What does Devil May Cry mean to you? Is it about learning the attack patterns of enemies and picking them apart with mastery of your own moveset? Is it about playing purely to see how long you can keep combos going and doing it with style? Is it about bosses that make you sit up before bunkering down for a long, intense battle? Is it about a brash arsehole with white hair?
Whatever Devil May Cry is about to you, DmC is a game that touches on all of those pillars. Yes, all of those things. Even the hair.
The big question mark was combat. Capcom has been clear that in the marketing build-up to DmC’s release that it has had a big hand in overseeing the combat, bringing in Hideaki Itsuno from previous entries to guide this project along the right path. It was something said to try and calm the rabid fanbase still bubbling with rage over Dante’s redesign but even if Capcom had never been pointed out, it is immediately obvious as soon as you start playing how duties have been divided.
Combat is razor-sharp and stuffed with combo potential, just as you’d expect from a Devil May Cry game. Dante has a regular human form where he can use his iconic Rebellion sword to whip demons into the air before juggling them with his Ebony and Ivory pistols. But he now has a blue angel form (quick but weak attacks) and red devil form (slow but powerful attacks) with their own weapons. Switching between forms is done by holding down the relevant shoulder buttons, which modifies Dante’s moveset to fit his new form. It’s not an immediately instinctive control system but given the need to switch between forms, it makes sense.
Devil May Cry veterans will have fun playing around with Dante’s ‘pull’ moves, where he whips himself towards enemies or whip them towards him. It’s the key to keeping combos going and also comes into play at smart spots in combat –you can nip around the back of bigger enemies and pull them to the ground for easy attacks as they scramble to recover.
Even so, it’s not Dante’s pivotal skill in combat. Dodging might not be the flashiest move but has become Dante’s most important. Successfully dodging attacks at the last possible moment in Angel form grants Dante a healthy chunk of invincibility frames plus teleports him away from danger. Doing the same in Demon form powers up his attacks. Learning which dodge to use and when becomes a huge part of mastering DmC. It’s not quite as tough as learning Royal Guard in previous games but it feels far more important.
There were understandable concerns that the lethargic response times that plagued combat in Heavenly Sword and Enslaved, or the simple enemies that could be cleared out with prolonged button-bashing, would carry over to this. Not so. This is a Devil May Cry game through and through and while there are Ninja Theory flourishes, such as a cinematic slo-mo angle for the final kill, there’s nothing here that ever interferes with the core combat.