DEVIL MAY CRY 4 – PS3 Video Game Review

     February 19, 2008

Reviewed by David J. Gralnik

With its core gameplay lovingly copied by the likes of God of War and Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry returns to prove that – while imitation is the most sincere form of flattery – nothing beats the original. The combat, which presents layers of complexity rivaled only by a flakey, Grand’s biscuit, satisfies above and beyond any other game in the action genre and surpasses a level of strategic customizability previously held by only the most prestigious fighting games. While expectedly hammy, the story and “performances” succeed in engaging the player and serve as worthy segues into the game’s gargantuan end-level bosses. For owners of the Playstation 3, this game is a must-own.

The cut scenes are thrillingly choreographed, and its opening cinematic introduces players to the series’ newest addition, Nero. After a “mysterious figure” (Dante) assassinates Sanctus, the Sparda (the villain in the first game) worshiping religious leader, Nero vows to track him down. Naturally, everything is not as it seems, and the game has twists that will keep you guessing to an almost comical point. Once again, this game won’t win awards for its story, but that has never been the focus; however, it is safe to say that the attempted story is a vast improvement over any release in the series, and it serves to engage the player enough to make him/her care about what happens next. The player will get the opportunity to play as both Nero and Dante.

At its core, Devil May Cry 4 retains the series-long tradition of killing with style. The game rates the player on a letter scale as he/she combos and changes up attack patterns. If a specific attack is used too frequently, the game rewards less style points. Creating variations and creative combinations is the core of the experience, and players who get creative will be rewarded and look good while doing it. If you can think of it, chances are you can do it. This is especially true because of Nero’s ability to latch onto far away enemies with his demon grabbin’ hand, the Devil Bringer.

The Devil Bringer makes combos an absolute pleasure. In the hands of a skilled player, touching the ground is a thing of the past. While airborne, Nero can pull enemies up with him and the force of it essentially re-boosts him. It is entirely possible to take out five enemies while suspended in the air; the achievement feels as amazing as it sounds. The player will no longer look at enemy filled rooms as an obstacle; he/she will look at it as an obstacle course. Some players may never even use the hand in this manner, and the game is still entirely beatable at lower settings without it. However, like any good game, succeeding at higher difficulty settings will require the use of creative, advanced techniques. In addition, learning new techniques will net players more orbs to upgrade his/her weapons and abilities. Depending on how these orbs are spent, the player’s fighting style will change due to the focus on whichever specialized attack was purchased. In conjunction with raising the difficulty level, upgrading offers great replay value.

At around 11 hours to complete, DMC 4 strikes a good balance and never really drags, but a slight inconvenience arises with the game’s somewhat frequent backtracking. Before the end, the game’s bosses will be defeated several times by both Nero and Dante, but the combat is so fun that it does not matter. By the time the player encounters a boss for the second (or third) time, he/she has learned new techniques, and the fight feels fresh. The differences between Nero and Dante are staggering, and succeeding with Dante may be a tad difficult for new players. He is now able to switch between his three styles (Trickster, Swordsman, Royal Guard) on the fly. Between Nero and Dante, the pacing of combat really is night and day. If players feel like they are similar, he/she is not unlocking the full power of each character. This exponentially opens up his playability, and, for veterans, he is a force to be reckoned with; this is particularly true after unlocking the game’s final weapon, Pandora. This weapon is potentially the coolest weapon in any game, and serves as a great reward for those who get to the end. Anyone who has complaints about the game’s backtracking will be swiftly silenced after using it; this thing is fun, and it would be an injustice to divulge any real details. All players need to know is that this weapon makes backtracking fun. If any enemies were annoying earlier in the game, the player can now express his/her frustration through sheer domination.

Everything about the presentation is on par with the best in the industry. Animations smoothly transition, and players get visuals and sound to match the action. The heavy metal music makes a return, but doesn’t detract from the excitement; play this game with the volume cranked. The whole experience runs with nary a visual hiccup and maintains a smooth clip. The game has moments of jaw-dropping beauty, rivaled only by Uncharted: Drakes Fortune. Load times are even reduced to negligible amounts due to the required install which the game guides players through. With so much emphasis placed on the hyper responsive controls and character customizability, the mostly static camera angles (a somewhat unfortunate staple of the series) are entirely workable; if players are bad at the game, it is his/her own fault.

Devil May Cry 4 is a must-buy title. The gameplay depth is unprecedented, simultaneously rewarding button mashers and methodical players. The only real shame is that Dante didn’t get more time, because this iteration really fleshes out his feature set and serves as a true showpiece of player skill.

9 / 10

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