There have been disconcerted rumblings, some of them much louder than others, about Capcom’s decision to ship out the development of DmC, their prequel/reboot of the Devil May Cry franchise, to a non-Japanese developer. Those rumblings became howls, and even death threats, after the first images of Ninja Theory’s reimagining showed a young Dante with short black hair.
But the proof of any pudding isn’t in the layers of sugar and gore splattered around the outside, but in the tasting, and after our play-through of the latest demo of the game at Eurogamer Expo, we think Ninja Theory have created something to appease all but the most ardent of naysayers.
There were two playable levels in the build, the first a scramble through a twisting city, the second a boss battle with a dribbling slug creature attached to the ceiling of a cavern. Both displayed the sort of design nous that makes Ninja Theory the perfect choice for Dante’s latest jaunt through the corridors of hell.
The first level acted as a tutorial, reintroducing some old mechanics as well as bringing some of Ninja Theory’s own innovations to the fore. Combat is still fast and fierce, and chaining heavy and light attacks makes for some satisfying carnage. There’s very much a focus on juggle combos too, and a launcher move can be unleashed by holding down the heavy attack button.
Pulling the trigger buttons opens up a raft of extra options as well, with the left trigger controlling your angelic side and the right your demon. These also double up as grappling hooks, which you can use to manipulate the environment, pull weapons and armour away from enemies, and drag demons closer to your blades and bullets.
Traversing the world feels slick and polished, with fierce battles acting as punctuation to Dante’s lithe acrobatics. Enemies are still tough, and missed attacks are punished with hefty whacks to the floor. The game is as focused on stylish violence as its predecessors, and grades you for every flourish of your sword and blast of your guns.
The boss battle felt suitably epic, with the slug creature spewing mucus that Dante had to avoid by grappling from platform to platform, waiting for the right moment to strike at the glowing areas where the beast would take damage. That same rhythm of play was evident throughout, along with that feeling that, for the first time in a long time, Devil May Cry felt fresh.
Worth the wait? The more vociferous critics of this take on Dante’s early years are unlikely to be swayed by the changes the developer has introduced, because the game feels like a Ninja Theory product through and through. But from the storytelling to the action-platforming sequences DmC looks like it’s shaping up to capture what it has set out to do.
On the one side you have Ninja Theory’s uncanny ability to tell affecting digital stories, and on the other, a series that’s famed for its elegant and stylish violence. On this evidence, those two threads seem to be gelling together to create something really special.
By Harry Slater
Format: PS3, Xbox 360
Developer: Ninja Theory
When? 15 January 2013