For a while now we've been aware of the new Devil May Cry, a game that reboots the franchise with a brand new take on the main character Dante. His reinterpretation came as a bit of a shock, as he went from being a trench coat wearing Asian with blonde hair to an American teenager with short hair, leather pants and leather jacket, and an attitude to match. No surprise then that this demo of the game starts with Dante resting on his bunk in a caravan after a night of drinking. The room is full of garbage and empty bottles, and if consoles could convey smell I'm sure it would have everyone watching gagging.
There is of course a reason for this. Capcom and Ninja Theory wants you to come along for the ride as Dante evolves from being an arrogant teenager and, quite frankly, a bit of an a-hole to a humble, charming and likeable young man. Whether Dante's abrasive attitude rubs you the wrong way or not, it has to be said that the scene where a nude Dante whirls around his caravan with well placed items covering his privates as he puts clothes on, lands outside and shrugs his shoulders, is rather cool.
The story in the new game is relatively uncomplicated. Demons want Dante dead, and pull him into their dimension, Limbo. Normally, Dante can pull himself out of Limbo on his own, but that is not the case this time. He needs help, and gets it from a young girl named Cat. She's a "psychic", and can see into Limbo without being there herself. She guides Dante through the ever changing landscape, while she tries to aid him in his quest to slay the demons. She has no other role to play from a gameplay perspective and strikes us mainly as a narrative device.
Limbo is best described as the real world that has been given a massive injection of hedonism. Advertisements and signs are changed in Limbo to reveal their true message, a socio-political statement if you will, that fits nicely with Dante's rebellious demeanour. The messages aren't exactly breaking news: statements like fast food being unhealthy and that they want you to spend money on unnecessary things. Every now and then however there's one that's enough to make us smile.
It's a good thing the gameplay is far more interesting than Dante, and it remains largely the same as in previous games. Once again the basic principle is that you build up combos and thrash your demon foes viciously while hoping to score as many points as possible. The music and effects are brought to the forefront as your combo grows. You can stay grounded or work more vertically to attack enemies in the air, launching them up and smashing them down into the dirt.
Apart from how visually pleasing this diversity gives the action, it also presents a tactical choice. Down on the ground other demons can attack and ruin your combo chain but while you're in the air you can only get hit by projectile-firing demons.
You start out with the signature sword. It's called Rebellion (no relation to the studio). In the Playstation 3 version that was on hand for testing, Square had Dante perform quick and light attacks. Meanwhile triangle was a heavy attack, where Dante thought little of defending himself as he lunged the sword forward with all his might. Circle lets you launch your enemies into the air. Developer Ninja Theory could have stopped with this trio, as it would have satisfied most players, but thankfully the studio's added a few more layers to the combat.
Later in the game Dante gains access to new weapons that have ties that are either angelic or demonic . These weapons can be activated simply by holding down L2 and R2, granting you access to four new abilities depending on the weapon of your choice. On the angelic side of things you gain access to a scythe called Osiris. It's special power to deal more damage as your combo rises, starting to shine as it is fully charged. In addition it allows you to fly a short distance, which is useful if things get a bit too hectic. Dante can also quickly turn around and hit enemies with at least ten attacks in a row. A quick and effective combo would be to launch an enemy with your sword and finish him with the scythe. It simply looks lethal.
On the demonic side of things, you have a big, bad war axe called Arbiter. It's a weapon that is rather heavy so Dante can't swing it very quickly, but on the upside it's powerful enough that little can withstand its might. It's primarily designed to deal with strong demons and enemies with shields. A single swipe with the axe sends them hurtling to the ground where you can attack them with swifter weaponry. Unfortunately swinging the Arbiter leaves Dante exposed, so you're going to have to choose wisely when to use it.
What makes these two weapons special is their unique ability to manipulate demons. Apart from their attacks they can also be used to push yourself towards the demon or pull them towards you.
If you're using Osiris, you can use the scythe to launch yourself into the air, where you can score a few hits on the demon while you are immune to attacks from the ground. Arbiter on the other hand lets you pull the demon in towards you. It makes it easier to handle flying foes as you won't have to bunny jump to get to them. As you can switch weapons on the fly with the push of a button, a special dynamic is created where you fly across the screen butchering demons without ever taking a break. It's an exhilarating experience that leaves you wanting more enemies every time you run out of bodies to slay.
DmC comes across as a sold game that promises lots of entertaining action. The gameplay is top notch, making it easy for both newcomers and bloodied up veterans alike to jump in. On the other hand the new cocky Dante may seem annoying and it is a concern that players may develop a love/hate relationship with the game where they love the gameplay and hate the character. That being the case hopefully the developers keep to their promise of letting us witness the events that shapes the young Dante into a more likeable adult.