February 05, 2008
Dante Sparda meet Xbox 360, Xbox 360 meet.... Hold on a minute, that isn’t Dante, it’s some young punk that looks like him, strings crazy combos together like him but seems to be ten times more arrogant than him... Nero you say? Never heard of him! Yes, that’s right, as you can guess, Devil May Cry has finally made its way on to the Xbox but not quite as we know it.
For all those that have been living under a rock, this is the fourth installment of the hugely successful Devil May Cry series but the first on next-gen platforms. Many believed that the series had peaked too early on previous generations with the second and third installments living in the shadows of their predecessor, but fear not, Dante... And Nero are back with a bang!
Devil May Cry 4 is pretty much your standard love story; boy with devil arm meets girl, girl gets kidnapped by evil mastermind with backing of a demon army, devil armed boy takes on minions of the underworld in a bid to win her back. You take control of both Nero and Dante in an effort to defeat the evil forces that have kidnapped Kyrie and, well, the rest is for you to get your teeth in to; I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you but rest assured, although it may seem a little overly complex at times, it is an extremely gripping tale of good and evil.
This is the first time we’ve ever met Nero in the Devil May Cry series and he’s pretty much a carbon copy of Dante from his younger years. Very arrogant, but hey, if I had a devil arm like that, I reckon I would be too, but, his heart is in the right place. You’ll spend half your time in the game taking control of Nero with his white locks, huge sword and trusty firearm. Nero's single greatest weapon however is the aforementioned devil arm, known aptly as the Devil Bringer. For the first time in the series, Capcom have taken advantage of throwing in some outrageous grab moves. There is nothing like throwing around a 30ft fire beast from the pits of hell. As far as differences in controls between the two characters they are very similar, but it’s a bit easier to control Nero in battles as he can use the Devil Bringer to bring foes towards him or alternatively bring him towards them, although. DMC experts, however, will notice Dante is stronger and has more variation including multiple fighting styles. Dante’s ability to switch his style of fighting adds so many dimensions to his fighting abilities and you’ll find yourself using the guns a bit more but, all in all, the fighting styles are very similar and while the transition may be a little unnerving to start with, after a stage or two it becomes second nature. It may also be worth mentioning that the Devil Trigger of both characters are pretty similar as well, yet again Dante’s strength makes his a little more effective. Devil Trigger, for gamers new to the series, is a temporary state where Nero or Dante can transform in to a more powerful demonic creature.
Devil May Cry 4 is certainly is a visual masterpiece. The environments that you battle in and make your way through are fantastic and truly epic. Fortuna Castle and the waterfall behind it is truly a sign of the epic proportion of the environments; for a moment there, I had to stop and marvel at it. The environment textures are hugely detailed and the lighting is simply fantastic, but there were times when, mostly in the forest level, the shadows were very jagged which kind of spoilt the experience a little. The frame rate is constant at a solid 60 FPS and it is never choppy, one thing that is essential in an action title such as this. The character models and animations move fluently and react well to the environments and the FMVs are a joy to watch and not overdone at all. The one gripe I do have, which is only minimal but detracts from the credibility of the game, is when one of the main characters get stabbed... We see the blood but their clothes seem to be intact. I wish I had clothes like that!
From the moment you dive in to a battle with a plethora of foes and the heavy rock and trance beats kick in, you are more than aware of the game’s Japanese origins. The music is generally very fitting and a great accompaniment to the hack and slash action. The game really comes in to its own with the great voice cast and the chemistry between Nero and Dante, as not very often in a title do the two main characters bounce off one another so well. The short, sharp quips of Nero versus the deep, experienced tones of Dante contribute greatly to the intriguing story and immersive plot.
Devil May Cry 4 is pretty much your standard hack and slash title generally speaking but if there has ever been a franchise that has been all about the combos, Devil May Cry is it. One of the great things about this title is watching the fluency of your combos unfold right before your eyes, as Dante or Nero stringing together S-ranked combos is actually one of the most satisfying gaming moments I’ve had in some time and the best thing is, that it never gets old.
There are two difficulties open from the start; firstly, for the new players and to be honest, most of us, there is Human mode which can present a challenge every so often. Lastly and by no means least, we have the Devil Hunter difficulty, something for the true Devil May Cry veterans or those with nerves of steel and the patience of a saint. The difference between the two difficulties is incredible, Human seems like a walk in the park sometimes and Devil Hunter can be likened to the same walk in the park but at midnight with pork chops tied around your neck, no natural or artificial light around and a pack of hungry wolves on the prowl. Yes, it can be that tough! The great thing for folk like me is that you can carry your character’s progress across the levels with you just to make things a little bit easier. However wait till you unlock and try the other difficulties, they are strictly for Devil May Cry veterans only.
When playing through on Human mode it’s possible to play through most of the game by just hitting the Y button, but come across one of the many elaborate bosses and you’ll have no such luck, as a combination of combos and quick thinking will be required for the most part here. Devil May Cry has an RPG soul hidden behind its action-focused skin comprised of two elements, the Orb element and the Proud Souls element. The Orb element is based on the orbs you collect as you work your way through the game, whether it be smashing barrels or splintering skulls, you’ll collect orbs which you can spend throughout the game on health and replenishment items for Dante and Nero. Secondly, we have the Proud Souls element, which is all assessed on how you perform on each level. The better you perform on the level with regards to rank, the more lost souls you will pick up. These souls are then used to purchase and upgrade your character’s powers but the great thing with this system is there are no bad choices; if you don’t like or don’t use one of the powers you’ve just purchased, no problem, next time you get the chance to purchase some skills you can remove those useless ones for the same amount you paid for them. Marvelous.
Devil May Cry has a simple ranking system in place that rates how you perform on each level, assessed on speed, orbs and the amount of style points you collect. The style points are basically the extent of your combos, if you’re stringing together A-ranked combos or even S (Smokin’), you’ll likely finish the level with a high style rating... Take a hit though and the rank on your combo will drop. Throw in to the mixer a few bonuses like finishing the level without taking a hit and you’ve got the makings of a simple ranking system. This is pretty much how the Proud Souls are worked out, the better you perform, the more souls you will get.
There are a huge amount of weapons on show as expected, including a plethora of swords and of course who can forget the outrageous firearms. The classic Ebony & Ivory make a return, as does the ever popular Gilgamesh which for all those new to the series is an outrageous set of greaves, gauntlets and a mask that allow Dante to harness their power to deal superior amounts of ass kicking. Dante also has the ability to harness the power of Pandora’s box which is a crazy-crossbow-stroke-rocket-launcher that also has the ability to upgrade to include a fricken’ laser beam. And who can forget Lucifer, the blade weapon that allows Dante to use inflict normal blade damage coupled with the ability to stick enemies with explosive blades. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. The great array of weapons is one of the things that makes the game great, but I for one found it more fun and effective to just go round wielding the more powerful blades.
New to the series, like the Devil Bringer, is the weapon charging system otherwise known as Exceed, which is all to do with the combustion system that Nero’s sword the Red Queen has, that allows you to charge up the weapon with the left trigger to deal a more devastating blow. True fans of the game will be able to master this system so that each blow is a killer blow, but it’s a little more tricky than it sounds as your timing must be right on the nail.
The enemies that Nero and Dante come across range from the fantastic to the downright odd. Whether it be the Scarecrows (yes, they really are called that) who look like patchwork dolls with scythes for arms and legs or the amazingly huge and overwhelming bosses such as Berial, the fiery demon from the equally fiery underworld. The AI of the run of the mill demons seems a little puzzling at times as it will take them a few minutes to even decide to take a swipe at you but when it comes to the bosses, they’ll be prepared for everything, so do your best to outwit them if you want to advance.
The levels seem a little linear at times and can be extremely confusing to navigate. There are times when I was running around in circles looking for the exit when it became apparent I had to back track to a place I was previously. Silly me for not knowing that. In addition to all the battling of the evil forces, there are also Secret levels hidden dotted throughout the game. Some of the tasks they ask of you are fairly simple like kill a certain amount of Scarecrows in a certain time, ranging to the outrageously hard.
One of the things that seems to let the title down at times is the awkward camera angle. Sometimes, you’ll get in to a situation where you want to move the camera to see who you’re fighting, but due to the level design and camera restrictions it’s simply not possible. Then there are the times you move from one area to another where the camera changes and if you move the analogue stick even slightly, you end up going totally the wrong way. A little frustrating at times, but it’s not the type of thing that happens often.
Unfortunately the game is actually quite short, you can probably get through the whole story on Human in under 10 hours. Granted, it will take a little longer on the later difficulties, but most of us won’t even try Devil Hunter and beyond due to the sheer difficulty of it. The Bloody Palace mode makes a return to this title as well, but needs to be unlocked.
Not only is the game fairly short but it’s very, very repetitive... No, not because it’s hacking and slashing, that is actually great fun, but once you’re half way through the game you have to turn around and travel the same route with a different character. Odder still is that you fight the exact same bosses as well... If that isn’t cutting corners, I don’t know what is. In one play through I fought three of the main bosses at least three times which definitely got a little annoying.
So far as the achievements go they are insanely hard. “How so?” you may ask, well, on my first run through on Human mode I only managed to net a paltry 100 points. There are achievements for collecting 1 million red orbs, collecting 1 million Proud Souls, killing 10,000 enemies... That’s a lot of collecting and killing right there. Throw in the insane achievements for completing the certain difficulty levels with an overall S rank and I personally think we have one of the hardest action 1000s out on our systems period. This is not time consuming, well, it is, but I mean that this is only going to be done by people with some crazy skills. Combo perfectionists apply, but achievement whores, steer well clear.
All in all, Devil May Cry 4 is a fantastic journey across an epic fantasy world (and back again) fighting some of the most imaginative, insane looking monsters and bosses you will ever encounter. It’s easy to control, simple to jump in to and has a story that will keep you hooked from beginning to end. The only drawbacks in all honesty are the repetition factor, the length and the camera hiccups that tend to get a little awkward at times, but seriously don’t let that put you off this great title. For years Xbox owners have wished that they could get their hands on Mr Sparda from their own console and now they can, all I can say is that it was an absolute pleasure and well worth the wait.
One of the great things about Devil May Cry 4 is the solid voice acting and the over the top but fitting accompanying music. Great chemistry between the two main characters. Fantastic stuff.
A great looking title with fantastic looking environments. Frame rate is never choppy despite all the on screen action but the shadows in a few places seems to be jagged. FMV's impressive and not too long winded.
Easy to pick up and play but will take some practice to master the Exceed system and the huge array of combos. Camera gets a little tricky at times and can really be off putting. Very satisfying when you pull off a huge combo and a game that will have you striving for perfection.
Devil May Cry is simple to jump in to and hack for hours or simple to jump on to for quick slash. All in all, its simple setup and pick up and play action is great, but making a game by reusing the levels for the second half of the game is almost unforgivable!
The achievements are pretty much collect this amount, kill this amount, perform well on levels and nothing too original. Maybe a little too insanely hard for the majority of gamers. Skill and time required.
Devil May Cry 4 delivers on so many different levels. The action is quick, smooth and intense. The boss battles are fantastic but it really gets let down with the repetition value. Battling back through the path you have just cleared and fighting pretty much the same enemies and an awkward camera detracts from the gameplay but by no means does it ruin what is a fantastic title either way.