Review by zenandi
""In the end, we are all satisfied...""
After capturing the imagination with the original Devil May Cry, Capcom then made a mess of a sequel with 2, before Devil May Cry 3 redeemed the series with what was a brilliant swansong on the Playstation 2. Devil May Cry 4 debuts the series on the next-generation platforms, and luckily for us, it is closer to the Smokin' Sick Style of 3 then the D for Disaster that was number 2...
There once was a Demon, Sparda, who awakened to justice and turned against his demonic brethrens. Sparda sealed away the demon world and continued to protect humankind until his death. After that, his legacy continued in the form of a prodigal son, Dante, and his 'evil' twin Vergil, and also in the form of three swords, or Devil's Arms -- his own Sparda, Dante's Rebellion, and Vergil's Yamato. In Devil May Cry 4 add, literally, another Devil's Arm to that mix -- for you have Nero, who possesses a right arm that is demonic in appearance and powers.
The story revolves around the Order - a group of religious people that reside in the castle town of Fortuna, who have taken to the apparently noble mission of slaying Demons and gathering various powerful Devil's Arms. Dante is alerted to their activities through a friend, and begins to smell a rat in their activities.
Upon arrival, his suspicions are confirmed. Dante makes his next-gen debut with a Batman-style skylight entrance and an apparent assassination of the head-honcho of the order, before a gathered audience in the midst of a sermon.
Needless to say, all hell breaks loose, and Nero, a young knight of the order, and he with the Devil Bringer, clash swords, guns and demonic claws with Dante for the first time.
From that point on, Nero unravels a web of deceit, awakens to his true nature, and finds himself thrust into a desperate battle for his love, Kyrie. Dante is happy for the most parts to let Nero do his dirty work for him, and only takes over when Nero finally finds himself out of his depth.
The one criticism of the story is that Nero's origins are never fully explained. Although the fact that he carries Sparda's blood is alluded to repeatedly, the game never actually says how he is related to Sparda and Dante. You begin to suspect that the folks at Capcom haven't quite made up their mind with regards to Nero's back-story, and are happy to just move things along for now...
As you might expect from a next-generation game, the graphics are spectacular, although the scenes between gameplay are much more so than the graphics during normal play. A mention must be made here of these spectacular videos that flesh out DMC 4's story - whether its the amazing duel between Nero and Dante in the opening mission, or the hilarious dialogue in the Adagio for Strings mission, each scene is so stylishingly and spectacularly done that you actively look forward to the next one, and is a proper reward for getting to that point in the game.
The main beneficieries of the visual upgrades, though, are the women of Devil May Cry. Capcom apparently could not resist the temptation to sex-out their ladies, not that I'm complaining. Trish makes a return, along with Lady, who apparently underwent an extreme-makeover since DMC 3, not to mention a boob-job or two. An intriguing new character called Gloria joins the fray, and to say that this lady is a tease is to put it mildly. It is somewhat disappointing that the girls only make cameo appearances throughout the game, and Trish in particular, had a role that could have translated into an interesting playable solo mission in her own right.
This is Devil May Cry nearly at its best. The non-stop action requires you to be on your game at all time, or risk suffering an ass-kicking even at the hands of the game's lesser enemies. It says something about how challenging the game is when the routine enemies regularly gives you more grief than the bosses themselves. Not that this is a bad thing.
Devil May Cry is about stringing together combos, sure, and getting that Style meter way up to the Smokin' Sick Style, or SSS, rank. Yet the enemies all present different challenges. You won't be able to just string your moves together at your leisure. Some enemies need to be softened up first, others can only be hit from behind. Blitz are a bloody pain, period.
Now the bosses - about a handful of them recycled three times. For the most parts, bosses are a cakewalk once you learn to read them. With Dante and Trickster on, you can pretty much breeze through these boss fights and not get hit once.
The game divides itself into two portions - Nero and Dante, and Nero again. Nero's Devil Bringer brings a new dimension to Devil May Cry's gameplay. With it you can Buster an enemy at close range with a usually wildly spectacular slam move, hold them hostage as a human (demon?) shield, or Snatch them from distance and then Buster them. It also lends itself to the most irritating part of Devil May Cry 4 -- platforming. With his arm, Nero can do a grappling hook move and swing to out of reach places and heights. But seriously, platforming in a Devil May Cry game? Nero also has another innovation -- a gunblade mechanism like Squall's in Final Fantasy VIII, where hitting the left trigger at the right time lets you power up your blade for the next swing.
At about mid-game, you switch to Dante. It is now that you really start missing the Devil Bringer and all that you were doing with it before. Yet what you gave up is more than adequately made up for when you finally get to grips with what Dante is capable of.
Remember the Style system from DMC 3? Now, Dante goes one better and gets to use all four (five on the second playthrough) and can switch styles on the fly. Needless to say, having both Trickster and Swordmaster at once already feels very over-powered. The combination of these two will take care of all bosses and most enemies on the Devil Hunter difficulty. I can only imagine what some of the better players can achieve with Royal Guard and Gunslinger thrown into the mix as well.
Without a doubt, whilst Nero is the protagonist, Dante is the true star of the show. Whilst Nero is stuck with his Red Queen sword and Blue Rose gun, Dante can eventually switch between three each of melee and long-range weapons. Of these, the aptly named Pandora is a joy to play with, and makes Dante feels even more over-powered.
His huge arsenal of weapons and combo potential, along with all 4 styles at his command, makes Dante a veritable power-house. When you finally take over Nero again to finish the game, you feel a rather tangible sense of limitedness. It is also a pity that in Devil Hunter mode at least, the only 'challenge' Dante encounters are in the form of two aforementioned Blitz.
Before I forget, both men can Devil Trigger -- summoning their dark side to boost their powers and provide limited health regeneration -- for as long as the DT gauge lasts. Nero's DT is the more impressive, since his Buster is hugely augmented in Devil form, and he gets two special moves to play with in Devil form.
One last facet of gameplay as regards to character development -- you now buy skills with Proud Souls that are awarded after a mission based on your performance. With each skill you buy, the price of the rest inflates, so that collecting all of them becomes quite an achievement, and recognized as such on the 360's acheivement system.
You have probably noticed what a huge chunk that was that I've devoted to the gameplay. And that is how it is with Devil May Cry 4. It's selling point is the gameplay. Not much to say for sound, although the ending theme - Shall Never Surrender - is a rather catchy theme for those of you that like it. The voice acting is of a high quality, and Dante in particular, gives a solid voice performance. The same cannot be said for Kyrie, who sounds terrible with that deliberate 'damsel-in-distress' voice.
It is rather clever (or just deviously lazy?) of the developers to come up with a premise that makes you go one way with Nero, and then backtrack almost the exact same route with Dante. Add in bosses recycled three times, and you begin to feel just a slight sense of Deja Vu. The only saving grace in all this is that Dante and Nero have such a huge contrast in playing styles that you are forced to tackle the same enemies with different strategies.
A console-selling game. I've friends that bought new systems for the sake of this game, and it is worth it. The repeated bosses and routes only distract slightly from an overall solid experience.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 02/20/08
Game Release: Devil May Cry 4 (JP, 01/31/08)
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