Devil May Cry 4
Release Date: 02/05/2008
So, Devil May Cry 4.
It’s not easy to know what to say about this one. The first game was and still is awesome, balls-to-the-wall ass-kicking of the highest order, and the third game was a challenge and a half… but the second game was, well, boring crap. But hey, it’s from the same guy who gave us the original Devil May Cry! And hey, he ALSO gave us a little something called Resident Evil 4! So surely it’s gotta be an awesome, awesome game, full of ass-kicking and violence and fun times!
DMC4 starts out well enough, with a nice long cinematic to get us interested in the game that introduces us to Nero, the (more or less) main protagonist, an amnesia victim with a mysterious past who is well-versed in the used of a gun and a sword… and, oh yeah, has a creepy, demonic right arm (I hope that kid’s left-handed). He also lives in Fortuna, a weird religious city that the home to the Order of the Sword, a religious cult of sorts that is devoted to killing evil demons and worshiping the good demon Sparda, who DMC faithful will remember is Dante’s dad. So it should probably come as something of a shock that, right in the middle of a ceremony, Dante shows up and blows the head priest’s brains out.
Say what you want about Catholics and Christians, but Jesus never kicked in the door of the Vatican and shot the Pope. Just saying.
Anyway, Nero takes exception to this and, after a tutorial fight, he takes off after Dante to kick his ass (sadly sans any awesome “Dead Alive”Â-worthy lines of dialogue)… but of course, there’s more going on then is first expected…
As game stories go, the story in DMC4 is serviceable enough, in that it introduces all of the characters and neatly wraps up their story arcs by game end. It’s certainly nothing special, but it works well enough. The only significant problem with the story is, frankly, the storytelling contrast; Nero’s storyline is more or less played seriously, while Dante’s is essentially played strictly for laughs. Dante hamming it up in the most shameless way imaginable might be amusing in small doses, but by game end it just comes off as corny and lame (it’s akin to watching your fifty year old father acting and dressing like he’s a badass; less funny, more sad). Not that Nero didn’t need some strong storytelling to get him and his plight over and all, but frankly, Dante comes off like Jim Carrey in the Mask here and it’s just… stupid.
Especially the part where he describes the usage of a new weapon in sex metaphors. That was especially odd.
Visually, DMC4 is outright awesome in all respects. Dante and Nero animate fluidly and look badass whilst obliterating the various and sundry legions of Hell, who also happen to look nice and animate well. The game environments are all nicely rendered and pretty to look at, and lest we forget, the various and sundry boss monstrosities you face down throughout the game are FANTASTIC; they are, in many cases, several times larger than your character, but are still animated VERY nicely and look appropriately hellish at all times. Aurally… well, the voice acting is fantastic, one and all, and the sound effects are supremely effective and sound spot-on in all cases… but the music? Not so much. The various stage tracks are decent and sound appropriate, but most of the time the combat track (yes, I mean track as in singular) is this one metal track that sounds like something Raymond Watts would make if he was feeling especially drunk and/or brain damaged… not to mention it sounds an AWFUL LOT like a track from DMC3. After the one-thousandth time you’ve heard the track it… kinda gets van Gogh levels of annoying. But hey, otherwise, great job!
And now, the gameplay, which can neatly be summed up neatly in eight words:
“It’s “ËœDevil May Cry’, only not as good.”Â
Both characters essentially work around the default control scheme well enough. The left stick moves, the right stick moves the camera (when possible), A jumps, X attacks with the equipped gun, Y attacks with the equipped melee weapon, B uses Dante’s special technique based on fighting style or Nero’s Devil Trigger attacks, etc. You can lock onto enemies, which allows you to focus on one foe at a time, and allows you to work with a bunch of combos (based on direction and button presses) as well as dodge around to avoid attacks. As you build up combos without taking damage you fill up the score gauge; by using unique moves and by beating the unmerciful hell out of your foes without taking damage, your goal is to jack the score gauge out as much as possible in each and every battle, which earns you better rankings at the end of stages, as well as more orbs to dump into buying stuff for Dante and Nero. Orbs come in several different flavors; red orbs (Demon Blood) allow you to buy items, life and magic upgrades from the vendor (the standard statue with an hourglass on his back that we all know and love), green orbs refill your life, and white orbs refill your magic bar. There are also “Proud Souls”Â to be earned by completing each of the stages; by finishing the stages in a reasonable amount of time, finding all of the hidden orbs (in the stage itself, not the ones earned from combat), and earning mucho style points, you earn grades for your performance, which earn you Proud Souls to dump into your characters so as to upgrade their combat capabilities. In short, it’s what you would expect.
Both characters, as noted, play in sufficiently similar fashions, but they have some rather dramatic differences. Nero only really has one sword and one gun to play with, but lest you think he’s limited, he also comes with a few novelties of his own. First up is the Devil Bringer, his messed up right arm, which can be used to toss enemies around and solve puzzles. Second, his sword can be “revved up”Â like a motorcycle, allowing for additional damage (and some extra combos) in combat. He also has a few abilities he can earn throughout the game that Dante doesn’t have access to, including the ability to use Gyro Blades and the ability to find hidden items more easily, making him a reasonably well-rounded character overall. Dante, by comparison, retains his multiple fighting styles and plethora of weapons (three guns and three melee weapons, in this case) from DMC3 for use this time around, making him a monster in combat, as he can literally switch weapons and styles on the fly for big damage and combo opportunities.
Now, make no mistake: playing DMC4 is an awful lot of fun. Dante and Nero have a ton of vicious combos they can make use of to smite the unholy hell out of their foes, and the combos are easy to use and look sufficiently painful. An awful lot of attention was paid to the simple details insofar as combat is concerned, which helps to make the game an awful lot of fun overall. There are often a sufficiently large amount of enemies in a zone at one time to allow you to earn huge combos, provided you’re skillful enough to wipe them all out without taking damage. And DMC4 is, in contrast to the third installment, balanced to maximum effect; there are a multitude of difficulty levels for you to pick from (two by default, and four more that are unlockable) which range from easy as pie to tough as nails, so as to sufficiently allow even the worst or best player to get a good amount of enjoyment out of the game. And best of all, for the players who’ve been fans of the series since day one and have been pining for the return of the gameplay that made the first DMC so much fun, well, that’s what DMC4 is all about in spades.
Having said that…
DMC4 is shallow. This is for more than a few different reasons, but the two biggest reasons amount to repetition and lack of variety. You will run through the same stages over and over again as both Dante and Nero; there are twenty missions in the game and something like five locations for said missions to take place in, leaving the game feeling repetitive. There are eight legitimately original boss battles in the game, and make no mistake, they are almost all absolutely awesome the first time… but you are required to repeat four of those battles THREE DIFFERENT TIMES, and by the time you’ve completed the third cycle of these battles any shred of “OH WOW LOOK AT THAT”Â is ripped from them, leaving them as little more than annoying hindrances to your progress (which culminates in Mission 19, a mission filled with a board game concept that was done better in Gunstar Heroes that plays like Parcheesi from hell and forces you to undertake something like a million battles, including fighting the aforementioned four bosses one after the other, just because). IT. GETS. BORING. Really freaking fast, especially thanks to the odd structure of the game. You start off as Nero for about eleven missions, which are well structured and designed, and feature a large amount of payoff as you play through them, then switch over to Dante for about seven missions, which just feels like a MASSIVELY CONDENSED version of Nero’s quest, with boss battles and character upgrades every five minutes… only to go back to Nero for the final few stages, with no payoffs or upgrades to speak of at all.
Also, the stages in the game, while they project a sense of vast expanse, are often very cramped and claustrophobia-inducing. There’s a minimal amount of exploration to undertake, and most of the stages pretty much lead from A to B, despite their initial appearances. And the puzzles in the game either amount to little more than jumping at the correct time and height or using an item in some sort of way, leaving the game feeling like a few stupid fetch quests or jumping puzzles crammed in-between a ton of repetitive battles after about six hours or so of play. And while there are THINGS to unlock, most of those things amount to artwork and added difficulty levels; the only functional thing you can unlock are super costumes for Dante and Nero (which only amounts to them having infinite Devil Trigger gauges), which would require you to beat the game a MINIMUM of three times… if you’re THAT dedicated, then hey, more power to you, but most people aren’t going to have that degree of dedication or interest in unlocking this thing. The only other reason to play through the game multiple times is, honestly, to earn high ranks on the missions and out-perform your friends (and, one would presume, THE WORLD) with your scoring. This isn’t a bad reason in and of itself, mind you, but given the choice to, say, undertake missions with any character (despite the game offering you a Character Select option, you cannot choose which character to use at any point, even after you’ve beaten the game) or the ability to unlock other characters or something similar… well, it’s a bit of a letdown. Also a bit of a let-down is the fact that DMC4 just feels flat in most respects; the bosses are really neat the first time you face them down and the idea behind some of the weapons is certainly neat, but most of that promise never really fulfills itself in any meaningful way, leaving the game feeling like a retread of ground the first game covered with nothing new to say.
Devil May Cry 4 is by no means a BAD game in the least; it’s simply just… not a game you NEED to play. If you’re a huge fan of the series or you take the game in small doses there’s a lot of fun to be had with it, as the combat is tight and the game is visually fantastic. But you can clear the game in ten hours and there’s absolutely nothing to bring you back for a second go unless you’re looking for a bigger challenge, as the game does and offers nothing new to play with no matter how many times you beat it. As a rental DMC4 is pretty good, but there’s no real reason to own the game, as after one play through, you will have seen and done everything you can with the game, and moe than likely you won’t be raring to do it all again.
Overall Score: 6.2/10
Final Score: 6.0 (ABOVE AVERAGE).
Short Attention Span Summary
Devil May Cry 4 is stylish as can be, but lacks the meat it needs to truly be a classic. It’s not as novel as the first title and not as white-knuckle exciting as the third, leaving it a good, enjoyable experience that isn’t anything more than that. Definitely worth a play through, but only worth owning if you’re seriously down with Dante and company.