Ten Thoughts On… DmC: Devil May Cry Demo (Microsoft Xbox 360 & Sony PlayStation 3)

SEAN: Like the rest of the world, I was pretty disgusted at the thought of a Devil May Cry reboot. I mean, the franchise is not that old and there weren’t so many games in the franchise that Capcom could’ve possibly run out of ideas with it. On the other hand, they handed the reigns over to Ninja Theory, which I generally enjoy as a developer. After playing the game at E3, I felt that, although I still don’t like the look of new Dante, the gameplay seemed really solid. Now that the official demo is available for wide release, it’s time to see if my feelings remain.

MARK B: The Devil May Cry series is one that’s been kind of iffy, quality-wise; while the first game was an interesting experience that was very novel, and the third game was a challenging and slickly designed one, but the second game was spotty and poorly paced and the fourth game was awkward and focused on a character who couldn’t carry the game very well. Still, Dante as a character was certainly a solid one, and there were plenty of directions the character could have been taken in to make more interesting games… but here we are, with a rebooted franchise, a new character with the same old name, and a new developer in Ninja Theory. DMC has seen plenty of praise and criticism for various reasons, and while I’ve certainly made my opinion of rebooting active franchises well known, that doesn’t speak on whether or not the game itself is any good. Ninja Theory is certainly a fine enough developer, and even if reboots like Splatterhouse and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow are… divisive, shall we say, that doesn’t mean this couldn’t be a good one. Since Sean I have both played the demo at this point, and we both wanted to talk about the demo, it seemed fair to share the love, so to say, so let’s get down to it.

1.) SEAN: There are two modes available for play. The first introduces you to the story and the mechanics of the game. It opens with a montage of sorts consisting of seemingly pivotal scenes that introduce you to Dante, his brother Vergil, and the mysterious girl that leads you around, Kat. Both Dante and Vergil are a product of demon and angel, also known as nephilim (been a lot of these in games lately) and join an organization known as “The Order” in order to combat the demons of Limbo. It’s a lot to take in and it’s hard to get a grasp on exactly what is going on. All you know (or all I took away from it, at least) is that there is ass waiting to be kicked, which was certainly all the information I needed in order to get going.

MARK B: The demo gives us a brief introduction to the plot, which, to be blunt, comes across as a bizarre cross between Devil May Cry and They Live. Dante is approached by an organization dubbed “The Order” (which is generally a bad guy name to be honest), run by a masked “terrorist” who claims that the world is being poisoned by demons through television, snacks, banks and advertisements. Said masked terrorist turns out to be Vergil, Dante’s brother, and he reveals to Dante that the two are the result of a union between the demon Sparda and the angel Eva (originally a human woman in the previous series). Vergil is attempting to take down demons in our world, which Dante agrees to assist with (out of revenge, one presumes), and Dante, along with newly introduced female associate Kat, apparently head off to do just that. While it’s really weird seeing the characters interact with one another in a way that is notably different from how one would expect, the basic concept is certainly fine; we’re all going to be distracted waiting for the Vergil heel turn, mind you, but Dante and company seem like fine characters. The plot immediately runs into the brick wall of not introducing a plot concept regular Dante couldn’t have been inserted into (either through a flashback game or a slightly rewritten modern game), of course, but that is what it is. The only issue with the plot, so far, is that it’s very profane, and this is coming from a guy who, if anyone reading this has listened to the podcasts, is clearly okay with profanity. Seriously, this is an entire exchange in the demo:

Boss Monster: “FUCK YOU!”
Dante: “FUCK YOU!”
Boss Monster: “FUCK YOOOOOUUUUUU!” *puking*

It’s fine if there’s a point to the profanity in dialogue terms, or if it’s funny, but this is just Dante and a slug monster swearing at each other and it’s kind of stupid, to be blunt. I mean, fine, Dante’s a dick and the demon is a demon so there’s no real need for social convention, but there are creative bits of dialogue in the demo, so it’s just confusing that there are extended swearing sessions and bits where Dante is called a scrotum for no obvious reason. I’m really hoping this is just for show here and the final game is… less of that, but so far we’re not doing well. Oh, also, no one on Earth would drink a soda called “Virility”. I get the point, but would you drink “Boner Cola”? I didn’t think so.

2.) SEAN: The gameplay should feel very familiar to those who had played the previous games. You have one button mapped to Dante’s sword and another for his pair of guns, and using them in tandem can juggle enemies in the air just as he could before. Dante is also still capable of double jumping as well as doing an air dash in order to close the distance on large gaps. There’s even options to dodge or launch enemies at the touch of a button.

MARK B: In the 360 demo, the X button is the Ebony and Ivory mapped “shoot things that scream and bleed” button, Y uses Rebellion (the sword) for default attacks, and B uses it to launch enemies into the air. A is your default jump button and the bumpers are the dodge buttons. You can pick up the basics in about ten minutes if you’ve played the series before (or anything like it, really) but it all works fine here in the demo.

3.) SEAN: Dante is able to unleash a Devil Trigger attack as before, though when enabled, his hair turns white and his coat becomes a bright red as a nod to his former (and arguably, better) self. While in this form, like many other games in the genre, Dante takes less damage and can inflict more hurt on the enemies. Not to mention, it just looks cool.

MARK B: On a technical level maybe, but Dante looks like a homeless person, so that cheapens it a bit, especially since Devil Trigger form looks like regular Dante, so you’re left wondering why he was redesigned to begin with. Anyway, the Devil Trigger mode is as functional as ever so far, allowing Dante to rend dudes asunder and deal lots of heavy damage when needed, though it doesn’t play into the demo much as you’ll only find yourself using it once or twice. Still, it’s nice to see that it’s here, and it works fine.

4.) SEAN: If you hold down the left trigger while attacking enemies, you have access to a scythe with an entirely different moveset. The same is true with the right trigger, except you’ll unleash a much slower axe attack. Both of these weapons can be mixed in with regular sword and gun attacks in order to come up with more creative combos. And this is before any upgrades or unlockable moves are introduced. I’ll admit to being impressed at the amount of flexibility the combat offers in just this short demo.

MARK B: While preview discussions indicate that there will be more weapons beyond what’s in the demo (including fist weapons, shotguns and other expected weapons), I have to agree, I like the variety available instantly to Dante. The ability to combine Rebellion sword strikes, Arbiter axe strikes and Osiris scythe attacks is interesting, especially since all three weapons handle much differently from one another. Getting used to the trigger AND button combinations to pull things off can get a little confusing at times, to be sure, but it becomes second nature as you plow through the demo and I felt like this was a good change, one that Ninja Theory put a lot of thought into to try and bring the “crazy destructive combos” mentality of the old games into this one. It works, is the point, and it works well.

5.) SEAN: There are a number of things that are marked with red and blue circles. The red ones can be grappled and pulled towards you such as platforms, or those pesky cameras that summon enemies to battle you. Anything marked in blue causes you to get pulled towards it instead, allowing you to navigate across large chasms that would otherwise be impossible to leap across. The same is true for enemies, as they can be grappled and/or launched in the air for juggling combo purposes.

MARK B: This makes for some neat platforming mechanics that work out well enough when the camera’s willing to work with you. The blue targets in particular are interesting, as the demo later gets into making Dante use those for forward movement, giving the game this mild Spider-Man sort of feel that works well for Dante. You can see where these mechanics could be useful for navigation or for hiding items for the player to find, which the demo also shows off a bit, and it’s nice to have some hidden stuff to play with in what would otherwise be a simple combat demo.

6.) SEAN: The stage that you navigate takes on a neat aesthetic. Dubbed Limbo City, the streets and buildings transform around you as you progress and in the process will often create new obstacles for you to conquer. While I like how dynamic the stage is, I would’ve liked to have seen some more locales outside of the city. If every environment twists and turns as you move further through the stage, just think of the possibilities for other kinds of landscapes.

MARK B: The flow of the stage alternates between combat sections, platforming sections and “run forward as the stage tries to end you” sections, and the pacing (so far) isn’t bad. The platforming segments can be awkward at times when the camera fights with you on where it wants to place itself, but this isn’t too common, thankfully. The combat sections feel about on par with prior Devil May Cry games and Bayonetta in terms of structure: a magical door pops up, enemies spawn, and you have to end them in the face, what’s not to love? The “run or die” sections are the most interesting parts of the stage, mostly because they pop up a few times and give the game a frantic feel that these sorts of games don’t do more with. This can be annoying when you’re more interested in exploration, but thankfully they have clearly defined starting points, so you’re not instantly railroaded into them, and if the final game keeps that up it’s not a bad idea to keep the pace interesting.

7.) SEAN: There wasn’t a huge variety of enemies in the demo. The majority of the foes consist of skeletons and what appear to be cherubs that will occasionally wield shields to protect themselves. Occasionally you’ll run into foes armed with chainsaws that can shrug off damage long enough to charge at you for a devastating attack. Again, I suspect the full game to have more in terms of enemies to clobber, there just wasn’t a whole lot in this short demo.

MARK B: I wasn’t a fan of the enemy aesthetics, personally; the cherubs screamed Bayonetta and the rest of the enemies just looked like… non-descript grunts. They’re fine, but they don’t really pop, they’re just rounded faces and broken up bodies. The boss, Poison, has a lot of visual style, but the main enemies just look angular and artistic without really looking like anything. They’re not really demonic or evil looking, they just look like robots, and not particularly interesting robots at that. It’s kind of a shame given the personality the rest of the game has, but hopefully that’ll change as the game comes closer to release.

8.) SEAN: There were numerous occasions where I ran into doors that needed a key to open. The keys are generally well hidden throughout the map, though I did run across one during journey. The doors lead to challenges that unlock items to power up Dante, and in the case of the one I got, it was to raise his health bar. The particular challenge that I had to face down involved racing to the end of a stage in a limited amount of time, but if it’s anything like its predecessors, I suspect you’ll be tasked with defeating foes within a time limit, beating them without losing health, or trying to air combo a skeleton into oblivion.

MARK B: I’d imagine Sean is talking about the Copper Door here; there are apparently three hidden doors in the demo, two Copper and one Silver that I could find, each of which requires keys that are hidden in the various levels. Near as I could tell the demo actually carries over items found in one part to the other, as there are several keys in the first stage, but one key ties into a door you find in the boss stage, which was neat. The Copper Door in the main stage essentially boils down to a mobility time trial, where you have to move through the stage as fast as possible, using the Osiris grapple to pull yourself forward to make progress. It’s neat, in the sense that time trials are ever neat in such games (I’m not a fan but I can see how others might be), and while the payoff was crap (one part of one item that will eventually raise my health OH BOY) this is a staple for the genre at this point, so that’s fine. This section doesn’t really do anything new, so to say, but it does what it does fine and trains you before the boss fight, which is helpful if you can find it.

9.) SEAN: The second part of the demo is a boss battle against what I can best describe as a suspended cocoon with four arms and a potty mouth. The game suggests that you go through the tutorial before taking on the boss, and for good reason. You’ll be utilizing the majority of what you learn in order to survive. The creature will grab onto the platform you’re standing on and swipe at you with its tiny arms, all the while trying to puke on you. If the platform gets covered in the goop it spews, you’ll have to use Dante’s grapple ability to move on to another platform. The objective is to knock away its hands so that the tubes feeding into it are exposed and you can grapple onto, and subsequently, destroy them completely. The demo ends following the initial battle, though you’re left to wonder if it’s really over.

MARK B: Yeah, the boss, Poison as the materials name it, mostly requires you to beat on it until it pukes on the platform you’re on, at which point you have to use the Osiris hook to pull yourself to another platform, and repeat until you deal enough damage to stun the boss. You have to do this three times (twice to break its feeding tubes or… whatever they are) and once to knock the boss out entirely, which ends the section on a “To Be Continued” note, so this is likely going to be a long, involved boss fight. One thing I will say about this section that was really nice is that there were no fucking Active Time Events, which is literally amazing in context. I’m pleased with the demo for that alone, as the demo seemed almost entirely devoid of them, and the genre has certainly been progressing in that direction to an absurd degree, so it’s nice to see that there are still developers who know how to avoid that annoying crutch. So far, anyway.

10.) SEAN: You have three difficulties to choose from at the outset, though a fourth will unlock as soon as you complete the demo. It’s nice that the developers chose to offer a wide spread in regards to the challenge, as despite how fun Devil May Cry 3 was, I know a lot of people who were turned away by the steep difficulty climb. At least in the case of DmC, the challenge will be there if you want it, though those looking to feel like a badass will certainly have that option as well.

MARK B: Agreed; the Son of Sparda difficulty hurts like crazy if you’re not ready for it, while Human difficulty has a solid learning curve and should give new players a good way to adjust to the experience. The Style scoring system also makes a return, giving you ranks from D to S based on your performance and rewarding you accordingly. The Upgrade system also seems to be making a comeback, though that wasn’t on display here, as you’ll get souls that the game informs you can be used to upgrade Dante from killing enemies and such as you play. There are also little novelties, like “Lost Souls”, IE red souls trapped in the environment that can be freed by beating on them until they escape, for you to find, so the game certainly won’t be short on hidden content.

SEAN: While there wasn’t enough content to say definitively if this game will be worth picking up or not, it certainly holds potential. Ninja Theory seems to understand, at least from a gameplay standpoint, what made the series so appealing in the first place. Now if only something could be done about Dante’s appearance…

MARK B: Yeah, he really looks like he shops out of dumpsters, and Kat looks just as goofy, to be honest. On a mechanical level the game plays absolutely fine, so far, and the aesthetics are looking good, but I’m… just not seeing why we needed to reboot the entire series here from what the demo has to show. There’s nothing here that screams “THIS REBOOT WAS NEEDED” because aside from the rewritten backstory parts, you could have easily done this with original Dante, and that’s usually not a good sign. DMC is looking mighty fine so far, if the demo is to be believed, and it seems like it’s going to be a fine successor to the prior games from a stylistic and mechanical perspective. Whether or not it’s going to justify the full franchise reboot or not is an entirely different matter altogether, of course, but so far… not so much.

DmC: Devil May Cry releases January 13th for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Tags: , ,