Sometimes its hard to find a game that not only delivers in execution, but also with finesse. Add to that difficulty a true sense of action and stylishness all rolled into one package and you may as well pack up shop right now, because that’s a rare thing indeed. Fans of Capcom’s Devil May Cry franchise know that the series has always tried its best to be all those things (minus the bag of chips), but increasingly found themselves mired in questionable difficulty levels and bizarre design and core gameplay choices. Whereas the PlayStation 2 was home to all this madness up until now, the world of Dante and Company have since left single-platform land and subsequently finds new inspiration by spreading its big, leathery wings a bit further. So its to my greatest delight to see Devil May Cry 4 brings much of the beloved, yet excessive, infuriating entertainments of the originals back to the fold, all the while inviting new fans to join the fun.
If you’re expecting big, sweeping changes in the formula, think again. Not much as changed in DMC4, and if you’re looking for some fast-paced, frantic action done right then you might as well stop reading this Impression right now and hit the store. But for those of you still holding a grudge at Capcom for their questionable handling of the last chapter in the series, don’t fret too much as you’ll likely be coming home soon. While Devil May Cry 3 may have been unjustifiably difficult from the start, the latest adventure gives new players plenty of chances to get things off on the right foot with a plethora of options to toggle with, new skills to purchase, and much more. The action is still as frenzied as ever, with terrific boss battles and climatic, over-the-top and incredibly entertaining cut-scenes that never bog things down and keep things moving. There’s little doubt of the game’s intention to bring smiles to the faces of the series long-time fans, and its here where the it succeeds wildly beyond its own expectations.
One of the bigger changes comes in the form of a new main character, the aptly named Nero. Unlike other franchises that switch captains mid-stream, the new guy comes across as someone with a non-caring personality, and despite a few quirky romantic touches (its pretty noticeable) this doesn’t make him a punishment to command. Nero can certainly unleash the pain against anyone (and anything) with a huge selection of moves that still embody that old-fashioned, satisfying top-notch gunplay and sword combo juggles fans can’t get enough of, but his real coupe de grace is the Demonic Hand – otherwise known as the Devil Bringer. Grabbing opponents allows for a variety of throwing, smashing, as well as other set-ups that result in some draw-dropping and pretty surprising damages. The ever-present key to puling off some of the most devastatingly beautiful attacks is of course timing, and thanks to DMC4’s fairly lenient leaning curve it won’t be long before you’ll be flung head-first into some of the most enjoyable sword-thrashing bloodshed to ever grace your television.
Dante isn’t forgotten, as the once headliner takes the anti-hero status in Nero’s quest in discovering the truth of his religious organization along the way. Not to ruin a surprise, but its also well known that the original man in red is playable in some cases, so all you zealots foaming at the mouth can relax a bit. But the game is almost entirely Nero’s, so enjoy your Dante missions while you can and the added complexity he brings to the table.
While the game plays incredibly well for the most part, there are some frustrating issues that dampen the mood. Whenever the game stops the action and adds puzzle-solving elements, the pacing can suffer tremendously. Most of these are pretty standard stuff, from button pushing to flipping switches, and while they’re never too difficult they can drag on past their welcome in several occasions. The game handles its platforming sections well, but whenever the camera veers off the beaten path it can be a frustrating experience having to navigate movement. Where repetition may come in the form of a never-ending sea of enemies to squash and splat, having to traverse back to familiar territory can drain the enthusiasm levels a bit, especially when you’re fight through the same level more than a few times.
But generally these quirks don’t ruin the mood, and for the most part are forgotten in the blaze of battles…especially the impressive boss battles. With most being five times your size, fighting these juggernauts offer a great deal of excitement from the get-go, and good thing for that as you’ll be encountering these beasts more than once during the adventure. As with every game in the series, how you’ll view the game’s monotony will largely depend on how quickly you’ll complete the main adventure, and whether you’ll want to replay through it.
The game’s visuals are a lovely blend of blood and lovely backdrops that look like they like belong in this universe, with plenty of detail and enough stylish carnage to satisfy even the most jaded of fickle fans. The on-screen animation and action do a spectacular job in bringing everything to life, with nice flourishes such as capes and clothing blowing in the wind and reacting well to movements. The visual prowess is indeed a sight to behold and quite a substantial jump from the previous PlayStation 2 episodes, leaving no doubt what generation this one is faithful to. The only hiccups in the beauty come from the various loading sequences, which from what I experienced were noticeably shorter on the PlayStation 3 version than the Xbox 360 one. But this might have something to do with the monotonous install time for Sony’s platform, but other than that the two game’s are virtually identical. Those with good HDTV sets will find much to salivate over, but the game looks great even on standard definition.
I can’t forget to mention the game’s fantastic voice-overs, which were surprisingly effective thanks to a good turn by Johnny Yong Bosch and others. Nothing felt overdone or particularly cheesy, which might have otherwise brought this one down a notch or two. The music, unfortunately, while pleasant was a bit too cliché with rock vocal tunes making up much of the soundtrack. But thankfully it never stands out too much, and does its job well.
It’s nice to see Capcom back at the helm of their own ship, and making a game that most companies could only dream to match. Such is the case for Devil May Cry 4, which like their own Resident Evil (and hopefully Street Fighter) franchise proves that the number 4 is indeed the magic number. Although this new chapter shares much with its predecessors, its gleefully absorbed into the very essence of itself with more of that signature gameplay to match. It’s hardly a perfect package, especially with some unnecessary backtracking, recycled elements, and a few pacing issues popping up in places, but most sins are forgiven thanks to a serious effort to entertain and give fans exactly what they’re looking for. Those looking for such a thing will feel right at home, and for anyone who might’ve otherwise counted this series out after a troubled third part, chances are you’ll find this outing a much more enjoyable romp through digital hell.