I’ve always loved “Devil May Cry”. Admittedly I only ever played one mission of the second game due to seemingly everyone saying it was terrible and I didn’t really care for the fourth game, but the original game and the third are excellent at least. Much like a reverse “Star Trek”. For the uninitiated it’s a hack and slash series with “Attitude” (some moments are cornier than others), a focus on long, flowing combos and a frustrating tendency to have white haired, red trench coat wearing main character Dante do all sorts of ridiculously awesome things in cutscenes that are hard to do in gameplay. The games mix good atmosphere and lovingly crafted surroundings with intense, fun combat and Dante is a genuinely likable character. The series had hiccups, sure but for the most part it was a series worth checking out. Then this new game was announced. This was to be set in an alternate reality of the Devil May Cry universe featuring a younger, black haired Dante apparently trapped in an asylum or something, and he smokes now, presumably because he’s misunderstood. My first impressions weren’t positive. Fortunately however a demo was released on PSN recently, so I got to actually try it for myself.
The demo is split into two sections: a mission involving combat and platforming and a boss fight. Selecting the former, the first thing that struck me is the usual terrible Capcom story writing and delivery, which is interesting seeing as they aren’t the developers this time. Through the rushed, stilted cutscene full of constant edits (I assume, and hope, that this is due to it being a demo.) I ascertained that basically a masked man with a cliched voice modulator explains to any demons listening that despite the fact that they control many facets of human life, he and his organisation won’t stand for it. Dante wakes up naked and is taken to meet said masked man who turns out to be Dante’s twin brother Virgil; a recurring boss fight in the first game and the main antagonist of the third. Developers Ninja theory apparently felt it right to at least change one major thing, story wise: rather than Dante and Virgil’s mother being a human, she’s now an angel, which apparently makes the two brothers “Nephilim”.
On the plus side, said change does affect gameplay. Dante’s sword can now be switched to a demonic whip for pulling enemies towards him and destroying things far away, or an angelic whip for pulling Dante towards enemies and high places. Similarly the sword can be changed into an angelic scythe or a demonic axe. These changes are handled by holding down a shoulder button, and fit in well with the combat. Said combat is as tight and smooth as ever, with it now being easier to achieve combos, and the new weapons fitting in beautifully. What isn’t so beautiful however, is the level design. The mission is set in limbo, which in this case is manifested as a series of blurry, hazy streets. The aforementioned bad story delivery rears its ugly head again whenever Dante’s female sidekick-type person (I assume she has a name, but if it was mentioned I didn’t care enough to memorise it) opens her mouth; the dialogue as a whole is pretty poor. At certain points you have to run through streets avoiding walls of buildings that are closing in on you, as orchestrated by some malevolent, unseen force that communicates by making words appear on walls and then reading them out. This would be much more effective if they’d picked a better voice.
The worst thing the game does is its depiction of Dante. He’s boring- his dialogue lacks any punch and his actions, although impressive lack the sheer showmanship of his other self. “Devil May Cry 3” was a depiction of young Dante that did it right- the Dante in that game was brash, cocky and volatile, but throughout the game was clearly maturing into the more solemn Dante seen in the first game. I can’t see this version of him growing into anything, especially not the good Dante. Oh, and the game’s staple “Devil Trigger” function now makes Dante briefly look like he did in the other games- white hair, red coat. Why? Devil Trigger shows Dante’s demonic form- he looked like an actual demon. Is the white hair, red coat look some immense power hidden inside him? It never used to seem that way.
The boss fight mission fares better. The boss stays in front of Dante, and there are two hook points to the side for the angelic whip that allow you to avoid certain attacks. Although lacking the scale of other boss fights in the series, it implements the new weapons well, and keeps up the visceral combat. However, once you notice the hook points (which I didn’t to start with) it lacks any real challenge. The demo ends with a brief trailer of the full game, which looks to be interesting in terms of gameplay, but lacking in the story department.
Overall, the new depiction of Dante is boring, the story is bad and poorly told, but the gameplay is fun and visceral. The job of demos is to get you to buy the full game. All this demo did was make me want to buy “Devil May Cry: HD Collection”.
By James Lambert