Devil May Cry (DmC) Preview – Demon Fleshed Out

DmC (Devil May Cry) - Gameplay Preview

Previewed on PS3.

Like it or not, a new Devil May Cry is approaching that alters the appearance of Dante in that of an adorable bad boy. The reboot named simply DmC doesn’t stop at just this cosmetic makeover however. The entire world and scope of this brawler shifts to the modern era, while still maintaining the high-grade action that made the series one of the changes in the “hack and slash” definition. It still won’t please everyone due to its focused design choices, but purists will only have themselves to blame, as DmC is the same game at its core, slightly altered to fit its time.

This tale follows an origin story for Dante and his descent from angels and demons alike. This hybrid makes him special and standing out is never good. The young rebel with snappy wit scuffles through modern cityscapes and periodically has to bump uglies with a variety of demonic brood. There are several occult topics mashed together in the grimy apocalyptic setting of DmC. Cybernetic displays interlace with hellish spikes and flares, with dark splashes and strokes forming cohesion between all genres. Unfortunately, the theme also seems to have saturated red hue splattered all over, making some scenes a grotesque display of overexposure that strains the eyes. The periodic cutscenes whisk us away from this technical flaw, with crispy pristine animation, high in detail and beautifully composed. Along with some strong voice acting from the cast, this alone could create a compelling storyline and a connective atmosphere in this daily concrete jungle. Unfortunately, our version did seem to not handle this splendor properly at all times, which results in systematic framerate stuttering. It’s a small tarnish, but it does detract from other great scenes where for instance a demon’s cries are marked in fonts inside of the game world, scrolling its message on walls and floors as you draw closer. Additionally, it grasps at the currently popular dubstep genre needlessly and while it certainly isn’t unfitting, it’s sure to polarize the masses during certain scenes.

DmC (Devil May Cry) - Gameplay Preview

Red. I'm seeing red. I'm seeing red.

Dante is part demon killer and part explorer, which adds a platform element to the game. The excellent level design periodically rips open the guts of a city to create jumping or running elements that our guy needs to rush through. This tearing is also used to create powerfully moving sections that split the front from the background in one violent frame, like some eerily stretching, endless tunnel. The despair and claustrophobia are often palpable during these twisted scenes of altered reality. By using some of his weaponry, our antihero can rip out platform sections to his needs and grapple towards higher grounds. Double jumps and flying boosts that propel big D forward can sometimes lead to some aggravation, but that is mostly due to the confusing artistic design more than the controls, which are more than adequate.

In particular, the responsiveness of input is felt during the action sequences where demons appear out of nowhere. Here, the grapples can be used to lure enemies as well or latch onto them to get closer, but there is more variety than just that. Weapons, scythes and some flashy guns can be used to kick demon butt in numerous ways. More so, by doing some swift slashing, Dante racks up combos as he wastes evil in style, yielding points.  Each weapon is useful in different ways, further spreading the need for some varied combat. Guns automatically aim towards airborne units, light weapons slash in quick succession and heavy blades stomp through guards and create slow but powerful attacks. Additionally, attacks can push back foes or knock them in the air for a vaulted flurry of blows. If all else fails, then Dante can change into his white haired self and unleash a powerful Demon Trigger that wreaks destruction and boosts his abilities. There will definitely be enough for everyone to get around in this game. Strikes connect with force and make characters jerk back, fly away and explode into tiny pieces. There is a gory element present that makes fighting even more succulent and that for both sides. For instance, a chainsaw wielding maniac can just as well lunge at our boy and starts slicing through flesh and bone with juicy crunches.

DmC (Devil May Cry) - Gameplay Preview

Epic Mickey, but with different brush strokes for different folks.

It won’t be arguable that DmC is not, if anything, a fleshed out title. Aside from these two fully explored elements, there are also upgrades for weaponry, but also a multitude of items that can offer some help. Levels are filled to the brim with extras, which are needed to spice up the end score of a mission. You can collect lost souls, find hidden demonic items, sections and so forth. If that weren’t enough, you’ll also be expected to do it in style and in a timely fashion. While challenge can be adjusted through the game’s difficulty ratings, this collection element is sure to keep players busy for a while. In about half an hour of running through the mission we were presented, only 23% of the total got discovered the first time, leaving much more for dedicated fans to see.

The action pinnacle should be the huge boss fights with towering abominations and fierce devils from the bowels of hell themselves. The one we got to try is simple yet challenging enough and worked mainly in a simple hit and evade mechanic, but peppered with some clever airborne sections. More so, here we get to use the grapple system again; in one part to swing to different platforms and in the other to tear through our enemy, instead of using a quick time event for instance. In fact, Ninja Theory bypasses this often dull mechanic as often as possible. For instance, the most powerful attacks slow down time, so Dante’s quick wit can make him scope the level and grapple away in time, instead of hitting a button to evade in a cinematic you don’t control. Capcom leaves a world of change between Ninja Theory’s take on adrenaline pumping action and the developers for Asura’s Wrath, which basically gave us Quick Time: The Game.

DmC (Devil May Cry) - Gameplay Preview

The Secret World wishes it had these cityscape.

Some downsides to worry about so far are pacing and the amount of simplified traits to take this franchise to modern times, aside from combat relevance retention speculation. Don’t worry; DmC can still be a tough challenge, but the events are set in motion to make it both easier and tougher than it has to. In particular, auto aiming can be a pain, especially since the game seems to miss a targeting system. Grapples make connections that much more powerful, but in boss fights it can still feel like a cheap trick from time. The camera is completely in a player’s control, but when the action is at its highest, it can be troublesome to manage everything at once, making a target system that much more needed. Additionally, the story that spurs players along seems to clash with the explorative sections so far, which leaves us with mixed emotions about the pacing.

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All issues are mere foibles from what we’ve seen so far though. The new DmC and new Dante are impressive in many ways. From a surreal art style and level design to fluent and satisfying combat that is also varied and challenging; what more could your little heart desire? If by now you’re still upset that our young boy dyed his hair, perhaps you need to review your priorities. Devil May Cry is back and it’s a tour de force worth watching.

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