First Impressions: DmC
By Brad Simons on January 17th, 2013 (17 comments)
I felt the need to write about my first few hours with DmC, as I have a feeling that the slightest hint of criticism will be met with eye rolling from my colleagues and listeners that tend to think I hate everything. Sometimes I wish people would actually listen to what I'm saying instead of just writing off my general attitude as pessimism. I've been playing and discussing games for a really long time, and there's is a lot I like about games. And guess what... there are things I like about DmC as well. Shocking, right?
What I like:
The Characters and Story
Surprise, I actually like what I've seen so far. I've never really doubted Ninja Theory's ability to tell an interesting story – my concern has always been that I didn't want them saddled with a franchise (and fan expectations) of a world and lore they didn't create. I think this limits their potential. Enslaved was one of my favorite games in recent memory. It really proved Ninja Theory's ability to craft an original world and characters, and treat them with a subtle maturity. Devil May Cry seemed like the last universe where they could apply these same techniques. And while DmC is a far cry from Enslaved, or even Heavenly Sword, the characters do seem well realized. Sure the new Dante is a dick, but that's fine given the premise. The story of the dick who doesn't give a shit, but then starts to give a shit, isn't new. This is the story they want to tell, and they seem to be hitting the right, albeit somewhat predictable, notes. Sure the fedora is a bit dumb, but I like that Vergil is appropriately regal. Also, modern demon witch girls who cast spells by tagging with spray paint is appropriately stupid in an awesome kind of way. They have a vibe, and they nail it. I'm genuinely interested to see where the story goes.
With the exception of the fact that everything feels a little mushy, I slowly began to see potential in what I played of the combat system. Many of the moves are designed in a way as to let the player control the placement of enemies (and the player) on the battlefield. As I juggled enemies and proceeded to wail away at them in the air, I had a move that could seamlessly pull enemies off the ground up and into the same air combo. So what started off as me juggling one enemy, quickly turned into me killing four baddies with the same air combo. This is a pretty cool idea for dealing with multiple enemies, and I hope I'm just scratching the surface of what this combat can do. But as I said, it's still pretty mushy. I find myself constantly fumbling with the controls as there are so many inputs. I know what I want to do, but I struggle with actually doing it. Holding the shoulder buttons to bring up your other weapons simply isn’t responsive enough. And for some fucking reason, you cant do certain gun maneuvers without letting go of the shoulder buttons first. It's frustrating, and honestly, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
What I don't Like:
Simply terrible. And while the music was certainly poor in previous entries in the series, why is that an excuse to keep it shitty? Dante clearly has a punk vibe about him, so why not some early British punk music? Isn't this new Dante even wearing a Union Jack? I just don't get why Devil May Cry has to be synonymous with butt rock. Or just replace the music with the soundtrack from Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. That way, everybody wins.
We have recent archive footage of Greyfox playing Devil May Cry 4. Watch that and tell me it doesn't look a hell of a lot cleaner and smoother than this game. And that came out in 2008. I do like the environments conceptually (especially in limbo), but the execution is sloppy. I just don't enjoy looking around at the world. I think it's a combination of the sluggish camera and the over saturation of color, but it's a pain on my eyes when I'm searching for collectibles. I had a similar issue with Enslaved. Maybe Ninja Theory just needs to move away from the Unreal Engine. But while I do think my eyes will adjust to this over time, nothing is going to save the terrible enemy designs. Every single demon I've encountered so far has been a poorly rendered jumble of flesh. These monster designs seriously come off as a bunch of Silent Hill rejects. Then they start color coding them! Nothing here compares to the marionettes of the original or the twisted angelic monsters of Devil May Cry 4. I hope the game still has some surprises for me in this regard.
I'm really at as loss as to why Ninja Theory thought a focus on platforming would be a good idea – especially when these sequences are so sloppy and uninspired. Jumping around just doesn't feel right. I'm not sure how it's possible to make a character so floaty also feel like a sack of bricks, but Ninja Theory are true masters at making movement feel wrong. Miss-judging jumps and air dashes constantly had me plummeting into the demonic abyss. It feels like I'm playing an N64 era 3D platformer. Has there ever been a character action game that figured out how not to completely fuck this up? Also, the ability to grapple on to predetermined points to pull pieces of the environment to and fro might look cool, but it's slow, brainless, and wasted potential. Imagine if Ninja Theory actually created tech that let the player manipulate the environment dynamically. A little indie game called Tiny and Big did it last year, and it seems like a perfect fit for the DmC limbo environment. Then again, that would have required them to do something new. I see a serious lack of ambition in the platforming and level design in terms of mechanics, and I'm finding myself more bored than anything in these sequences.
I'm ultimately surprised that the things I was most concerned about with DmC are managing to impress me. If the story doesn't fly off the deep end and I get a better handle on the combat, I can see DmC becoming a pleasant surprise. Now feel free to comment on how I hate everything -- I'll be playing Anarchy Reigns.
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