DMC Devil May Cry

Platinum meddle.

Who knew a dodgy haircut could provoke such an outcry? We now know Capcom itself insisted on Dante's extreme makeover, expecting a reaction. Nevertheless, his newly recruited hairdresser seems shocked by the ferocity of it.

"Responding to the haters," Ninja Theory co-founder Tameem Antoniades begins, working himself up to a statement of intent via a wounded chuckle: "We've got our plan and we're not changing it. It's a cohesive world that makes sense when you get your hands on it."

The knee-jerk outrage of change-fearing loyalists was premature, in other words. It's not that Ninja Theory doesn't care what fans think. Quite the opposite, actually, and we'll get to that shortly. But judging a largely unseen game on the haircut of its protagonist is, well, possibly not the best barometer.

To be fair to Devil May Cry fans, there is of course more to it than that. It's really about fear of the unknown as well as change, with Dante's new look seized upon as damning evidence that this cocky Western developer, which couldn't possibly understand the series' Japanese heritage, was snipping away the game's soul along with its hero's floppy platinum locks.

This week's Gamescom presentation is striking, therefore, in that it seems to be designed specifically to address and calm these fears. And a convincing job it does of it.

Antoniades' staunch defence of his vision is heartening and correct, as a studio with Heavenly Sword and Enslaved on its CV should have no need to justify its fantasy action credentials. It was, after all, good enough for Capcom.

But stung by suggestions that it was creating a Devil May Cry in name and nothing more, the mission in Cologne is, Antoniades says, to "prove it's Devil May Cry in essence".

The gameplay demo focuses on combat. As Antoniades acknowledges, "the core of any Devil May Cry game is Dante's fluidity and responsiveness" in battle.

First, a few caveats. There'll be more depth in the final version than what we're seeing now, we're told. And not all of Dante's moves have been worked in yet - the demo features a "small subset". At last we begin.

Walking through a shadowy city street, Dante is eyed by CCTV. "They must have been looking out for you," suggests a mysterious female voice. "They've dragged me into Limbo," Dante notes as the street and buildings transform, adopting a sinister hue as the first wave of demons emerges.

The combat is presented raw, with the HUD missing in this build. Whether intentional or not, it helpfully ensures the full focus is on the action. Part DMC, part Bayonetta, Dante's attacks are wildly OTT and violently familiar, yet retain a freshness that ought to be expected with a new creative direction.

Melee attacks are unleashed and combos chained together with devastating effectiveness, as Dante hookshots himself between enemies and buildings, rising up in fury and pirouetting down with twin guns blazing.

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