By Tom Tolios / July 30th, 2015
|Title||Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition|
|Release Date||June 23, 2015|
|Platform||PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Age Rating||M (Mature)|
When Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition was first announced, along with the Ninja Theory reboot DmC: Devil May Cry Definitive Edition, it felt like Capcom was on damage control with this franchise. While neither of these games was a new entry to the series, the announcements were enticing. For Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition, we were promised new modes, characters and combat rebalancing to perfect what was already a great game engine. Capcom’s penchant for remastering games is not only business as usual, it’s among their current corporate directives. But what, exactly, IS Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition? Is it an update for current gen consoles? Is it an experiment to gauge interest in the series is a whole? Is it an unnecessary apology for DmC: Devil May Cry? There is probably some truth in all of this, even though Capcom has stated that the sales of Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition will have no impact on the series’ future. While these questions have merit and are worth discussing somewhere, we’re only going to ask one question and then answer it: should you play this game?
Oddly, the story of Devil May Cry 4 doesn’t begin with the franchise’s MVP Dante but with young protagonist Nero, who bears a passing resemblance to our silver-haired hero; he’s got the same type of hair, a trenchcoat, super powers and an attitude. Maybe it’s in the blood. Nero fights for a group of holy knights called the Order who serve a religion that worships a being known as the Savior. This entity is in actuality, a mythological appropriation of the legendary dark knight Sparda, an all around swell guy for a demon and also the father of twin brothers Dante and Vergil. This church’s belief is based on a version of Sparda that they think will return some day to deliver them all from the demon threat.
The story begins with Nero, right hand bound in a cast and sling, ambushed by monsters as he’s on his way to church to watch his girlfriend Kyrie sing what I can only surmise is one of the faith’s hymns. Nero doesn’t have a broken arm, though. He has, for reasons we never learn, a demon arm, and the cast is just a means of hiding it from everyone. I can only presume that this is a recent development because his condition wouldn’t mesh well with the Order’s philosophy. Anyway, they’re not the most observant bunch when it comes to this stuff; after the cast is shattered in the opening chapter, Nero hides his malformation by turning his body and hiding the affected limb behind his trenchcoat. The guy never even puts his clawed hand in his pocket. He does roll down his sleeve once though. That Nero is tricksy and false.
But who are we kidding? We don’t play Devil May Cry for its realistic characters or narrative. We play because we want hard rock mayhem in overcoats, ridiculous combo attacks and fancy showmanship, and Devil May Cry 4 gives us plenty of that. Nero miraculously makes it to the church before Kyrie’s done singing with gift in hand. It’s when the head of the church, an old priest named Sanctus, is orating about the Savior that Dante dramatically crashes through the cathedral’s stained glass ceiling and kills Sanctus and a bunch of his armed guards in plain view of the congregation, which understandably sends them in to hysterics. Kyrie’s brother Credo, the leader of the Order, spirits her to safety and demands Nero stall Dante long enough for him to return with reinforcements. The two exchange some banter and there are some cool Hong Kong cinema style action sequences where they fight all up and down a giant statue before finally dropping to the church’s marble floor for the first playable sequence of the game.
The opening scene sets the tone for Devil May Cry 4. Dante taunts you like he doesn’t have a care in the world and doesn’t mount much offense. Perhaps he’s curious about Nero, or maybe he’s not really in that big of a hurry and is enjoying the battle. Whatever the case, he’s clearly having fun and that playful spirit is the essence of Devil May Cry 4. While I was initially despondent at not being able to play Dante for the entire game back in 2008, I quickly grew accustomed to Nero’s story, style and controls. He really does come off like Dante circa Devil May Cry 3 in several ways and that may be entirely by design. But Nero isn’t merely a copy of DMC 3 era Dante. In stark contrast to that character’s cocky charm, Nero is cynical and serious about almost everything except when he’s fighting, which is when you see more of his swaggering nature emerge. Especially when you take the time to taunt your enemies mid-battle. He even plays air guitar (!) while his foes circle him if you are properly running up the Style meter in between kills. Now that’s some (welcome) arrogance.
Nero’s moveset is basic and borderline uninteresting once you get the mechanics down. He has a variety of combos with his sword, Red Queen, both ground based and aerial and can also charge it up to unleash more powerful variations of his attacks. One thing that’s really fun to do with Nero is charge the Red Queen while attacking, which requires precision timing on the controls with each sword swing. He also has a pistol called Blue Rose that has some strategic applications but is really only an intermediary weapon to keep your combo string going, although charging the shot will run up your Style meter rather nicely since you are vulnerable while doing so. Nero can also use his demonic arm, called the Devil Bringer, to grab enemies, slam them around and even prop them up as meatshields against other opponents (during which, yes, you can taunt to run up your Style meter). The Devil Bringer is Nero’s most unique trait, the bread and butter of his combat mechanics. Nero eventually gains the use of the ubiquitous Devil Trigger super meter that fills up as you take on waves of enemies and, as expected, decreases over time while allowing for increased damage and a health regeneration effect. Nero’s mechanics are often monotonous but the enemies have strengths and weaknesses that are very well balanced for his move set, so the game is at its most comfortable while you are controlling him.
Long time fans of the series, and this game in particular, already know how things play out, but just to settle the fears of anyone not in the know: yes, you eventually DO get to play as Dante and in my opinion this is where the game first shows signs of stress and a lack of balance, even seven years and a Special Edition later. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing as Dante in this game, as he’s one of my absolute all time favorite video game heroes and I believe that in terms of character design and move set, this is his ultimate iteration. He has all four of his styles from Devil May Cry 3 available to him at the touch of the D-pad and some of his attacks change based on the active selection. The best part is that you can change the selected style n the fly, even in the middle of a combo, as you desire (he was limited to setting styles at the beginning of stages or at divinity statues in Devil May Cry 3.) When you factor in his Devil Trigger, the red coated silver fox is quite formidable. This is both good and bad.
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