'Devil May Cry 4' (Xbox 360)


Review by Carl Lyon

Dante, the demon-slaying antihero of Capcom?s Devil May Cry series, has entertained gamers across three acclaimed entries on Sony?s Playstation 2. Originally envisioned as Resident Evil 4 (really!), the over-the-top combo-filled combat, which rewarded style and finesse over frantic button-mashing, was deemed a poor fit for the survival horror franchise, so designers fleshed out the game into a whole new world. Dante, for the uninitiated (all three of you), is a demon hunter for hire who uses his business as a front to seek out the demon who killed his mother and brother and exact his vengeance. The twist was that Dante was half-demon himself, spawned from the turncoat devil Sparda, who years prior used the sword Yamato seal the gateway between Hell and Earth.

For the fourth entry in the franchise, Capcom deviated ever-so-slightly from their usual ?If it ain?t broke, don?t fix it? mantra that had carried them so well for the previous trilogy, first bringing Devil May Cry outside the Sony exclusive circle and into Xbox 360 territory, and replacing series mainstay Dante with a newcomer named Nero. That?s right, you are no longer Dante, the white-haired devil hunter dispensing two-fisted holy vengeance with both gun and blade, you are now Nero, a white-haired devil hunter dispensing two-fisted holy vengeance with both gun and blade?and a demonic arm!

Despite the similarities between the two characters (and it?s really no spoiler that they are both sons of Sparda), Nero?s monstrous right arm (dubbed the Devil Bringer) adds a whole new dimension to DMC?s already fun and near-perfect combat system. Nero can grapple his enemies in a variety of ways, plucking them from afar and into the business end of his sword, swinging them mercilessly into walls and each other, or even snatching them from the ground as he leaps in the air to fling them back down to earth. It?s fun and incredibly satisfying every time you lay down a particularly nasty combo (especially watching your combo meter, grading you school-style from D all the way up to a godlike SSS, creep steadily upwards) or send a tricky boss back to Hell. The enemies and bosses are also varied enough that your techniques have to change on the fly. While a few simple sword-slashes may take out the game?s plentiful Scarecrows (blade-limbed jesters filled with insects) the icy Frost demons require a more hands-on grappling approach. Even the bosses, like the fiery Berial or the frigid Dagon, require a hefty spoonful of strategy to conquer.

Unfortunately, the Devil Bringer is such a fantastic and natural extension to the gameplay that when you switch to Dante for the second half of the game, you feel lost. Sure, he plays just as solid as ever, but losing Nero?s grappling abilities feels almost like a downgrade. Capcom does attempt to keep it fresh by supplementing Dante?s arsenal with new weapons, but they don?t really feel crucial to the game. Out of the three weapons (Gilgamesh, Pandora, and Lucifer) I really only found myself using the shape shifting suitcase/WMD Pandora, which rewards wiggles on the analog stick with a variety of increasingly brutal forms, making you feel like a satanic El Mariachi as you lay waste to the game?s plentiful baddies. The biomech armor of Gilgamesh (which reminded me of the comic The Darkness) and the spear-flinging Lucifer were rarely let out to play. Worse, the game simply has Dante retrace Nero?s steps backward, fighting the same bosses in the same environments you just battled through. True, you?ve got to adapt your tactics to fit Dante?s different style, but it still feels kind of cheap.
Despite the new additions, it?s still business as usual. You?re still slaughtering Hell?s rank and file through gorgeous gothic architecture, the combat is still as frantic and cathartic as ever, the dialogue still has that overly cheesy feel that reeks of direct-to-video action films (not a bad thing), and the cinematic cut-scenes are the best-directed I?ve seen in a game, bar none. Flaws aside, if you own either the PS3 or the 360 (and straight from the mouth of Capcom, there is no difference in either performance or visual quality between the two versions?sorry fanboys) this game deserves to be a part of your collection.