Review by horror_spooky

"Abandon all hope"

When the first Devil May Cry game was released about seven years ago, everyone was amazed at what it could do. The action was never seen before in an action game and the overall style was pretty revolutionary as it spawned a new style of action game that helped define titles like Prince of Persia and God of War. A sequel was inevitable, but the sequel failed to surpass its predecessor, and a prequel released after that was even more disappointing. However, the fourth entry in the series doesn't just offer refreshing gameplay mechanics, but it also improves upon nearly every aspect of the other titles, and easily becomes better than the original in more ways than one.

The game still follows a mission structure, but you can go back to the areas found in previous missions if you so wish. You are still given rankings that are based on how stylish you were in your battles, the time it took you to complete the mission, and how many red orbs you collected along the way. You are penalized for using items and for being attacked. I found the ranking system to be much more accurate than in previous games and it seems that Capcom has finally nailed this aspect of the game right on the head.

During these missions, you are given a little description on what you're supposed to do, but most of the time you just go room to room and kill whatever you see until a cut-scene happens. While this may sound repetitive, anyone who has played a Devil May Cry game knows that this is not the case as skewering the bad guys is what makes the game so fun in the first place. Most of the time, a barrier will block the way you need to go, so you'll have to kill all of the enemies in the room before you can proceed.

Notice that I said “most of the time” in the above paragraph? Well, that's because killing a bunch of demons as you go from room to room isn't all that there is to Devil May Cry 4. Platforming elements are an integral part of the gameplay as you traverse through the levels, but they can be kind of frustrating if you don't have the right upgrades. Since this is a Capcom game, puzzle solving is obviously going to be included, but it definitely feels out of place amidst all of the blood pumping action that is the Devil May Cry series. Thankfully, puzzle elements are downplayed as the game goes on, but it still makes you wish that they didn't include puzzles at all and just let you kick ass.

Before you think I'm some sort of reviewer that hates puzzles, it's just that the puzzles included in Devil May Cry 4 are simply annoying and the main reason why the game didn't achieve the perfect score it could have easily earned. One of the puzzles has you activating and reactivating these statues constantly and knocking them around long corridors to do various things. Another “puzzle” is more of a board game where you hit a large die and then a statue representing Nero moves along this board. If you land on a red circle, you will have to fight some enemies. If you land on a yellow circle, you automatically win, and if you land on a blue circle nothing happens. Sounds stupid because it is stupid.

But really that's the only major flaw in Devil May Cry 4's gameplay and the rest of the game plays beautifully for the most part. Many aspects of the previous games have been improved upon, including powering up your abilities. By using red orbs that you collect in the levels, you can purchase various things like healing items, holy water (which deals a ton of damage to enemies, but is completely unnecessary to complete the game), magic-restoring items, and lives. In Devil May Cry 3, you had to use red orbs in order to upgrade yourself as well, but in Devil May Cry 4 there is an entirely new kind of currency used to take care of this, and it is called Proud Souls, gained by getting a good ranking at the end of a mission. You can buy upgrades for your abilities, your weapons, your devil trigger, and your fighting style, but if you buy something you don't want you can simply sell it back.

There are other orbs that you can collect in the game besides just the red orbs and these orbs include green orbs which revitalize your health and white orbs which revitalize your magic power. Blue orbs and purple orbs will increase your maximum health and magic bars respectively while gold orbs can be used as continues incase you die. Fragments of blue orbs can be found lying around and if you collect four of them, you gain one blue orb.

While you play as Nero, a very interesting gameplay mechanic is available to you that I desperately hope Capcom reuses in a sequel or perhaps a game focusing solely on the new character Nero. This mechanic I'm talking about is the “Devil Bringer” which proves to be extremely useful throughout the game. The Devil Bringer is Nero's arm, which he can use to grab enemies from far away and bring them closer or zoom himself to them. This power is also used in some pretty nicely done platforming segments reminiscent of Super Mario Galaxy where you have to constantly grab floating orbs in order to continue. Where this ability truly shines, however, is when Nero does a move called a “Buster” where he grabs an enemy and an awesome sequence occurs where the enemy gets pulverized. These sequences appear for every enemy in the game and every boss as well, which definitely makes the battles more interesting. Another ability that Nero's arm has is the ability to detect secret missions and hidden orbs.

Secret missions are an interesting idea, but you can go through the whole game and ignore them without feeling the least bit like you were left out of something. They can be extremely difficult and require plenty of skill and sometimes you'll have to have a certain ability to complete them. Basically, these secret missions are little glowing insignias hidden throughout the game that if you find you can partake in, but they are unnecessary and aren't that important to the gameplay.

What is important to the game, however, are the weapons available to you. Nero himself gets a double-barreled magnum revolver he calls Blue Rose that he can use, but it is basically useless compared to Dante's guns. Nero's sword does have some a gimmick to it that makes it better than Dante's Rebellion sword, and that is the ability to charge the sword using the “Exceed” gauge. You literally rev this gauge up using an accelerator to a motorcycle that is attached to the sword and by doing this you can make Nero's sword, dubbed Red Queen, even more powerful. Unfortunately, you won't be using this feature very much because the battles are too intense for you to be revving your sword.

It's no secret that you still get to play as Dante in this game, but I found Nero to be much easier to use and simply more fun to play as. Regardless, Dante is here with the usual friends of Ebony & Ivory are at your disposal as well as a shotgun called Coyote-A. Dante's sword, Rebellion, is back as well. However, anyone familiar with Devil May Cry 3 should know that Dante just isn't limited to these weapons, but I'll get to that in a little bit. Devil May Cry 4 improves over its predecessor by letting you switch between your weapons on the fly instead of equipping two at a time and it also improves on its predecessor by its use of fighting style.

Unlike Nero, Dante has four different fighting styles available to him when you can start playing as him. These styles are Trickster, which allows for acrobatic moves and dodges; Gunslinger, which focuses on gun-based combat; Sword Master, which provides new sword attacks for you to skewer demons with; and Royal Guard, which is mostly a defensive fighting style that allows you to nail some nice moves on enemies if you can counter their attacks. Unlike in Devil May Cry 3, you can change your style on the fly by hitting a button on the d-pad, which helps the styles flow nicely and provides for much more thrilling battles. The Xbox 360 d-pad is a little stupid though, so sometimes you'll switch to one style when you wanted another, but it shouldn't end up being much of a problem.

Like in Devil May Cry 3, Dante can still collect “Devil's Arms” by defeating bosses in a feature that is probably one of the coolest features included in a video game ever. There aren't that many Devils' Arms to collect, but the ones that are in the game are freaking amazing. I'm not going to ruin what they are for you, but trust me when I say that your jaw will definitely be touching the floor by the time this game is completed.

Both Nero and Dante can activate their “Devil Trigger” state throughout the game, but I found that the Devil Trigger form of Dante just didn't seem as useful this time around. Nero's Devil Trigger, on the other hand, is very useful and essential to boss battles. While they are in this state, their attacks are more powerful and their health slowly regenerates.

A funny little feature is the ability to taunt your enemies. While it doesn't really do much gameplay wise, it is still kind of hilarious to watch.

Various difficulty modes are available to you and there are unlockable ones as well. Unfortunately, the difficulty is still a problem for Capcom as the two difficulty modes available to you at the beginning of the game contrast heavily. One mode is way too easy while the other mode is way too hard. Hopefully in the future Capcom is able to balance the difficulty more. If you complete the game on “Devil Hunter” mode, you will unlock a time trial mode called Bloody Palace that may provide for a nice distraction.

While the game doesn't have a true online mode, you can upload your mission results on Xbox Live, though this feature doesn't really enhance the game in anyway.

Throughout the stages are color-coded creatures that will give you red orbs if you beat the hell out of them enough that you can get your style ranking to a certain level. If the creature has red eyes, you must use Dante, but if the creature has blue eyes, then you have to use Nero in order to defeat them and earn the orbs.

Devil May Cry 4 has the best story in any Devil May Cry game yet, but it can still get a little bit on the corny side of things. Even so, the action during cut-scenes is amazing and the sequences rival those found in The Matrix films. Sparda and Vergil's swords have been stolen and Dante, along with some returning characters from the previous games, want them back before anything bad can happen. However, Dante is perceived as evil by Nero, a young boy who is also a demon hunter and strangely resembles Dante. Nero is sent to kill Dante, but who is the real bad guy? There are plenty of twists and turns throughout this story, plus all of those shocking moments that Capcom provides so don't be surprised when you find yourself eagerly waiting the next cut-scene to watch the next bad-ass fight.

Graphically, I felt that Devil May Cry 4 certainly could have done better. The character models were great and the bosses are amazingly detailed, but the environments didn't have nearly as much to them. While the loading times are extremely short, the game does reuse levels much too often and you'll find yourself fighting the same bosses sometimes three times. While some people may not have a problem with that, it is disappointing that the developers didn't take more time to design different bosses and levels instead of forcing you to go through the same stuff again. Still, there is a wide variety of enemies to kill and they each get their own little cut-scene when they first appear which is pretty cool and gives them a sort of back-story all at the same time. As a side note, Devil May Cry 4 runs quietly on the Xbox 360 and there are never those annoying loud noises that go along with the gameplay, which means it definitely runs smoother than most titles released for the system. Also, I didn't come across any glitches and the game didn't crash once, which is definitely saying something since most 360 games tend to crash every once in a while.

Devil May Cry 4 has a very awesome soundtrack that is nicely varied. The opening melody of sorts is beautifully sung by Kyrie, one of the game's protagonists, and sets the tone for the gothic adventure you're about to partake in perfectly. Guns are just loud enough and the sound of your sword slicing through demons is grisly and welcome. The voice-acting is very dramatic and brilliantly presented, though the writing does bring it down a tad when the characters that could be very badass (Dante and Nero) say the dumbest things this side of the original Resident Evil game. Rock music dominates the soundtrack for much of the game and will get you pumped up for the fights.

Devil May Cry 4 will last around nine hours, which means it is definitely the perfect rental game. After those nine hours are up, though, there is still so much more to do, with achievements to unlock and multiple difficulty settings to play through, as well as online score boards and an unlockable time trial mode that will test the skills of even the greatest Devil May Cry players. The secret missions are present for you to complete as well, but since the levels are reused too often in the missions, you may not feel as compelled to play through the game as much as you would have the previous games.

The last two entries in the Devil May Cry series had me believing that the games would never succeed the original and would just keep getting worse. Thankfully, Devil May Cry 4 has reinstated my faith in the Devil May Cry games by adding some fresh gameplay mechanics that are brilliantly designed not to mention some of the most awesome action sequences ever created in any form of media. The graphics could have been better and the puzzles could have been less annoying, but overall, the game is nearly flawless and worthy of the attention of anyone who owns an Xbox 360 or who just wants to play one of the most badass action games ever released in video game history. Plot holes assure me that there will definitely be another entry in this revitalized series and hopefully the next game will be just as cool, just with better difficulty balancing, and more varied levels and bosses.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/01/08

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

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