The first three Devil May Cry games sparked a variety of feedback from PlayStation 2 owners everywhere. The original game introduced a dark, gothic, third-person action game with a pretty dynamic playable character, Dante. Son of the powerful Lord Sparda, he traversed the game using his choice of guns or swords to slice right through his demonic enemies.
While the original game was a major step forward in gaming, Devil May Cry 2 was seen by many as a large leap backward; it played quite similar to the first, while removing all of the features that made the original game fun. Having possibly scarred an amazing possibility for a franchise, Capcom struck back with Devil May Cry 3, showing us the series still had the potential to be what we wanted it to be. The game served as a prequel to the original Devil May Cry and brought back all of the fun features of the original, while adding a few new ones.
Marking the series' debut on next-gen systems, Devil May Cry 4 is set between the original Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 2. While this may seem like a confusing way of doing a sequel, it does a good job of filling in the confusing plot holes between the two games.
Devil May Cry 4 starts with a beautiful cinematic showing a character who resembles Dante rushing through city streets and battling demons. It turns out that he's our playable character, Nero, and he's running late for a meeting of the Order of the Sword, a group that worships Lord Sparda and prays demons will never return to their plane.
A bit into the meeting, Nero grows quite weary of the sermon and opts to leave, but the bracelet on his right arm glows to alert him of danger nearby. Suddenly, Dante crashes through the windows of the church, kills the leader of the Order of Swords, and proceeds to annihilate the guards in pretty brutal ways. Nero battles Dante, thus awakening the power of his bracelet, the Devil Bringer. After quite a long bout, Dante flees the church, but not before pointing out to Nero that the dead guards were no longer human.
This initial game segment is half intense cinematic and half tutorial. While Dante and Nero battle with guns and swords, the game will teach you how to attack using each and then lets you try out what you just learned. It's a pretty intelligent way of setting up a tutorial, and not only did I find it an easy way to pick up the controls, but I also found myself enjoying the intro.
Like previous Devil May Crygames, DMC4 uses a mission-style structure system. The game is comprised of 20 missions, each focusing on a different part of story line and entailing separate objectives and monsters to fight. At the end of the mission, you are graded on your performance based on damage received, items used, red orbs gathered, time taken and the amount of accumulated style points.
Red orbs are left behind after you destroy demons or demolish certain destructible elements within the game; they can be used to purchase items and upgrades to your character, while proud souls, a new "currency," let you buy new abilities.
As you pull off great combinations and deal massive amounts of damage, you'll notice an increase to your style meter. As you increase your style meter, you'll receive points every time you deal damage, and at the end of each mission, it will reflect the number of proud souls you receive. Taking damage or being hit will reset your style streak, and you'll go back to the lowest grade and receive minimal style points.
Accessing shops throughout and between missions allows you to upgrade your weapons and your character's health, speed, and various attacks and combos. As you purchase skills, the rest of your skills will also increase, but an addition to DMC4 allows you to sell back purchased skills and upgrades so you can spend your proud souls on other abilities.
About a quarter of the way into the game, the Devil Trigger ability is unlocked. It's essentially a super version of your character that allows him to become more powerful at the expense of slowing health regeneration. Unlocking this ability gives you a new meter, the Devil Trigger gauge, which fills up by dealing or receiving damage, as well as through the use of certain items.
DMC4 presents the player with two different playable characters for the first time in Devil May Cry history. While most of the game is played as Nero, seven of the 20 missions are played as Dante. Each character has his own somewhat unique style of gameplay, providing an all new source of excitement.
Nero uses his personal sword, The Red Queen, which has an engine that you can "rev" by pressing the shoulder button multiple times. Doing so will increase the amount of damage of your subsequent attacks, although you'll be more vulnerable to attacks while you're actually powering up the weapon. Nero also uses his personal revolver, the Blue Rose, as well as his Devil Bringer bracelet. The latter lets him toss around enemies as he wishes, gives him an enormous burst of strength, stops even the fiercest of attacks, grabs enemies and drags them toward him, or can be used to lunge at foes.
Dante has access to multiple melee and weapons, which can be obtained via boss battles. He also starts with four styles — Gunslinger, Royal Guard, Sword Master and Trickster — that are easily accessible using a corresponding direction on the d-pad. Near the end of the Dante segments, you unlock his Dark Slayer style, a stronger mixture of all styles, which is unlocked by double-tapping any direction on the d-pad.
DMC4 includes many types of monsters from the basic bread-and-butter lesser demons that can just be slashed away, to the large armored knight units that take massive damage by being impaled with their own jousting swords. Each enemy has different strengths and weaknesses, which creates the need to plan your actions in a fast-paced, action-packed environment.
If the unique monster battles aren't enough for you, the bosses are simply amazing. From a large fire-engulfed demon to a giant frog-like creature, each boss also requires a well-crafted and executed strategy. During boss fights, you may also encounter the chance to pull off deadly attacks using your Devil Bringer. For example, attacking Bael, the frog-like boss, will cause him to be somewhat dazed, at which point you can grab his tongue, jump into his mouth and start slashing away. If that's not enough for you, you can rip out his tongue through the top of his head. Yes, you can.
Visually, DMC4 is about as appealing as it gets. Cinematics resemble very well-done CGI movies such as Final Fantasy: Advent Children, with crisp visuals and dynamic action. The game looks great, boasting beautiful landscapes throughout the city and Fortuna Castle, where a majority of the game takes place. The combat animations also flow unbelievably well, adding a certain realism to taking out your foes.
It wouldn't be a Devil May Cry game without an action-packed heavy rock soundtrack, and DMC4 certainly delivers. The head-banging is sure to ensue as you slice those demons in half, and you may find yourself looking forward to finding some demons to beat up just so you can hear the intense battle music.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to play DMC4 on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms, and I only found a couple of noticeable differences between them. Due to the fact that not all Xbox 360s come with a hard drive, the game does not install game data files onto your system's hard drive, while the PS3 version does. This may not seem like an important matter, but the PS3 version has no load times while the Xbox 360 version takes upwards of 10 seconds to load each stage. The only other problem I had with the Xbox 360 version had to do with the control format. Locking onto a target requires you to hold down the right bumper, which doesn't feel right. The right bumper typically acts as a button to be pressed or clicked once, so it wasn't comfortable at all to hold it down while pressing other buttons to dish out attacks and moving around with the left thumbstick.
As the fourth game in the Devil May Cry series and the first on a next-generation system, Devil May Cry 4 certainly succeeds and pushes the franchise forward. Anyone with an Xbox 360 or PS3 should pick up this amazing-looking, action-packed demon-slaying game. The title has an interesting story and an unbelievable ending, although a couple of new questions are raised when you complete the game, but that's what makes it Devil May Cry, right?
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