Devil May Cry's existence is borne of a glitch. The first attempt at Resident Evil 4 (long before the critically acclaimed GameCube classic we now know) had a physics bug that often caused enemies to fly into the air. That beta ended up being scrapped, but the concept was just too cool and mutated into Devil May Cry, an epic of the earlier years of the PlayStation 2. Then came Devil May Cry 3. They skipped 2. Or at least, you should skip 2. Devil May Cry 3 kept the action up and reminded people that ludicrously over-the-top combat is just plain fun and doesn't need to be perfect.
Capcom decided to spend time on the next DMC game to perfect it. Initially expected as a high-profile PlayStation 3 exclusive, Devil May Cry 4 instead became one of many, many coups for multiplatform gaming that has strengthened the Xbox 360 ... and it was beautiful on both systems. Having toyed with the game on the PlayStation 3 on a 50" HDTV, I didn't expect the PC port to look nearly as good. If you turn down the quality to bring the accessibility up and sell to the most people. Let's just say that I was dead wrong on the first account and beautifully right on the second.
As the screenshots of the performance test will attest, my computer is nice, but not exactly top of the line. It runs World of Warcraft well, and at least moderate settings on almost anything I care to toss onto it, but that's about it. Now, go look at the screenshots from the performance test, running at a resolution comparable to the PS3 version on the HDTV, and the settings all set to about the same level, but showing even more detail in my experience. The results can be pretty much summarized as a firm point that, when it comes to showcasing the latest in games, anything consoles do, PCs do better.
Wow, it feels kind of trippy to actually gush over graphical experiences because I could usually care less about that sort of thing. Fortunately, the gameplay holds up really well too, turning Devil May Cry 4 from a mere showcase into something exceptionally above par on almost every front.
The game's story line starts off with a surprise. As the cut scene begins, an unfamiliar woman sings in a church. And who is this kid who's beating up the group of demons outside? It sure doesn't look like the hero of the last two games. For one thing, I don't think Dante could make headphones and an arm cast look cool like this new guy does. Then this new guy, Nero, slips into the church, listening to music on his headphones as the minister inevitably preaches about Sparda, the father of previous lead Dante, who saved humanity 2,000 years ago. While one might wonder if Sparda would really appreciate worship from a large number of humans, his son most certainly doesn't, casually killing the minister and several of the church's elite guards, whose faces look rather inhuman, at a second glance. You're fighting Dante as Devil May Cry 4 kicks into its tutorial.
The plot starts off a tad confusing but eventually pieces itself together. However, now that the hero of the last three games is out to kick your butt, it's time to put your hands to the keyboard ... and then decide you're hooking in a gamepad. If you happen to use the Xbox 360 gamepad, DMC4 will have already configured itself to control identically to the Xbox 360 version, allowing you to quickly start with the basics, much as they were in the previous games: shoot, jump, roll, attack with a few different sword combos, and grab with a giant blue demonic claw to slam your enemy into the ground. Oh, that last one's new, and it's really nice.
If you shoot when you're not told to, your opponent responds by quickly pulling out his guns and shooting your bullets out of the air. When you manage to slam your sword through him and nail him to a statue, he yanks himself — sword and all — out of the statue, jumps down, and pulls the sword out … while he's still talking to you. (The only graphical flaw that I noticed was neither character's implausibly cool clothes seem to take damage or get bloodstained from all of this.) It is around this point that one word pops into most people's heads: awesome. (If you've used a lot of imageboards, that word would be "epic.")
By the way, the controls are silky-smooth, letting you almost casually segue from attack to attack, building up the game's trademark combo rating gauge into the stratosphere faster than ever before. If an enemy out of reach of your sword, shoot him until you're a little closer, and then use that grapple to pull him in close and lay down the beatdown. If several enemies are in a tight circle, slam one into the ground to buy yourself a second and get your ducks in a row. If you need a great way to start your attacks, rev up the motorcycle engine that is in your sword to charge up a super-powerful first attack. Anything the game throws at you, you can counter with more than a little thought.
Notably, DMC4's focus has changed a little. Rather than having you unlock new weapons over time, the title presents you with most of your arsenal before the tutorial is over, with only a couple of new weapons showing up in the latter half of the game. You can purchase new moves and add more detailed options on top of a solid list of existing techniques, but that is really about it. Fortunately, the move list is extensive enough that most people are not likely to notice that you don't have that shotgun anymore.
As play progresses, the title ultimately goes to the same norms that the (good) prequels had: make the combat fast and humorously stylish, turn that up to approximately 13 on a scale of 10 in the cut scenes, and leave the mystery open and shut at the end to complete the ride. When the player is done, he has the chance to do it again at several higher difficulty levels, including the PC-specific Legendary Dark Knight mode, and the ludicrous Heaven or Hell mode, where everything dies in one hit, including you. The PC also offers a new Turbo mode, where the speed is turned up to paces well beyond most human beings' ability to handle.
Unfortunately, there is a little bit of bad news in that the PC version pretty much mandates having a controller. I had good success using a converter for a PlayStation 2 controller, but ultimately went to the Xbox 360 controller and don't regret the choice. Those expecting a keyboard-and-mouse scheme that could somehow handle the combat style of DMC4 will be sorely disappointed. Further, the gameplay is brilliant and smooth, but, as always, the game really likes to break things up with unnecessary and rather annoying puzzles. At least once, this gets played for laughs, as Nero simply punches a control panel to force it to work.
Overall, the magic is back, and the new hero doesn't detract from things in the slightest.Devil May Cry 4 is a great capstone to the trilogy, and the PC port takes exceptional advantage of the graphical potential of many gamers' PCs, while leaving the top-notch console gameplay untouched. It's unfortunate that the game doesn't appear to have sold so well because the PC version easily one-ups the console iterations if your PC can handle it, and it doesn't necessarily have to be extremely top-notch. Notice that all of the screenshots here were taken on DirectX 9, and realize that Capcom did an incredible job, one that deserves the attention of more gamers.
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