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Game Review: Devil May Cry 4 (PS3) April 24, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Game Reviews.
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I still remember when the first Devil May Cry came out and blew everyone away with its impressive graphics, cool characters, terrific bosses, and the exciting and action-packed gun+sword gameplay.  In its fourth incarnation, Devil May Cry 4 has moved to the PS3, and visually it’s more impressive than ever.  However, in almost every other facet of the game, DMC4 has gotten a little more stale, a little less innovative, a lot more repetitive, and a lot less enjoyable.

It’s still a decent game, especially if you liked its predecessors and want to enjoy the power of the PS3 at a discounted price (as the game was released in 2008).  But to be honest, DMC4 probably should be the last in the series unless the makers are willing to take some risks and bring some freshness to the franchise.

Read the full review after the jump!

Overview

The biggest change in DMC4, apart from the move from PS2 to PS3, is the introduction of a new character, a young demon-armed boy by the name of Nero.  Of course, you still get to use the original protagonist Dante (who looks older now), but not until about halfway through the game.

The first half of the story follows Nero, an orphan adopted by a Sparda-worshipping cult known as the “Order”.  After Dante appears and assassinates their Pope, Nero is ordered to chase down Dante.  That’s basically the event to get the plot moving along, but really, there’s not much chasing involved.  The more Nero explores, the more he finds out about the hidden motives of the Order, and begins to realise that not everything is as it seems.

The second half of the story focuses on Dante, who must track through Nero’s steps in reverse in order.  I’m not really sure why.

At the very end, you take over Nero again to take on the big boss and save the world once and for all.

Gameplay

Almost all of the features from the first 3 installments of the franchise have been retained.  Nero/Dante each wield a sword and have guns to shoot demons.  When a certain gauge is full, they can go into an almost invincible “Devil Trigger” mode for a few moments.  Depending on how you use the weapons, you can string together impressive combos which can increase your “Style Points”.  The higher the Style Points, the more red orbs you gain when you kill an opponent.  Red orbs can also be obtained from destroying nearby objects.  The aim of collecting red orbs is to purchase special items (eg to replenish life).

The difference this time is that there is a new system called “Proud Souls”, which are awarded at the end of a mission depending on how you performed.  Proud Souls can be used to upgrade your character’s abilities, moves and weapons.

Nero has the “Devil Bringer”, which is like a hand that can reach out and grab opponents and dump them to the ground or perform a series of ridiculous heavy damage moves.  He also has things thing called the “Exceed Gauge”, which you can charge up to break defenses and inflict heavier damage.

Dante, on the other hand, can gather new weapons (apart from the sword) as he defeats enemy bosses.  Some of these are nearly identical to those from earlier in the series.

As for story progression, it’s the same as before.  You have missions to complete, each ranging from as little as less than 10 minutes to as long as 30 or 40 (depending on how much you want to explore or get lost).  There are twenty missions in total, plus a bunch of “Secret Missions” which can help you gather more goodies to increase your life bar.  So for a first timer, the game could take around 10-15 hours, including the various cut scenes and taking into account failing the missions every now and then.

DMC4 sports some impressive visuals such as this boss fight

The Good

The good thing about DMC4 is that they retained most of the things that made the franchise a success in the first place.  The coolest part of the game has always been the fun and exciting mix of guns and giant swords, and using them together to generate some very impressive combo attacks.  In this sense, DMC has not changed a lot, but why change something that works?

Secondly, the boss battles are very impressive again.  They are impressively designed and some of then are enormous, giving you a real sense of accomplishment when you bring them down.  There’s nothing like a lengthy boss battle to end a stage, and DMC4 has quite a few of them.

Lastly, I can’t emphasise enough how impressive the visuals are.  The in-game graphics are excellent, but it’s the cut scenes that take the aesthetics to another level.  These cut scenes are long and cinematic, and by the far the best we’ve seen in the franchise.

The Bad

Unfortunately, this is a long list.  It’s hard to know where to start.

First of all, the characters (I am shaking my head as I type this).  It’s fine that they want to introduce a brand new character, but why make Nero virtually identical to a young Dante?  From the hair to the attire, there’s nothing innovative or creative about this new hero.  The only difference is that Nero only uses one gun as opposed to two, and has a dodgy demon arm.  If you didn’t know Nero was a new character and simply looked at screen caps or clips of the game, chances are you’d think it was Dante.

Speaking of Dante, he has somehow gone from one of the coolest characters in recent video game memory to one of the most annoying.  All he does is pose, say stupid things and pretend to be cool.  It’s painful to watch.  In an attempt to maintain Dante’s carefree attitude no matter what the predicament, the writers appeared to have gone too far and created a character that’s just plain obnoxious.  They’ve completely destroyed the image of the slick devil hunter I used to have in my head.

As for the other characters, not much to get excited about.  All the females (except for Nero’s love interest Kyrie, who looks strangely masculine) are there purely for heterosexual male gratification.  Incredibly thin with massive breasts and skimpy clothing, performing very sexually suggestive maneuvers with close ups on their private parts.  It’s very…Japanese, I suppose, and perhaps perfect for the intended target market?  But given that it’s a pretty tame game by today’s standards, it’s a distracting tease because you’re not going to see anything more than that.

Secondly, the gameplay, in my opinion the most important part of any game.  Here, DMC4 fails for being boring and lazy.  The game consists of little more than running around and hacking and shooting enemies.  Walk around, enter a “sealed” room, defeat the enemies, unseal the room, rinse and repeat until the boss battle (if there is one).  There are very few puzzles to solve, and none of which involve much thinking at all, but some can be quite frustrating to complete because of fixed camera angles.

The worst part, however, is the laziness.  Mid-way through the game, you switch from Nero to Dante, but the stages which Dante has to traverse through are exactly the same, except in reverse!  Even the bosses are virtually identical!  Where is the fun in that?  Couldn’t they have created a few new stages or bosses?  Utterly disgraceful.

And yes, Dante has different weapons and Nero has the Devil Bringer, but generally the game feels very similar regardless of who you use.  Consequently, all the character-change does is annoy you because you have to adapt to the fighting style of the new character.

Thirdly, the story/plot is appalling.  It’s all about making the characters look cool and showing off the graphics — there’s no development whatsoever.  The game has this very ridiculous, campy feel throughout, which wouldn’t have been a problem if the whole game was like that, but it’s not.  Instead, what you end up with is a very uneven tone that switches between dead serious and silliness, often without any warning.

Verdict

Ultimately, DMC4 is a slight disappointment.  It can still be fun and make you want to finish the game, but apart from the improved visuals, it doesn’t offer as much as we have come to expect from the franchise.  Poor story, annoying characters, repetitive gameplay and reusing stage designs plague DMC4 and prevents it from being a standout video game.

6 out of 10


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