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Dante makes his PS3 and 360 debuts with the long anticipated Devil May Cry 4 - although you may have to wait patiently for his arrival...
- Satisfyingly intense action.
- Stunning cut-scene visuals and direction.
- Immense boss battles.
- Dante replaying Nero's levels.
- Devil Hunter slightly too easy for our liking.
- Dated puzzle designs.
Chronologically taking place between Devil May Cry 1 and the poorly received sequel, we have to tiptoe around the details due to a particularly stringent set of guidelines forbidding us to talk about anything related to the game's plot, certain bosses, and unlockable content. Still, we won't be throwing too many bolts from the blue by revealing that the game begins with the new protagonist Nero, only to switch half way through to the original demon slayer Dante.
Widely regarded as a classic in the action genre, Devil May Cry 4 follows an identical blueprint to previous titles in the series on the last generation. Providing action of the utmost intense degree, stunning cut-scenes and an iconic main character with dual pistols and a big sword (what's not to like?), the Devil May Cry series has duly become one of Capcom's most illustrious brands.
Whilst we'll stay clear of revealing how, why, and what Nero has to do with the DMC4 storyline (in fact we'll avoid it completely except to say it's good), it's fair to say that Capcom have avoided any disaster of Raiden-esque proportions, largely thanks to the pre-warning. The cocky and brash Nero stands on his own, albeit with an ego to match Dante's. Playing similarly to DMC's original (and still the best) protagonist, Nero is armed with the traditional gun/sword combo although he has the advantage of a particularly neat and versatile Devil Arm.
God Hand May Cry
We're not quite sure where Capcom's affinity for characters with powerful arms stems from, but in Shinji Mikami's swansong God Hand, Lost Planet: Extreme Conditions, the forthcoming return of Bionic Commando and now Nero's Devil Arm, it seems one or two people at the House of Ryu like to bestow godly powers in the main character's primary appendage. Fortunately it adds something distinctive to Nero's repertoire and becomes the primary focus for his combat style. Throwing demons around the screen, delivering a rapid combo of punches or pulling them back to carry on the combo, it's only when play switches over to Dante that the individuality of Nero's style becomes apparent. The new upstart also packs a punch with the Exceed system. Essentially the Red Queen is a sword with a throttle, allowing you to charge up Nero's attacks by revving the sword with a shoulder trigger. The technique brings a further layer of upgrades to existing moves and is vital in a number of the game's tougher sequences. Conversely, Nero feels familiar enough (and certainly looks the piece) to ensure hardcore DMC fans won't feel alienated by his inclusion, as far as we're concerned it's thumbs up across the board for Nero's introduction.
Despite the change, the setup remains the same with plenty of sword-slashing, gun-toting action in the traditional sense of the word. In classic style, DMC4 is primarily about playing through to the next stunningly directed cut-scene and monumental boss encounter. We've lost count of the number of such set-pieces woven into DMC4's 20 chapters, suffice to say there's plenty of them, and it's these along with the engrossing storyline that provides the main drive behind DMC4.
From the first boss battle against Berial (playable in the demo) through to the final encounter, DMC4 boss battles hark back to an older time when games were all about the end of level battles. Only this time around Capcom have utilised the power of the Xbox 360, PlayStation3 and PC to bring boss battles on a level of intensity rarely seen before. Many of the bosses require working out their strategy and weak points, although you'll probably spend the first time staring slack-jawed in wonder.
As with previous DMC titles there's plenty of cordoned off areas that challenge you to defeat all the demons before the gates unlock, and the occasional cryptic Capcom puzzle to solve, but these are very much the padding before the next major event. Puzzles follow a similar line to Resident Evil/Devil May Cry, often to the point of requiring a healthy scream at the screen whilst running around in circles (metaphorically in the game that is). There's little noteworthy in this area, nothing comes close to the quality set by the God of War series, however DMC fans would likely argue that it's never been about the puzzles. As always, it's all about the combat and action, which is played at a frenetic pace throughout and continuously reaches the high standards set by the series. Helped in no small part by the virtual non-existence of loading sequences on either format (after a 25 minute *install* on the PS3), the rapid tempo serves as a very compulsive glue to the pad.
Devils Never Cry (well nearly)Halfway through the gameplay switches over to Dante, back to his best with his indifferent swagger and the one-liners. Although Nero fits the bill in many ways, it feels comforting to take control of the original Demon Slayer - what's a Devil May Cry without Dante? Armed with the trusty Ebony and Ivory, Dante restates his claim as the most assured game character in town. Following the release of Devil May Cry 3, Dante's various different styles make a welcome return, switching between Gunslinger, Sword Master, Trickster, and Royal Guard to take advantage of extra moves that pack a stronger punch and a slither of extra strategy to the arm wrenching action.
Whilst Dante's stylish appearance aptly satisfies cravings for his debut on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3, there's one thing that is feebly disappointing. In a similar criticism to DMC2, Dante's sequences during the second half rehash many of Nero's stages; it's almost played out as though Dante's clearing up unfinished mess that Nero left behind the first time around - even so far as fighting the same bosses. Unfortunately, whilst these sequences continue the high levels of action and intensity, Dante undeniably plays second fiddle to Nero throughout.
The relative ease of DMC4 is also quite concerning. Offering Human and Devil Hunter difficulty options at the start of the game, the latter fails to provide the challenge that long-term DMC fans will likely crave for on their first time through. At the risk of incurring Capcom's wrath, harder difficulty modes are unlocked at the end, but it seems the issue of pleasing hardcore fanatics and newcomers alike has swayed a little too far for TVG's liking.
If Capcom do wish to widen the DMC demographic then the insistence on clouds of confusion has to change. In true DMC/Resident Evil tradition, aimlessly wandering around is a frequently occurring event. Getting lost appears to be part of the Capcom challenge and in the case of DMC4, there's no hint to the goal beyond a rudimentary map. It makes getting back into DMC4 harder then it should be after a few days of not playing, especially trying to pick up a save game mid-mission.
Finally, whilst the game's boss battles are undeniably the highlight of the game, we were a little surprised by emerging victorious in one particular fight simply by using the same technique repeatedly. That said, it shouldn't detract too far as many of the game's boss sequences are nothing short of stunning and require fast reflexes and a certain degree of strategy.