Capcom's attempt reboot Devil May Cry has had a trouble existence among fans, immediately lambasted for its redesign of series protagonist Dante and general "hardcore" style, the actual gameplay has almost managed to completely escape notice. With a demo up on PSN and XBL now, the public and fandom can finally see for themselves whether it's worth ignoring misgivings about presentation to actually play. While a demo can't logically showcase everything, the short answer certainly seems to be a resounding yes.
I'm going to lay it out right now, I was among the vocal naysayers about this game prior to playing this demo. I am not a fan of Ninja Theory's prior work, viewing Heavenly Sword and Enslaved to be mediocre at best despite the acclaim they garnered. The new Dante wasn't exactly my cup of tea either, and after the demo... he still isn't, Dante was always a cocky SOB, but in the cut-scene's included he just comes off as a prick, and not a funny enough one to excuse it.
Luckily, nobody plays Devil May Cry for its story, so while it does seem to be falling down in terms of character and dialog, the actual gameplay is rock solid. The demo (played on 360) runs at a rock solid framerate and has excellent, responsive controls. These controls however are a little different than they were before, wisely giving the ability to launch enemies into the air its own button. Weapon swaps are now mapped to the triggers with the player defaulting at sword and being able to swap to either a scythe or a giant axe with their own combos and strengths by holding a trigger. The mechanic works beautifully and makes the combat even more fast and fluid than expected, while using either of these other weapons Dante's long range attack changes from his traditional guns to a grapple, either pulling himself toward the enemy or the enemy toward him depending on which is being used. It opens up some rich combo potential and incredible versatility of movement. It's all immensely kinetic and satisfying.
The level design showcased is also surprisingly filled with secrets, little nooks in the demo level show off hidden areas and I didn't find all of them until several run throughs, as far as style and design goes, the game actually does a good job of rewarding players who really explore with more upgrades, more items, and more fights.
The nitty-gritty of the combat shows that it was clearly tuned from the Dante of DMC3 and 4 rather than a ground-up rework. Aspects of the four styles on display in those games are all over his move set (Swordmaster's "Revolver" is Scythe + Launcher, Gunslinger's "Fireworks" is Jump + Shoot simultaneously etc.) The fact that Parrying is no longer assigned its own button makes it simultaneously easier to do by accident and harder to do on purpose. The timing is pretty generous for swinging to collide with an enemy attack, but pressing too early makes you more of a sitting duck as not many enemies will have their attacks interrupted by just one sword stroke. Mastering that parry though is the difference between wiping the floor flawlessly with the demo boss, and spending the whole fight dodging around while inelegantly slicing at it on occasion. The game manages to demonstrate a remarkably well tuned risk/reward mechanic in just this short demo.
It isn't perfect naturally, the hardest difficulty open by default is Nephilim, and it's probably too easy for classic DMC fans, Son of Sparda unlocks upon completing both sections of the demo and feels much more in line with classic DMC though. Hopefully there won't be a need to unlock it in the final build, so as best to please both new players who don't want something that hard and series' fans for which it simply isn't DMC unless it's capable of turning a fight into a bloodbath at a moment's notice if they don't pay attention.
DmC's demo has assuaged nearly all my misgivings about the core gameplay, while I'm still by no means sold on the story and art direction, gameplay is king in a game like this and DmC's is clearly shaping up to be excellent. If nothing else, I intend to buy it when it comes out this January, at which time you can also expect a review.
E-Mail (Required, But Will Not Display)
EDITORIALS - FIRST IMPRESSIONS