Considered by many to be one of the best games on the PS2, even now, Capcom’s Devil May Cry introduced us to Dante, the half-human, half-demon, sword and gun wielding monster hunter. A mix of Resident Evil and old school beat ‘em up, it set the action adventure bar just that little bit higher. A little too high, sadly, for its own sequel, DMC 2, which paled in comparison to its predecessor. Thankfully, DMC 3 brought the franchise back to life, and was, in the eyes of many, the best entry in the series. So, now we’ve all got the next-gen bug, can this veteran series hack it with the new kids on the block?
As this is a 360 title, it goes without saying that the first improvement you’ll notice with this debut Microsoft outing lies with the visuals – they’re great. This is one good looking title, with wonderfully crisp, high-res graphics, smooth as silk animation and some of the most impressive bosses this side of Ninja Gaiden, or, dare I say it, God of War on the PS2. What’s more, the game constantly runs at a faultless 60fps, even with veritable armies assaulting you, or screen-filling bosses tearing up the landscape. Cut scenes also carry on the trend, even more so, which is no surprise as Capcom has always had great talent when it comes to setting the scene.
Get past the sumptuous visuals and you’ll get into the game proper, and fans of the series face the first major change – you don’t play as Dante, well, not at first anyway. For the majority of the game you’ll play as the new wise-cracking, hard as nails upstart, Nero, who uncannily looks just like Dante, only with a hoodie. Nero has an unfeasibly large sword and a gun, and moves and fights much like Dante himself, albeit without Dante’s various ‘styles’. Nero does, however, have another trick up his sleeve, literally. His right arm is actually a demonic appendage capable of grabbing enemies from a distance, working as a grappling hook to carry Nero to otherwise impossible to reach areas, and it’s more than useful in a fight too. Nero’s sword also has a nifty ‘fuel injection’ system. Nero twists the handle like a motorbike’s throttle and revs the sword up. By doing this, you can fill the charge meter up to three times, greatly enhancing the weapon’s power and effectiveness for a brief time. Later in the game, you’ll get a chance to step back into the shoes of Dante, and fans will be in familiar territory, as he brings with him all of his abilities and most of his weapons. He’s also better at long range combat as he fights with his dual pistols (Nero fights with a single sidearm).
DMC 4 plays and feels almost identical to DMC 3, and given the quality of the previous title, this is no bad thing. Controls are fast and fluid, even in the most hectic battles, and despite there being plenty of combos to learn, it’s not hard to chop enemies into sushi with style. And, unlike DMC 3, which forced you to choose weapons before getting into the action, you can switch between all weapons (and Dante’s styles) at will. As ever, for killing foes you’ll acquire red orbs, with which you can buy items. But, this time, you can’t spend these on abilities. Instead you’re awarded ‘Proud Souls’ upon completing a level, and get more the higher your rank. These are then used to buy abilities and other power ups.
As this is a Capcom action title, you can expect the usual range of puzzles, many of which involve slapping around spinning top-like statues, or acquiring the needed power to bypass an environmental hazard. In any other game, these fairly weak puzzle elements may grate, but DMC has always been about hardcore combat, and that’s what matters. Luckily then, DMC 4 has this in spades, and although nowhere near as challenging as the often amazingly hard DMC 3, it’s still a fairly tough game at times, at least on the higher difficulty.
Devil May Cry 4 is an odd game to review in some ways. There’s no escaping that this is in no way a revelation, and could very easily have been done on a previous generation console. Yes, it looks great graphically, and the game itself is rock solid quality-wise, but as far as actual next-gen content goes, there isn’t any really. The gameplay is practically identical to previous instalments, and even the two main characters are almost carbon copies. But, despite this, I just can’t help but love it. It’s fast, furious and just downright mindless fun. And after playing endless real-world military sims, hacking demons into little pieces makes for a very nice diversion. Just let’s hope Capcom manage a better harvest from the idea crop next time, as the upcoming Ninja Gaiden II will undoubtedly give Dante and Co. a real run for their money.