Red Herb Review - Devil May Cry Demo Impressions

Capcom’s attempt to reboot this relatively fresh hack n’ slash franchise has been met with the harshest of resistance from day one, forcing DmC into the unenviable position of having to prove itself to longtime fans all over again while still managing to bring in a new generation of would-be demon hunters under its wing.  After having most of the year covered with an avalanche of trailers, screens, gameplay previews, and a slew of interviews with people trying to convince you the game is good and that, yes, it really is still Devil May Cry, the general masses are now privy to the one thing both detractors and supporters have been asking for all along: a demo.

With the full release game having just two months to wait on the bench before hitting shelves, the two levels provided here (a tutorial chapter and a boss fight) are extremely well polished.  DmC’s version of Limbo, a demon controlled other-verse that exists parallel to our own, is gorgeously rendered with eye-splitting detail.  It all recalls the PS2 games’ gothic bent except it’s practically smeared with Ninja Theory’s vibrant sense of style; their heavy strokes of color and hard-on for beautifully organic lighting permeate every corner. Dante’s design and animations all reflect the studio’s artistic sensibilities to the point where I hardly needed to hear him toss a smartass remark an enemy’s way to get a feel for his character; the way he moves and carries himself in and out of combat are so finely detailed that they speak volumes of his character by themselves.

Ninja Theory wisely chose to compose their combat from scratch instead of harping on any of the previous four titles.  Devil May Cry’s edge always came from the precision hit detection, seamless dance of combos, and the blistering challenge enemies gleefully posed more so than any one rigid control scheme.  Judging from my time with the demo, it feels as if Ninja Theory captured that edge to a capital T.  Demons (which there are plenty of) present just as much of a threat as they do the opportunity to rack up Stylish points by hacking, launching, and juggling them in classic Dante fashion.  DmC’s biting sense of fun goes hand in hand with combat’s depth; the more finesse you squeeze out of your attacks equates to a better score (up until you hit that triple S score rating, one of the game’s most exhaustively satisfying feats).

DmC modifies the series’ sword/dual pistol conceit by giving you access to angelic and demonic weapon abilities that can be unleashed with the pull of a trigger.  Implementing this is a tricky bastard as it’ll take a decent chunk of experimenting with until you feel comfortable with the mechanic.  I’m hoping the final game gradually introduces you to your arsenal as in past games; having to cope with all your abilities at once proved to be a taxing task starting up.  Having to hold onto a trigger while committing to a thumb tango on the controller’s face buttons became bearable in time but never felt intuitive, especially during fights that require bullet-fast reflexesPlatforming makes use of this angel/demon setup (except think in terms of “pull” and “push”) to greater effect, but don’t be surprised if you fall between a gap because you forgot to yank the left trigger in order to activate a jump boost.Like I said, bearable, just not quite intuitive.

Make sure you don’t miss the boss encounter that serves as the other half of the demo’s content.  It’s absolutely refreshing in this quick-time saturated age to see a boss fight that plants complete control squarely in the player’s hands.  Capcom’s Doug Jones reiterated it over and over again as Capcom lobbied their reboot from expo to expo this year, no boss fight will rely on a design gimmick – everything you learn in standard combat is exactly what you’ll come at bosses with.

I'm  beyond glad DmC plays so impressively well.  Personally, Ninja Theory’s stylistically driven re-imagining had me sold purely on a story basis (otherwise known as their strong suit) from the get go, but its gameplay had me on the fence.  There’s a billion and one ways DmC could have screwed up on that level alone and an Oscar-worthy narrative wouldn’t have saved it from being torn to shreds by the clawed cynicism surrounding this title.  But even on Son of Sparda’s unforgiving difficulty (provided as an option after completing the demo), DmC makes you feel positively badass, and that’s saying something after having said ass repeatedly handed to you by Hell’s minions.

There’s still plenty of room to fail, absolutely.  But after thoroughly digging on the brief hands-on Capcom and Ninja Theory have provided us, I’m pretty damn hard-pressed to see how DmC could disappoint.

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