It was around three years ago that Devil May Cry 3 arrived on the PS2. Wrapped up in a beautifully gothic aesthetic, it offered one of the most stylistic third-person shoot-‘em-ups imaginable. Not only did it look brilliant, it also made you feel pretty awesome by allowing you to easily string together combos and fill the screen with your carnage. I’m pretty certain the sale of red trench coats would have been given a great push too, thanks to the main hero’s choice of attire. The problem with the third title, though, was that it was incredibly frustrating at times. You would either bash your controller against your forehead trying to beat an insanely difficult bad guy or just run around aimlessly wondering what the hell to do next.
Since then there has been plenty going on in the world of gaming. Sony’s massive success with the God of War franchise, a game that shares plenty of similarities to Devil May Cry, must have got Capcom thinking – not to mention the next-generation technology consoles it had to play around with. The end result is an impressive follow-up to the third title with a mix that will keep original fans happy and encourage new players.
The game opens up with our original protagonist Dante, who is probably the most arrogant, self-obsessed pretty-boy hero in gaming, history storming into a sinister looking Church. Anyone who has witnessed a Devil May Cry game will realise how potentially awesome this could look. The art direction in these games would make even a full-blooded emo smile. Shards of light cutting in through from the windows, shadows creeping around from the simplest of objects, blood red smatterings of colour scattered throughout, and realistic clothing and hair detail give an enormous amount of atmosphere to the game. It could be described as Final Fantasy meets Illicit Clothing.
But Dante isn’t actually the main character this time around. For most of the first half of the game you play as Nero, a character who initially despises Dante. (Perhaps it’s because they fight over the same wardrobe.) The model designers must have been having creative difficulties when making this game as both Nero and Dante look almost identical. It’s a shame that the protagonist isn’t completely different in appearance, but there is a good reason why they don’t. Personally, however, I think it’s because the lads in the 3D department all clustered around to make Gloria, the gorgeous, well-endowed female character with little clothing – and for that I’m quite grateful.
Once the game is in full swing, Devil May Cry 4 is a joy to play. Anyone who has played a game in this series before will know that they are more like visual spectacles that you are lucky enough to participate it. Perfectly rendered cutscenes play out like extravagant soap operas with more over-the-top personalities than an episode of America’s Next Top Model. Even after the cutscenes the game is a cinematic experience with swooping camera angles and amazing animations from your lead characters. The combat engine has been tweaked slightly, but those who have played God of War or the previous Devil May Cry titles will know the drill. Every enemy you come across can be brutally taken care of by pressing one of the three attack buttons and there are dozens of different combinations to string together. Adding to this is the huge array of weapons ranging from swords and guns as big as your momma through to demonic magical items. For example, Nero has a cursed arm known as the Devil Bringer which allows him to grab enemies from afar and either pull them in or smash them into the ground. Another weapon is just known as Lucifer, and it completely obliterates your foes with red sabres that fly around everywhere making the screen look like a bloody Christmas. Despite how impressive they look, these moves are fairly simple to execute and the controls are extremely fluid. However, with practice and skill players can easily hone in on these combos to make them even more effective. It’s a brilliant mix of gameplay that is easy to pick up and play and gameplay that will keep hardcore gamers happy.
Learning from the tortured cries of past gamers playing Devil May Cry 3, Capcom has made the difficulty settings in this latest instalment more balanced. Straight away you are given the choice of two difficulties: “Human” and “Devil Hunter”, and for the first time ever you even have the option of playing a tutorial to start with! Other additions have made this game more accessible, including the automatic skill-up or upgrade option to save you having to ponder over which abilities to tweak. Eventually, you will start to see how your performance changes in the game and you can then go back and change your attributes. For example, if you have banana hands and like to smash buttons randomly for combos then you can select the best moves for simple combinations. But if you prefer to be like a ninja, you can select more complex sequences for nimble fingers.
Unfortunately, this game does have to be taken down a few pegs though. Although the cutscenes and even character animations are near perfect, some of the background graphics are a bit rough. Some of the levels take place in castle hallways or out in the countryside and you still can’t help but notice some repetitive background scenery. Some of the lighting and shadows are a bit dodgey as well. It’s a shame as the foreground graphics are simply amazing to watch but as soon as you notice the faults, the game becomes that little bit less special.
This repetition flows through to some of the boss battles as well. Despite each one being wildly imaginative and spectacular to behold, you have to defeat them all twice: once as Nero and then a second time as Dante! Luckily, though, each boss requires a different method to kill it, and with the differences between the two characters, facing them a second time isn’t quite as trying as it might sound.
In terms of sound the game is pretty decent. The music soundtrack is both epic and outstandingly cheesey, which suits the game perfectly. The sound effects from every move you pull off are extremely effective and the melodramatic voice-overs match brilliantly on screen.
Overall, Devil May Cry 4 is a very solid, action packed adventure that should satisfy a much wider audience than its earlier versions. It’s a shame that there is no multiplayer gameplay, but there are online leaderboards and a heap of unlockables to explore for extra value.