After it enjoyed such success in the PS2 era, it’s been a quiet generation for the thirdperson brawler, but in the four years since DMC4 much has changed, and you keenly feel Bayonetta’s influence in DmC. Not just stylistically – the frequent collisions between Limbo and the real world mean Dante spends much of his time travelling through crumbling cities, the dumbstruck populace visible but intangible – but mechanically as well. There’s greater emphasis on air combos: the sky is often the safest place to be, and the pull, lift and double jump make it easier than ever to stay airborne. There’s no Witch Time, but score and damage bonuses are given for perfectly timed dodges. And while Platinum’s balletic witch had to pay a premium for her parry bracelet, Dante can counter enemy attacks from the start by precisely timing a strike of his own.
Dante’s arsenal has been expanded, too. Squeeze the left trigger and his sword is sheathed for angelic weapon attacks – first from a scythe called Osiris, and later from Aquila, essentially a pair of Rage’s wingsticks. Demonic weapons are accessed via the right trigger, activating either the hulking Arbiter axe or Eryx, a pair of gauntlets with chargeable attacks. Broadly speaking, angelic weapons are fast and for crowd control, with the demonic ones slower, more direct, and harder-hitting.
Elusive triple-S ranks are more easily attainable than before, aided by the ease with which you can switch between the tools at your disposal. Squeeze a trigger to trade your sword for an axe; tap the D-pad to replace the axe with gauntlets. It’s a more forgiving game than previous DMCs, too, with audiovisual cues that signal enemy attacks coming louder and clearer, as well as generously spaced checkpoints – on default difficulty, anyway. Son Of Sparda, the fourth of seven tiers of challenge, throws the toughest enemies at you from the first level on, and spaces out its checkpoints. The series hasn’t been dumbed down so much as retuned.
The controls can let you down, with DmC a little fussy in when it chooses to recognise a trigger squeeze. This is usually no great loss in the thick of combat – one hit’s often as good as another – but it can cause a few plunges into the abyss during platforming sections. A good job, then, that you’re instantly popped back on a nearby platform in exchange for a chunk of health. But certain later enemies are immune to all but one weapon type, which is limiting and makes for some tiresome battles, and the larger foes can fall into the same trap, turning fights into mere pattern recognition.
These, though, are minor complaints in the context of the job Ninja Theory had on its hands. This, it was claimed after we first saw the new Dante, is a genre that could only truly be understood by Japanese studios, doomed to fail. What an overreaction that was to a makeover and some dubstep. This is the best entry in its genre since Bayonetta, and might just be the best game Ninja Theory has made to date.
360 version tested.
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