DMC4 Slays Gamers with Impressive Next-Gen Debut
This fourth entry in the stylish demon-slaying series is an especially significant one; the revered franchise is not only making its next-gen debut, but it’s also, for the first time, rubbing elbows with Master Chief and Marcus Fenix on the Xbox 360.
A few years back you would’ve been more likely to spot Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell in an affectionate embrace than see this once Sony exclusive series appearing on Microsoft’s hardware. But, like Leon Kennedy and Solid Snake before him, Dante has defected. While Sony fanboys might disagree, this is a good thing for both gamers and Capcom, as a whole new legion of players can experience this slick sword-and-sidearm series.
But enough about the decline of third-party exclusives; that’s a discussion for another day. This is Dante’s day. Or is it? It would appear that the franchise’s favorite demon-slayer is taking a back seat to a brand new antihero. That’s right; the white-haired, smack-talkin’ pretty boy is now sharing the spotlight with the similarly coifed and cocky Nero. Before you Dante-lovin’, flamewar-instigating fans run to the message boards in protest, understand that your knight in long red leather is still playable for nearly 50% of the campaign and has a significant role in DMC4’s story. In fact, he immediately–and impressively–struts his stuff in the game’s cinematic opening. We won’t spoil it for you, but an assassination of a high profile holy man, preceded by lots of shattered glass combine to make Dante’s entrance a memorable one.
The eye-catching opening, which sets up the story and introduces the dynamic between Dante and Nero, quickly gives way to the player controlling the fresh-faced protagonist. Newcomers to the series won’t know the difference and will likely see the two characters as one in the same; they look nearly identical, have similar personalities and sport different, but equally super-slick fighting styles. Of course, if you’ve been dancing with the devil since the original game then you’ll, no doubt, miss Dante at first, but will quickly adjust to the new hell hunter on the block. Nero is younger and therefore comes off a bit more angsty than cool, but despite his potential to annoy as an emo goth, he remains a likeable and welcome addition to the series. It’s actually plausible to imagine him as a younger, less jaded Dante, a bit naive and more sincere than sarcastic.
But hey, this is Devil May Cry, not a personality analysis, so let’s get to the goods: is he as proficient as Dante at beating back the hounds of hell? Well, despite a different style–that veterans will need some time to get used to –,Nero more than holds his own in the death-dealing department. Like Dante, he relies on swords and side arms, but he’s also got a nasty little trick up his sleeve, literally. His right arm, dubbed the Devil Bringer, is an invaluable asset in his arsenal that works wonders for both fighting and platforming. Its ability to be used as a grappling-like device gets him to hard to reach areas, and its strengths in battle include grabbing enemies, slamming them into objects, and delivering deep impact punches. Visually, it puts on quite a show during fights, sporting different animations depending on which type of enemy Nero’s disposing of. Take on a lance-wielding knight and Nero’s ass-kicking appendage will grab the lance and repeatedly drive it through the knight’s midsection. Equally pleasing to the eye is the arm’s ability to grab a winged beastie from the air and swing it around by its tail. The Devil Bringer is an absolute blast, and one of the cooler weapons this genre has seen since Kratos’ Blades of Chaos.
Nero’s demon arm alone can often get the job done, but you’ll want to incorporate his Red Queen and Blue Rose (even the names are cool!) as well to unleash some devastating combos. The former is his oversized sword that actually has a motorcycle-like throttle control capable of revving up his attacks, and the latter is his double-barreled pistol that can also be upgraded for maximum punishment. As with previous DMC titles, the fun in the fight comes from stringing together over-the-top stylized combos, and these three weapons offer that opportunity in spades. With a few simple button presses he’ll fire off a few rounds, jump through the air, sword swinging, and maybe finish up by thrusting his possessed arm into the skull of a nearby hell dweller. Players will continually enhance their abilities by learning new combos, earning different weapons and generally becoming bigger “badasses” by spending collected orbs on upgrades.
Watching Nero’s heroic hell-thwarting is just as cool as controlling it; DMC has arrived on next-gen, and it’s firing on all cylinders in the graphics department. The game is gorgeous, from the richly detailed gothic interiors and the sweeping outdoor vistas to the realistic character designs. Watch Nero’s coat tails flow as he ascends a staircase and the epic boss battles (a large toad with lesbian pixie tentacles is a bizarre highlight). Everything looks pretty and polished. And this goes double for the cinema-quality cut-scenes–amazing stuff.
The sound design doesn’t quite reach the same level of quality, but it’s by no means bad. The blade-on-skin effects are appropriately squishy and the voice acting is almost always top-notch. The grinding heavy metal tracks match the action, but do get repetitive and a bit grating. Still, these are minor quips in an otherwise highly polished and produced audio/visual presentation.
So, let’s briefly get to back to the original hell-hating bad boy; about half way through the quest, a game-changing event occurs and you find yourself rocking the blades and bullets of Dante. His style, while different, is equally satisfying, and players–new and old– will appreciate packing Ebony and Ivory–Dante’s dual pistols–, as well as Rebellion, his signature sword. But the real treat is Pandora, a briefcase-like box that opens to unleash the series’ most over-the-top weapons to date. Watching this tiny case transform into a multiple-missile-launching weapon of mass destruction is both hilarious and super cool; with Dante manning the triggers of this beast-battling behemoth you may actually find yourself feeling sorry for hell’s hordes. Taking the time to unlearn Nero’s moves and teach yourself Dante’s is a bit frustrating at first, but it’s ultimately worth it to get the opportunity to control two such great characters, not to mention Pandora.
The only fault with Dante’s missions is that they’re repeats of environments you’ve already explored as Nero. So while you’ll be stoked about your new skill set, you’ll also be let down a bit by the lack of totally fresh levels. The same goes for many of the games bosses; each encounter is worth repeating, especially as the crimson-clad Dante, but having to beat some of these baddies three times feels a bit excessive. As you play through the first half of the game your mind might already be toying with the excitement of a second play-through, but after experiencing many of the same levels and bosses in the game’s second half, you may not be so eager to jump back in.
This filler-feeling content would be a real kill joy in a lesser game, but DMC4’s combat is so fast, so visceral, that it’s just a joy to play. And those who really want to tweak the experience will have endless fun tinkering with the upgrades and enhanced abilities. On the other hand, if you’re a casual hack-‘n-slasher, DMC4 has a great auto-upgrade system that’ll do all the work for you. There’s a lot to like here for seasoned demon slayers as well as new recruits. The gameplay is deeply satisfying and addictive despite some rehashed levels and bosses. And it all looks fantastic. Expect a crowd to gather around the TV as you, Nero, and Dante put on one hell of a show.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
Great, next-gen worthy visuals. 4.0 Control
Deep, yet simple for mashers and fight fans alike. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Mostly good, but some will find the metal tracks grating. 4.0 Play Value
Fantastic simple player campaign gets a bit repetitive in second half. Real fans will play through at least twice. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.