It's funny to think that a glitch in a Resident Evil game that was very early in development was responsible for Devil May Cry. It was a glitch that allowed the player to juggle their opponent in mid-air with a gun. That Resident Evil game would be scrapped and turned into Devil May Cry, instead.
When it comes down to fast-paced action, Devil May Cry is arguably the pioneer of the sub-genre, and shares pinnacle status with the likes of Sony's God of War and Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden franchise. Thanks to the PlayStation 2, Devil May Cry has quickly risen to all-stardom, despite a shortcoming with the sequel. Devil May Cry 3, and especially its special edition re-release, is widely regarded as one of the finest action games of the past generation. Now, we're in an all new generation, and having endured a grueling three year wait for the fourth Devil May Cry, it relieves me to say that it's finally here and boy does it deliver.
We've played Devil May Cry 4 in the past, and back when the game wasn't complete, we just knew that it would end up being spectacular. Fast forward to today, and all of the pieces have fallen into place, as everything about Devil May Cry 4 is, indeed, as we had predicted: spectacular. First, there are the controls, which remain extremely tight, barring a few minor quirks, which I'll get to later. My immediate thought when beginning the game was "Oh my God, the controls are so tight." Now, don't ask me why I was so surprised, because much of that precision can be found in the PlayStation 2's DMC3. Though DMC4 does feel somewhat tighter and responsive…then again, it could be in my head.
Perhaps it was the shock of finally playing a game that's been on the minds of many gamers all around the world for nearly three years now. Still, the point stands, the controls are extremely well done, as you'd expect, and the use of Nero's Devil Bringer is just awesome. Nero, if you recall, is the game's main protagonist. But don't worry, because this is nothing like the Raiden & Solid Snake switcheroo from Metal Gear Solid 2; Nero is just as badass (if not more so), moves, and even looks like Dante. But in my humble opinion, Nero may be the better character between the two, as his Devil Bringer arm is just too much fun.
Again, the difference between Nero and Dante is that Nero doesn't dual wield guns, he can use one gun (the Blue Rose, a double shot revolver), and the other hand is the Devil Bringer, a fully functional third attack. The Devil Bringer is primarily a melee attack, but does have longer-range capabilities such as grabbing an enemy and pulling him towards you (think Scorpion of Mortal Kombat). This adds quite a lot to the gameplay and how you engage your enemies, as it'll allow for more combos and chains, in addition to grapples and throws. Additionally, the Devil Bringer can be used as a grappling hook, of sorts, that can extend out to certain targets and carry Nero across large gaps, or even help him scale upwards.
The Devil Bringer has the ability to grab an enemy various ways, all depending on the enemy you're fighting. For example, regular Scarecrow demons will get crushed into the ground with the arm. Where as Frosts will be swung around, and hurled away violently. What's also neat about the throwing is that you can damage other enemies with it if you hurl the demon at them. Additionally, grabbing the floating demon Mephisto will reveal its true form as a, rather small, insect-like creature. And attacking a White Knight with the arm will make Nero stab the enemy violently with his own weapon.
The Devil Bringer is a core component of the game and will also become very useful during boss fights, as it'll grant Nero height leverage and allow him to attack the more towering and gigantic bosses with ease. It even possesses the power to slam a boss around when it's weak, similar to Kratos in God of War- minus the button-tapping mini-game. Though, don't get the wrong idea, because ultimately, the sword (Red Queen) will still be the primary weapon of choice when you need to slay the demons of hell. It's just that now you've got an extra component to make doing all of that much more fun.
Naturally, as you progress, you get to upgrade Nero, and that's including the Devil Bringer. But to upgrade your attacks, you no longer use red orbs – you now use Pride Souls, which you'll accumulate at the end of every mission. On the other hand, buying items is still is still done using red orbs. One of my complaints about Devil May Cry 4 is the fact that Nero doesn't pick-up any new weapons throughout the game, with the exception of one, but it can only be used in Devil mode. So, unlike past DMC games, you can't switch to a shotgun or swap out for another sword, instead it is your Devil Bringer that absorbs power after boss fights, providing you with necessary abilities to keep progressing. One other ability the Devil Bringer has alerts you of nearby treasure or a secret, such as a secret mission. When your arm emanates a glow and makes a sound, that means you're around something hidden – continue playing hot or cold, and you'll stumble upon it.
Furthermore, if Dante really does mean that much to you, you do get to control him a number of times throughout the game, without having to unlock him or anything like that. So Dante is not a secret character in DMC4. In fact, as you make your way through certain missions, you'll come across certain parts that are locked off specifically for Dante's use.
I must also mention that down the line DMC4 breaks free the from the series' traditional gothic settings, as you'll find yourself in a rather green environment. Without spoiling it, let's just say that Nero enters some rather 'Uncharted' territory. The game progression is still very much linear, much like the past games, but not to the point where it holds you by the hand. You'll still have to run around and solve puzzles, but some locales may get a bit confusing with the amount of doors present, and the backtracking should be done away with. Nevertheless, progressing in DMC4 doesn't often feel daunting, and you'll even be rewarded with accomplishments (Sony's version of 'achievements') as you complete certain tasks.
Weirdly enough, the game's story is drawing me in quite a bit, more so than any DMC game in the past. Despite being a newcomer, Nero is quite a solid character, and being so unsure of Dante's unusual actions makes everything all the more engaging. The more you continue, the more plot twists begin to unravel, and suddenly you find yourself attached to a story in Devil May Cry…unusual, I know, but it's happening to me.
Visually, while the graphics of the past DMC games weren't always drop-dead gorgeous, they were pleasing to look at, and the amazing animation and glorious 60 frames per second sure did help. Well, the character animation has been reworked for DMC4, and the flawless framerate remains. Nero was motion-captured by Johnny Yong Bosch, and you may recall him as the Black Power Ranger many years ago. Don't scoff, because Bosch is actually a talented martial-artist, and quite the stuntman. Thankfully, all of that talent makes Devil May Cry 4 feature some of the smoothest animations this generation has seen. What's more, DMC4 also features some really slick lighting, with vivid shadows casting on the ground.
Then, we get to look at superb textures, such as those found on many of the game's characters clothing and a ridiculously clean picture that is free of aliasing defects, all wrapped into one polished HD image. Not everything is perfect though, as there is a sloppy texture here and there, and I have seen the framerate take a dip (never during action, though). Moreover, the lack of a 1080i or 1080p option stings a bit. On top of that, as I mentioned earlier on, the controls have a few quirks, and that's largely due to the sudden camera-angle changes – an issue the game has struggled with since day one.
But, make no mistakes about it, Devil May Cry 4 looks absolutely stunning with its blend of solid lighting, incredible animation, gothic details, as well as explosive special effects. The scenery is nothing short of striking, and the fact that there isn't a single jagged edge to be found makes my eyes water from joy.
As far as audio goes, Devil May Cry 4 continues to feature cheesy one-liners, as well as dialogue that could only be from an 80s action flick. For what it is, the voice acting is actually rather solid and Bosch does a great job as Nero. The voices of the gigantic bosses continue to be largely demonic in tone, with the exception of a few, so not much has changed there. The sound effects don't sound much different than what we've heard before, but that's not much of a surprise. What I do wish would change is the soundtrack. I'm rather tired of hearing the same song, and its terrible lyrics, over and over again in the game. In fact, I'm tired of the goth-metal sound altogether – I've heard it in the past three DMC games; Capcom needs to do something new for the next one. And don't get me wrong, I listen to more than my fair share of metal…it's just that Capcom's not terribly good at the genre.
At the end of the day, and at the end of the three year wait, it's nice to say that Devil May Cry 4 plays exceptionally well. It may not be revolutionary, but it sure won't leave you bored. If anything, Devil May Cry 4 is perhaps even more addictive than the last, thanks to a rather enjoyable, well-done story. More importantly, it's hard not to love the game, as everything about it is just so meticulously well crafted, from the fighting, to the controls, down to even the visuals. A game of Devil May Cry 4's caliber is arguably the best way to kick off an all new year. I highly encourage all PlayStation 3 owners to immediately run to your nearest game retailer and get yourself a copy of Devil May Cry 4 – I promise you will not be disappointed.