DMC: Ninja Theory Vindicated?
Devil May Cry has long been one of my preferred franchises in the industry, Devil May Cry 3 is in fact my favourite game of all time. I’ve always loved the way it never really takes itself too seriously and ultimately boils down to a sword, a demon and a style meter. Everything plays out like a terrible B-movie and Dante himself is an inexplicably likable, arrogant fool. I, like basically everybody else, was annoyed by the news of a remake. Granted, Devil May Cry 4 was certainly not the best of the series but I didn’t think a fundamental overhaul was a necessity and I had (albeit slightly stupidly) become invested in the trials and tribulations of this paper-thin, self-aggrandising, trench-coat wearing saviour/idiot. This new guy seemed to have this, but with the humour and veil of irony stripped away.
His hair was also not white, so once I had been pulled down from the roof of my nearest suicide hotspot, cried out the worst of it with my mum and calmed down a bit, I decided to give developers Ninja Theory a shot.
That being said, DMC seems to play nicely. As far as combat is concerned, much has been changed but the twin-pillars of twitch-gameplay and stylish gratification remain at full-force. In past games, Dante’s default swords have often been by distance the most proficient choice because of the manoeuvrability and impact they afford the devil hunter. In Devil May Cry 3, Rebellion simply fitted the mowing-down-enemies-with-as-much-awesome-as-possible paradigm better than any of Dante’s far flashier but less usable counterparts. Ninja Theory seem to be stepping away from this idea, allowing each weapon to provide distinct combat roles as opposed to just a different colour of flashy pain. The Scythe for example is a necessary in-air tool whereas the Rebellion is better at range and dragging enemies towards you. Conversely the ‘demonic alternative’ to the Scythe, the Axe, provides a far more grounded and slower style, dealing massive damage in lieu of agility. All of these weapons can be easily switched out mid-combo allowing for a more fluid context-based form of fighting – they seem built to both work in conjunction within one and other and offer totally unique gameplay abilities. Ninja Theory also seem adamant to retain the style-focus as long as it’s both accessible for newcomers and deep enough for veterans. In the demos shown, it seemed to be working competently – although the enemy groups were never large enough to get an impression of how crazy you could truly go.
One thing we hadn’t really seen before E3 was a boss encounter, arguably a key part of a Devil May Cry experience. It’s these set-pieces that allow us to fully engage with Dante’s power as he destroys titans ten times his own size with flippant disregard. The boss shown, Poison, was no exception. She looked not unlike an old woman and a maggot spliced together. She was also house-sized – a fact Dante nonchalantly ignores whilst he cracked wise. The battle was pretty long and gruelling, consisting of four stages, all of which utilised Dante’s new Rebellion-based traversal abilities. He would have to abandon his platform whenever Poison spewed forth vomit, and propel himself – Spiderman-like – across the arena to safety. What was especially exciting was the idea that, despite her immense size and power, most of Poison’s moves were parryable if the counter was timed perfectly, allowing Dante to remain in the thick of battle without always looking for escape routes. It was an immensely well choreographed fight; each slash in the face seemed to do tangible damage to the monstrosity. During Capcom Unitiy’s interview with Ninja Theory’s Tameem Antoniades, he claimed to be trying to provide all the epicness of a quick-time-event sequence but in real-time, leaving the control fully with the player. This was certainly achieved.
In other words it seems that generally Ninja Theory are on to a winner. It must be kept in mind however that they’re still undergoing the process of appeasing the rampant and angered fan people and may be perhaps drip-feeding the more ‘traditional’ gameplay elements. I certainly still have concerns that the aesthetic focus of Ninja Theory won’t fit as neatly as hoped, but much of what makes Dante awesome remains around in buckets, as do additions that both compliment and evolve Devil May Cry‘s past mechanics.
Now I just need to play it.