Poor Ninja Theory. Tasked with reinventing one of Capcom’s most cherished franchises, the Cambridge-based studio has effectively been stripped naked, smeared with jam and thrown to the trolls.
It’s a no-win situation – the rabid hardcore fan base would be just as outraged if the next Devil May Cry stuck rigidly to the established template as they are with this complete reinvention, after all.
If you’re among the ‘Dante must die’ protestors, though, consider this a polite request that you calm down and step away from the forums.
Because after a fair chunk of hands-on time with the game, we can safely say that it’s not the atrocity you seem to think it is. In fact, beneath that controversial new haircut, it’s really rather good.
Although Dante’s look might have changed considerably, the same can’t be said of the precise hack-and-slash action. Ninja Theory’s previous games have had slower, more deliberate combat systems but it quickly becomes clear that the team has no problem speeding things up.
The main focus is still on Dante’s usual combination of Ebony & Ivory (his trademark handguns) and Rebellion, although the trusty sword is now capable of morphing into angelic and demonic variants.
On-the-fly weapon switching has long been a staple of high-level combos and Ninja Theory has simplified the system rather cleverly without compromising on depth. The triggers now act as modifiers – holding LT grants access to the speed and range of an angelic weapon while RT instead offers brute force at the expense of speed. It’s a little overwhelming at first but once you start to master the pros and cons of the three weapon types, you’ll be busting out sick SSS combos all over the place.
The modifiers also provide mobility options, one version snaring distant enemies to pull them towards you (or to strip them of equipment in some cases) like Nero’s Devil Bringer arm in DMC4 while the other pulls Dante towards the target. As well as being used to keep combos going in style, these also come in handy outside of combat – one acts as a grapple for reaching distant ledges while the other can yank bits of scenery around to help out in the platforming sections.
You’ll need all the help you can get too because it often seems to be Dante’s worst enemy is the world itself. Insults and threats creep onto building as you pass by, walls twisting, warping and collapsing in around you as you navigate the hellish world of Limbo. One particular area we found went a step further, a corridor-like chamber trolling the player over and over by rudely stretching every time Dante is about to reach the exit.
Annoying as it may be, the effect is amazing visually, plus Ninja Theory has been really creative with how it is used on a gameplay level as well – we just hope the studio can rein this side of the game in to keep the focus on combat. Yes, you guys know how to tell a good story, but people no more play DMC for the story than they eat cereal because they like the taste of milk. Especially when said story is about a character we don’t even feel we know anymore…
And there’s the rub. Even though Ninja Theory is making a damn fine go of putting its own twist on the Capcom magic, the sad truth is that there will still be some gamers that can’t see beyond the snotty punk claiming to be Dante. “If it were sacrilege to change icons, we’d still be stuck with 60’s Batman,” argues Tameem Antoniades, creative director on the reboot. “Batman survived reinvention and is stronger and enduring as a result. Superman by comparison is tired and stuck in a past that holds little interest.
Capcom felt it was time for a reinvention and came to us. So we have to honour that and take the risks we feel necessary to redefine Dante.” Redefine rather than reinvent is an interesting choice of words, though it’s a fair reflection – Dante’s bad attitude isn’t so far removed from his belligerent portrayal in DMC3, so it’s really just the hair and the outfit that have changed.
And the former looks to be explained (to some extent, at least) by the narrative. Are you really the kind of person that would boycott a game because the hero wears a different coat? Come on. Don’t be that guy.
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