It is early 2008, gamers haven't seen a new DMC game for 3 years, so anticipation for part 4 is naturally high. Expected to be a killer app for the PS3, fortunes change when Capcom decides to release the latest in the series on the Xbox 360 as well, the first for the series. Natural outrage from fanboys occurred, bemoaning the loss of one of their system's trump cards. I was pretty indifferent to this announcement, having viewed it as simply another reason not to pick up a PS3 yet. I knew I would get one eventually, just not as soon as I thought.
The story in Devil May Cry 4 is described as taking place after the 1st game but before the 2nd game. I tell you, DMC's storyline is getting pretty convoluted. Anyway, we meet a character named Nero who is attending a gathering of the Order of the Sword, a group that worships the ancient warrior Sparda. All of a sudden, a mysterious man in red drops in and kills Sanctus, the leader of the Order. Nero is none too happy and proceeds to engage the man in an awesome cutscene. Then the game begins.
Devil May Cry 4's graphics really have a next generation look to them, unfortunately this means that they look like more detailed renderings of PS2 graphics with a shiny gloss. I don't care for graphical descriptions as I've said, so I'll just say what I like.
DMC 4's environments are big and impressive, bringing back a lot of the gothic sense that was largely missing from part 2 and downplayed in part 3. Nero animates well, especially with his Devil Bringer attacks. Some of the Bringer's attacks are references to past Capcom games, and serve as a great visual treat. I also like the look of the Nero's MAX attacks, which vary quick a bit from the originals depending on charge levels.
Part 4 continues the musical tradition of the series, with many standout pieces and thrashing heavy metal sounding tracks. As in DMC 3, there is a song played during many battle sequences that kicks ass. The lyrics are completely over the top and definitely suit the combat and style of the game. I like it.
The rest of the score is top notch, with somber gothic themes, high-energy pieces for action sequences and cutscenes and even some arias in the style of Italian operas. Quite a soundtrack package and a score I plan to buy soon.
Gameplay continues the system established in Dante's Awakening and adds some great new stuff to account for the new character, Nero. The best new thing is Nero's possessed arm, the Devil Bringer. He can use this in combat to draw enemies closer or vice versa. Nero can grab enemies in midair and slam them into the ground with a triumphant "Slam Dunk" sound following. Lastly, the DB figures into the game's puzzles and can be used to pick up red orbs and other items.
I really like the Devil Bringer system as it allows Nero's play style to feel quite different from Dante's, mostly because the arm can play a big role in combat and is the key to achieving high combos and S rankings. The best parts are the various finishing moves that the Bringer can do, depending on which enemy.
Besides the new character Nero, the game plays pretty much identically to past DMC games, and this is a good thing. The mission structure is the same, same secret missions, same inventory and red orb system. Why change what works so well? Devil May Cry 4 may seem a bit familiar, but it is the changed gameplay that makes it a fresh experience.
The series has always been well regarded for its difficulty and steep learning curve. There were always spots in which the player had to make use of multiple combat skills to succeed. DMC 4 lightens this load a bit, making the game less difficult on initial settings. PS3 fanboys commented that this is what happens when the game goes multi-platform, hmmm...
As the series is well known for, there are multiple difficulty settings available, so Devil May Cry 4 should serve gamers of all skill levels rather well.
Replay value is high, but more akin to the first game rather than its more expansive sequels. There are no alternate outfits to speak of, only higher difficulties. Speaking of difficulties, there are a couple of new ones that I think I'll leave for you to discover. Bloody Palace also returns from Part 3 and is still a great place to farm for red orbs.
Now let's talk about the different console releases for a bit. Even though PS3 fanboys were enraged, both the Xbox 360 and their console received versions of this game. Besides the obvious media difference, the PS3 is capable of slightly faster loading times. I say capable, as this requires a mandatory hard drive installation of the game, a task that takes 20 or more minutes. When queried about the time necessary, Capcom suggests that users go make a sandwich, an amusing response that also manages to sidestep the issue.
Other than this minor problem, both version of Devil May Cry 4 are identical. Same graphics, music, gameplay and fun. All it really comes down to is to get the version for the console you have. Simple.
Overall, Devil May Cry 4 is a fine continuation of the series, with the introduction of a new badass character in Nero and the continued exploits of Dante, the demon hunter, fans of the series will get more of what they love, in spades. I hope to see more of Nero and his connections with Dante explored in the future. What few flaws DMC 4 has are overshadowed by the intense combat and great gameplay. Check this game out!
- Ugly Bob