Since its announcement at Tokyo Game Show 2010, DmC: Devil May Cry (is that really what I'm supposed to call it?) was something of an anomaly to me. Unlike say Tomb Raider – a franchise who teets had been so milked that Lara's once perky pair became about as dry as the Saraha, Devil May Cry didn't warrant a reboot, in any way shape or form. Devil May Cry 4 while criticized for its copy-and-paste environments and abrasive hard-rock soundtrack, remained challenging and incredibly entertaining – regardless of how much it felt like DMC2. So when Capcom came out of nowhere with a new vision for its oft-praised action title – and with Heavenly Sword developer Ninja Theory responsible for this new vision, I really tried to pinpoint the reason why. Now at Tokyo Game Show 2012, and able to try Ninja Theory's vision of the IP for the first time, I can't say that I understand the reasons behind Capcom's new path for Dante, but I'm grateful that it was a journey the publisher decided to take.
The demo introduces players to the contemporary town of Limbo City, to Dante, his cloaked companion Kat, and a world turned on its head trying its damnedest to kill the raven-haired hero. Right from the start it's clear that Dante's fresh look oozes just as much smug cockiness and style as he ever did. And his make-over is but a drop of devil's blood in the bucket compared to the awesome aesthetic that Ninja Theory has crafted for the action franchise. I fell in love with all of it almost instantaneously: the vibrant new setting, the shifting environments, the detail and diversity of the enemies, everything. Labor of love really doesn't begin to describe Ninja Theory's vision but it is one hell of a start.
One of the first things I noticed is how alive Limbo City is. As Dante is chased by demonic forces, their presence will influence the world around you, bending and shifting the landscape to obstruct the sword-wielding hero's path at every chance possible. Fortunately for Dante, he's got something of a knack when it comes to the whole demon killing thing.
There is a great deal of improvisation when it comes to handling Dante. Simply put, the demon hunter's got a ton of ways to dismantle his fiendish pursuers. Reminiscent of Konami's Castlevania reboot, Lords of Shadow, Dante has an Angel and a Demon Mode. Each mode comes with its own set of weapons which can be upgraded courtesy of the glowing red orb – a Devil May Cry staple. On hand for the demo was the Osiris, a holy scythe with incredible speed, and the Arbitar, a heavy axe used to smash through armored foes. Both weapons obviously had their own advantages; the fast moving Osiris dealt quick but moderate damage while the Arbitar's slower pace was compensated by how it obliterated nearly everything in its path. It was using the weapons in tandem however, where the combat really started to take a life of its own; the combinations between the two equipped weapons seemed endless. Dante also has access to a spine-like grappling hook which can not only be used for to reach distant platforms, but to pull smaller enemies towards Dante, or with larger enemy types Dante will pull himself in. He's also got his trusty Ebony and Ivory pistols just to lay down the smack from a safe distance.
Unlike previous DMC entries, Devil May Cry doesn't act like that uninterested date you can't for the life of you seem to impress. In the past you could lay waste to droves of demonic forces without taking a single hit and still be penalized for not being flashy enough – I seriously haven't seen so many C's and D's since high school algebra. But DmC's light and dark powered weapons lend to a whole lot of on-the-fly craftiness that it is almost impossible not to look like an ultra-cool, badass as shit demon slayer. And when you toss Devil Trigger into the mix – a transformation which dyes the slayer's hair white and allows him to absolutely wreck everyone in sundry – Devil May Cry has never been this entertaining before. I honestly found myself grinning way more than I expected, I may as well have been channeling Dante as with every new wave of enemies came some witty remark under my breathe followed by some serious ass-handing. It also helps that Dante controls so well. Buttons were responsive and reactive as I felt in complete control of my actions at all times.
The enemies varied between ground and air types, each requiring a certain technique to take down. Flyers for example need to be pulled out of the air via Dante's grapple move (or if you are feeling especially flashy, you can execute a launcher maneuver and just swing wildly until the thing dies). Armored foes on the other hand demanded the heavier strikes of Demon Mode. This is coupled with some pretty smart enemy placement; I never felt like I was fighting the same thing over and over again, or mindlessly button mashing. Like Limbo City itself, combat is always in a state of flux; you are constantly changing up your tactics to accommodate for each enemy that is breathing down your neck. As such, DmC doesn't feel like it's going through the motions to get you to the next area. It instead challenges you to use your skills to the fullest. So for all the clever details that permeate its world, it is the combat that shines most brilliant.
When I wasn't beating the crap out of some deformed monstrosity, I spent a surprising amount of time platforming. I hate to beat the Castlevania drum anymore than I already have but DmC has go this inescapable old-school feel to it.
The demo ended with a face-off against an insectoid-like creature that was almost too beautiful to kill. But when you are in this business of demon slaying, one must put his personal feelings aside, and get the job done.
From what I experienced at TGS 2012, DmC looks and feels like a really polished action game who's sole purpose is to entertain your socks off. There are elements from the reboot that fans of series will find familiar, i.e. clearing a 'room' full of enemies in order to proceed to the next area,and the aforementioned glowing red orbs. But for the most part this is a brand new beast with a personality all its own – and what a personality it is. January 15th, 2013 cannot come soon enough.