DmC preview: Same Dante, different hair

DmC adds a surprisingly compelling story to the storied Devil May Cry franchise.

The first thing I notice about DmC, the Western-friendly Devil May Cry reboot developed by UK-based Ninja Theory, is this: It's not completely batshit crazy, Japanese flying vaginas and ghost-whispering teens nonsense. It actually makes sense. And I liked it.

Ninja Theory is the studio behind the surprise 2010 hit Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, an adventure platformer with as much heart as brains. As Capcom tells it, Ninja Theory understands narrative, and critics of Enslaved would agree. As the iconic Japanese publisher slowly demonstrates its awareness that its wider target audience in the West digs on story, the decision to entrust a core franchise to a relatively untested Western studio is both terrifying and exhilarating.

On the one hand, the result could be an astonishingly bad mash-up of Eastern game design and Western aesthetics. On the other, it could make for an amazingly fun game.

After I get my hands on the game for a brief 30-minute demo, I'm inclined to say it's headed toward the latter.

DmC is Devil May Cry, just with a fresh coat of paint and a slightly better (or worse, depending on your perspective) attitude. And, for some reason, the new elements shake things up just enough to make the original recipe seem like something entirely new.

The game reintroduces gun-and-sword slinging Dante as an insouciant, horn-dog trouble-maker living in a trailer on the beach. A Western hair cut and clothing ensemble strike the player, at first glance, as a garish attempt at putting punk rock spikes on an Otaku, but the application of a variety of subtle touches accumulate to make one almost forget this is a decidedly Japanese franchise. If not for the unfortunate arrival of demons, life would appear to be perfect. Damn demons.

The demons, the leader of which appears to be wearing a vagina on it's head, drag Dante to into Limbo, where he must fight amidst shadowy artifacts of the real world and its inhabitants. The developers say their goal was to make Limbo a living world that actively thwarts Dante, and that is indeed how it plays. Roads collapse, buildings rearrange themselves and demons emerge from the sidewalk to beat up on smug-but-likable Dante.

Dante's twin pistols, Ebony and Ivory, return, as does his mighty sword. He is also granted at least two new weapons in Limbo, the angelic Osiris and the demonic Arbiter, a scythe and an axe, respectively. Dante can use these to smite enemies, chain attacks and send demons flying into the air. He also has a chain weapon with which he can grab and pull enemies, hurl himself toward them or interact with objects in the world.

It all plays very much like one would expect form Devil May Cry. Judging form the brief demo, the combat will be engaging enough to entertain provided enemies and environments don't bore through repetition. But that's where the narrative can — and most likely will — certainly help.

With the arrival of the genital-faced demon comes a lithe, young woman who can project herself into Limbo with Dante. She is a medium, and her task would appear to be to help Dante become the better part of himself as well as guide him through the world. She provides direction and exposition and, one assumes, a love interest.

The set-up: The real world in which Dante's trailer resides is threatened by a mysterious, masked terrorist. As Dante travels through the world of Limbo (and it tears itself apart to thwart him), his actions arouse suspicion that he may be the terrorist himself. While the demo scrupulously avoided spoiling how this all turns out, it's a safe bet that Dante will assume the mantle of the eternally misunderstood miscreant and somehow his medium GF will make everything all better.

Whether Western audiences will lap it all up is anyone's guess, but this particular Western gamer has high hopes.

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