Devil May Cry Hands-on (Xbox360)

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Personally, I’m a big fan of action games that require the player to use all of their given abilities to the absolute maximum. I like a game that not only provides many different ways to overcome obstacles and enemies, but actually requires your constantly building repertoire of skills in different, varied situations.

It’s no wonder then that Devil May Cry (or DmC) from Capcom and Ninja Theory is fast becoming one of my most anticipated games of 2013. As a young and rebellious version of series-long protagonist Dante set in a story that’s been billed as a re-imagining of the franchise, you’re given two distinct sets of abilities that you’ll need to mix and match (and sometimes use simultaneously) to navigate environments, destroy monsters and solve puzzles.

Devil May Cry Screenshot 1

After playing DmC at E3 and now again at gamescom 2012, I can say with authority that there’s nothing ‘automatic’ about platforming (a major focus of the demo) and combat is fast, furious and taxing – especially if you want that S Rank! No amount of mindless button-mashing will get you through a fight and the game somehow encourages you to try to be stylish as you slay demons. My mind (and fingers) were always 100% engaged as I tried to chain together combos and push the combat mechanics to their limit, while using the ‘Angel’ and ‘Demon’ capabilities interchangeably.

Devil May Cry Screenshot 2

My DmC skills were a little rusty from E3, so after a quick refresher course I was back up to speed and able to wreak havoc on some demons! If you’re familiar with past Devil May Cry games, it’s mostly standard fare with a basic sword attack, a gun attack, the ability to jump and double jump, as well as sweep enemies high into the air with a launch attack – this takes care of the controller’s face buttons.

You can switch between different collected guns and weapons (including swords, hammers and gauntlets) using the D-pad, while evading incoming enemy attacks is easily pulled off using the left and right bumpers. What’s a little different about the new Devil May Cry is that you now have access to an Angel and Demon Mode, accessed with the left and right triggers respectively.

Without Angel or Demon Mode, you’ll simply attack with your standard weapons, but by holding down the left or right triggers, you’ll modify your attacks and abilities with these powers, which is necessary for making your way around the world, solving puzzles and destroying certain enemy types.

Devil May Cry Screenshot 3

In Angel Mode, your attacks seem to be more ‘virtuous’ and you’ll need to use Angel attacks to destroy enemies that glow blue, while an ability called ‘Angel Lift’ is also available in this mode which lets you shoot out a grapple to either pull you towards a ledge while platforming or pull yourself towards an enemy (on the ground or airborne). While traversing the world, there will be times when you must use Angel Air Boost to jump over greater distances, too.

In Demon Mode, however, you can (and will need to) attack enemies that glow red in order to dispatch them, and also in this mode, you can make use of Demon Pull to either drag pieces of the environment towards you (usually to create platforms for yourself) or haul in enemies during combat to smash them. During a fight, you can also slam down into enemies with Demon Stomp if you find yourself in the air.

What does all of this mean for gameplay?

Devil May Cry Screenshot 4

For platforming sections alone, it means that you’ll need to be quick to react with the necessary skills, using Angel Lift, Demon Pull and Angel Air Boost in quick succession to make it over gaps, transform the environment to your will and continue to flow through the world. While it’s all introduced at a good pace, you’ll soon be Lifting yourself to a ledge, swinging through the air from point-to-point into nothingness, then pulling out a chunk of a building and using Angel Air Boost to land on it, all before speeding through special boost rings to start all over again.

During the gamescom 2012 demo, my levels of concentration were put to the test to make it through a particularly challenging sequence, where I needed to swing below a destroyed bridge floating in some kind of limbo-esque vacuum in space. It was necessary to keep an eye out for upcoming platform opportunities and luckily enough, the developers have broken up these intense traversal sections with combat sequences – I don’t think my mind could take the strain for more than 30 seconds at a time!

Devil May Cry Screenshot 5

Angel and Demon Modes make all the difference in combat, too, and allow you to effortlessly chain together simple sword swipes, axe swings and gauntlet punches with aerial manoeuvres by launching an enemy into the air and continuing the chain by Angel Lifting and Demon Pulling that unfortunate foe before it bursts into black ink.

I say ‘effortlessly,’ but once again in Devil May Cry, there’s nothing mindless about the action, and to successfully chain together a series of attacks that make use of your guns, weapons and evasion moves, as well as Angel Lift, Demon Pull and Demon Stomp, you’re going to need to have fast fingers and an even faster mind – if your attention wanders for a second, you’ll either be pummelled into the ground or you’ll lose that valuable score multiplier… or both!

Devil May Cry Screenshot 6

The level I played at gamescom was set in a San Francisco-like city with an enormous bridge stretching out into the distance, but as mentioned, this world looks like some kind of hellish oblivion that extends into infinity. The city itself appears to have been shattered and flipped upside down, with shards of buildings floating in the emptiness of this ‘space.’

New to Ninja Theory’s Devil May Cry (or new to me, at least) are the aforementioned Demon gauntlets that you can swap with your Demon axe for some more melee-focussed combat, also being used to demolish obstacles at certain points. Swinging, platforming, boosting, pulling, lifting and diving my way from combat set-piece to combat set-piece, I met a bunch of grotesque demons in my journey through this devastated realm, but I unfortunately didn’t see quite as much of the ‘Malice’ influence in this gameplay segment.

Devil May Cry Screenshot 7

Malice, you’ll remember from El33tonline’s previous hands-on preview of Devil May Cry, is the Demon world’s attempt to trap and destroy Dante using a constantly transforming, crumbling, twisting environment, as this evil force does its best to catch him (and players) off-guard with a disappearing floor or the sudden crack of a wall. In Devil May Cry, the Demons are represented in the real-world as controllers of the media and finance, and as a threat to their way of life and the Demon’s invisible rule over humans, they will do anything they can to put an end to Dante.

Story-wise, it was recently revealed that Vergil, Dante’s long-lost brother, will be making a return to the series as the two partner up to take on the Demon world and destroy it. Co-incidentally (or perhaps not), the mission I was on saw Dante on the way to confront one of the Demon head honchos, Bob Barbas, in a digital world which acts as yet another incredibly creative area of the game.

What other creative areas of the Devil May Cry world will you visit during the game? Read El33tonline’s presentation report and interview with Ninja Theory’s studio head, Tameem Antoniades, to learn about a particularly inspired ‘disco’ level.

Devil May Cry Artwork

This latest Devil May Cry gameplay demo at gamescom 2012 did nothing to decrease my excitement, but instead made the game all that more impressive to me now that a few of my long-standing doubts have been vanquished. The action is demanding and has seemingly been paced in a pitch-perfect manner to keep your mind engaged and your fingers busy all throughout.

Devil May Cry is out on January 15th 2013 across Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, with a PC release to follow. Check out El33tonline’s vast collections of previous DmC coverage for more screenshots, videos and information.

DmC – Devil May Cry: Official Trailer