Sunday, March 6, 2016

Review #306: Devil May Cry 4

 When you gotta save the world, ya gotta save the world.
 And then the DMC franchise made the jump to the then-next-gen and... they made exactly what one would expect of a generational jump. And, considering how much games fail at those, that's a good thing. Instead of streamlining, the game builds upon what the previous game set as foundation, and it uses the power of the then-new consoles to give us stuff that would've been impossible on the PS2.

 What took many people by surprise, was that DMC 4 featured a new hero, and we all know how bad gamers take that, just as Raiden from Metal Gear Solid! Still, I'm always open for a franchise to grow, evolve and expand, so I had no problems with Nero. And NEro is fantastic, he is basically a younger version of Dante from Devil May Cry 1. Speaking of Dante, he's never had a consistent personality before, but DMC 4's Dante is DMC 3's Dante, a totally ridiculously awesome guy, and he is even more ridiculous this time around. As for the supporting cast, they are a bit lame, Kyrie, Nero's love interest and damsel in distress, only exists to smile or look depressed. Those're the only things she does in the entire game. Human bad guys are relatively plain and forgettable, the final boss included, and there's one that's a walking joke, Agnus, however, he and Dante share one of the best cutscenes in the entire game. Then there's Lady and Trish, and... they went full Japan on them. Lady was an amazing character(well, as amazing as it gets in DMC, since characters don't really have much depth, but they make up for it in coolness) back on DMC 3, now she only appears about a minute or so and is only there to jiggle her breasts, plus, her visual design is a mess. Trish looks like she did in DMC 1, and her personality is a neat complement to Dante's, shame she looks ridiculous whenever her breasts move all over the place, since, y'know, Japan. And don't even let me get started on Gloria, one of the worst character designs I've ever seen. And it does matter, DMC has always had cool character that lived and died by the rule of cool, now both Trish and Lady look ridiculous(Not the good ridiculous) in whatever few scenes they get.
 Nero and Dante are the only playable characters, and they each get their own missions, kinda. But first onto what matters, the combat system feels even better than it did on DMC 3. EVEN BETTER. Not even gonna bother mentioning how much better it feels to land hits, thanks to the audiovisual feedback, although I kinda just did. But then there's the fact that Nero and Dante are completely different. Nero only has two weapons, Red Queen, his sword, and Blue Rose, his gun. The gun is about as as useful as long-range weapons get in the DMC series(Read: useless), but he also has a Devil Arm, the Devil Buster, which is used with the circle button. The circle button can be used to use powerful attacks on enemies, and even on bosses if you know when to use it, it can also be used to pull enemies towards you, or in the case of big enemies, pull yourself towards them. When using Nero there's no downtime when it comes to fighting, it's fast, furious, and you force enemies to come towards you. And the Devil Buster grabs look so visceral that it makes it very satisfying to land, heck, on each boss he performs a unique grab. And then there's the EX-gauge, Nero can rev up his Sword to land stronger attacks, or even EX versions of some of his attacks, problem is, revving up his sword, normally, takes a while... but there's a time-window after each slash that, when pressing the rev up button, will instantly fill the gauge. It's not as easy as it sounds!

 And then we have Dante. He plays very similarly to how he did on 3, retaining the 'Style' system. But this time around, Dante has all four basic styles(And later down the line, a fifth) at the same time, toggled by tapping different directions on the directional pad. On DMC 3 you could only change styles before a mission, or on save spots, which was a bit of a downer since certain styles where much better for certain bosses or situations, that's not a problem any more, tap a button and BAM, switched styles. Dante only gets three fire-arms and three melee weapons this time around, but much like Vergil, he carries all six at the same time, and you can switch between them in real time. A few of them are predictable, Rebellion, the sword, and a new 'punching' weapon, his guns, Ebony and Ivory, and a shotgun... but the third new weapon of each is crazy amusing. The melee weapon throws arrows towards an enemy, and if they stick, you can make them explode by throwing a rose(Back+Attack), which, trust me, is much better than it sounds, and Pandora is... Pandora is a lot of long-range weapons in one, including a floating sphere with cannons all over its surface.
 It sounds too good to be true, and it kinda is. There's not enough game to make the most of either character, sadly. A lot of people made a lot of fuss about Dante's stages being 'Nero's in reverse', but that's not quite right. Y'see, while you could play the entire DMC 3 as either Dante or Vergil, this time around, Nero gets 13 chapters to himself, while Dante only gets 7. To add insult to injury, Dante's stages are quicker, gimmicky versions of Nero's levels, 'Now there's poisonous gas!', 'Now there're portals so exits take you to different places!', 'Now you can't sit in place, else a monster takes you onto an enemy arena!', etc. There simply isn't enough game to make the most out of Dante, which is a shame since he's got an incredibly deep moveset, and the way you have to use him is different from Nero's. 

 There were also a couple of sections I could've done without, involving a die. This is an action game, and while there's some exploration, you are constantly moving, It's a fast paced action game, with some adventure elements here and there. And then you get to the die room, in which you must hit a die, and then wait for a board piece to move, depending on where it lands, you'll either get showered with red orbs, or have to fight some enemies. This section brings the game to a halt, and its so very boring that it sticks like a sore thumb from the rest of the game. Hilariously, Dante comes across the same die, but he cuts it in half. 'Oh! So maybe it was worth it to endure that part, since that was really funny, considering how boring it was'... except that they bring it back for the 19th mission. And this time around, unless you hit the exact number, the board piece is gonna do rounds around the board. Fun. But what's even worse, they brought back the only part I didn't like in DMC 3: The boss rush at the end. And this time around, it's tied to this annoying die-mini game. Oh boy, it's gonna take a while. And this makes it so that most bosses are fought three times. THREE TIMES!! And there's not much in the way of unlockables, no characters, no costumes, just more difficulty settings and some art.
 It's not all bad though, the game runs at a very consistent 60 frames per second, which looks beautiful in motion. They really took advantage of the new hardware, most bosses are huge, and it's a joy to fight them, up to the second time as Dante anyways, the third time, again with Nero, was just pushing it... And they did away with most fixed camera angles, there's a few here and there, but usually not where monsters are, now the camera is under your control, which is about damn time! The currency used to buy skills and items has been divided into two: One for items, the red orbs, and one for skills, the Proud souls, which are earned upon completing a mission. This... this is pure genius, no longer having to decide between more moves or health/devil trigger upgrades. Proud Souls are refundable as well, so if you don't like your new moves, or want to try others, you are free to do so.

 DMC 4 did so much good for the franchise. The combat is as tight as ever, Nero was a cool new character, the little enhancements to the camera, the way you buy items and skills from the store, it's a shame that, whether the budget ran out or Capcom rushed the development, Dante wound up having too little game to himself. Still, I can't help but love the game, but part of me wonders just how much better would it have been had Dante gotten his own levels and bosses.
 8.5 out of 10

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