I think the best thing that could have happened to the Devil May Cry was being tasked to Ninja Theory to build the new game. While Hideki Kamiya’s wonderfully excessive design is still one of the most celebrated ‘hack n’ slash’ series, the later titles were becoming a bit stagnant. The series represented everything that was great about the genre in the past, and was begging for a fresh approach to take it into the future. Enslaved thought us that ‘fresh’ is exactly was Ninja Theory are capable of with their approach to crafting games.
Ninja Theory seemed even more unhinged with the design when we were introduced to the studio’s new direction with DmC. So all my attention shifted to how the control-design, something that was sheer brilliance with the previous games, might be carried over by the game’s new Western creators.
Ster Kinekor brought in DmC code for rAge 2012, and thankfully so, as I could confirm for myself that the control-mechanics were about to progress in a defining new direction. At first I was a little perturbed as the control-design was not as straight-forward as is usually the case with the genre. There was a definite learning-curve, but with the brief in-game tutorial, in no time the controls felt as solid as I could wish for, and wonderfully progressive. The intuitive combat was as engaging as with the previous games, but more contemporary and elaborate.
Dante begins the demo with his trademark Rebellion sword and Ebony & Ivory pistols, and at first the shooting and wielding of the sword seems to be sum of the combat, with repetition and variation being the way to go about building your combos. Shortly into the game though, you are introduced to the new ‘Angel’ and ‘Demon’ modifiers, which are implemented in various aspects of the gameplay.
The two variants can be used when striking, to hook your foes and reel them in closer, or as grappling devices. One variant is used to pull Dante toward the target and the other is used to draw the object or foe towards Dante. The Angel and Demon modifiers add further variation depending on which of the three basic attacks you are using – be it the sword, the pistol or the powerful axe.
In the beginning of play you are served with a variety of enemies, whilst the combat mechanics are being explained. The various enemies require different combat techniques to overcome, from basic shooting or hacking at them, to using the grappling combos to pull in the enemy. From here you are introduced to some of the platform gameplay which again use the two modifiers. You are taught when to use each of the techniques, and the two are often used in conjunction with each other.
What I loved about the combat system, is firstly the variation the different weapons and the two modifiers offer. The control-mechanics’ design makes use of the entire controller resulting in the combat being more than just a button-mashing fest, something that is often the case with the genre.
After the tutorial bits and a few battles along the level, I encounter the boss-fight. While the usual, systematic approach is needed to overcome the boss – as in performing the different attacks in a certain sequence, I was glad to see that grappling came into play here to. I needed to swing around the gigantic boss whilst delivering the blows. Even this first boss fight was not the easiest of battles, so I would imagine the bosses further into the game will probably be more than just a handful.
The art-direction, and keeping in mind this was not complete code, was as I expected from Ninja Theory – different and impressive to the least. It is neither super-realistic nor total fantasy, it’s sort of falls somewhere in-between. The visual-effects were plentiful in the stage I played and made for an ambient atmosphere.
My hands-on time with DmC has peaked my yearning for this one, and I had exceptionally high expectations as it was before playing it. From what I have experienced, I believe this one could be one of the more interesting and satisfying titles 2013 has in store for us.