History’s repeating in DmC, Ninja Theory’s hotly debated reboot of Capcom’s treasured Devil May Cry series. You don’t realise just how much, though, until you see Caravaggio’s The Taking Of Christ and David With The Head Of Goliath recast with a rebellious young Dante in one instance battling the cops (rather than armoured soldiers) and in the other holding a freshly chopped-off demon’s head.
These images, created by Alessandro ‘Talexi’ Taini, have graduated from static concept art to artfully animated in-game flashbacks. Lazily retrofitted motion comics they are not. “You know how if you look at a painting for too long it feels like it’s moving a bit? I exaggerate – it’s not that subtle,” he laughs. “But I wanted something painterly. And that idea of modernising what people are familiar with, that’s our whole game.”
To some fans, these paintings aren’t the only masterpieces that the developer has vandalised. Forgetting DMCs 3 and 4 did the same thing to a degree, they want Ninja Theory’s head for ‘bastardising’ the child of Hideki Kamiya. “Johnny Rotten originally said that you know you’re doing something right when you’re pissing everyone off,” explains chief creative director Tameem Antoniades. “I don’t actually agree with that, having been through it.”
Punks, aptly, is how many seem to perceive Ninja Theory. These cocky Brits have fashioned themselves upon rock stars, and now fashioned Dante upon themselves. More or less everyone we speak to seems thoroughly exhausted by the commotion sparked by those early concept pieces – all the two-year-old memes about ‘Emo Dante’ and assumptions, based upon Heavenly Sword and Enslaved, that the game’s combat won’t measure up. We’re told the same thing over and over: “Context is everything. So long as you come into this knowing it’s not DMC5, I think there’s nothing to really… Well, you should play it and see if you enjoy it. Make your own mind up,” says Antoniades, sliding his hat off and running a hand through his hair – or he would if he hadn’t shaved it off.
The new DmC, much like the older ones, is a game of personalities. Some significant opening titles list Ninja Theory collectively as writer and director, Alex Garland as script consultant, a cast of film actors and cameramen used during performance capture, Dutch and Norwegian aggrotech merchants Noisia and Combichrist as original score composers, and, importantly, Ninja Theory and Capcom as joint gameplay directors. Taini is in there too, his concepts long enjoying a celebrity of their own. All of these names and more, we’re assured, have together designed Dante – who he is as the titles end, and what he will have become when the curtain comes down. And that is much what we’ve expected all along.
Now we see him wake in a trailer on a Santa Monica-style seafront. Young but immortal, and a bit of a prick, this is Fight Club’s Tyler Durden meets Highlander’s Connor MacLeod. You’ve seen the art of him being ‘attended’ to by angels with ruffled feathers and hot pants (remove the pants and add a gun and you have Taini’s original). That, we’re told, was puberty. Life before his seventh birthday is a supposedly meningitis-caused blank, and everything since has been an escalating orgy of hack-and-slash violence, sex and drugs. Weary of both this world and the realm of Limbo, which he’s often dragged off to by would-be assassins, he’s a Dante who makes an awful lot of sense.