The Devil May Cry franchise reinvigorated the action adventure genre when it was first released in 2001 for the Playstation 2. Dante, the title character, is not by any means an orthodox hero. He is the son of a demon, and his story is motivated by revenge for his mother’s death. The main gameplay premise that sets Devil May Cry apart from its predecessors is the ability to become a “stylish hero”, meaning sometimes using moves that aren’t practical, just to look good. Devil May Cry 4, released for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC, seeks to uphold the series’ legacy. Read on to find out if it succeeded.
Just as Hideo Kojima blew gamers away introducing a completely new hero to the Metal Gear Solid franchise, Hiroyuki Kobayashi of Capcom does the same thing with Nero. Nero, the new main character of the Devil May Cry franchise, is voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch, one of the most talented voice actors in the industry. The character is very rash and outspoken, a mirror image of the cool, calculating Dante. Instead of Dante’s signature dual pistols, Nero has one revolver. He also has a special weapon: a devil arm. Nero’s arm can reach great lengths to either toss enemies, or pull them closer. He also uses this arm as a grappling hook, and as special attack against bosses during certain key moments. Finally, his sword has a motor-cycle handle that lets the player “rev-up” if a button is pressed. While a very cool mechanic in theory, it gets to be a nuisance in more hectic battles. Later in the game, the player assumes control of Dante, who controls just like he does in previous iterations of the series.
Devil May Cry 4 is a graphical triumph. It looks exactly like an HD game should on a current-gen console. The art direction is beautiful, and the character designs are unique. The animations are fluid, and there’s nothing to complain about graphically. Level design wise, there is a lot to be desired. Most of the stages you progress through are completely uninspired. Bland gardens and boring ruins will take up a good part of the game. After you beat these parts, you’re required to backtrack through most of the dull locales. There is also one frustrating level mechanic that appears a few times throughout the game: a board game room. When you enter this room, there’s no turning back. A pair of dice drops from the ceiling, and when you “roll” (slash) them, your “piece” moves throughout the “board”. This is a very long process, and when you reach the end of the board, your piece must reach the last tile on an exact move. Otherwise, you have to do most of the board all over. Whoever thought this would be a good idea should be fired and never be allowed to design a game again.
Actual gameplay in Devil May Cry 4 is a dream. The controls are perfect, and easy to use. As the player incites diverse combos, a ranking system grades how well you’ve done. After the level is over, you receive a certain amount of red orbs, which are used to buy new attacks, abilities, and items. Nero’s devil arm is really fun to grab and bash people around with. Dante is also a riot, due to the fact that he can change his “style” at any time. Basically this means that if you press a certain d-pad direction button, he can switch to his “trickster” style, which makes him incredibly fast. Another d-pad button will switch him to his “sword-master” style, which makes him more formidable at melee. This “quick switch” system is a lot of fun to play with, and allows for some very interesting gameplay situations. For instance, switching to sword-master style to launch an enemy in the air, and then switching to “gun-slinger” to blow him away is one of the most fun experiences you can have in an action game. While Nero will have the same weapons the whole game, Dante can seamlessly switch between all the weapons in his repertoire. One weapon in particular is very thrilling: Pandora. This realization of Pandora’s Box is actually a briefcase, which Dante can use to assimilate every major weapon you can think of, from a sub-machine gun to a rocket launcher.
If you haven’t played Devil May Cry 3, anytime a battle ensues, generic grunge/metal music plays. If you couldn’t tell from the “generic” moniker, this means that it isn’t easy on the ears. For some reason, Capcom decided to bring these tunes back to Devil May Cry 4, much to my dismay. The rest of the music, or should I say lack of music, is of the same low quality. Other than a few well done hymns, the music leaves much to be desired. As for sound effects, every weapon and enemy has a distinctly different feel to it. Cuts-cene voice acting is well done, but the lines chosen for the gameplay voice acting portion get old very fast. For instance, whenever Nero slams an enemy into the ground, he shouts “Slam Dunk!” While this is fresh at first, it gets tiresome.
After you beat the game, you really don’t get much for your efforts. A few art pictures are unlocked, an additional mode is unlocked, and you can play the game over again on a higher difficulty. The additional mode is called “Bloody Palace”, and it allows you to battle constant enemies on a floor-by-floor basis, until you reach the top. All the floors look alike, so there isn’t much incentive to actually finish it. The higher difficulties are more challenging, and the enemies change attack patterns on the higher levels, but you’re still doing the same levels over again. If the stages were more fun to traverse through it would be worth it to beat the game over and over, but sadly they aren’t. Finally, when I beat the game I was very excited to try something different, and beat the entire game over again with just Nero, and then again just with Dante. Bad news: you can’t. The game is exactly the same character wise: first half of the game with Nero, and the second half with Dante.
Devil May Cry 4 isn’t a bad game, it just doesn’t bring much to the table that its action-adventure predecessors haven’t already. If more effort was put into the musical score, backtracking was eliminated, and more effort was put into the level design, it would have been the best in the series. Rather than beating it over and over again like I did with Devil May Cry 3, I find myself only occasionally returning to Nero and Dante’s world. Hopefully, Capcom will realize where they went wrong, and Devil May Cry 5 will bring the series back to what it once was.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
Other than the PS3 having an initial install, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions are the same
The graphics are beautiful, the character designs are interesting, and the weapons are fun to play with. The levels however, are some of the worst in the entire action-adventure genre, and to add insult to injury, you have to back-track through a decent portion of them.
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Devil May Cry 4 plays very well despite its other shortcomings. The action never lets up, the characters control fluidly, and Nero’s arm is a welcome addition to the franchise. All of the enemy encounters and boss fights are a blast.
The same grunge guitar tracks are back from Devil May Cry 3, and are just as unfitting. While the voice acting during the cut-scenes is great, you will get sick of hearing “Slam Dunk!” a million times in-game.
After you beat the game, you can do it again on a higher difficulty level; and that’s about it. It would have been great to beat the entire game as Nero or Dante, but you can’t, which decreases the replay value. The Bloody Palace mode received after completion will only tide you over for a bit.
Overall Devil May Cry 4 did not live up to Devil May Cry 3’s legacy. The level design is poor, and there isn’t much to do after you beat the game. That isn’t to say that the game isn’t good, because it has enough fun-factor in it to warrant a purchase for some.