When I think about DmC objectively, I would have to conclude that the reboot has taken the franchise back a step or two. Dante’s usual quips have been replaced by somewhat awkwardly delivered vulgarity, changing between weapons and fighting styles is nowhere near as smooth as it was in either Devil May Cry 3 or 4 and in terms of the plot, it seems like Ninja Theory have stirred a big old clump of cliché into their simmering pot of usual ‘capable male role with supporting female that’s not quite as capable but giving it her darnedest’.
But I love it. I love it so, so much.
I’ve been a huge fan of the Devil May Cry series since its initial release on the PS2. It was the first game that showed me the true potential games possessed (probably even more so than Final Fantasy VII – shock and horror). Until that point, I had always been frustrated with the interaction between the hero and their environment, enemies and boss fights. I had always resented walls feeling more like force-fields than surfaces, your inability to even touch enemies without being hurt, and that, no matter how powerful your character was supposed to be, you were never truly able to play as they were portrayed.
Devil May Cry shattered these concepts for me. You could double-jump off walls, you could walk on the backs of enemies and hack them open, and most importantly, you were one hell of a bad-arse. Dante was powerful, and you controlled that power from the very beginning. DmC’s demo showed me that we can expect more of what we came to love from its predecessors, with some steps in the right direction and some steps being taken backwards into a barrel full of rabid glass monkeys.
I argued not too long ago that DmC was a necessary reboot, as camp Dante’s story had already been told, and that a fresh start for a new Dante would be able to explore the themes that the game was famous for in a whole new light.
Prepare to be disappointed. Dante is no longer half Demon, half human. He’s now half angel, half demon: a Nephilim. Heard that word before, have you? Of course you have, you can’t move an inch into the whole Demons vs Angel conflict in books, movies, television or games without hearing that damn word. It’s the new catch-cry of the genre, and it completely undermines what DmC actually stands for. A play on the phrase devil may care (as in acting recklessly), Devil May Cry was supposed to highlight the conflict between the human and demon sides of Dante – one of them selfish, arrogant, uncaring and the other human, empathetic, able to feel pain. Now that Dante is half-angel half-demon, why should he give a shit about the human world?
Unfortunately, this strange departure from the game’s most blatant theme threatens to undermine the point of any narrative Dante’s involved with. DmC is basically a huge analogy for the political and corporate climate of the US over the past decade. Demons threaten to take over the human realm by spreading fear through the media, headed by a personality not unlike Bill O’Reilly, CCTV abound in paranoid plenty, soulless corporations push their terrible, unhealthy products onto the populace and the banks apparently are enslaving humanity.
Dante is recruited by his brother Vergil into The Order, the organisation that seeks to end the demons grasp on humanity. Hopefully, Ninja Theory will surprise me and not have happen, with what I and all the other people familiar with the Devil May Cry franchise, think will happen.
My misgivings for what is pointing to a terrible narrative in DmC were almost forgotten though when I started playing around with Dante’s new armaments. So far, the guns feel much better; his dual pistols shooting as fast as an automatic, his power-up shot being his signature ‘Jackpot’ move. Sword to face combat, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. Dante will attack with his sword primarily, and will change to either his heavy axe with a right shoulder button, or his quick scythe with the left should button. It should be noted that you have to hold these buttons down to keep the weapon out, and let me make it clear, this does not feel natural in any way, shape or form. Even after a solid amount of time spent playing it, it wasn’t getting any better.
Combos are completely different in this game, and at first, a slight step backwards from what you’d expect. While Devil May Cry 3 and 4 offered you the chance to change between weapons and fighting styles within milliseconds, DmC has an almost fighting-game style combo system. You can’t switch between styles/attacks instantly, but there are some that link between each other more smoothly. With Dante’s new ability to either pull himself towards enemies or vice versa, combos have never looked cooler and have never been able to be pulled off in such a systematic way.
These pulling moves are also used to manoeuvre around levels, manipulating the environment to create stages and platforms for Dante to move across, as well as give him access to new undiscovered areas. Exploration was never one of Devil May Cry’s strengths, so I’m hoping the linear nature of the demo doesn’t represent the totality of how players will be exploring the world of DmC. Actually, come to think of it, the environment is one of the best parts of the game thus far, with the city occasionally breaking in on itself to crush you, space and time working against you, trying to keep you from your goal. The nature of the unreality plays perfectly into the ‘different realms’ motif, and keeps you on your toes.
The demo also offered a boss fight which was simultaneously awesome and worryingly limited. In the former, the graphics and fidelity were some of the best I’ve seen being pumped out of my PS3. Being able to swing myself around a huge arena to dodge attacks was great and slashing the hell out of my enemies provided a satisfaction I haven’t felt in ages. In the latter, however, swinging around the arena got pretty tired after a short while and the same mechanic has been used to much greater effect in several other games (like Devil May Cry, for instance). Strangely, I think I would be able to deal with this far better than I could deal with Dante’s new voice-acting and attitude. It seems awkward in parts and his ‘SCREW YOU’ shouting, however hilarious, was childish and didn’t lend itself to any strength of character or personality.
Whatever my doubts and complaints, I can honestly say I wanted more after I finished the demo and that, besides Ni No Kuni, this is definitely my most anticipated game of 2013. Whatever the case, Dante is back, and if this is simply the start of what to expect from the DmC franchise, then all I can say is I can’t wait to see where it takes us.
Played the demo? Have thoughts on it contrary or similar to mine? Let us know in the comments below!