Better The Devil You Know? Why Ninja Theory’s Dante Reset Is Brilliance

Not so long ago – although longer than I thought – a little Internet hate bubble rose to the surface of the message board mire of the web, bursting with all of the venom and presumption that the majority of these hate bubbles does. The fuel for this particularly sulphurous guff of rage? Well simply put, Capcom allowed a developer to change the look of an established character, specifically Dante from the Devil May Cry series.

Quotes such as these soon surfaced:

if the guy in opening trailer is Dante!!! i bet Devil may cry 5 will be the biggest flop of 2009.

A junkie hero without white hair and without his pizza!!! What going wrong in this world 😦

Really, why kill dante in EVERY WAY? Personality, looks, style.. This is a different game on probably the same fighting basics.Basicly, because this is not Dante, no Dante, no DMC.Sorry, but to me, they’ve failed utterly

And I could post these up all day.

Essentially the argument seemed to centre on the dispute that a reboot was needed, that the ‘new’ Dante wasn’t anything like their beloved character and taking one single video as evidence they started an assault on Ninja Theory and Capcom. This trailer actually:

Which after completing DmC I can say is true to the vibe of the game, but a lot has changed in the time since, and these changes thoroughly justify the changes. Simply put DmC is a Devil May Cry game through and through, and more importantly it may well be the best yet.

The game opens with a young man, Dante, living the life that any trailer-dwelling, alcohol-swigging serial shagger could expect to live, when a bang on his door alerts him to a threat. Within two minutes a naked Dante is spiralling through the wreckage of his trailer grabbing clothes – while suspiciously veiny pizza crusts protect his modesty – before emerging unscathed and mostly dressed. It’s a cool moment and establishes very quickly that anything may well be possible in this new world that Dante is inhabiting.

The opening ‘tutorial’ level establishes plot, character and control schemes while also playing like a game. Remember when games did that without too much hand holding? It was great, yeah? Within ten minutes I was slicing demons, blasting them with Ebony and Ivory and upper-cutting them into moving fairground rides. Visually stunning and with a briefcase stuffed with audible prowess I was sucked into the world of DmC and while intending on writing a One Hour Play-test I was soon enraptured to the point that I played the whole game through in two sittings.

So what changed since that initial teaser?

Well firstly Dante is still the arrogant git that we know and love, but also seems a little younger than he comes across in the trailer. There is no reference to the imprisonment/interrogation aspect of the trailer – although another character is interrogated later in the game under differing circumstances – and the vibe seems to be more a case of ‘who am I?’ as opposed to ‘Who are you?’

This is important.

The original arguments suggested that Dante in the trailer was actually some emo-kid from the present day who due to mental illness was delusional, and would live out Dante’s life. He is convinced that he is demon slaying, combo-juggling Dante from the off.

The reboot – and it pains me to call it that, as it is really a logical next step – poses the question “What if he didn’t know who he really was?” By living with his abilities, it drives his life in a certain way, bringing with it indulgence and arrogance – both character traits that have long been established elements of Dante past. Expanding upon this the question is ‘What are we all unaware of” with demons controlling the media, the economy and controlling the populace with ever more insidious devices. Dante is able to exist in the Limbo world that reveals the true nature of the world, but does he want to? As the game progresses the fight for freedom becomes ever more desperate as you realise the extent of control that the demons have. It works brilliantly.

Control wise – and this is an area some novice players may struggle with – the game is simple yet complex. Utilising the majority – if not all – of the available buttons on a controller, especially in a game like DmC is rarely seen these days, usually citing accessibility as an excuse to simplify things right down to two or three button pressed. Ninja Theory haven’t assumed that we are dumb cattle, and by using the available controls you have access to many differing weapon types at once, making combos all the more elaborate and impressive. We all love pulling off something cool in a game and having the option to switch from handgun to devil weaponry to shotgun to angel weaponry in one very simple series of steps, but requiring some deft finger-work across the controller is fun and all the more rewarding because it actually took an element of skill, timing and practice.

This is carefully balanced and drip-fed to the player by introducing new weapons and upgrades gradually as the game progresses, but not slowly enough to feel like they are being drip-fed. At no point did I feel that the game was balanced in my favour, nor did I ever feel that it was imbalanced and unfair. With the exception of a couple of moments that I’ll get to in a moment it was a flawless execution and one that deserves to result in all of those nay-sayers suddenly having the veil of the world revealed to them, showing that their breakfast in a can is actually a can of festering maggots dissolving in bleach.

Now, criticism.

Well it’s hard to be critical of a game that got so much right but I have managed to find two faults among the awesome.

Fault 1 – When using a ‘grab/pull’ device in the game to perform platform manouvers, this can sometimes result in unfair misses when the control scheme requires quick shifts from one weapon type to another mid jump. The pressure sensitive buttons can result in a missed throw, which can result in death. Not game destroying, but it was a little frustrating. Platform sections in particular still have that element of difficulty in judging distance, but the game doesn’t employ bullshit invisible guides to help you negotiate flawlessly, that I would have been more critical of.

Fault 2 – The game whisks along at a very quick pace, and some of the exceptional story devices are lost among explosions and the like. Again it’s not a huge issue, but with Alex Garland on board again I’d have liked a little more story in some areas. It doesn’t feel light, but it doesn’t ever get close to wordy either. As a professed lover of story telling in games, I just wanted more of this world.

But that’s it. The ‘graffiti’ aspect is inspired – I won’t say more than that, and the game revels in the history of the series, while also dragging the ageing franchise into a more relevant age. It may still not please the purists, but at the end of the day DmC is an excellent game that Ninja Theory should be proud of and Capcom should be applauded for not seeing that initial rage and demanding a rethink. Changes were made, but essentially ’emo-Dante’ is still there. Just, better. A lot better.

So if you were one of those who complained that he didn’t have white hair – and Ninja Theory have you covered on that, at numerous points – or that it was set present day OR if you were the sort of moron whom complained that he was smoking in the teaser and that this made him a bad role model (dicks) then have a word with yourselves. One particular word springs to mind, but I’ll let you formulate your own.

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