Games have come a long way since Devil May Cry 4 first launched back in 2008. Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition doesn’t make an old game fresh again, but it does what it can to bring along some new with the old. As well as all of the original content, Special Edition introduces new difficulty settings, costumes, and three new playable characters. This is certainly the definitive version of DMC4, but that’s not to say that everything ages as well as I might have liked.
Players assume control of Nero; a Holy Knight of the Order of the Sword. This Order worships The Legendary Dark Knight Sparda, with the goal of eliminating demons in his name. The fact that Nero himself has a crazy demon arm and expresses his disinterest in the Order’s preachings makes me question his reasoning in working with them, but maybe he’s just here for Kyrie. Kyrie isn’t just a name that Nero emotionally screams regularly, but also his love interest. When Dante attacks the Order, Nero is sent after him, and the adventure begins.
There isn’t too much explanation here. Nero is a descendant of Sparda, so that makes him related to Dante and Vergil, but how? If he’s the son of either, how on Earth did he end up with the order? I even turned to the DMC wiki in case I missed something from the previous games, but it seems I didn’t. These emissions weren’t the only things that bugged me about this game’s story, either. You talk to someone at point A, spend hours slicing your way through demon hordes and solving environmental puzzles to get to point B, and find the same person waiting to talk to you there. How’d they get passed the three bosses I had to kill? It’s just not a well put together game narrative, but who cares? At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. What does matter though, is the combat.
If it’s wicked stylish sword fights with magic spikey-hands and shiny revolvers you’re after, you’re in the right place. Nero knows a thing or two about cutting up weird sack-demons. Unlockable combos and abilities supply a fairly extensive combat system. As with other DMC games, the breadth of the action comes from timing your attacks with pauses between certain blows to execute more advanced combos. Mix these up with Nero’s Buster (rock fingers) and pistol, and you’ve got enough ingredients for a whole bunch of recipes.
On top of that though, are all the other playable characters. Each character has their own set of abilities and combos; they’re far more than re-skins. Dante can switch between four styles on the fly, changing the effect of his special attack in real-time. Dante’s arsenal is also much more robust, containing several melee and ranged weapons. His collection of combos is much less extensive than Nero’s, though. Vergil is the best of both worlds, with a handful of weapons and a great set of moves. Lady has a ranged focus, with slower moves, while Trish is quick and kinetic. Anyone who likes a good hack ‘n’ slash is sure to find a good time here.
The only problem is that I didn’t feel too encouraged to play as these characters. The main story mode has you play as Nero and Dante. You can play through it as Vergil or Lady and Trish too, but it’s just the same levels minus any story stuff. I was hoping they’d somehow work in different character perspectives, even if all that was changed were the arrangement of the levels with a couple of cutscenes thrown in. If you’re the ‘replay for better scores on harder difficulties’ type with these kinds of games though, this is great news for you.
I definitely didn’t feel too inclined to replay the whole game with a different character, though. DMC4 is a ride full of ups and downs. At the best of times, it’s very reminiscent of a Zelda game – with stellar fights, of course. Levels are designed as obstacles. You enter an area from one side and want to leave out the other. To do that, you’re going to have to get item x, to reach area y, to pull a switch to lower the bridge, to reach item z, so you can open the door. It’s linear but exploratory. There are some great boss fights throughout, too. Some are pretty simple while others are strategic and might take a few tries to master.
All of this is awesome, but at a certain point in the game, it starts to drag. Once you start playing as Dante, you work your way back through the game you’ve already played as Nero. I actually really like this as a concept, but the execution left something to be desired. Areas are slightly altered to differentiate from the first half of the game. In some cases this was cool; I love exploring an old place in a completely new way. When each ‘door’ teleported me to an unspecified area, and I had to just find my way out via trial and error though, I was bored. Several points in this game feel like padding. Whether that was the intention or not, it’s an issue. Boss fights are, unfortunately, repeated frequently too. There is only one boss (probably the best one) in DMC4 that you only fight once. A few bosses are fought not twice, but three times. Again, if these were twisted just enough to interestingly affect the fight, I’d have no problem with it. They were just the same fights again, with one slight exception. Thankfully they were good enough fights that I still had fun with them, just less each time.
Outside of the main mode, Bloody Palace provides wave-based arena combat to challenge your combat prowess. I’d say this is the best way to play around with the other characters and earn remaining upgrades. I didn’t spend too much time here though, just because I didn’t have far to go with my character upgrades. If the unlockable abilities had offered a bit more to aim for, Bloody Palace would appeal to me much more. But again, if you are the type to work towards mastering this system, this stuff is for you, not for me. I need carrots on sticks.
DMC4 looks about as old as it is. Environments generally look much better than they used to, and certain views look fantastic. Character models, effects and the like, on the other hand, are all easily identifiable as the early PS3 assets they are. That’s not to say they look bad. Nero and Dante look great, but some of the others are a little off. The game is far from bad looking, but it’s certainly dated overall. It doesn’t come close to the standards of today, but I wouldn’t flaw it for that. On the other hand, the music, despite being good, gets irritating. Just about every fight in the entire game triggers the same song to play. It’s a great song to get hyped for demon smashing, for sure, but after 80 fights I could’ve done with something else.
Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is the best way to play Devil May Cry 4. It’s an improved and much more expansive package, but it’s still a game from 2008. For a good old action romp, this release won’t disappoint you, just don’t expect much more from it. Whether you’re an action fan who’s never played DMC4, or a big DMC fan, there’s definitely a good time waiting for you here. That being said, I’d be remiss to not recommend Ninja Theory’s DmC: Devil May Cry before this game to those who haven’t played it.
DISCLAIMER: this game was supplied to us by the publisher, and reviewed on PS4 across 12 hours of gameplay.