The announcement that Capcom were giving the development reins of their beloved hack and slash adventure series to Cambridge developer Ninja Theory was a controversial one. When the initial introduction trailer launched showing series hero Dante reimagined as what many termed as an emo punk rocker many fans were outraged. Dante had lost his iconic white hair and red trenchcoat look and seemed all broody. Enough with the gritty remakes and origin stories we cried. However, as internet famous games reviewer Yahztee said in his brilliant Zero Punctuation review series on Devil May Cry 4, it sort of seemed that Capcom had taken the series as far as it could go. I was intrigued by the announcement of DMC and its reimagining of the Devil May Cry mythos; I thought the move to a British developer known for their storytelling qualities (Lord of The Rings actor Andy Serkis plays a big part in Ninja Theory) could help give the franchise a much needed shot in the arm. But of course the proof is in the gameplay and luckily I was recently invited to Ninja Theory studios in Cambridge to give the first portion of the game an extensive playthrough. It’s very very good. Allow me to explain...
Capcom Japan are still playing a part in the development of the game – Combat is GOOD
Whilst Capcom gave Ninja Theory the keys to the car and told them to go nuts, they were still frequently visited by the director of Devil May Cry 3 & 4, Hideaki Itsuno to help Ninja Theory understand the ethos of the franchise. While DMC is a complete reimaging of the series; reinterpreting Dante’s origin and revamping franchise favourite characters, it still plays very much like a Devil May Cry game.
Combat is more simplistic than previous games initially, but gives way to a wealth of depth. You can still pull off classic combos like Dante’s” launch enemy in the air-fire a few shots off into the body-jump up into the air-smash enemy to pieces with your sword” manoeuvre but now there’s two distinctive combat styles available to gamers.
In previous games Dante was half man, half demon – now he’s what the game terms as “Nephilim”, half demon, and half angel. This slight tweak in Dante’s origin means he’s able to harness both the angel and devil within. You know what that means....differing move skill sets! Totted up in the 4 hours of so of gameplay I enjoyed Dante used SIX different weapons, each with their own unique move sets and styles. (There was also at least one more weapon to come.) Combat is fast and fluid and will have hardened Devil May Cry fans picking up combos in no time. A quick flick through my stat screen at the end of my play through I had registered several successful parries. I don’t even remember the game telling me how to parry – it was just something I had picked up and starting pulling off. The best games are simple to pick up, hard to master and tap into a part of your brain without you knowing it. DMC is that kind of game.
Ninja Theory are once again hitting it out of the park with their storytelling
In both Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Ninja Theory has shown their talent for telling some of the best storylines in computer games and once again, they’ve weaved a quality storyline with some of the best well rounded cast you’ll see in the medium. Alex Garland (he of “28 Days Later” and the new “Judge Dredd” film fame) served as a story consultant for the game and Andy Serkis played a part in the 5 weeks of shooting of cinematic for the game. Ninja Theory boast some of the most effective motion capture in computer games and it shows in game cinematics. This is one of the most interesting, contemporary game stories I’ve played in years.
Demons secretly rule the world through... keeping the banks in debt. The game’s lead antagonist, Demon lord Mundus controls the world by keeping the population docile with a soft drink called Virility (read: Coca Cola) and malleable by controlling the news with right wing media outlet Raptor News, which is fronted by despicable news jockey not too dissimilar from Glenn Beck.
Yeah... they’re going there.
Dante, while having his origin rewritten isn’t the emo brat many had him down for. He’s just as cool and cocky as he used to be, think Brad Pitt from Fight Club. A new character to the series, a witch called Katt serves as a member of “The Order” - a group of rebels that fight back against Mundus. Interesting enough, Katt doesn’t appear to be an obvious love interest who’ll inevitably be kidnapped by Mundus in a damsel in distress ending. I mean, yes, when she first meets Dante he’s naked (it’s complicated) but it’s refreshing to have a female character that does more than have her boobs out begging to be used as a hostage.
DMC looks GORGEOUS.
In DMC there is the mortal plane where smucks like you and I inhabit, the demon world, and limbo, a plane that exists inbetween. Limbo is gorgeous. One of the best game worlds I have ever played. The art directors deserve a pat on the back in creating what they term a “malice” world. Limbo feels like a sentient being that HATES Dante’s presence in it. Levels crumple, compress and extend and do all manner of things you don’t expect. Artists Bosch, Barker, Escher and Cunningham serve as a clear inspiration for a game that makes me scratch my head and wonder just how it’s only running at 30 frames per second. During one segment set in an Italian looking town I noticed a side alley and thought I’d wander down it to pick up some hidden collectables. The alley almost immediate compressed and slammed in my face, serving as an almighty “NO. GO AWAY.” There’s an immense sensation of pressure when you traverse through Limbo – you feel as if it’s on an earthquake fault line. Platforming in game involves you pulling chunks out of the games scenery to jump off of and there’s a great feeling of weight as you do it.
That old school Devil May Cry replayability is there.
There’s collectables coming out of the wazooo in DMC. Secret platform levels, locked doors on level 4 that only open with a power up you gain on level 8. DMC is built to last and stand up to multiple run through as you experiment with different fight styles.
Also, I probably shouldn’t admit this, but Devil May Cry 3 made me cry. For some reason when it shipped to the UK its “Normal” difficulty was the Japanese Hard mode. Gamers in Europe and the US were made to put on a dress and cry as bosses wiped the floor with us and yet... we loved it anyway and persevered. Providing the game appears balanced, we gamers will happily take on a tricky gaming challenge. I was slightly worried during my play through that I managed to get to the 11th level after 4 hours on Normal difficulty but after a quick look at some of the difficulties I know I’ll get my ridiculous gamer fix. In Hell and Hell mode, Dante dies after one hit. Of anything. With leader boards and rankings at the end of every level you know someone is going to take the challenge. And rub your face in their “SSS”, triple special rating.
I can’t wait for its release in early 2013, I’m going to stick my next out and say I think it’ll be one of the best games of next year.
DMC Devil May Cry will be released on 15th January 2013 on PS3 and Xbox 360 (PC early 2013). Expect a follow up review of the game on Sabotage Times when the game is released.
You can follow Carl Anka on Twitter @Bubblegum616 and if you fancy a Xbox 360 gamer session, his gamertag is also Bubblegum616