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Devil May Cry 4 (PlayStation 3) artwork

Devil May Cry 4 (PlayStation 3) review

"I was one of many hardcore gamers eagerly anticipating Devil May Cry 4 - so much so that I even spoiled myself rotten by watching all the in-game cutscenes (from the earlier-released Japanese version) as they were put up on YouTube. I couldn't help myself. Every piece of information gathered got me more and more hyped up, and early impressions from the short, but sturdy demo just added fuel to the fire. Now that it's finally here, I'm very happy, yet still somewhat disappointed. Ri..."

I was one of many hardcore gamers eagerly anticipating Devil May Cry 4 - so much so that I even spoiled myself rotten by watching all the in-game cutscenes (from the earlier-released Japanese version) as they were put up on YouTube. I couldn't help myself. Every piece of information gathered got me more and more hyped up, and early impressions from the short, but sturdy demo just added fuel to the fire. Now that it's finally here, I'm very happy, yet still somewhat disappointed. Risks were taken to make Devil May Cry 4 more accessible to a wider audience, but in doing so, the core fanbase, comprising of the most hardened gamers since the NES era, has been dealt a swift blow: the cocky half-human, half-demon Dante takes a backseat to a more humble, almost angelic newcomer, Nero, and the stylish hard action - the hallmark of the series - has been adjusted accordingly.

But don't worry: this is NOT Devil May Cry 2 all over again; it's just that it ain't as SSStylish as Devil May Cry 3 was.

Devil May Cry 4 kicks off with a relatively subdued introduction: the new protagonist, Nero, races through the streets of Fortuna, an isolated castle town gothic in design, on his way to the church where his sweetheart, Kyrie, is delivering a heartfelt hymn. As her words echo throughout the vacuous city, Nero is suddenly ambushed by several demons, and it is here that we first realise that he is no mere human - not only does he barely flinch, but he proceeds to slaughter them all with the ease of a Devil Hunter.

Nero makes it to the church just as the hymn ends, with barely a scratch on him or his calm demeanour. However, no sooner does the leader of the Order of the Sword (a secretive group worshipping the devil who saved mankind, Sparda) say a few words, Dante literally comes crashing into the congregation and fires off a lead slug, at point blank range, into his skull. This is one of many (lengthy) cinematic cutscenes that shape Devil May Cry 4 into more than just your typical hack-and-slash game. While the story could do with a bit more polish and the dialogue go further than the overly corny lines and melodramatic screams ("KYRIE!!!"), the voice actors are generally strong and they make blowing through the game, the first time, very worthwhile. (And yes, Nero is voiced by the same guy who does Ichigo in Bleach and Vash in Trigun.)

Many gamers were understandably turned off by Devil May Cry 3's difficulty; it was simply too unforgiving for most. The Special Edition fixed this by ramping down the difficulty levels and providing a more flexible save system. Devil May Cry 4 simply gives you Nero - who you are in control of for 13 out of the 20 missions. No more, no less.

Nero plays differently to Dante's Devil May Cry 3 incarnation with only a single sword, gun and style to call his own. He also has a demonic arm capable of tearing demons to pieces and it is from this that Devil May Cry 4 tries something new. The arm, aptly named the Devil Bringer, is context sensitive and depending on your position (grounded vs. aerial), your powered-up status and the type of enemy you are facing, it will do everything from snatching scurrying lizards, smashing their faces into the ground multiple times before hurling them at others, to pulling yourself into the oral cavity of a giant demon toad, pummelling his throat a couple of times, and finally smashing through the back of his thick neck. It's the most badass thing to be blessed/cursed with.

The brutality of the Devil Bringer is further magnified by the new Exceed system. You can power-up Nero's attacks by charging up his sword with L2, at which point Nero will "rev" the motorcycle-esque hilt. It takes a few seconds - seconds which could mean the difference between a stylish kill and a buttwhooping - to charge up the EX-gauge to its max level, but you can instant rev to obtain the full benefit in a split second if you're fast enough. Instant revving (IR) is a complex technique whereby you need to rev during specific frames of an attack's animation. It works exactly like the Just Frames seen in fighting games and it adds plenty of depth and style to an otherwise no-frills Nero. You'll also need to master it if you hope to achieve those Smokin' Sick Style ranks.

Nero is clearly a fantastic addition to the series, although his dominance in Devil May Cry 4 will be subject to much criticism within the Devil May Cry community - much like how Solid Snake fanboys hurled even more solid rocks at pretty boy Raiden when he took centre stage in Metal Gear Solid 2. Nevertheless, Dante still has a part to play, albeit as lazily tacked on as Vergil was in Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition. Maybe even worse.

As I previously mentioned, Dante only has 7 missions to himself; one of which is a tutorial level. That doesn't leave much space to mess around with. He comes fully equipped with all four of his main fighting styles (Trickster, Swordmaster, Gunslinger, Royal Guard) and one borrowed from his twin brother, Vergil (Dark Slayer). All five styles are mapped to the d-pad (tap the button corresponding to the style already in play to activate Dark Slayer) and all are INSTANTLY accessible at any time, mid-combo, on-the-fly. As Devil May Cry 3’s Dante put it: "KUR-RAY-ZEE!" Expect some smokin' sick True Style Tournament* videos in the near future.

Dante's arsenal has also had a tune-up. It’s still fantastic, but most disappointingly, less beefy than before. He has a selection of three Devil Arms: his trusty blade, Rebellion; a pair of gauntlets that are a weaker equivalent to Beowulf; and an energy-based sword which sees him sticking red phantom swords into his enemies before exploding them all into a massive heap - the Devil May Cry 4 crowd-control substitute for Nevan or Vergil's summoned swords. Joining these weapons are three Devil Firearms: twin pistols, Ebony and Ivory; a generic shotgun; and a suitcase called Pandora's Box - which isn't really a suitcase, nor a box, but an inconspicuous bag of overkill that folds open into a bowgun, a gatling gun, a bazooka, a laser cannon, and even a miniature battleship! And you thought Devil May Cry 3's "electrifying" guitar was off the wall.

While the action is a rollicking good time, as usual, the journey can be rather tiresome, and boring. The adventuring aspect of the Devil May Cry series has never been its strong point, and Devil May Cry 4 doesn't buck the trend. Missions are nothing more than a string of battle arenas linked together by simple key hunts, platforming or puzzles as Nero or Dante vagrantly make their way about the town of Fortuna, its surrounding lakes and forests, and a couple of Gothic-inspired castles thrown in for good measure. As Trish puts it in the game, "The design shows terrible taste". There is a fair amount of backtracking to be had (Dante's side of the story essentially IS one gigantic backtrack) and it is easy to become lost with no clear directions pointing you to your next confrontation. This is not a problem on subsequent playthroughs, though.

And play again you must!

Look, Devil May Cry 4 is not the type of game you hope to pick up, play through once, and auction off on eBay. There are two difficulty settings selectable from the start, with more harder ones unlocked as you finish the 10-15 hour game. Unlike most games that either crank up the damage that enemies deal or turn them into super damage-absorbent sponges, Devil May Cry 4 introduces new tactics with which you must deal with at each step in difficulty. The demons come at you much faster, too. And if you thought the bosses of Devil May Cry 3 on Dante Must Die mode were monstrous, wait until you see how the ones here, Dante included, wipe the floor clean with your blood.

And if you want what could possibly be the most difficult challenge ever made - usurping infamous, hair-ripping games such as Battletoads and Ghosts 'n Goblins for the NES - try Hell and Hell mode: where tough DMD-level enemies rock the place and can kill you in ONE hit.

Replay value is immense, although not quite at the level of Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition. Missions are unique to each character - Nero can't play Dante's sections and vice versa - but given that the game retreads many steps in the second half, this really isn't a big deal. However, if you do wish face a certain "Fallen Angelo" in a one-on-one with Dante and his weapons/styles, the opportunity presents itself in the Bloody Palace: another hellish set of (this time) 101 floors of pure, unadulterated fighting. Super forms for both Nero and Dante are also unlockable, but it's sad to see no alternate costumes for either of them. I wanted to at least have Nero not looking like Dante's offspring.

Nevertheless, Devil May Cry 4 is still a smooth transition for the series and a stepping stone for what could be some truly amazing things for the future. Dante's a badass, sure, but his attitude gets old; the addition of Nero offers a lot of new opportunities to work with - his Devil Bringer heritage and all the perks that come with it.

But talking about "now", with current high definition technology, Devil May Cry 4 is one hell of a stunner with glorious HD graphics, lots (and I mean lots) of bloom and a lightning-fast, 60 frames per second frame rate to boot. I wouldn't have expected anything less. The PlayStation 3 version is slightly superior to the Xbox 360 version with speedier loading times (due to the 20 minute hardware installation) and fewer subtle graphical hitches, like a little screen tearing, but both versions play virtually identical to one another. Plus the online achievements are in for both systems - so everyone's happy.

It is difficult for any game to live up to a highly successful prequel. Devil May Cry 4 is immediately made more accessible with a new, less crazy lead who has a more streamlined list of techniques compared to Devil May Cry 3's Dante and Vergil. Dante's still here, though, but he does seem like just a mere afterthought - inserted just to say "Hey! Look! I'm still a Devil May Cry game!" But it IS still just another Devil May Cry game. Although a tad more forgiving (there are respawn points prior to boss encounters now), Nero and Dante's latest production is still kick-in-the-balls hard - excruciatingly so if you want it to be. The amount of combat moves they share between them is staggering, and Nero's Exceed and Dante's quick-select style switching makes for endless possibilities when it comes to combo creation. Missions themselves are still glorified battle arenas, but hey - isn't that why we're here to play?

My heartstrings were tugged at as I watched an anguished Nero crying out as Kyrie was absorbed into a goliath monstrosity. I grew tired of whacking gyroblades across shimmering, but still plain corridors just to open up the next area. Luckily, I'm impartial and indifferent to the punk rock that accompanies every battle. But then so what? Devil May Cry 4 doesn't concern itself with much outside of fighting, and here the focus and dedication shines through with a solid and ridiculously in-depth battle system, rivalling even that of modern fighting games like Tekken and Soul Calibur. Isn't it wonderful? It's early in 2008 and we already have an AAA game for both the PS3 and 360.

Oops! I meant SSS.

* The True Style Tournament is an unofficial fan-led competition whereby (only the elite) participants submit unedited Devil May Cry footage of them performing insane combos and killing streaks. If you want to see how REAL DMC gamers play, check it out.

arkrex's avatar
Community review by arkrex (February 10, 2008)

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