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DMC: Devil May Cry: Hands-on proves it's better than you think

Why you'll love New Dante, whether you want to or not

Devil May Cry's number-less revival was supposed to be terrible - a western studio handling a resolutely Japanese genre with a detestably youthful pretty-boy protagonist and a combo system which looked suspect at best. But bad news, internet: DMC is good, the combo system is solid, and you'll like New Dante, whether you want to or not.

First, Emo Dante isn't emo in the least. Like Dante Classic, New Dante is raw rockstar sex appeal in tight trousers, who swaggers around, cracks jokes - funny ones, this time, thanks to Ninja Theory's talented writers - and carries himself like he's invincible because he almost is. He's young - nineteen-ish, maybe, but who cares? - and well on his way to becoming the Dante you know and love, right down to the way he begins DMC shirtless and, er, pants-less.

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In DMC he flits between Earth and a layer beneath our own reality where you'll let Dante's new combo system loose. In fact, it's not so new. Ninja Theory's DMC reboot takes the best of Dante's classic moves and even borrows a trick or two from DMC4's Nero for a combo system that feels like an authentic Devil May Cry sequel, albeit a sequel to Devil May Cry 1 not Devil May Cry 3.

DMC wants to make some new friends and that means doing a few things the best of the best will hate. Forget Devil May Cry 4; the real Devil May Cry 3 sequel was Bayonetta, and nobody bought the bloody thing. Hideki Kamiya's Devil May Cry follow-up proved a point - limitless depth is worthless if only one percent of players can explore it - so Ninja Theory has turned the volume down on Devil May Cry's cruellest tricks and making a game new players can enjoy and older players can still explore, even on its more limited terms.

DMC was never going to compete with Bayonetta. Hideki Kamiya is a genius and Bayonetta is Kamiya in his craziest cut-off-an-ear-and-howl-at-the-moon-like-a-dog moment. Bayonetta's combo system was so expansive Kamiya's own QA team didn't have the manpower to test the thousands of possibilities; it was so big, they didn't even know what they had made. Platinum gave Bayonetta's players a toolbox with no idea what the community would make of it, even to the point of letting the odd glitched combo or two shatter the game's balance, but DMC's systems are deliberately clearer, and more in keeping with the template established in the very first Devil May Cry.

It's simpler than Bayonetta, but DMC is never as dim-witted as God of War or Heavenly Sword or even Ninja Gaiden 3. Every combo has a reason to exist and every weapon is useful for a very specific purpose. Dante carries his Ebony and Ivory pistols, his Rebellion sword, a demon weapon, and an angel weapon. Your Left Trigger activates angel mode and Right Trigger activates demon mode and the three modes can be switched at any point, mid-combo or otherwise.

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It's by mixing those Angel and Demon weapons you'll find the depth in the combo system. All four weapons can be swapped for other unlockable weapons with a tap of the D-Pad, but only the basic set of Rebellion, Ebony and Ivory, Angel scythe Osiris, and Demon axe Arbiter were available in Ninja Theory's one-level hands-on demo.

Ninja Theory has dropped the lock-on button in favour of an auto-lock on whichever enemy you point him at, which means his jump launcher is a one-button automatic on Dante's hard attack with Rebellion. Tap it to launch, or hold to launch and follow them airborne. What's more, the combo clock is gone - the only thing that can interrupt a combo is taking a hit or killing the final enemy in the room, otherwise you'll retain your rank even if you have to back off for a second or two.

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