2008 Reviews

Devil May Cry 4

  • Review Date: 2012-07
  • Release Date: 2008-01
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Rating: 7.0

I've been working my gaming way through some of 2009's poorer releases lately. Of the 18 games I've played so far in 2012, only four were real keepers (Turok, Tomb Raider Underworld, COD4 and Bioshock). So every now again I dip into my pool of highly rated 2008 games to play (the list includes COD, Crysis Warhead, FarCry2, Dead Space, Mass Effect, Fallout3, L4D). Devil May Cry 4 is next on the list. And I'm happy to say it actually lived up to the hype and expectations, with a 78% on the PC for critics.

That's not to say it got everything right. It failed in a few areas. But for it's great storyline and amusing cut scenes, for it's thrilling combat and great design, it becomes a very memorable game.

The storyline is the best part of DMC4. In the game the player controls both the game's protagonist Nero and the series' title character Dante. Bit of a shame the majority of the game is played as Nero, because Dante is the character everyone loves and has more personality. I won't go into details of the story, but you can easily follow the game without having to play any other titles in the series. It easily stands alone with new characters. Story is very well told through many cut scenes throughout the game, some very well done. This is typical anime style mannerisms and exaggerated action sequences, the type I love. In fact this is good enough to make me want to watch the DMC TV series now. Some players might not like so many cut scenes, but I didn't mind at all because they were all well directed.

The design of the levels are all good. Not quite as spectacular as Prince Of Persia, but very close to it. There's lot of different styles and each level blends well into the next. Throughout the game there's 20 levels to play through.

Unfortunately, after playing through half the game as Nero, sometimes having to backtrack through levels, you then take over as Dante and play ALL the same levels over again, in reverse. This is a terrible way to extend the game, especially as some levels, such as the forest and castle, can get quite confusing where you're supposed to go as you trek back through them.

Then there's the boss battles - easily over twenty in total. However there's only several bosses, you simply have to fight them all twice as both Nero and Dante. Then you get to the penultimate level and you're forced to fight all the bosses again, all in a row! So every level you play through at least twice, and every boss you fight at least twice, some thrice. The first big flaw of DMC4. By the time I got to the penultimate level I was far and away over boss battles and ready to put god mode on. Some of them aren't actually that tough, they just take a while. In fact the ones that should have been the toughest I found easier than some of the weaker bosses. In fact, there's an enemy in the game (fortunately you only meet several times) that I found tougher than some of the bosses!

So gameplay isn't completely consistent. But overall, too many boss fights. I already dislike boss fights in most games, but this many is ridiculous. Normal enemies are all pretty fun, some quite easy while others can be very difficult. The method of combat is that you enter a room, both exits are sealed and you fight a certain number of spawning enemies. This isn't new (Painkiller anyone) and isn't intelligent design either. But it works okay. It does ramp up the excitement levels.

Actual combat and fighting is what makes the game so fun. You have both a sword and guns, but most of the action is with your sword, hack and slash style. You get many different combo's you can use, so many with Dante that there were many combo's and abilities I never even used once. Nero's grabbing ability is huge amounts of fun. It was a slight let-down once you take over as Dante because you lose Nero's grab. But as you play on Dante's huge amount of combo's become more fun as you upgrade the character.

I did find DMC4 a little difficult at times. I ended up giving myself a double-jump cheat and gaining some extra abilities I hadn't earned, which made the game much more enjoyable - especially the double-jump. I don't need a huge challenge in games, I want fun and adrenaline action, but not frustrating combat that you have to try over and over to get it right. And I could tell without the double-jump cheat, the boss battles may have been a lot tougher.

A weakness in so many games is their reliance on you spending hours smashing objects to gain stuff, be it coins or in DMC4's case - red blobs. And with these you can upgrade the player. I've never found this fun at all. Let me get on with exploring the levels, fighting enemies, solving puzzles. I don't want to be collecting every tiny object I can find just so I can upgrade the character enough to survive. Hence why I throw on the upgrades the improper way. I can probably thank fucking Zelda for the collecting.

But if you intend to play without any help, DMC4 is probably a challenging game.

This brings me to the final issue; the camera. DMC4 has very little free look. That's right, it's a third person (mostly) action game with NO FREELOOK or mouse support. You play completely on the keyboard using WASD or the arrow keys for movement. We've gone back to 80's style gaming!!! You get one camera angle as you move around, and it changes as you move through levels. It can be in front, to the side like a platformer and then sometimes in front of the player so you can't even see where you're going. At times it'll switch suddenly from back to front, or vice versa, so you've got to quickly go from the forward key to the backwards key. If you take too long, the player will turn around and switch the camera angle back again. You can be caught bouncing between camera angles a few times. Countless times you'll get into a room with enemies in it that you can't even see because the camera angle is stuck on your player instead of in front of you. In short, DMC4 has the worst player control in a game I've ever played. And I've been playing games for over 20 years. You do get used to it, or at least tolerate it, but I do wish this was just a normal third person game with free look and you are always looking forwards. Surely it would have been easier to develop that way as well.

Wrapping up, DMC4 needed to back off on the repetition in replaying levels, needed at least half as many boss battles and the player control was awful. But the great looking levels and design, the fast pace hack and slash action and good story telling make DMC4 a solid game in the end. New developer for the reboot coming next year, which might not be a good thing. But at least there's another title in the franchise coming soon.