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Devil May Cry Hands-on [PAX Prime]

I’ve been a fan of the Devil May Cry series since the first scene of the first game. I’ve long held that there’s room for ridiculousness in video games, and Devil May Cry has never tried to justify the madness its gameplay and, especially, cut-scenes provide. However, with the announcement of a reboot of the franchise from action-title masters Team Ninja, the fanbase have been rather vocal about their dislike of changes to the iconic franchise as well as its lead character Dante.

But what difference does it really make what color Dante’s hair is in the long run? So long as Ninja Theory can provide a solid gameplay experience and an original take on the universe that Dante inhabits, it seems like we should all consider ourselves winners… That’s why, while at PAX Prime this year, I took the opportunity to go hands on (for my personal first time) with Capcom and Team Ninja’s take on the niche action title Devil May Cry’s latest installment (which has taken to being called ‘DmC’).

The demo provided on the showfloor was one intended to showcase the dichotomy of the two worlds that exist within Ninja Theory's take on DmC. There’s the ‘real’ world, in which we all live and are familiar with, and another world, filled with demons and all manner of nightmarish creature. In this world everything is transformed, not unlike the Silent Hill franchise’s secondary world. Buildings fracture into new broken shells of themselves, and items, like street cameras, are transformed.

The core objective of the demo that I got time with was to clear out a series of cameras that were being used to spy on Dante and his resistance. In the ‘other’ world the cameras became cycloptic worm creatures, which could only be disposed of by platforming your way up to their perch, and yanking them down with Dante’s whip-like weapon.

It gave a great opportunity to check out the new version of the combat system, seeing as every couple of feet, walking on the ground, seemed to trigger a fight of some sort.

Everything in Ninja Theory's take on DmC seems to break into two factions: angel and demon. A concept personified in game-mechanic by the fact that your left and right triggers (Xbox 360) shift Dante between his default (normal) mode and angel and demon form respectively. Each form offers distinct advantages, and the ability to shift between the various forms on the fly provides unique combination abilities. Between Angel and Demon mode you gain different attack modes, Angel being faster and lighter attacks, while Demon serves as your heavy-hitting shield-smashing mode. As well each utilizes a series of different modes for Dante’s sword, transforming it between various whip, scythe, and sword states. The prime example being the ‘push and pull mechanic’, in Angel mode you can pull objects/enemies towards yourself, and in Demon mode you can launch yourself towards objects/enemies. In this way you can pull platforms out from walls, then climb onto them. In combat it means the ability to control crowds of enemies by either using them as a grapple point to get out of a situation where you’re over your head, or bring them closer to prepare a longer chain of attacks.

The combat flows well, and though the concept of shifting between three states during combat took a little getting used to (especially when you consider there are three attack buttons, and each has a different function within each of the three attack types), it was a fun and rewarding system that looks insanely slick when someone knows how to use it.

Unfortunately there wasn’t a whole lot of the story provided; a brief glimpse into the ideal of the dual dimension world that Dante lives in, some overarching villain themes brought forth through the idea of someone constantly on the look-out for Dante, and at least one character on your side explaining how it’s probably a bad idea to egg him (it/her/whatever) on.

Devil May Cry’s demo puts it firmly in the realm of the previous games in that it will be a fun action title that you’ll feel comfortable switching your brain off during and blasting through. If Ninja Theory was hoping to reinvent the character and make it something entirely new… well, we’ll have to wait on the full version of the game to see if they can manage it. For right now, it feels the same… but with a twist, and not in the annoying way that Halo 4 managed.