DmC: Devil May Cry hands-on preview

dmc devil may cry hands on preview 1

I got my first non-trailer look at Capcom’s Ninja Theory-developed DmC: Devil May Cry, a reboot of the demon-hunting beat ’em up series, in a hands-off preview session at E3 2012. I walked away from that demo with two thoughts running through my head:

(1) Ninja Theory really seems to have a handle on the deranged spectacle that characterizes creator Hideki Kamiya’s earlier work on the series.
(2) With the expected assortment of killing tools joined by the new ability to add angel and demon variants on the fly, is the series’ trademark combo-oriented combat verging on becoming too complex?

There wasn’t any time at the show for a proper hands-on sitdown, so it’s fortunate then that Capcom offered us some time with a playable build of DmC that was ready to go. After spending close to an hour playing through a combat scenario and a boss fight, I can tell you with confidence that the combat tweaks bring about some very welcome additional depth. There’s definitely a learning curve, but it’s not an insurmountable one and once you’ve got a handle on things, it adds a great deal more tactical flexibility to your frequent baddie beatings.

The first section of the demo dropped a younger and short-haired Dante into a sun-bleached city of wide streets and sandy brown brick, tenement-style buildings. Limbo is a big thing in this game, a realm that sits just out of view of the real world that Dante-haters can twist and squeeze at will. It’s here in this other realm that you encounter the bulk of the game’s action. The malleability of Limbo is also used to great effect, both for purely cosmetic and gameplay reasons. You might turn a corner and find a threatening message to Dante scrawled across a wall in glowing letters… or you might simply encounter a long street being crushed on both sides by buildings that are being pushed in like the trash compactor from Star Wars. Elements like these highlight why Ninja Theory was the ideal choice to take over for the previous Capcom dev team; the Heavenly Sword dev understands the importance of creating a rich fantasy world.

Now let’s talk about the combat. Dante always has a firearm (or firearms) and melee weapon at the ready; the full suite of weapons hasn’t been revealed so far, and so Dante just carried his trademark Rebellion sword and Ebony & Ivory pistols for the purposes of the demo. The big twist on top of your normal range of attacks is the ability to apply an angel or demon modifier to your weapons by holding down one of the two trigger buttons. Doing so offers a range of benefits.

For starters, angel and demon variants function a bit differently, with the angelic scythe striking more quickly that the demonic battle axe, but doing less damage; vanilla Rebellion strikes, on the hand, feel like a balance between the two. You can also use the two variants as a sort of two-way grappling hook, with the angel variation pulling Dante toward a target and the demon variation pulling a target toward Dante. The fact that you apply these modifiers using the two triggers on your gamepad also means that you can switch between any of the three attack types on the fly, resulting in a very diverse assortment of possible combos.

The enemies you encounter reinforce this based on what I saw. You’ve got everything from standard-issue grunts that go down with little effort to more heavily armored brutes to flyers that require a grapple in one direction or the other. The general combat scenario that I played appeared to be some sort of early-ish tutorial, and yet there was no hand-holding on the combat side. After just a few minutes of getting my bearings, I found myself facing off against a bizarre menagerie of monstrous creatures. The variety I encountered here forced me to sample different tactics. If this is an indicator of what can be expected from the rest of the game, it’s off to a tremendous start.

dmc devil may cry hands on preview 2

Then there’s the boss fight. It’s here that I got a sense of why DmC isn’t quite ready for primetime (the game arrives in early 2013). It’s not that anything felt mechanically broken or buggy; more that the balancing just feels way, way off. I died multiple times as I chipped away slowly at the boss’s three health bars — it’s a three-stage fight, so you get a new bar to drain with each stage — performing the same set of actions on repeat. The fight isn’t inherently tedious and in fact does a solid job of varying up the attack patterns you’re contending with, it just drags on for a bit too long.

The boss itself is a massive, ugly demon-thing that dangles from the ceiling of a cavernous round room, held up by a series of tubes. It initially looks like a blood-colored cocoon, though the shell splits open as you approach, revealed an oversized head and multiple bony, oversized arms. The creature hisses and sputters, spewing vile green goo in Dante’s direction as he mouths off with some of his witty repartee. It’s pretty classic Devil May Cry tomfoolery.

The fight involves smacking up the boss between her strikes and then using the angel grapple to swing over to adjacent platforms whenever she vomits her goo all over the place. The grapple swings are where the learning curve hit me the hardest, as I frequently found myself hitting the wrong variant or timing my jump wrong as I fumbled with the buttons. That said, I get the sense that most players will probably be quite a bit more proficient by the time they reach this boss.

I won’t spoil any of the story particulars or the grisly end that the boss meets. Suffice to say, it’s a humorous demise. It also doesn’t happen immediately after you’ve drained all of her life bars. There’s an unusually interactive QTE-like scene that plays out first, a welcome change from the situation in the past games where Dante’s most badass moves were reserved for cutscenes.

In case it’s not already apparent, I’m liking what I’m seeing in DmC: Devil May Cry. Even with months remaining before the game hits stores, there’s a level of polish and just a fundamental smoothness to the mechanics that shows lots of promise for a fun experience to come. It sounds like Capcom still might have a few more surprises to reveal before the games arrives in stores on January 15, 2013, but even just with what we’ve seen so far, this is looking like a triumphant return for Devil May Cry.

Gaming

An ode to Cuphead: One of the most lovable games of all time

Revisiting Cuphead on Nintendo Switch is just as memorable as it was on Xbox One nearly two years ago. Cuphead's aesthetic has a magical quality that transports you back to the childhood joy of discovery.
Gaming

The best of the last generation: Our 50 favorite Xbox 360 games

The Xbox 360 thrived during a generation where games were plentiful. Here's our list of the best Xbox 360 games of all time, including all game genres and even a few special indie hits.
Gaming

This list of PlayStation 4 exclusives puts its competitors to shame

The PlayStation 4's game library and incredible selection of exclusive games could make anyone with an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch think twice. Here's our list of the latest and greatest PS4 exclusives.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Gaming

Castlevania Anniversary Collection offers some of the series’ rarest games

Konami is celebrating 50 years of games with collections like the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, which now includes Kid Dracula, Castlevania II, Bloodlines, and Castlevania the Adventure. Which of these are must-play titles?
Gaming

Call up Durr Burger and grab some lunch with our Fortnite weekly challenge guide

The Fortnite week 8 challenges are now available in season 8. One of the big challenges this week has players dial the Durr Burger number on the big telephone. We've got everything you need to complete this weekly challenge.
Gaming

Streaming data reveals Ninja isn’t Twitch king, Fortnite still reigns supreme

Stream Elements and Stream Hatchet teamed up to produce the State of the Stream Q1 2019, a report that reveals a multitude of data. A few takeaways include Ninja not producing the best month of views, and Apex Legends' performance diving.
Deals

Get Kingdom Hearts 3 at its lowest price yet during Walmart’s Xbox One sale

Walmart reduced the prices on some new and popular Xbox One games. Kingdom Hearts 3 is at its lowest price yet, while Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Red Dead Redemption 2 get some stout discounts as well.
Gaming

Get jiggy with it and find the jigsaw pieces with our Fortnite challenge guide

For this Fortnite weekly challenge, players must search for jigsaw puzzle pieces under bridges and in caves. We've got the best locations for finding these pieces so you can complete this challenge fast.
Computing

Gaming on a laptop has never been better. These are your best options

Gaming desktops are powerful, but they tie you down to your desk. For those of us who prefer a more mobile experience, here are the best gaming laptops on the market, ranging from budget machines to maxed-out, wallet-emptying PCs.
Gaming

The best zombie games of all time, from Resident Evil to The Last of Us

Zombies are a longtime media staple, from movies to literature to TV to video games. Plenty of zombie games are bland and boring, but a good number offer tangible reasons to care about the undead. These are the best zombie games.
Deals

Ditch the discs: The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is available for pre-order

Like it or not, discs seem to be going the way of the VHS tape. Digital gaming is quickly becoming the new norm even for consoles, and Microsoft’s new Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is now available for pre-order with three free games…
Gaming

The Last of Us Part 2 finishes capturing its main characters’ performances

Calling it the most "ambitious cinematic shoot" the team has ever done, Naughty Dog revealed that the motion-capture performances for the main characters in The Last of Us Part II are finished.
Gaming

Transform into the ultimate leader with our tips and tricks for Civilization 6

Civilization VI offers both series veterans and total newcomers a lot to chew on from the get-go. Here are some essential starting tips to help you master the game's many intricacies.