Release Date: Fall 2007
Devil May Cry 4 is still several months away from release, yet the game is already surrounded by controversy. Whether it's fans boycotting Capcom for going multiplatform or speculation over whether or not Dante is still a playable character, there were a lot of questions floating around that just weren't being answered. Don't blame the press — the development team "went dark" late last year and refused to answer questions or release new media for the title. Perhaps it was a concerted effort from the developers to avoid said controversy, or simply prepare for it.
Whatever the case, many of the questions now have answers, as Capcom made the title the focal point of its Gamers Day event in April. As a member of the development team played through a demo level on the big screen, Producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi offered commentary (by way of a translator) for the assembled members of the press. Following the conclusion of the presentation, we were let loose on the demo stations, and what follows are my impressions of the short sample of Devil May Cry 4. Oh yeah — Dante is playable, but I'll touch on that later.
As previously announced, Nero is the main protagonist in Devil May Cry 4, though looks can be deceiving. Nero looks just like his playable predecessor, and though no hints were given, it seems unlikely that such obvious similarities are mere coincidence. Nero's unique abilities give Devil May Cry 4 a slightly different feel than previous entries, and the demo level played like a tutorial of sorts, unlocking new moves and actions as it barreled toward the fiery boss battle.
With just his sword (the Red Queen) and a single firearm (the Blue Rose), Nero plays a bit differently from Dante, but his exposed right arm (the Devil Bringer) offers some additional possibilities. Shortly after beginning the mission, Dante entered a massive building, and after descending a heap of stairs, he located a glowing blue crystal. Encased within a human skull, the crystal disappears in his hand; its energy absorbed by Nero's arm. With his arm now carrying the mark of the crystal, Nero discovers a pair of new abilities — both of which will be used extensively throughout the rest of the demo (and assumedly, the game).
When standing atop a glowing blue crest, the player can hold R1 and press the Circle button to shoot Nero's arm outward toward the nearest Grim Grip, which allows Nero to traverse distances that he could not cross on foot. Think of it like a supernatural grappling hook, or a teleportation technique for short distances. During the demo, Nero must use the ability to cross from one dock to the next (over a pool of water), or from balcony to balcony as enemies riot on the street below. Additionally, the Devil Bringer gives Nero the ability to grab items that are slightly out of reach, such as orbs restrained behind metal grating.
The Devil Bringer also comes into play during battle sequences, where Nero can use the Snatch ability to grab a nearby enemy, either on the ground or in mid-air. This only increases the amount of combo possibilities held within the game, and other special attacks are quickly introduced. Nero's Streak attack allows him to charge forth and swat at any nearby enemies, while the High Roller move launches an unlucky enemy into the air. Nero can also charge up his EX Gauge (conveniently located next to his life bar) with the L2 button to unleash charged sword attacks, which cause him to glow red as he devastates all nearby demons.
As the level progresses, Nero exits the initial city setting and enters a riverside area, complete with docks and a massive drawbridge. To lower the bridge, Nero must battle his way through a nearby warehouse and head upstairs to the control panel. When he is unable to activate the bridge controls, he fires a round at the panel in frustration; sure enough, the bridge descends, and Nero moves to a vastly different area of the stage.
After ascending a snowy mountain path, Nero gazes upon a massive castle in the distance while standing upon a segment of a brick bridge that has been significantly ravaged by time. As he does so, a nearby pillar collapses, causing the bridge (and Nero along with it) to crash into the ground below. Though unhurt by the fall, Nero is quickly attacked by a pair of ice demons that rapidly shift in all directions around the battlefield. Nero must also move quickly, as standing in one place leaves him open to their devastating ice attacks.
Eventually, Nero stumbles upon a small, deserted town that looks like it came right out of a Western, though the large monument with the strange markings certainly can't be a good thing. Within seconds, a blazing portal opens up to reveal a monstrous behemoth with four legs, two arms, two horns, and a tail. Oh, and a sword that is several times longer than Nero is tall. The two trade verbal barbs, with the beast eventually revealing that he is Berial, the "conqueror of Fire Hell." Nero isn't terribly impressed, and as such, the battle begins.
When the developer fought the boss on the big screen, he was pulling off all sorts of aerial maneuvers and avoiding every attack as if he knew what was coming. Such was typically not the case when a journalist manned the demo unit, and while I had early success against Berial, he eventually got the best of me in the end. Though slow and predictable at first, his attacks grew both in frequency and intensity, and the brutal combination of inexperience and a meager life bar proved too much for young Nero.
Based on what was shown, Devil May Cry 4 does not stray too much from the established formula of its predecessors. The additional possibilities held within the Devil Bringer certainly add to the flexibility of the combat engine, but longtime fans need not worry — this is a familiar experience, through and through. Dante was not a playable character in the Gamers Day demo, but Kobayashi revealed that he will be able to switch between two play styles (Swordmaster and Gunslinger) at any time. A handful of brief clips demonstrated the on-the-fly style shifting, which was subtle, but quite noticeable considering the differences in weaponry.
The world of Devil May Cry 4 is quite beautiful, with expansive architecture and detailed environments that house some very sharply rendered characters. While it's clear that the game is not shooting for gritty realism, the end result is a title that should look rather spectacular in hi-def or on a beastly PC.
Though given only a taste of what the final experience will entail, I came away feeling pretty good about Devil May Cry 4. While unlikely to be a significant series refresher like Resident Evil 4, fans of the series can take heart in the probability that it stands little chance of being a repeat of the Devil May Cry 2 debacle. Feel free to start choosing sides over which console version will be best.
More articles about Devil May Cry 4