Devil May Cry 4 is a Capcom character action game first released on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC in 2008. The special edition was released in 2015 for PC, PS4 and Xone. The game puts the previous main character Dante in a supportive role, thus making room for the new protagonist Nero on his quest to save his girlfriend from a demonic cult.
The story of DMC4 feels rather inconsequential, in spite of the scale of things come the end. The main crux of the plot revolves around Nero accepting his demonic powers and deciding how he'll live his life once the game ends. There isn't much else, in spite all the other characters running around.
Nero is close to being a complete clone of Dante character-wise, but manages to remain distinct. If anything, he is like a cross between Dante and Vergil. He's serious most of the time, but brings out some sass when appropriate. I quite like his characterization.
I can't say the same for his girlfriend Kyrie. In spite of having more screentime than Dante's mom in DMC1 (who has like two lines), she never goes beyond being a ”pure maiden” who does nothing except getting kidnapped. It doesn't feel like she belongs in such an action-heavy universe (or any universe, really) and makes me wish Trish and Lady had bigger roles in the story beyond what comes down to extended cameos. The main villain has a rather weak presence as well and the same goes for the demons you fight and Kyrie's brother Credo.
Dante acts as Nero's mentor, in spite of Nero very much objecting to it. They start as enemies, but slowly start to respect eachother, culminating in some nice banter as they take on the bad guy.
The story is all servicable and fun (the mocap work is nuts! Nero's first attack is a dropkick!), but it's no secret that it's unfinished. Nero's connection to Sparda (beyond being born in a city that worships him) being the biggest thing the game doesn't deal with. It just doesn't come close to the layers that DMC3 had. But what's there is entertaining in every cutscene.
In an effort to make the series more approachable (DMC3 just drowns you in depth), Itsuno's team decided to make Nero a sort of a tutorial character. And I'm very impressed with the results.
You play him for the first half of the game, which starts with an actual tutorial! Compared to the other characters, he is very simple, having only one gun and one sword. The gun is downright worthless, save for its awesome charge attack.
But the sword is a thing of beauty. The Red Queen has moves equivalent to Dante's sword, plus some extras unique to Nero. But the real treat is the ignition system. By pumping fuel into it, you can power up moves to be used later.
But the process is rather slow, so you only really have time to do it outside of battle. Unless, you know what to do. By pumping at the moment an attack hits, you can get a free bar of charge. And if your timing is PERFECT, you can get 3 (!!!) bars of charge. This means that if you're good enough, you can use charge attacks after EVERY attack. Suffice to say, that's hard as hell. But it's nice that they let some frame-perfect mastery for the madmen of the world.
Now, to make up for his lack of weaponry and to make him easier on the newcomers, Nero comes equipped with a demonic arm that can be used for grabs and pulls. It doesn't sound like much, but it makes a hell of a difference.
The grabs are essentially like QTEs in spirit. You tag an enemy and you perform an automatic attack. But they're quick and only require that initial input, making them well suited to the game. And in spite of all the exploits (Read: Samey combat that gives you bad rankings) they invite, there's actually some depth to be had. Fighting bosses as Nero is a game of figuring out what do to make them vulnerable to a truly beautiful grab attack. And two bosses even have projectiles that can be parried for some really juicy counters.
That's all well and good, but the real game changer is the ability to pull. An enhanced version of this ability made it's way to DmC (which sorta broke it, if you cared to do combos), but even here, it's plenty strong, especially wehn combined with enemy step.
It makes Nero's aerial game simpler to uphold, as you can slam down enemies, and then pull them up again. Of course, to maintain altitude, you still have to employ skill. Something I barely possess. Observe a pro:
The time has come and so have I.
His Devil Trigger (which is just a Stand. I call it Power Quest. :3) introduces a few things to the mix. Activating it renders you invincible, which can be useful in a pinch. Firing his gun also spawns some swords, which can juggle foes. There are also a pair of super fancy moves only possible in DT. These are hard to use, but are a blast once you find the perfect moment.
On the downside, there's his shield grab, which I haven't found any good use for. An expert might tell you otherwise. There's also the matter of the small puzzle sections Nero has. The gyro and grappling is fine, but the dice game is really annoying. At least until you figure out that using the grab on it let's you controll the dice roll completely. I think they give you a vague hint about it, but why wouldn't you hit it with your sword?
Also, pressing taunt while dashing makes Nero do a dropkick! Das da good shit, right there.
Dante is a delight in this game. His aloofness has reached critical mass and he gives demons so much sass. It's borderline parody and so very entertaining.
He is mostly unchanged, sporting a sword, a punching gauntlet, his pistols and a shotgun. All of these behave as you'd expect. The new weapons are pretty interesting though.
The Lucifer is...I don't even know what to call it. What I do know is that you can use it to summon spears all around you. These spears can be pinned in foes or repositioned in case you miss with them the first time. They're really tricky, especially against multiple enemies, but against single targets it's awesome.
He also gets Pandora, which is a shape-shifting briefcase that can become a gatling gun, a rocket launcher and even a laser canon. It's also really tricky, requiring rotations of the left stick to charge up. Using it enough fills up the Disaster gauge, which is spent on the really fancy moves that can clear rooms and murder bosses.
Even though you have access to all of these weapons at all times (since the loadout restriction has been lifted) it all sounds kinda lame, doesn't it? You just don't have as many weapons to play around with, so where's the depth? I'll tell you.
One simple little thing was added. So simple in fact, that it was retroactively modded into the PC version of DMC3. You can swap styles on the fly. This changes EVERYTHING.
Now, you have access to all of Dante's moves at all times. To mere mortals, this is just nice, as you can swap to Trickster whenever enemies get rough and then move between Swordmaster and Gunslinger as you like. But the moves this grants someone willing to practice is scary.
In the end, we're all satisfied.
Look at that shit! Properly! With your eyeballs! As you can hopefully tell, Dante's complete moveset is GIGANTIC and you can freely combine any part of it. It's the small things, you know?
His DT form isn't much different from before. It makes you tougher and improves certain moves, which is vital when you're faced with foes Nero could just grab to stun.
And you will, as Dante's part of the game is an extended backtracking session. Now, the game's structure (castle town->ice church at night (what?)->secret lab(huh?)->jungle(WHAT!?)->big church) isn't that good. It feels fractured and is very flat, lacking the verticalilty of previous games.
So when you have to go through it all backwards in a sort of victory lap, it's easy to get sick of it. Especially when you have to refight bosses built for Nero. And the one unique boss Dante gets is an incredibly confusing puzzle fight that is terrible at conveying what needs to be done. I've beat it many times, but I still wouldn't be able to explain how to beat it.
The structure of collectibles remains unchanged. A few of the Blue Orbs are really tricky, but they're still possible to find. Sadly, not even the special edition tells you if you've found everything in a mission like DmC does.
Now the secret missions, are more evil than ever before. Not only can you stumble onto them before you can complete them, but two of them are just mad bananas. They task you with learning advanced moves (freeaiming Pandora and parrying), but man are the requirements high. I can only get so good, Capcom!
For some reason, you can buy upgrade items for real money, should you chose. This bewilders me on multiple levels. Not only is the game well balanced (even before SE boosted the amount of Proud Souls you earn), but they don't even try to sell it to you. It's there in the store, but so easily forgotten. Speaks to the quality of the game, I suppose. Still, why did you do this Capcom? Did anyone buy this?
The actual upgrade system seems to have inspired the one in DmC. You earn Red Orbs for items and Proud Souls for moves. It's a good split, as you don't have to divide Red Orbs between health and moves anymore.
Moves begin cheap, but for every one you buy, all the others increase in price. This makes it easy to get the ones you really want, whilst still making it interesting to pick what to get last. And should it all go wrong, you can just refund the moves and buy some other ones!
For SE, Capcom added 3 more characters to play with. Let's start with Lady.
If you've ever felt like the firearms in DMC were weak, then you have to give Lady a go. She's a mere human, so she makes use of a giant arsenal of guns to fight demons. She has 2 pairs of handguns, a shotgun and a missile launcher with a grappling hook.
She takes over Nero's section, much like Vergil in DMC3SE. This means that to experience all characters on a single difficulty, you have to play through the same areas 6 (!) times. It's a bit of a bummer, as a few mini campaigns would've been good for the new characters. We do get one amazing new cutscene at least.
Lady's arsenal is basically Dante's on crack. If he can do something, she can do it louder. I can't really decide which gun is best, since they're all so good.
The handguns can shoot at ridiculous speeds, charge WHILE you're shooting with the other pair, as well as deliver said charge shot in a magnificent explosion.
The shottie gets buffed for a few seconds by the charge, can be nunchucked at incredible speeds and deliver a two-part Stinger that launches her backwards. It's such a sexy piece of kit.
The missile launcher has three components. The wire launches enemies up or down, instead of Nero's arm, which launches enemies to him or him towards enemies. Lady's version also deals damage. It has a bayonet that you can use for some really limited, but powerful melée attacks. And lastly it has a whole bunch of different shots. Spread missiles, grenades, homing missiles and a ginourmous charged shot.
I find her to be the easiest character to play (as long as you rebind shoot to L1 so you can charge shots at all times), but that doesn't make her any less fun. And just to top it off, her DT equivalent is just a crapton of grenades that kill everything on screen.
Trish makes a good pair with Lady. Her guns are crap (save for the Pandora laser she has for some reason), but her melée game is insane. She comes armed with the Sparda sword and her lightning fists. It doesn't sound like much, but her moves are based around context and control.
Sparda has some nice moves, same goes for her fists. But to truly get the most out of her, you need to throw Sparda at enemies. This spin attack locks down enemies and changes her fist attacks to allow for some really destructive AoE fun. Combine this with her lighting streaks and you can stunlock whole rooms. She's strong, but still fun. Her DT is kinda boring though. Except for the shades, those are cool.
Slice n' Dice!
Something that's easy to forget thanks to the passage of time is how well put together DMC4 is. Somehow, Itsuno's team managed to wring out a decent framerate out of the PS3. As a third party. In 2008!
The music isn't as juicy as in DMC1, but it's about as good as DMC3's tracks. The main theme is a bit overplayed, but it has the right amount of edge in it, so I'll forgive it.
I'm pretty sure the loading times were good as well. The game still looks good too. Shows what talent and effort gets ya. Good thing DmC also managed a decent framerate years lat....hahahaha!
Vergil is frikkin' scary in this game. He's basically an improved version of his DMC3 incarnation with the sword lodging mechanic from DmC (thanks?) thrown in.
He has the same three weapons, but they've all been improved. The biggest being the Yamato's new just cuts, that let you end any attack with a Judgement Cut, should your timing be good enough. His other sword has been made more distingt from Dante's as well.
His summoned swords come in a few new forms and they are very satisfying to make use of. If only for the crunchy sound they make as they get destroyed. Enemies with a sword stuck in them can be warped to, giving Vergil a similar ability to Nero and Lady. Though I can't say I like fighting Agnus 1 with him, as the fight is a bit of a pisser without a grapple move.
What's completely new is the Concentration gauge. It's essentially a way for the game to encourage you to roleplay as Vergil when you're fighting. It goes up when you walk, deal damage and taunt. It goes down when you miss an attack, run and take damage.
It acts as a damage multiplier and if you max it out, you can enter DT and activate Vergil's ridiculous screen clearer. It's very awesome. So is he as a whole, but I haven't played around with his moves enough to make them second nature. There's just so much power to tap into!
Ok Vergil, I think that's enough power.
And you can keep enemies airborne with a taunt. Retroactive GOTY 2015!
There are a few fun extras to play with. There's Turbo Mode in case you want to increase the ingame speed and as before, there's also the Bloody Palace arena, which is sadly timed. I mean, if you know how to play, it's not an issue, but it was nice of DmC to make it optional.
The real winner here is Legendary Dark Knight Mode, previously restricted to the original PC version. All it does is increase the amount of enemies on screen. By a factor of FIVE! At least!
Suffice to say, it get's pretty hard. But with so many enemies on screen, you can just go NUTS and make proper use of your AoE abilities. Lady and Trish were made for this mode. Nothing like letting loose with a charged shotgun on a legion of scarecrows. It's the best.
And so, we find ourselves at the end of the review. And I can't help but feel sorry for DMC4. It's a game with a great engine and the greatest combat system known to man. But it wasn't completed. I think there was some fumbling during development and I'm sure Capcom needed the money to satiate the endless desire of their stock holders.
But you know, there's still time to make things right. In fact, it's the perfect time. Fans of character action games are always hungry for more. Itsuno had his fun with Dragon's Dogma (to little effect). DmC failed hard. And Itsuno's team has had practice with modern consoles thanks to this game.
It's been 3 years since and a little bird has whispered the most wonderful thing in my ear. So what do you say Capcom? Why don't you announce a certain something come E3 2018? The world is in dire need of great single player games and no one can helm them as well our man Dante.
So for all that is good and holy, give us the next Devil May Cry!