Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition
Xbox One, June 23rd 2015, £19.99
Sometimes, all you want to do is chop up demons with a sword.
If flicking a possessed jester doll into the air, jumping up and disembowelling him before yanking his mates from over the room with your devil hand to give them the same treatment sounds like a lark, this game has you covered. Every second is a treat: when it lets you get on with the demon-chopping, that is. Often, the coolest action will be constricted to cutscenes or broken up by tedious “puzzle” solving and frustrating platforming.
Devil May Cry is deeply connected to some of my all-time favourite games, born from Resident Evil 4’s development and fathered by Hideki Kamiya. I’m not quite sure how I never went back to play one of the DMC series, especially considering their descendant Bayonetta is the undisputed queen of the character action genre and owes several obvious debts, aesthetically and in gameplay, to DMC.
Nonetheless, here I am, diving in with a special edition of the fourth game in the series, laden with bonus characters and fanservice. I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong; this is actually a pretty good jumping on point. Originally released on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, DMC4 was deliberately designed as a potential first game, starring a new character and not overly relying on knowledge of previous games to understand the madcap story.
But enough about the ludicrous story and the bonus features packed into this edition that you won’t care about if this is your first time, back to that demon chopping.
Like all the best action games, you’re presented with a variety of enemies, each one requiring a different tactic, drip fed and thrown at you in various combinations. When you’ve learned a foe and can string cool-looking combos into a battle, jumping between one monster and another showing off your knowledge, the feeling is excellent. There are so many cool moves and tricks that can be used in combination with eachother that no two battles are the same.
For me, this excessive array of moves and abilities was the cause of the game’s greatest flaw. Character action games live and die by their dodge mechanic, but in this department the game is a little too wishy washy. With the same button jumping, rolling or sidestepping based on whether you’re also holding the lock button and pressing a direction at the same time, it took a little too long for my brain and my fingers to synchronise in battle. Whenever a new enemy or difficult boss arrives, I found a little too much frustration in trying to avoid death. It’s a far cry from Bayonetta’s exquisite one-button dodge and the witch time mechanic.
It might seem a little unfair to compare Devil May Cry 4 to its younger sister, and certainly it isn’t much of an insult to report that a game isn’t quite up to the standard of one of the all time greats, but playing this Special Edition in 2015 it is impossible not to recall that masterpiece. The dodging lacks the immediacy, the attacks aren’t quite as punchy, the checkpointing is a little more frustrating, the enemies lack the consistency of design and the female characters get ludicrous amounts of skin out without the sense of agency and empowerment which made Bayonetta such a fabulous character.
Don’t take my assertion that Bayonetta outdid Devil May Cry 4 to mean the latter isn’t a good game. It is bloody excellent across the board. The graphics are sumptuous, with beautiful animations keeping the action tight and gorgeous backgrounds that could almost pass for photographic at times. The music is pumping and keeps the action engaging throughout. And once the natural urge to compare to other games disappears, and the complex controls are mastered, the minute-to-minute gameplay of slaughtering enemies is moreish and fast-paced. If only I could stick to demon-chopping, instead of awkwardly spider-manning my way across chandeleirs with a magic blue hand…
I’d liken the game to a chocolate brioche roll. The pastry is nice enough, you won’t be upset about eating it, but you really want to get to the chocolatey centre. Exploring this world and trying to keep up with the story is all well and good, but really you just want to fight demons, master the controls and show off what a chill karate dude you are. If you’ve never played a DMC game, I’d recommend this as a place to start. If you’ve played through the game before, though, I’m not the man to tell you whether to play it again…
TO BE CONTINUED