Devil May Cry 4 Xbox 360 Review
When it comes to arcadey hack and slash action titles with a Japanese anime influence, few do it better than iconic publisher/developer Capcom, and their premier game brand fitting this description has to be Devil May Cry. This series became a world wide hit for both console and PC gamers, but as it would happen, Capcom never got around to
2006. With Microsoft's focus on capturing Japanese developer attention for the Xbox 360 however, the timing was right for Capcom to jump aboard the Xbox train with the first 'next gen' DMC, and they have done just that with the recently released Devil May Cry 4.
If you have played a DMC title before, you won't be overly surprised when you fire up DMC 4 as the premise and design is basically unchanged. What we have here is a single player only game with a very arcade feel in everything from the "Press Start" intro screen to the actual gameplay itself. Unlike the previous titles in the series though, DMC 4 introduces a new main character by the name of 'Nero' who is voiced by John Jay Bosch (Ichigo's voice in Bleach), not to mention
various other new characters integral to the storyline. Nero, like the previous protagonist 'Dante', has the power of the demon 'Sparda' within, shown on the outside by his demon like right arm. This right arm of Nero's forms a significant part of the game's combat system, known as the 'Devil Bringer', although he of course also carries a sword and a handgun, as is the trademark of the DMC series. Similar to the more recent additions in the series however, DMC 4 doesn't just feature one
playable character for the entire game. Dante is also included in the game's storyline and is a playable character for seven of the twenty total missions. While Dante of course doesn't have the 'Devil Bringer' abilities, he does feature a more advanced combination of different fighting stances which you can switch between at any given moment during combat, and is actually probably still the more complete fighter between the two.
Being a single player only game, DMC 4 obviously relies heavily on its storyline to hook you in and keep you going from start to finish, and it effectively achieves this with a very traditional good vs bad tale with appearances from cliche elements like 'female in distress' and 'opponents forming together against a common enemy' etc. The story definitely has a very anime feel, and is largely played out via cut scenes rendered in the game engine (proven by the fact you can make slight changes
to the camera angle with the right analog stick, which is an odd feature). There are plenty of twists and turns along the way as well and you could never accuse the game of growing dull, that's for sure. However, one thing you could accuse the game of is perhaps relying on the cut scenes a little too much. There is basically no character interaction at all during gameplay, unless you consider fighting to be interaction. Just about everything storyline related is played out in the cut scenes, and while this
isn't exactly a terrible thing, at times the gameplay can feel detached, as if the primary focus was the cut scenes with some gameplay thrown in between, rather than the other way around.
But that's not to diminish the gameplay in anyway, after all, the DMC series is really all about fun and action and DMC 4 is no exception. When you're not running around and collecting items in this game you'll be fighting, and lets just say you don't spend a whole lot of time doing the former. The whole point of the game is action, action and more action, and in that regard DMC 4 doesn't fall short. While the fights can occasionally feel a little formularized in the manner they are presented
- i.e., mostly via waves of multiple enemies at once - at least this way the game can really show off its impressive combat system, and it is quite impressive indeed. The animations and physics involved are all so smooth and seamless, at times it really does feel you're just sitting back and watching an anime fight scene. To help prevent the combat going stale, both Nero and Dante have a series of unlockable moves and abilities across all their weapons which you can purchase yourself from certain upgrade points
in the game.
Devil May Cry 4 Xbox 360 Review
Perhaps the best part about the combat system in DMC 4 however is its balance between complexity and simplicity. While it isn't likely the most feature rich fighting system out there in games like this, at the same time it's not so basic that mindless 'button mashing' will get you from start to finish with ease. Timing and even accuracy are both very key in DMC 4. Granted, there will be times where you'll simply pound the 'Y' button as fast as you can, but you can't rely on this method
to take down any of the game's more formidable foes - particularly the bosses, which by the way are definitely some of the best bosses seen yet. Once you do start to take on the more powerful baddies, the combat system's versatility really starts to flourish allowing for - if not demanding - a pretty large range of combo possibilities, even more so when using Dante and his different fighting stances. The game makes a point to emphasize impressive combos as well, with the trademark DMC 'hot
or cold' style overlay that lets you know how much ass you're kicking, not to mention point totals after each mission which you can upload to leaderboards on Xbox Live.
The gameplay isn't all combat, however. The 'stylish' fighting in DMC 4 is definitely the main event, but the game does attempt to introduce some variation by adopting a few puzzles here and there, which quite often involve combat in some shape or form. These puzzles range from harmless logical problems to deadly real time obstacles relying more on quick and precise movement than smarts, and while sometimes they can disturb the flow
add to the overall experience. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of random puzzles that seem somewhat unnecessary and awkwardly unrelated to the storyline, but it's not like the game is packed full of them - just a few here and there to spice things up a little.
Unfortunately though, the addition of puzzles doesn't completely prevent probably the only real issue with the gameplay from settling in, and that issue is repetition. Having some repetition in a game like this is basically unavoidable, but DMC 4 doesn't do itself any favors in a few keys areas either. Firstly, the enemies you face are all quite one dimensional, and even though they definitely get harder and more deadly as the game progresses, patterns almost always emerge and you find yourself
often doing the same moves and combos over and over again unless you really go out of your way not to. Even bosses are a little repetitive, as they almost always seem to involve the same fundamentals and patterns too. Furthermore, the environments you find yourself in are all quite repetitive as well, only changing significantly in a few instances. To make matters worse in this respect, you're quite often forced to back track to areas you've already been in, often even doing actions you've already done.
At times, I can't help but feel Capcom got a little lazy when designing the game's environments structure and layout wise.
I guess, though, they at least look great. In fact, the whole game looks great, from the individual characters to the special effects and silky smooth animations particularly, as mentioned, during combat. There may not be a whole lot of surrounding detail as such but there really isn't a point in the game where the graphics aren't impressive, and all this is done at a sweet 60 frames per second. Also adding to the aesthetics is a pretty typical anime style soundtrack, which you kind of don't even notice a
lot of the times, but if anything that's probably a good thing. Control wise, the button mapping works well although camera control can be a bit of a hassle at times. You can sometimes modify the camera in game with the right analog stick, but this isn't always the case and occasionally sudden changes in camera will interfere with your movement and line of sight - in fact, it isn't unusual to know an enemy is coming by the change of music before you actually see them.
Devil May Cry 4 is not an overly innovative title but it is fun, addictive, and definitely worthy of the DMC series. I guess you can basically sum it up as "it is what it is" - a hack n slash action title and not a whole lot else. Introducing a few new characters including a new protagonist in Nero was a bit of a risk, but it has paid off and injected some new life into the series, even if it's only for this one version. While some areas like the level design and gameplay
variation aren't as impressive as they could have been, ultimately Capcom have achieved what they set out to do with DMC 4 and that's more than enough to guarantee some great action gaming. Better yet, even if you've never played a DMC title before, DMC 4 will still be easy to pick up and play thanks to its largely independent storyline, basically making it a great starting point for new comers, but at the same time an intriguing addition to the series for fans.