Over the years, players of the Devil May Cry series have gotten used to how Dante plays.  Sure, Devil May Cry 2 didn't really do anyone favors, but the return to form for Devil May Cry 3 was a welcome one.  But quite a while back, Capcom announced that they were shaking things up for the series, introducing a younger version of its main star, Dante, as well as a new developer for the project – Ninja Theory, the creators of Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey To the West.

As you might guess, not everyone was thrilled with the news, and were worried that the focus on Dante would be lost in favor of a new gameplay style, as well as a different approach on story.  But eventually, Ninja Theory would set out to prove that it wasn't going to change Dante's fighting antics for the worse, and through various reveals at trade shows and events (like PAX and E3), it eventually proved that it could handle the combat system in its own way.  And now, with a free downloadable demo available through Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, everyone can see that for themselves.

We put the two level demo through its paces and came away with some rather good gameplay impressions.  The idea of tearing enemies apart with combos remains intact – after all, it is a staple to the Devil May Cry series – and the new style that he uses in both angelic and demonic forms is quite attractive.

See, here's how it works.  Using a mixture of light and heavy attacks, supported by which trigger you hold down on the game pad, Dante can perform various types of moves.  He can generate an angelic scythe that slices up enemies in a stylish, glowing manner, even knocking them into the air as need be.  Or, he can grab a dark red axe and slowly (but effectively) chop stronger enemies, including ones carrying shields, to bits.  Enabling switch-offs between the triggers will allow you to chain these attacks together, along with default moves from his regular sword.  As a result, you can really mix up some of these attacks for the better, once you get enough practice.  (Just don't forget to prepare for incoming attacks – these monsters aren't exactly defenseless, and some of the bosses will eat you for lunch if you're not careful.)

Both the Angel Lift and the Demon Pull abilities serve purpose in combat and through platforming segments.  Using the angelic power, Dante can knock enemies into the air, preparing them for a mid-air combo with his weapons that will eventually take them out, without putting up a fight.  He can also use the Angel Lift to grab onto higher ledges, which becomes necessary as he attempts to shut down demon eye cameras that prevent him from moving forward.

As for the Demon Pull, it's also quite useful.  If an enemy is airborne and doesn't nearly take enough damage from Dante's twin pistols, he can utilize this power to grab them and bring them down to his level, where he can slice away using a number of combos.  He can also pull out platforms when he's maneuvering through platforming segments, allowing him to move on and eventually grab hold of the eye cameras, smashing them against a wall or propelling them into the distance with a well-timed spin kick.

Like previous Devil May Cry games, you can really muster up some magnificent combos in the game.  During one particular combo, we did an oldie but a goodie, knocking an enemy into the air, keeping them there for several seconds with a few well-timed bullets, then following up with a sword combo to finish them off.  We then grabbed someone with the demon pull, used the angel lift to send them airborne, grabbed them again with the demon pull, and ripped them up with a cool multi-hit maneuver.  These are just two small examples of what all you can do with Dante.

Ninja Theory may have changed the visual style of the Devil May Cry series as we've come to expect it (it's still quite good, despite the change in décor), and the story may be flimsy compared to previous entries in the series, but when it comes to the gameplay, it appears that the developer is staying quite loyal to its roots.  We still have yet to see what additional weapons, like spruced-up firepower, can do in later levels, as well as the heightened demon/angel abilities that Dante can unlock.  But as far as starting out with some kick-ass demon killing power, DMC: Devil May Cry has it in spades.

Check out the demo now, and get ready for the full game release when DMC: Devil May Cry drops January 15th for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.