Review by Spark0

"The First AAA Release of 2008."

Devil May Cry 4 is, as the name implies, the newest installment in the Devil May Cry series. The series made its debut on the Playstation 2 to critical and commercial acclaim. It introduced a memorable and likable main character, a boatload of style and a new and exciting genre that grew from the 2D beat-em-ups that you either loved or hated.

Devil May Cry was followed with a game that had almost nothing to do with the first except the main character. The incredible graphics and fantastic aesthetic boss design highlighted one of the biggest disappointments in gaming. It sold well of course but the bland combat, drab environments more sedated Dante and incomprehensible storyline made it a critical flop.

Capcom set off to save the name of the series by creating the ultimate action game. Devil May Cry 3 detailed the journey of a younger and showier Dante highlighted by fantastic level design, some of the best graphics on the PS2 and perhaps the best combat in any game in the genre to date (if you don't believe look at some of the videos on Youtube). Though its brutal difficulty put off many gamers (what was known as the Easy Mode in the US release was actually the Normal Mode in the original release, this was changed back in the Special Edition), the game soon developed a large cult following. I myself have put in over 50 hours into my Special Edition disk with Dante alone.

Devil May Cry 4 marks a rebirth of the series. Though the legend of the Legendary Dark Knight Sparda is still a centerpiece, the storyline has very little to do with the rest of the series; a new main character has been introduced that plays VERY differently from Dante (though Dante is still playable, more on this later) and the rise of Agrosax has absolutely nothing to do with the story.

The game begins with Nero, the new main character, attempting to see the end of his girlfriend Kyrie's opera performance as he slashed through demons like butter. What is noticeable throughout this cutscene (and a good portion of the first mission) is that Nero's arm is in a sling (more on this later). After Nero barely makes it in time an assassin in a red cloak (easily recognizable to series' fans as Dante) crashed through the window and kills the leader of the town's theocracy (the Order of the Sword) as well as a good portion of his mass. Credo, the leader of the Holy Knights (of which Nero is a member of) orders Nero to stall Dante until backup arrives. This serves as both the game's tutorial and first boss fight.

In the fight, the most intriguing aspect of Nero is revealed. Nero is a demon, not a half demon, a demon. Though he looks mostly human (and is believed to be by most people) his right arm glows blue and purple. Nero can use this arm to execute powerful throws on his many enemies or snatch them from where they stand with an ability known as the Grim Grip.

As mentioned earlier, Nero fights in a very different way from Dante. First of all, while Dante has an assortment of guns and swords, Nero only has one sword (with another that is used only during his Devil Trigger), one gun and his arm to fight with. Furthermore, Nero has far more of a focus on aerial combat than Dante. Nero's sword also behaves in a different way from Dante's. Attached to the Red Queen's hilt is a rev like one on a motorcycle. Revving the sword will cause a flammable liquid to fill up in the sword making Nero's attacks more explosive. Revving at the moment an attack hits will also fill the gauge up.

Halfway through the game, Nero is absorbed into a gigantic statue of Sparda (please don't ask) and does not fight for seven more missions. During this 5-7 hour portion of the game you play as Dante who has been given a few more tricks since DMC3.

Dante can still switch between weapons mid-combo, but like Vergil in the Special Edition, he can now switch through all of them during battle (luckily the impressive but extraneous arsenal from DMC3 has been reduced to three far more interesting weapons in both the sword and gun categories). The style system from DMC3 is also back in much finer form. You not only now upgrade four of the five styles through pride souls (the new customization currency that can be obtained only by completing missions), but Dante can switch between all of them on the fly using the D-Pad. Both characters operate on very deep fighting engines and will keep you playing for a long time.

The switch however reveals what is perhaps the game's biggest flaw. While the level design itself is sound, literally all but one of the levels you play as Dante for (which is a boss fight) is just Nero's levels in reverse order. Backtracking has always been a big part of DMC (with the exception of the abysmal DMC2), but it's always been in moderation, just enough to enhance the game progression. This is a shame, but isn't quite as big a problem as I may be making it sound. The levels themselves are at least three times the length of DMC3's meaning that even if you were to judge by removing repeated content due to backtracking, you still have a longer game. The Special Edition of DMC3 also allowed you to play through the main character's levels as another character, it was simply optional and removed from the story.

What this doesn't allow me to forgive however is the fact that a few of these levels are quite simply bad levels. Level 19 in particular sticks out as a sore thumb of mediocrity on a hand of general excellence; you'll never want to play another board game as long as you live.

Where the series has always excelled are boss fights, the four bosses evolved and provided exciting fights in 1, provided memorable and challenging ends to 3's generally repetitive levels and even served as a faintly shining beacon of excellence in 2. 4 is no exception and delivers
what is easily the best boss fights in the series to date.

I can honestly say that, save for your fights against the elderly Sanctus (or his giant stone statue), there was not one boss I didn't absolutely love fighting. The fights are also very varied (though they are recycled later on), you'll fight everything from a toad with demonic antennae to a pane of bulletproof glass. The only real bad part of the boss fights is that there is still no boss rush mode. Maybe when the DLC comes out.

So you have a game that lasts about 15 hours, about half of which is recycled, but really how much will you play this disk? There is the same fantastic ranking system that drove DMC3 fans to play the thing for dozens of hours, a whopping six difficulty modes, two very different characters each with their own assortment of interesting and fun to use weapons and a much improved Bloody Palace mode.

Though everything else is pretty self-explanatory, the Bloody Palace mode will be completely foreign to non-fans and even fans will be unfamiliar with the mode's improvement. Bloody Palace has been around since DMC2 and is essentially a survival mode. Each floor you fight a battle then progress to the next floor (in DMC3 you could choose to progress by 1, 10 or 100 floors at a time). Though Bloody Palace always delivered a challenge similar to the challenge of just trying to complete the tougher difficulty modes, it never rewarded you for really righting WELL. If you wanted to dodge and shoot at the enemies with your handguns you could without any real penalty.

In DMC4 you are on a fairly strict timer. It starts very low, especially considering the fact that you have over 100 levels to fight through. The timer increases with every kill, the amount being higher the higher your style ranking is (style is the quality of the combo measured by length, variety and intensity). This turns the previously moderately paced "long-haul" of the bloody palace into one frantic, fun and challenging battle after another. Bloody Palace can be played by both characters and their status translates from the main game.

Action game fans, you now have your first AAA release of 2008. Bon appetit.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/11/08

Game Release: Devil May Cry 4 (US, 02/05/08)

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