The demo for Ninja Theory's Devil May Cry reboot is brutal, stylish and surprisingly funny, but the spirit of the game's fast-paced, combo-oriented combat is still alive and kicking.
It's unfair to write off obstinant Devil May Cry fans' fears that Ninja Theory's upcoming reboot is going to ruin the franchise, singlehandedly, with a dye job.
There's a lot more to this reinvention than an adjustment to the brightness slider on DanteHair.sys. Though New Dante possess more or less the same suite of melee attacks and juggling maneuvers as Old Dante, the moves themselves feel different — a bit snappier, and more animated. I actually found it a little easier to keep combos going this time around thanks to those subtle adjustments.
In addition to his trusty dual pistols and comically large sword, Dante is able to enter Devil Mode or Angel Mode by holding down a corresponding shoulder button. Dante's Devil attacks are powerful and slow, able to smash through shields, while his Angel attacks focus more on spreading out the damage across a large group. Each mode also has an approach attack; Devil Mode lets you pull enemies towards Dante, while Angel Mode sends Dante flying at enemies.
Using those two abilities in conjunction made it easy to keep Dante in the air for minutes at a time. Pull an enemy in, knock him into the air, juggle him with your guns for a while, zip up to him with your Angel grapple, knock him around until he dies, then zip over to another enemy seamlessly. Dante can also exercise those two powers to traverse his environments, either pulling platforms toward him or vice versa. He swings towards his destination with slow-motion, stylish flair, often as an enemy's attack swings fruitlessly inches behind him.
The mechanical changes seem minute when compared to the aesthetic and tonal ones. The colorful gothic trappings of the past have been replaced by a somewhat grittier, oftentimes brighter urban environment. Dante himself is, yes, a raven-haired punk, but his precociousness is well-tailored. More than once during my half-hour demo, I audibly chuckled at his dialogue, which is not the easiest thing for a game to make me do.
After making his way through a precarious platforming segment inside a cathedral, where your exit is pulled out of reach continuously by dark forces, Dante comments to a cohort: "That just seemed to drag on forever."
Then, with a shrug and a smirk, adds: "Church."
The game is also significantly filthier than its past incarnations
The game is also significantly filthier than its past incarnations, as evidenced by a boss fight sequence titled "Secret Ingredient." In this demo, Dante faces off with a foul-mouthed larval queen that is suspended from the ceiling over a river of threatening-looking goo. Before trading blows, Dante makes some disparaging comments about her age, leading to a rapid-fire exchange of F-bombs that would make Robert Rodriguez blush.
The boss fight that follows is a satisfyingly knock-down, drag-out affair, requiring Dante to unshackle his foe and send her crashing into the river below. There's a weak point to massage, sure, but there's more to the fight than that: Dante also must swing from platform to platform to evade the boss's wide-reaching attacks.
After downing the boss, Dante falls into the river as well, and must move between crumbled platforms while violently ripping the boss's grip from whatever objects she's struggling to hold onto. "You know what your problem is," he shouts as he loosens her grip from the platform he's standing on. "You're too clingy."
She finally relents, releasing the platform and floating down the mucky river — and into a propellor, which chops her up into a gory pulp.
"And I think you're all mixed up," Dante adds.
It's a brutal, stylish and surprisingly comedic sequence, which seems to be the trifecta DmC is going for — and if this demo is any indication, all three of those qualities are going to be dished out in near-hedonistic quantities.