There’s a parallel between the consistent style of DMC 4 from its predecessors and the similarities between this game’s main two characters. Is it coincidence DMC 4 plays much the same as those that have come before it and that both Dante and up and comer, Nero, look almost identical? Or is it something of a tongue-in-cheek joke? Maybe it’s a changing of the guard, after all, Nero is the new kid on the block, the younger protagonist, and despite looking
a lot like the former series hero, he has more than enough to differentiate himself. So perhaps it’s a not so subtle way for Capcom and series producer, Kobayashi, to say ‘it might look
the same, but deep beneath its surface, this new, more youthful Devil May Cry is actually really quite different’.
I’ll take a little from all columns actually.
The latter statement is the truest though. Devil May Cry 4 looks identical to its predecessors (barring the updated visuals thanks to the power of the PS3 and Xbox 360), but actually goes above and beyond to open
the series up. This is the fourth instalment after all, Capcom need to ensure its not simply landing in the laps of the truly hardcore. That’s why DMC 4 offers some seriously mainstream
options and an all-new protagonist; if you’re new to the series, well, so is the game’s main character. So much so you can even divulge in a tutorial – something almost inconceivable for the DMC namesake. Yet there it is, right from the outset. Equally, management of Nero can be completely automated for those not sure how the Orb purchasing system works, meaning all you newcomers need to do is either mash your way through the game, or take the baby steps required to embrace this series and become a 733t
For anyone paying attention to the series, in terms of story and overall narrative, DMC 4 is actually the sequel to the original title. The game begins with original hero, Dante, bursting into the religious group, The Order of the Sword, and killing their leader. Everyone is evacuated, but hip young newcomer Nero has other plans for the religious attacker.
It’s the aforementioned style in the action sense that ultimately drives this vehicle though, and once you get the hang of combos and gaining a rank through stylish play you’ll see the fruits of Capcom’s DMC labour. The system feels more balanced here thanks to Nero’s abilities and weapons.
He has his Blue Rose gun, which, while not as powerful as Dante’s pistol, goes a long way in helping with multiple enemy juggling, or keeping someone at arm’s reach. Speaking of which, arm’s reach is the biggest change to the game, with Nero’s powerful Devil Bringer arm which basically acts as a grappling hook. You’ll be able to grab enemies from across the battle area and pull them into you, or pick them up and launch them into the air on the spot only to slam them mercilessly into the ground below. He also has his Red Queen sword which can be powered up by revving the motorbike-like accelerator handle.
The game uses a mix of exploration, puzzle-solving, action and boss battles to flesh itself out. Unfortunately the only meat comes in the form of battles. Exploration is a fairly confined experience and the shifting camera angles (which are not at all intuitive in the control sense) don’t help in this. Moreover, the same-old locked doors until the enemy threat is cleared gameplay style has maintained but now only feels archaic. Puzzles on the other hand are just plain insulting. There’s nothing cerebral about anything you need to do in DMC 4 as a majority of the time you simply need a new ability to move on, or bring this item here, push that one there and so on.
Boss battles are pretty epic though, and in typical Capcom style, are completely off the charts in terms of size and intensity. The first boss you come across is a hulking four-legged demon and from here on out the boss encounters never let up. They all have a part to play in the game’s overall story as well, which sees our young hero gradually realising there’s more to him than meets the eye. It’s a bit cheesy, but I won’t spoil it for the seasoned DMC fans out there – suffice to say this is 100% Capcom narrative, through and through.
Progression of the game is broken up into Missions which can be revisited at any time. Typical of the series, you’ll gain a rank and score at the end of each and online leaderboards should keep the veterans happy. You’ll also unlock a number of different difficulty modes once you play through and within each Mission you’ll find a side-mission access point that will whisk you into a battle situation with a specific rule-set (for example, defeat every enemy in an area within the allotted time limit without
touching the ground, etc). All of this means that hardcore players will have plenty to come back for, while the main game won’t intimidate newcomers with ridiculous requirements and difficulty levels forced upon them from the word ‘go’.
Visually there’s very little difference between the PS3 version of the game and the 360. I felt the 360 looked better, but it’s really just a matter of preference. Obviously this is the best the series has ever looked, but that’s not saying too much still. The backgrounds and art direction are more than passable, but reek of early Capcom design. When you look at the visual progression they made in the Resident Evil series with Resident Evil 4, you can’t help but wish there was more to interact with here in Devil May Cry 4.
For the most part it’s fairly bland and the environments are all fairly barren with very little to do but run through them. It’s really only in the boss battle moments the environments become a part of the game, but these are few and far enough that it becomes a note of inconsistency.
Aurally DMC 4 is exactly
what you should be expecting. Cheesy dialogue, industrial nu-metal fight music and not much else in between make for a pretty scarce and boring listening experience. You can’t help but feel a little ripped off and given you’ll spend more time fighting in the game than anything else, you’ll never want to listen to this sort of music ever again (though why you would in the first place is beyond me, but to each their own).
Devil May Cry 4 is definitely worthy of its place in the series and is far better than the atrocious DMC 3, but it does very little to propel the idea further. Instead of reshaping the experience, Capcom have simply opted for a more broad approach in an attempt to invite newcomers into Dante and Nero’s world. It’s definitely a fun romp, but doesn’t change the genre in the same way God of War I&II did, and ultimately those are better games even now. Hopefully we’ll see a serious shift in the DMC design ethos in the future, but for now, Devil May Cry 4 stands as an enjoyable button masher for newcomers and a place-holder for fans of the franchise.