possible to keep your combo chain going between enemies by using firearms as you close distance.
You can also get in close by using Dante’s grapple hook device. You can use Angel Lift to pull Dante closer to enemies and to zip around the environment, or you can use Demon Pull to drag enemies towards you, as well as pulling about parts of the scenery.
It’s a great combo chaining mechanic, and it sees Dante flitting around the environment at high speed while stringing together combos. It feels like classic Devil May Cry as you start to toy around with the possibilities of the combo tree.
I found myself battering demons with a flurry of sword swipes, hitting a juggler, then continuing the assaultin mid-air, sending them flying. I’d then use Demon Pull to pull them back to me before slamming them down to the ground. It’s immensely satisfying, but the possibilities don’t end there.
Holding left trigger and hitting either attack or juggle unleashes the Osiris, a long scythe that can be used to execute fast, light swipes, as well as hooking enemies in close and spinning it around like a lethal pin-wheel. It’s great for crowd control.
Do the same while holding right trigger and Dante will use the Arbiter, a short, but devastating axe that will cause shielded enemies to break their stance, leaving them open to rapid follow-up strikes.
Together this whole tool set gives rise to a wealth of opportunity that fans of the series will surely enjoy at a mechanical level – complaints about the art direction or ‘new’ Dante aside. There are plenty of other weapons on offer that we haven’t seen yet, so the possibilities will only grow from here.
In terms of handling this is a fast paced entry that has more in common with Devil May Cry 3, given that players can switch between a large weapon set on the fly. Thankfully in keeping in line with previous games in the series, there is also no block button meaning that dodges and counters are your only real defence.
There is more scope for platforming here, as Dante runs around the shifting city as it tries to kill him. You’ll jump over bottomless chasms, leap over cracked streets and zipline around using Angel Lift. it works fine, but it’s not quote matching Uncharted levels of finesse.
Then again, that kind of platforming wouldn’t have a place in a Devil May Cry game, so it’s probably for the best. But one thing a good DmC game does need is bosses, and this is the focus of the demo’s second level ‘Secret Ingredient’.
It sees Dante battling a giant grub in a lava-filled cavern. It’s also got a foul mouth, spewing obscenities at Dante as the pair troll each other during a cut-scene. The banter is cracking and gives rise to a few chuckles.
Again, some naysayers may sit there straining as they try to avoid laughing, but this is some funny stuff, even if it is a little puerile. Previous Devil May Cry dialogue often verged on the embarrassingly silly in an attempt to be cool, and Ninja Theory’s script is certainly a degree smarter, but not by much.
The boss battle is simple enough: hit its hands and dodge its bile and punch attacks while trying to hit the glowing weak spot on its head. This is a basic battle, but it could be an early boss for all we know.
Once it’s hurt, Dante will drop kick it into the middle of the room as it dangles by two tubes. You then have to use Angel Lift to zip around to higher ground and pull the pipes apart. It’s certainly not as inventive as anything Bayonetta provides, but it’s enjoyable and cinematic enough.
Visually this is an imaginative effort, but you can tell it has been worked on for a while. It’s certainly no slouch however, and only the most technically conscious of gamers will cry foul at the game’s lack of 60 FPS mode. It looks slick enough.
My main concerns – as acceptable as the demo may be – are that Dante’s combo-set could hit a wall too early if most of the gear is doled out at the start. I’m also concerned that the game will run out of new things to do, and resort to pitting you in just another area with more demons to fight.
The demo doesn’t suggest anything about my fears, and like many of you with reservations I’ll need to wait until the final game comes out to see if they’re justified concerns, but for now I’m fairly confident that Ninja Theory has delivered the goods on this one.
We’ll know more when the game launches on January 15th, but for now, check out the demo and let us know what you think below.