Hands On: DmC: Devil May Cry Demo
WARNING: Minor Spoilers.
The internet can be a hateful place; a cesspool of ignorance and violence that consumes all it touches. Usually, though, these sorts of demons find hide in the dark corners of the web (a.k.a. Reddit, 4Chan, etc.) but every once in a while you can cause enough panic to shock the system, and bring the evil into the light. When Ninja Theory and Capcom released the first teaser trailer for the Devil May Cry reboot, they did just that.
Suddenly, the studio responsible for such master pieces as Heavenly Sword and Enslaved was some sort of crooked villain, taking something that wasn’t broke and “fixing” it. Being the biggest DMC fan I know, even I was given pause. A conversation with a pal of mine, who is only vaguely familiar with the series, hit home for my initial reaction:
“Who is that,” he asked, quizzically at the screen after the trailer.
“That’s Dante,” I replied, head in my hand, confused.
“What the hell happened to him?”
“I don’t know, man. I don’t know.”
I admit, I came to a hard conclusion about this game far too early, and turned to a more hopeful and positive outlook sense. And it wasn’t long before I started to come around. This new Dante wasn’t the tall, suave hero with a platinum mop and scarlet coat that helmed the series of yore, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t still Dante. Once longer form sneak peeks and trailers began making their way through the media, we got to hear him speak and watch him move. He’s essentially that brash, witty bastard we all loved, just different – modern. And more than a month away from release, I’m convinced this new Dante is exactly what the series needed. He isn’t the garish 90’s action hero from the old games, that man is dated and suffers a bit from the East’s strange opinion of Western “cool”; things that worked 10 years ago. He’s young and punkish, a reflection of eclectic 20 somethings of 2012. He speaks with a natural knack for rebellion, and loves every second he sticks it to the man.
But up to November 20th, all we could do is watch. Finally, the demo has released worldwide, and gamers can get their hands on this brave new Dante. And as there are stark differences, the two levels given to slay your way through offer enough variety and depth to see that the mechanics are the game’s best change.
The visual palette when playing the demos first level, “Under Watch,” is a vibrant and auroral shocker. Those accustomed to DMC games have gotten quite used to dark, gloomy halls, or tall, cavernous rooms. This is a few blocks of a city during the day, though everything is warped by the devils out to claim your head. The city itself is a giant beast, bending street lamps and parked cars out of frustration, then pouncing on you like a predator when you least expect it; hoping to crush you in alleys between two buildings or consume you in an endless pothole. It even talks trash, emblazoning threats across any flat surface within Dante’s line of sight.
He’s not completely unarmed in this battle though. Ebony and Ivory reprise their roles as his ranged offense, as well as Rebellion, his trusty broadsword, as his bread and butter damage dealer. Added to his arsenal are two special weapons, the slow and steady Arbiter axe, and the quick and painful Osiris scythe. Holding down R2/RT and L2/LT, respectively, changes your normal attacks with his sword, to different attacks with one of these weapons. All of this gear has its advantages and disadvantages in combat situations – Arbiter is deadly damaging but will almost always leave you open during skirmishes, and Osiris is fluid and fast, but won’t get the job done on bigger, armored enemies. Dante also has a whip, that when holding down these modifiers, allows you to pull enemies to you, or you to them. When blended together, these weapons can create a spectacle out of death and destruction. This is the most brutal Dante yet.
Dodging is moved to the shoulder buttons/bumpers, and there is no lock-on, any more. Many vets will cry afoul over this, and there are instances where real hangups can occur because of the lack of precision. When the enemy mix involves both ground and air baddies, you really want to be able to prioritize combat, and the only real way to do it is to be facing what you want to hit or grab, and hope it knows what you’re up to. Generally, it’s fine, and after some time with it you really get into the new order of things, but that first playthrough will be an ugly one. The mentality behind the lack of auto target looks to be a fear of pigeon holing you. It’s easy to get tunnel vision when auto locked, and in a game like this, you need to have a working relationship with everything going on around you. Because it’s not simply about survival, one must survive in style.
Like in the previous games, style is a currency in this game, and have a large bearing on the end-of-level grade you’re awarded every chapter. The greatest step up from the past, though, is that the style meter gives you feedback on your combat actions. You get points for your efforts, and a meter fills up in the top right corner, telling you how far away you are from the next style tier. You don’t just have to switch up your moves every couple of hits and hope the computer deems the effort relevant anymore.
The second mission “Secret Ingredient” is a boss fight, and a bit of a drag compared to the other mission. The pattern is easy to learn, and the entire experience is pretty straightforward, not really giving you the opportunity to play with the ebb and flow of the new combat system. It’s a beat-swing away-rinse-repeat exercise that I’m sure is only a piece of the whole puzzle, but in and of itself is rather droll.
There are plenty of hidden gems to find across the pair of missions as well, giving players a glimpse at the collectables, platforming, and hidden stages that the full release will be rife with. You can also unlock Son of Sparda mode, one of the many harder difficulties that add smarter and stronger enemies in remixed groups and locations, making the playthrough a more unique one.
It’s been said before, but DmC has nothing left to prove. Anyone who takes a spin on the demo will see what makes this game so special. They will realize that “emo” Dante is a figment of over skeptical imagination, and that this game is shaping up to be the best thing to happen to this series in years.