Released: January 2008
Also Available For: Mobile, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 (Remaster), Xbox One (Remaster)
A Brief Background:
Long before the God of War franchise (Various, 2005 to present) cornered the market when it came to hack and slash videogames, Capcom released a trilogy of titles that saw you cutting demons and angels alike into pieces with a giant sword and blasting them apart with pistols.
After the success of Resident Evil 2 (Capcom, 1998), famed Resident Evil (ibid, 1996) director Hideki Kamiya began development on a new Resident Evil title for the PlayStation 2. However, when the game’s development began to veer further and further away from Resident Evil’s survival-horror aesthetics, Kamiya embraced this new direction and created an entirely new franchise with Devil May Cry (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2001).
I’d been aware of the series for some time and, being a fan of hack and slash videogames, was eager to experience the games once I bought a PlayStation 3. I remember enjoying the title but ultimately being turned off by the repetitive nature of the game’s missions and boss battles, which are basically identically for both of the game’s playable characters. When I bought my Xbox 360 earlier this year, it coincidentally came with a copy of Devil May Cry 4 so, eager to snag a few additional Achievements, I attempted to rush through it again and see if it was still as enjoyable as before.
Unlike previous games in the Devil May Cry series, Devil May Cry 4 begins with you not assuming the role of iconic series protagonist Dante but that of newcomer Nero. Functionally, Nero looks, acts, and even controls very similar to Dante (kind of making you question why Capcom bothered to make a new character in the first place…); Nero can attack enemies with his impossibly-large sword, the Red Queen, or stun them with his revolver, the Blue Rose. The more you mash the attack buttons, the higher a combo you’ll begin to build up; the better your combo, the better your grade. Additionally, if you successfully manage to complete missions and puzzles without using healing or recovery items, in a decent time, and with a consistently high style grade, you’ll receive better mission grades and therefore better rewards.
What separates Nero from Dante is his Devil Bringer; a demonic arm that stretches out and allows him to cover large distances and grab, grapple, slam, and throw enemies and objects at his enemies. Eventually, he also gains access to the Devil Trigger, a state that allows him to charge his sword to unleash more powerful, flaming attacks, or explode into a demonic state for a short time to unleash stronger attacks.
As you destroy enemies and certain parts of your environment, you’ll collect a bevy of Red Orbs; destroying enemies, bosses, and clearing missions also earns you Proud Souls, both of which can be used in the game’s Power Up menu. Here, you can trade Red Orbs for healing and recovery items to help you in the game’s more difficult missions or spend Proud Souls upgrading Nero’s abilities, unlocking new combos, faster moving speeds (a definite must), more powerful charged shots, and other similar power-ups. Unfortunately, every time you buy a recovery item, that item’s price shoots up, meaning you can’t just stockpile healing items as you’ll run out of Red Orbs pretty fast; occasionally, though, you can find these items hidden in the game’s missions.
Devil May Cry 4’s story is told through in-game and pre-rendered cutscenes; these are pretty decent and full of frenetic, over-the-top action and dialogue and the story is pretty out there, with both Nero and Dante appearing to be infallible and superhuman in cutscenes which, unfortunately, doesn’t translate to their gameplay. In-game action is fast and frantic but if you don’t properly lock-on and focus on your enemies, or dodge and switch up your attack style accordingly, you can be pummelled into oblivion pretty easily, which can be frustrating.
Fortunately, the game’s bosses are large and complex; they’re actually quite fun, despite some of them being frustrating and cumbersome. Bael and Dagon stand out as one of the game’s tougher bosses, for me; this horrific cross between a toad and an anglerfish hides in the snowy shadows, bursting out and swallowing you up to deal massive damage, and its tendency to enter an aggressive final stage is a theme you’ll find from all of the game’s bosses. You’ll hack away, draining their stupidly long health bar and desperately trying to avoid damage, and then they just freak out and throw everything they have at you, making already annoying and difficult battles like the one against Angelo Credo extremely aggravating.
I was quite enjoying Devil May Cry 4 for the most part; I chose to play on “Devil Hunter” mode (which is basically the game’s Hard mode) and the game’s difficulty increases steadily as you play. Initially, enemies aren’t much of an issue; there can be a lot of them and they take quite a beating before actually going down but, generally, they weren’t much of an issue. Then I noticed that they were respawning and that I was encountering far tougher enemies, such as the cloaked Mephisto, the ice-plated Frosts, and the always infuriating Angelos.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the game’s map leaves a lot to be desired; it’s functional and shows you where areas of interest, doors, and your last exit are and can be expanded similar to the maps in Resident Evil but, quite often, I would clear a room, solve a puzzle, or defeat a boss and then be left clueless as to where I was supposed to be going and what I was supposed to be doing. Just having an area light up on the map and a directional arrow appear would have been super helpful, or even a brief objective in the pause screen.
Anyway, I was fully expecting to clear the game with only a few annoying roadblocks; however, once I limped through a particularly trying boss battle against Angelo Agnus (a hovering, insect like monstrosity that spawns fireballs, flies into a razor-sharp whirlwind, and drains your health to replenish its own), I found myself faced with an exasperating trek back through the suitably gothic and nightmarish environment. Here I was faced with Faust, a more powerful form of the Mephisto enemies, and way too many armoured Angelo enemies; considering I was trying to be mindful of saving my recovery items for the game’s increasingly challenging boss battles and the game’s restrictive checkpoint and save system, I found myself basically rage quitting (though it was more like annoyed quitting) after a few failed attempts. I am so very close to the end of Nero’s story, though, and I know I have done it before so I am tempted to try and push through but, the moment the game becomes more annoying than fun, I know it’s time to take a bit of a break.
Mission 10. Mission 10 out of 11 missions. Once I clear the eleventh mission, the game begins over from Dante’s perspective but getting there is proving more frustrating than enjoyable; plus, I still remember enough of the game’s massive, Lovecraftian final boss to know that things don’t get any easier. I haven’t checked if it’s possible but it might be better to notch the game’s difficulty down, or simply use a recovery item and hope that I earn enough Red Orbs to buy new ones for later use.
What did you think about Devil May Cry 4? Where do you rate it in the hierarchy of the Devil May Cry series? What do you think of newcomer Nero and the direction the game took? Whatever you think about Devil May Cry 4, or Devil May Cry in general, feel free to leave a comment.