From the very beginning I was prepared to dislike DmC: Devil May Cry, the poorly-named reboot to the Devil May Cry series starring a new Dante in a parallel universe. I really enjoyed the originals (well, the first and third ones, anyway), and the DMC series is not so old as to warrant needing a reboot, which makes the whole thing seem like a dumb gimmick. I didn't like the look and personality of this new Dante, and the fact that it wasn't being developed by Capcom had me even more concerned.
With skeptical curiosity, I decided to try the PS3 demo; as it turns out, the game actually seems alright to me. It's not spectacular, and there are some things that kind of bother me, but it's raised my interest level from "absolutely no interest" to "might consider buying it sometime." It's been maybe a half-dozen years since I played any of the original PS2 games and I haven't even played the fourth one, so I can't make hard comparisons to how DmC lives up to the legacy of the originals, but here are my thoughts on how DmC stands up on its own, based on the demo.
As a hack n' slash game, the combat is supposed to be DmC's biggest draw, with Dante using a combination of melee and ranged weapons to fight groups of enemies, building combos and avoiding damage to build style points that go towards new unlocks. As such, it's not just about killing and surviving in the most efficient way possible; it's about doing it in the most stylish way possible. This is accomplished by staying in combat, landing successive blows in combination, and varying attack types. Getting hit resets the style meter.
The unique take on DmC's combat is that you can use the left and right triggers to switch between melee weapons, essentially meaning three different movesets. While holding the left trigger, the face buttons will cause Dante to use various attacks with an angelic scythe, and the right trigger causes Dante to use attacks with a demonic axe. He also has an angelic/demonic grapple that will either pull him towards ranged/aerial targets or pull them towards him, allowing him to navigate the terrain and extend combos.
Switching between attacks on the fly is pretty smooth and demands enough manual dexterity and mental precision to make the combat engaging. Unfortunately, the normal and hard difficulty levels don't offer enough of a challenge to make it satisfying in that classic DMC way. The enemy types displayed in the demo all seem kind of bland and uninspired, offering only basic attacks and requiring no real strategy to fight. They blatantly advertise each attack, so they're pretty simple to predict and dodge, and are disposed of simply enough with basic attack spamming.
Normal mode seemed really easy to me; hard mode was a little more challenging, simply because of the way damage is re-scaled (it takes more effort to kill an enemy, and you can't just soak damage and heal it back with orbs), but it still wasn't that challenging. Maybe that's just because the demo is basically a tutorial, but I didn't feel particularly challenged until I'd beaten the entire demo and unlocked the hardest difficulty, "Son of Sparda," which gives enemies whole new attacks and mixes harder enemies into the fray. If I do end up buying DmC, I might skip straight to that difficulty level, as long as you don't have to beat the full game to unlock it.
The thing with the weapon switching is kind of cool, simply because each button has three different functions depending on which trigger you're using, six functions if you factor in whether or not your airborne, and it takes a certain level of awareness to know what button will do what and knowing exactly what you want to do in a certain instance. But all the diversity of attacks is kind of pointless and unnecessary in the normal/hard difficulties. In Son of Sparda mode, some of the enemies are color-coded so that they only take damage from angelic or demonic weapons; all other attacks just bounce off. Contrary to adding extra strategy to these fights, they just lock you into straightforward combat.
Besides combat, DmC also features a fair bit of exploration and platforming as you move throughout the levels. Every so often you have to use Dante's grapples and aerial maneuvers to navigate parts of the level, and you have to explore the environments pretty thoroughly if you want to collect the keys necessary to unlock all the extra challenges and secret missions which give you extra bonuses. This makes for a decent rhythm to the gameplay since it gives you productive things to do during the downtime between fights, and you can choose whether to explore or just plow through to the next fight action-style.
As for the game's visual style, I have mixed feelings about it. Apparently Dante spends much of the game in "limbo," an alternate dimension or something of the real world where the demons roam and everything's falling apart. Playing DmC is kind of like being on an acid trip or something -- the environments can look really cool at times because of the unique visual style, but at the same it makes everything look deliberately messy and excessively convoluted. So half the time it's pleasing to the eye, the other half it's kind of a strain.
The demo has definitely confirmed one of my preconceptions, though: I don't like this new Dante. I can deal with the fact that he looks younger and doesn't have the white hair, but I find his attitude annoying. He comes off like a foul, pompous asshole from the way he smacks the drink out of the random stranger's hand, and how he talks to the boss at the end of the demo, where they're literally just exchanging "fuck yous" at each other for about 10 seconds. I'm pretty sure the original Dante talked trash, too, and he was definitely very confident in himself, but he seemed more suave and sophisticated -- desirable traits in a badass hero. New Dante feels like an angsty teenager to me, and I don't really care for it.
That seems to be all of the main stuff that I saw in the demo. Super hardcore DMC fans are probably going to be offended by DmC no matter what, but speaking as someone who enjoyed the original DMC games, I think the new DmC might be fun enough to try. I just probably won't be paying full price for it. Instead, it makes me want to get around to playing DMC4 and possibly Bayonetta.