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Devil May Cry 4
  opened by paleface at 02:20:06 05/25/08  
  last modified by paleface at 17:29:50 05/25/08  
  paleface [sys=PS3; cat=Beat_em_up; loc=NA]
Finally a DMC game I could put up with all the way through. 4 has visual inspiration on par with the original game, and on the PS3, even though it tops out at 720p, it looks quite nice, and runs at a smooth framerate.
But all the DMC games I've seen have run very smoothly, so let's get to the changes that actually made me like this one. First of all, the currency used to buy health items has been separated from the currency used to raise your character's skills, which eliminates the sinking sensation you got in the earlier games when you had to skip levelling up in order to get health back just to stay alive. That is a huge load off the mind.
Second, the levels have fairly frequent checkpoints, so if you get killed, you don't have to play back through the whole frickin' level again; at a boss fight, you can always just restart at the beginning of the fight. This was something DMC needed very badly indeed; why it took them so long to catch up with the rest of the gaming world in this respect, I have no idea, but thank goodness they did.
Third, the unintuitive puzzles and boss attacks are mostly a thing of the past. Puzzles and level layouts for the most part follow an understandable logic, and the worst boss attacks usually have a discoverable means of evasion or counter. You no longer have to chug expensive health items just to pass a boss--a death or two, maybe, and you'll at least start to get a grasp of how to take them down.
Fourth, the camera isn't as bad as in previous games. There are still a few places where it seems like they stationed the automatic camera switches at the worst possible points, but these are relatively few and far between, and in many areas, and most of the boss fights, the camera is entirely free to be moved as you wish. Seeing your target and your own character is rarely a problem.
Like the other DMCs I've played, the focus is on fighting with a sword and a gun. The gun is still pretty darn underpowered, and I found that I rarely used it, since the sword does much more damage. There was really only one point where I used it, which was a boss whose close-range counter-attack I just couldn't figure out, so I had to cheap-shot them from long range, which took forever, but was better than dying over and over.
Some of the bosses are pretty darn epic. Some are a bit more on the ratty and annoying side, but even they look pretty nice. Still, DMC4 continues the series' weird inclusion of really stupid-looking rank-and-file thugs: this time around you spend much of your time fighting either patchwork rag dolls, floating capes with spears, or small lizard-like creatures with flailing limbs that you can never quite see clearly. These are all pretty lame, and the only nice thing about fighting them is the satisfaction of putting them out of their misery. Later on you do get some armored humanoid enemies that are actually pretty cool, and have nifty attack and defense patterns; I just wish more of the token enemies were equally appealing.
I wish they'd take more advantage of the mix between gun and sword. Maybe there are tricky ways to use them together, but I didn't really see them. It would be cool if there were high-damage combos utilizing both sword and gun, for instance, but there don't seem to be. You can buy more advanced attacks for the characters, but they're nearly all sword attacks, with guns just getting charge shot capability, which is slow, weak, and boring by comparison.
There aren't really that many choices for abilities and skills to buy, and well before the end of the game I had all the ones that seemed useful, which weren't really that many. You do have two separate characters, the standby Dante, and a new character, Nero, who's basically Dante Jr, with the addition of a telekinetic arm; sounds cheesy but the arm is actually pretty fun, and adds the ability to go to foes or bring foes to you very rapidly in the middle of a battle; I liked Nero's arm way more than Dante's old "style" system.
The main characters are well designed and fun to watch and hear, and the fairly frequent cinematics are usually pretty worth watching, but you can skip them at any time if you prefer to cut to the action. Hm, one exception is Nero's girlfriend, the maiden in distress, who's really doe-like and annoying, not to mention that she has a weird big nose; not quite what you'd like in your main motivation for slaying the evil-doers.
The story therein does all right; it's an excuse for making you pass an array of levels and bosses, and it does that fairly well. I didn't find it intriguing, inspiring, or emotionally moving, but that still isn't really an expectation we can have of stories in games generally, unfortunately.
I do have to take points off, figuratively speaking, for the egregious re-use of levels and bosses. The game is divided up into 20 missions or so, and you play about half of these as Nero, and half as Dante--Nero has the earlier and last, and Dante has kind of the later half up to just before the end. After you've played Nero, you've already had to do a little replaying of earlier levels (switched up with different doors and enemy sequences), and then you switch to Dante, and quite literally have to play back through all those levels and bosses in reverse order. And once you finally switch back to Nero for the final push, you go through a level or two of playing a giant "board game" where you have to hit a giant die and progress a marker around a circle of lights (fighting pointless enemy waves if you land on an unlucky light) until you land on the right one and progress to...fighting one of the old bosses yet again. Noooooo.
Still, I did it, so I guess the joke's on me. The game can be difficult (I was playing on medium difficulty), but not so much that it scared me off from jumping into the next mission; I was in a bunch of close fights, and never had a plethora of restorative items left over, but I never had to grind previous missions over and over just to gain money or experience to bring my character up to par, which was a great relief. In other words, they got the difficulty just about spot on, which is no minor feat, so good job there. That, the appealing visual and audio design, the well-acted lead characters, and the butter-smooth fighting action kept me playing to the end, and overcame the downsides, like the repeated use of previous levels (oh I nearly forgot, the worse abuse of this is a jungle maze level you come to for like the third time, only this time there are now random giant carnivorous flowers that pop out of the ground and, if you don't jump away quickly enough when you see them forming, swallow you and TELEPORT YOU BACK TO THE START OF THE LEVEL...rrrrraaaagghh...fortunately once you take the hint they're easily avoided, but still--why??) the lame rank-and-file enemies, the sometimes incredibly frustrating optional mini-missions (blargh), a few overly bland or confusing levels, and the remaining camera hiccup or two. It wasn't a life-changing experience, but it was all right.
  paleface 17:29:50 05/25/08
Oh, I forgot to mention that like another recent Capcom title, Lost Planet (see entry 1206), DMC4 requires an installation of close to 5 GB of data to the PS3's hard drive. That was another thing compelling me to finish it--being able to free up that space. It's a really annoying trend by Capcom to take up that much drive space, and it definitely cuts down on any urge I may have to go back and play the game again.
· Devil May Cry (PS2)
· Devil May Cry 3 (PS2)

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