DmC: Devil May Cry – Preview
For me, the best thing about videogames is that they let you explore worlds and achieve things you could never experience in real life. Travel across the galaxy to save your princess from a giant turtle-monster-thing? Yes. Find and kill robot Hitler? Heck yes. Kick a ball around a field for ninety minutes, maybe get it in a giant net and be paid logic-destroying amounts of money despite being a violent racist adulterer? Well, two out of three ain’t bad. Even though I’ve hardly played the Devil May Cry series and admittedly didn’t enjoy much of what I did get through, I appreciate how far and how often it plunges into the realms of the physically impossible and how effortlessly cool it looks doing so.
After all, this is a series that opened its third entry with a shirtless Dante dispatching a room of Grim Reaper lookalikes with a combination of scythe blades, guns, a pool table, a goon used as a skateboard, a punched-in jukebox blaring some rock music and sarcastic quips, all whilst eating a pizza. With that in mind, when an opportunity to play the newest entry in the series comes, you make your way through the hordes of fanboys crying and issuing death threats over a change in Dante’s hairstyle, you grab that controller and you let the game speak for itself.
Developed by Ninja Theory, the upcoming 2013 hack and slash drops Dante in the town of Limbo City, and the demo I played took place in one of the Limbo segments, triggered when our protagonist is spotted by one of the security cameras. Suddenly, Dante is separated from his companion and beset upon by a small horde of otherworldly creatures, opening up the floor for the bread and butter of the series: the combat. Admittedly, I’m not traditionally a massive fan of hack and slash gameplay, as I find that it often doesn’t feel satisfying or because it feels simplistic, as enemies take too long to go down or there aren’t enough moves in my arsenal. To my surprise, DmC did its best to make me look a fool; there’s the usual heavy attack, the ability to use guns, which I mostly used as a suppression tactic and a move that lets you send enemies skyrocketing into the air for air combos, and those are just the standard face button attacks. Once you’re in the air, the combat changes dynamically, allowing you to lay waste to enemies efficiently, or continue juggling them in the air; I was told that Dante can rise at least five hundred feet above the town if he can chain attacks together for long enough.
On top of those standard attacks, Dante can also unleash his devil and angel powers at the touch of a trigger button, paving the way for even more moves and possible combinations of attacks on your foes. The left trigger accesses the angel attacks, which I found helped set me up more effectively for aerial combat, and the right trigger unleashes the devil attacks, which I used to get up close and personal to bring the pain. I wouldn’t personally favour any one style over the other, though I recognised that some attacks were more useful in one combat situation than another, and often found myself using Ebony and Ivory to keep enemies back while I came up with a new plan on the fly or tried to keep my combo chain going.
As each skirmish rages on, the top right of the screen will grade your fight so far, with D being your lowest grade and S your highest, and delicious points awaiting those who attain the highest rankings. This is where chaining your attacks and utilising the wide variety in your arsenal pays dividends, as those spamming the same attacks repeatedly are going to find themselves with lacklustre scores, as will those who don’t evade oncoming attacks and are constantly in the line of fire. Thankfully, the demo I was playing was quite forgiving in how much punishment Dante could take before succumbing to the opposing forces, though I still found myself dying several times before my time with the game was through.
As I set out to destroy the demonic eyes and attempt to kick Dante out of Limbo, I found I could also use some of his combat moves to move about the environment. For one, the angel lift move, which I had been using to charge our hero into the skies to take down aerial foes could also be used on glowing blue lights scattered around to gain more leverage and access higher platforms. The other, the devil grab, which could be used to pull enemies into you, could also be used to reveal more platforms by performing the move on glowing red lights. These could also be used on the eyes you needed to destroy to proceed, with every occasion he did so bringing a new way to dispatch them, from coolly quipping before putting a fist through one to batting another miles into the horizon.
Another little detail I really appreciated were the signs that would appear throughout the environment as Dante progressed through Limbo. During combat I would occasionally see signs bearing demotivational slogans such as “Kill Dante” or “Dante Must Die”, and it made for not just a great little touch, but a neat way to encourage you to make sure the opposite happens. Limbo’s utter hatred is emphasised further when the city’s walls start closing in on you or floors disappear, forcing you to make a hasty retreat or diversion through the landscape in order to avoid a sticky fate. It made the transition between battles feel much more fast-paced and meant that a battle wasn’t always far off, allowing me to spend more time getting used to generating combos and improving my score.
The demo ended as Dante escaped from a church, guns blazing, before composing himself, effortlessly spouting a one liner and walking off with his mysterious companion in tow, and I found myself seriously impressed with what I’d seen. Despite not enjoying any of the previous titles I’d played in the series, I couldn’t help but play the demo through again, just so I could spend more time with it.
The combat is brilliantly constructed and allows for enough variety that meshes excellently with the grading mechanic and encourages you to try your hardest in every skirmish, rather than hammer away at the buttons and hope for the best, which is normally what most other iterations in the genre tend to descend into after a while. The fact that fanboys are potentially willing to boycott the game and refuse to play it over the character’s redesign is nothing short of pathetic, especially considering the developers have put so much into this title that it managed to ensnare me near-effortlessly. What Ninja Theory have developed here is something truly impressive, and I can’t wait to see what follows when January 2013 arrives and kicks off the year with a bang.
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