When the oddly titled reboot of the popular Devil May Cry series was originally revealed back in 2010 there was a considerable uproar amongst many of the series’ ardent fans. The issue wasn’t whether or not the new developers at the helm, UK based Ninja Theory, could recreate the thinking man’s action gaming that Devil May Cry had become famous for, but whether the new visage offered to our hero Dante fit the part. And entirely superficial argument then, but given all the muscle-bound meatheads videogames often aspire to surely any break from the mould should offer pause for thought?
Of course, that’s exactly what Ninja Theory is hoping to accomplish no just with the visual overhaul, but the revision of the series’ typical design template. DmC: Devil May Cry is Devil May Cry as you know it, but given a current-generation modernisation. As enjoyable as Devil May Cry 4 may have been, few would argue that it was simply a fresh coat of paint over an still evolving formula; DmC: Devil May Cry has stripped back the layers of polish and rebuilt the videogame from its routes. This is an action videogame through-and-through, and one which promises to make exemplary use of the power offered by current-generation systems.
DmC: Devil May Cry is apparently set in a parallel universe to the original four outings in the Devil May Cry franchise, offering a half-hearted excuse for Ninja Theory to redraw Dante’s adventures as they so choose. Appearing as a teenager filled to the brim with ‘attitude’ (read: juvenile wit), Dante and his companion Kat are journeying through Limbo City, home to many monstrosities out for his blood. During the demo build Electronic Theatre played the key to this action where a number of demonic security cameras, which the player had to remove from action in order to continue. It’s a simply and familiar mechanic that’s totally recognisable as something from a Devil May Cry videogame, and here presents the opportunity for the player to learn everything from basic combos to repeated air jumping without the need for an obtrusive handholding tutorial.
Given this basis for the action, it quickly becomes apparent that the city is not your friend. Once players have been given their first taste of the combat action they are immediately faced with a platform challenge: based on the sample gameplay provided, Electronic Theatre would estimate a pretty even split between platform and combat sequences in the final build. Limbo City’s demons are apparently not the only evil force within as the streets crush their contents and contort their concrete around you, forcing you to move on with pace or else face falling into the abyss. An obvious but hugely entertaining method of teaching you that jumping and dashing are just as important as your array of strikes and blocks, offering ample opportunity to reach the skies as you twist and glide your way through the collapsing streets.
However, for all the imitable style that DmC: Devil May Cry offers in its momentum dexterity challenges, it’s the combat that offers the greatest appeal for most. Ninja Theory are keen to make sure that this appeals to the long time fans of the franchise while remaining accessible to newcomers, and as such the alternating skill patterns introduced in Devil May Cry 3 have been exchanged for the more common variable timing of attacks. The familiar combination of shooting, medium and heavy blows opens up to greater possibilities when players learn that offering a split-second between button presses does not mean the end of a combo, but instead a change in direction of the string of commands. The flow is interchangeable in a similar way to the aforementioned skill patterns by way of the demon weapon; a simple initiation device executed by holding the R trigger while pressing an attack button. Combos that start with a blow from a demon weapon can travel in very different directions, a technique that is cleverly introduced by way of opponents who will relentlessly block all other attacks. At first it may just seem that the demon weapon acts as an opener, but with a little experimentation its true potential becomes obvious.
Fans of the Devil May Cry franchise are quick to belittle Ninja Theory’s new direction, but of course this judgement has been made without even playing the videogame. It’s true that the Electronic Theatre team has had reservations about DmC: Devil May Cry and whether it can truly present a step forward for the series, but after just a short time with the videogame those fears have been dismissed. DmC: Devil May Cry is looking set to deliver exactly what the fans want but never asked for, proving once again that pandering to your audience isn’t always the best policy.