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E3 2012: Ninja Theory’s DmC looks as insane as a Devil May Cry game should

For those who have been concerned about Ninja Theory’s ability to appropriately capture the bizarre, over-the-top nature of the Devil May Cry series in its upcoming DmC, you can safely put those fears aside. Based on what we saw during a behind closed doors E3 2012 demo, the Enslaved dev seems to have nailed the same blend of Japanese-flavored weirdness that pervades the rest of the games in the series in its upcoming release.

The E3 demo started off with the game’s parallel universe Dante strolling up to a nightclub run by Lilith, who our Capcom rep describes as “the Simon Cowell of the demon world.” In this alternative reality take on the series, demons control everything. Lilith’s nighttime hotspot isn’t just a popular club; it’s also a trap designed to lure unwitting patrons into the mirror world of Limbo. Dante is there to mess up her day, but first he needs to get himself into the club.

Those aforementioned worries over a possible shift in tone are banished immediately upon seeing Dante’s exchange with the bouncer. You’re not on the list, he says to the teen demonspawn after glancing down at the clipboard he’s holding in his hands. Dante responds with a sharp uppercut, which knocks the bouncer flat on his back as the guest list and pen that he’s holding go flying. Our hero catches both items in a single, smooth maneuver, signing the list with a flourish and flashing a smile at the unconscious doorman as he finishes writing and drops both items where he stands/

“I am now,” he says, striding forward into the club. Before following him, the camera comes to rest on the clipboard and we see how Dante chose to sign his name: “F–k you.” Still worried?

The crowded club doesn’t immediately seem like the viper’s nest that it will soon turn out to be. A scantily clad dancer in white lingerie with fake angel wings on her back strolls up to Dante and invites him to dance. He declines with a smartass remark and it’s immediately clear that these two know each other. A couple of club patrons notice the exchange and a close-up of one reveals that he’s not quite human. He whispers out “Dante” in a ghostly voice, alerting Lilith of the uninvited guest. She’s got no love for the demonspawn, muttering something about wanting to deliver his corpse to someone.

We cut back to Dante as the club transforms around him; dancers on the dance floor disappear and walls spring up to box our hero in as a handful of enemies spawn. He’s got a few more tricks in his toolbox this time around; in addition to sword Rebellion and the handguns Ebony and Ivory, Dante also has angel and demon weapons to aid him. In addition to offering a wider range of options in combat, these items are also sometimes necessary for taking on foes that will only take damage from one or the other.

On the angel side there’s Osiris, a scythe that’s built for fast, sweeping attacks that do little damage to lots of enemies. Crowd control. It also doubles as a sort of grappling hook, allowing Dante to pull himself over to distant enemies with ease. The demon weapon is Arbiter, a two-handed battle axe that strikes slowly but packs a big punch. This weapon can also double as a grappling hook, though it works by pulling the target close rather than launching Dante over to his target. These aren’t the only angel or demon weapons in DmC, but they are the two showcased in the E3 demo.

The new weapons and their grapple abilities introduce a variety of new tactical options. Dante has the option of shooting out the wings on flying enemies, but he can alternatively use the grapple to drag one down to him or launch himself up to one. Osiris and Arbiter both have their uses; the former comes in handy when an early wave of weaker enemies is shredded to pieces as a group and the latter proves to be helpful when a lone tank enemy comes out to play.

Once the initial onslaught is taken care of, the barriers surrounding the arena disappear and we discover that Dante is now standing on a series of floating platforms that are suspended high above what appears to be a packed dance floor that stretches off into the horizon. An announcer’s voice picks up as a familiar logo appears on the screen: “Devil’s Got Talent,” it reads. The bizarre Devil May Cry sense of humor is alive and well.

The rest of the demo unfolds over a series of discrete rounds, each with their own sets of rules. In the first, strobing lights on the floor of the fighting arena shift between the colors red and blue. Here, Dante must dish out weapons with his angel and demon weapons, depending on which color is strobing at the time. The second round is a timed affair, with a 30-second timer set into the floor of the arena. counting down as Dante dispatches the baddies that come his way. A later round pits Dante against fire and ice demons, which are ibky susceptible to demon and angel weapons, respectively. Separating each of these rounds is a platforming sequence in which you work your way along a series of walkways and platforms suspended over the writhing dance floor far below.

The demo ends after round five, in which Dante faces off against a pair of creatures called Rage. They certainly look the part of the “demonic porcupines” that the demo’s driver describes them as. Taking them on solo is fine, but if you kill more than one in a group, the rest will go into “Rage” mode which effectively makes them immune to being staggered by damage. Dante makes quick enough work of them here, but it’s easy to see how a Rage pair could cause problems in the mix with other enemy types.

And that’s where we leave DmC. The game is looking like a win for Ninja Theory, capturing the tone and feel of the veteran series while putting a uniquely new creative spin on things. Watching it in action, you get the feeling that you’re seeing Devil May Cry 2.0; all of the familiar bits and pieces are there, but there’s a flavor to everything that was never there before. Look for DmC in stores early next year, on January 15, 2013.

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