The hype for DmC: Devil May Cry has been like a downward ramp. When word of the reboot first came out, series fans exploded with rage at the prospect of having to play as a different Dante in a different setting. How do I feel about that? Well, I’m not gonna go out and say that they were butthurt fanboys who were completely oblivious to the fact that a franchise can often benefit from change. Oh wait…
Anyways, ever since then the hype has been shrinking, to the point where most people seem to have forgotten about it altogether. It’s a good thing this demo showed up on Tuesday, then, to remind everyone the game still exists. Having played every Devil May Cry game (except 2, which was apparently more painful than laceration) and liking them even though I sucked at them, I feel at least partially qualified to talk about my experience with the demo, so here are my thoughts.
Watch the playthrough below!
Right when the demo starts up, it’s clear that DmC’s narrative is easily the most ambitious in the series. You get a cinematic in which Virgil, wearing an Order mask, explains how the demons are running the world and keeping its oblivious citizens in check with their cameras, banking systems, and unhealthy soft drinks. The theme of societal conformity instantly comes to mind, as symbolized by the brainwashed public, and the whole thing is more focused and just makes more sense than the convoluted storylines we got in past games. It’s nice to see all the various story elements tied closely to the established theme.
From there, the cinematic hurriedly brings you up to speed on the events that occur leading up to the demo. Dante meets a girl named Kat, who leads him to Vergil, Dante’s brother, who is leading a resistance movement called the Order against the demons and specifically Mundus, their leader. All the names and tropes from the original trilogy are used, but again, it all feels naturally woven and unified in a way that left me impressed. None of the important elements from the original are crapped on either, so fans should still be happy. Dante is still a smug, wise-cracking demon hunter, and that’s really all that matters. Overall, I was left pleased with my first glimpse at the story. I just hope there’s some kind of character arc for Dante, since his ‘bad boy attitude’ shtick, while charming enough, could get stale after a while.
It’s surprising to see that what has changed the least in this reboot is the gameplay itself. It still involves fighting various types of demons with Dante’s sword and guns, the latter of which is purposefully weak and is more useful for juggling enemies in the air. That’s right, the lift move is back, allowing you to suspend enemies, and there’s also a grab system that allows Dante to reel enemies in or zip over to them. Combine that with some attack modifiers and you get a versatile combat system that controls well and is expectedly fluid. Even in my short time with the demo, it began to feel slightly repetitive, and I’m not sure if it’s quite as deep as the combat from Devil May Cry 3, but these are things that will be answered in time.
The level structure is almost identical to past games, meaning you trot down mostly linear levels until demons or, new to this one, demonic cameras hinder your progress by locking a gate. Occasionally you’ll throw down with a spectacular boss, in this case a succubus in a three part arena. Dante still has a health bar, which has to be replenished by ‘health stars’ and the like, and there are secret rooms to find. Upgrades are also back, but I couldn’t find any way to access the upgrade menu. Wah. The swinging and jumping elements have returned from Devil May Cry 4, thankfully a lot less frustrating this time around. The only significant changes I found were a dodge roll for Dante and some short segments that involve running from collapsing environments. The latter feels more like a cute attempt to add some variety, since it’s really just shoving you down a hallway while things explode in the background. In short, the gameplay feels familiar, perhaps a bit too much so.
You can tell that Ninja Theory has put their mark on their game, as many visual elements resemble their previous titles, Heavenly Sword and Enslaved. Kat even sounds and acts a lot like Trip from Enslaved, making me wonder if she’s voiced by the same actress. Dante sounds like a pretty typical guy that just happens to fit the cocky attitude, which works well enough. Expect to see a lot of orange in the environments, which look a lot like the early segments of Devil May Cry 4. In other words, a fantasy version of Paris, right down to the plethora of motor-scooters lying around that can all be destroyed for points. I guess Dante prefers American Choppers? The soundtrack is made up of pretty forgettable rock tracks, though it fits the action adequately.
To summarize, I was actually more impressed by the direction of the story than the gamplay. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s still a solid action game, and one that fans of the series will probably like more than they’ll admit to at this point. However, I’m really interested to see what Ninja Theory does with the overarching theme of conformity and how they tailor Dante to be a part of it. Given their track record with narratives so far, I’m setting my expectations high. Even though the gameplay aspect plays it safe, Devil May Cry’s combat system was never broken in the first place. Arguably, the only sour spot was the story, which Ninja Theory appears to be focusing most of their energy on. Let’s hope the end result makes us cry for all the right reasons.