Christmas came and went, and Devil May Cry 4 never made it’s appearance. That might have made some gamers sad; it was excellent planning by Capcom to avoid having DMC4 get lost in the bevy of games under the tree.
Almost two months later the game is released, and boy was it was worth the wait. Fluid animations complement a balanced combat system with amazing graphics and a style unique to the world of DMC. The only game that really fits as its contemporary is Ninja Gaiden, but the game play style is so different that only frantic combat, orb collecting, and the occasionally wonky camera angle work as parallels. It boils down to being a beautiful hack-and-slash game that rewards skill and varied attack methods.
This is the first Devil May Cry game I’ve owned, so I went in playing without any preconceived notions save one; I had briefly played DMC2 on the PS2 and the only significant detail I recall is how I hated the camera. With the new game I obviously had some apprehension.
Veterans of DMC may be turned off be playing someone other than Dante at the onset of the game. I found that playing Nero and his crazy devil hand is a shorter learning curve and will prepare you for when you get to play the multi-weapon and fighting styles that Dante employs later in the game.
From cut-scene to in-game engine, DMC4 screams polish. No, I don’t mean it’s yelling out in the native tongue of the people of Poland; what I mean is from the backgrounds to the characters, enemies and effects, it doesn’t seem like anything is rushed. Artistic display is everywhere, and Capcom’s development team really put their best foot forward with a credible fantasy land filled with heroes and demons. There is no clipping or jerking, and some of the locations and boss battles are truly breathtaking.
I had a few situations where the camera seemed to work against me, but given that it wasn’t a problem for 95% of the game I
The sound is as full and vibrant as the graphics. Positional audio helped me countless times in reacting to monsters behind the camera. The soundtrack was enjoyable and cued up nicely when entering into battles. The voice acting was also better than I expected, given the obvious (and often overacted) anime genre that inspired the DMC world.
Initially you control Nero, an impetuous young man with a secret. As a new character to DMC, he hides a demon arm that can grab enemies from far away and manhandle them as you see fit. He also carries a sword that revs up to complete devastating combos, and a basic gun that can charge up and do fire damage. There are also personal upgrades such as double jump, three different levels of dodging as well as a number of aerial attacks.
Midway through the game Capcom firmly yanks the rug from under you as they switch gears and force you to play as Dante, the hero from the past 3 titles. This is a good thing, although initially I found his controls more shallow and confusing. Dante can change his weapons on the fly, cycling both ranged and melee at any time. He also has different fighting modes (Guard, Gunslinger, Swordmaster, and Trickster) which in the previous versions could only be selected at the beginning of the level. Now Dante can change styles on the fly with the directional pad, and each can be upgraded to unlock additional combat moves while in that mode.
I was impressed with the fact that the change from Nero to Dante was more than just cosmetic. Nero was simpler in execution but his sword combos were more complex and varied. Meanwhile Dante could perform a greater variety of actions, but required you to change fighting styles to experience the depth. Regardless of character, the basis of combat still comes down to using the controller buttons and directional controls to set off timed combos. Devil May Cry 4 rewards the player for switching up combos, so while you can just button mash or repeat your favourite move over and over; it will not net you the full experience you get from alternating your attacks.
I had wanted to touch on a feature that may have appeared in other games but I noticed it in Devil May Cry 4. If you are running and the camera angle swings to a different direction, by holding the same direction you were holding before the switch you will continue on your intended path rather than careening into a wall, off a cliff, into the jaws of a creature from the abyss, or into a poorly placed apple cart. Thank you, Capcom. Thank you.
More than graphics and sound, this is the make-or-break category that Devil May Cry hinges its success on. I can tell you without a doubt in my mind that this game delivers. The storyline is linear, and although there is a lot of backtracking it all makes sense.
The basics of the game are a) explore the level b) react to ambush c) beat the living daylights out of anything that attacks you. There is some puzzle solving and Easter egg hunts, but it really does come down to killing demons, juggling combos and racing against the clock to get higher scores.
You don’t start with a lot of moves, but you can preview and purchase more along the way. To truly excel though you’ll need to purchase combos that work to your strengths and help keep your varied attacks going strong. As you complete levels with better scores you are awarded “lost souls”. You spend these souls to buy upgrades to your current fighting skills. You can free up souls by returning moves, so if you picked something that didn’t work for you just delete it and purchase something else. You can access the the store before starting any level, as well as at certain statue locations scattered around the various levels.
There is no loss of ability to change, so really you can customize your move list per level and per boss fight. As the number of your equipped abilities rises, so do the prices of the other skills. I’ll touch on this later in the Value section of the review, but needless to say it means that as you get better you’ll find you have to play longer to get all of the skills unlocked at the same time.
There are twenty levels, two playable and distinctive characters, four difficulties, as well as hidden combat challenges and items. Weapon and skill upgrades, monstrous boss fights and a consistently appealing art style make this interesting enough to get past the retreading downside. Although there is no multiplayer, Live still has some nice features, like leaderboards and a greeting message when you first start the game letting you know what progress people on your friends list have made since you last logged in.
Even on a single run-through on easy gives you a decent experience. Sure, you won