I’ll be honest: this retrospective took a lot less time than I thought it would.
Devil May Cry 4 is easily the game in the series I know the least about. I played the original trilogy back on the PS2 back in the day, but I never so much as touched DMC 4. Honestly, I thought that this game would be bad. Whenever anyone talked about the series, they’d always bring up DMC 3 and no other game. I had assumed that, much like DMC 2 before it, people just wanted to forget about this game.
Once again: I’m so happy to be wrong.
In terms of gameplay, Devil May Cry 4 may just be my favorite game in the DMC series. DMC 3 will forever be my favorite, both because of the decent story and nostalgia, but this game takes a very solid second place. It looks great, plays great and the story is… well, it’s passable.
The game is divided into three separate campaigns with five playable characters. There’s the main campaign, featuring Nero and Dante, what I like to call the Lore campaign with the Vergil storyline, and the secondary campaign starring Lady and Trish. While each one does have it’s own story that builds on the overall plot, they all share the same levels, monsters and boss fights, which makes them all blend together. So I hope you really like those boss fights, because you’ll be doing each a lot.
What is the overall plot, you ask? Well, it’s pretty much the only story DMC knows how to tell. Some dumb ass looking for supreme power and opens the door to the Demon World to get it. Now Dante, Trish, Lady and the new boy Nero must step up to plate and save the day. At this point, what did you expect? These games follow the same storytelling formula as Mario and Megaman.
Except instead of saving a princess or stopping an evil scientist, you break the laws of physics and slaughter demons.
Now, I have no issue with dividing the campaigns between characters. But the balance of missions between characters is heavily skewed. For example, Lady has 12 missions (1 of which is a tutorial) and Trish only gets 8 (again, one of which is a tutorial). And unfortunately: the same ratio goes for the Nero/Dante campaign. Nero gets 12, and Dante only gets 8. Luckily, neither of them have overdrawn tutorials like Lady, Trish and Vergil, but the number of Nero missions is still much greater than Dante missions.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Nero as a character. He plays well enough, he has a likable enough personality, and his motivation is clear and well defined. He may very well be the only DMC character to actually be attracted to a woman in a genuine romantic way. His whole motivation is that of a classic white knight: save Kyrie, the girl of his dreams. It’s nothing thrilling or especially well executed, but it does what it needs to do.
The only real problem is Kyrie herself. See, Kyrie isn’t a character; she’s a prop for the story. She has no personality, motivations or goals. Her whole character is “I’m in love with Nero.” and that’s it. If she were a well defined and interesting character, and we saw how close the two of them are more than once before the action gets started, then the audience would care a whole lot more when she gets kidnapped and Nero needs to save her. As it is, the only one in the relationship that the audience cares about even a bit is Nero.
To be fair: story has never been the strongest focus of the DMC series. At best, the plots are okay. It’s clear that the focus of these games is to make the player smile and give them a fun time. Luckily, the refined DMC formula is even better than before in a lot of ways.
Each character plays very differently from one another. Nero has a demonic hand that he can use to pull enemies towards him and send them into the air and a motorcycle sword that can be charged up for extra damage. Dante is about the same as he always is. Lady has lots of cool guns at her fingertips, Trish has lightning powers, and Vergil can throw energy swords around. Each one shares the basic fundamental combos as one another, but they have enough to help them stand out on their own. Each are very fun to play.
Each boss fight is also pretty good (until you’ve played through them seven times and you’re sick of them, but that does take a little while to happen). They each have unique and memorable designs, attack patterns that are easy to figure out and work around, and they make you feel powerful when you kick their ass. They provide a decent challenge and a change of pace, and they’re a fine addition. It’s just a shame that you need to fight the same guys over and over.
But hey! As Nero, you get to fight Dante! And, while it won’t beat the final battle between Dante and Vergil in 3, it was an absolute blast!
There are also a ton of little changes that make the game easier and more fun to play. Combos are a lot easier to chain together, making this one much more accessible to new comers (or people who suck at these games like I do). Dante can switch between his Styles on the fly by pressing the D-Pad, making their use in combat much more viable than in 3. The different abilities you can acquire now show how the power works and how to use it, making it a lot easier to decide what you should get.
This game also looks really good. Though that may be because I was playing the PC version on the highest possible settings. It ran at a smooth 60 FPS, the environments were absolutely gorgeous, and the character models were well detailed and animated. Each character has a unique and memorable design that helps them stand out, even if you don’t care for the character. And of course: the music is fantastic.
One thing I did find a bit distracting though was the fan service. See, now that the series is in HD, the character models for Trish and Lady have become a lot more detailed. And you know what that means: really distracting jiggle physics and camera angles. It’s not hard to see coming, it is a Japanese anime-style game, but it does feel out of place. Especially since the first three games were surprisingly lacking in fan service.
And before you say “Of course there wasn’t fan service, it was a PS2 game!”, let me remind you: the Dead or Alive series started in that era.
All in all, this game was a pleasant surprise. It was fun to play from start to end, though it did get a bit repetitive after a while. While I don’t think it’s as strong as 3, I can definitely say that it’s one of my favorite DMC games.
With that, we’re done! Our little DMC retrospective is finally complete! But which game is the best game? Well… I feel like it’s kind of obvious. Number one undoubtedly goes to Devil May Cry 3, followed by 4, then 1, and lagging far behind everything else is 2. If you’re new to the series, I’d recommend you play, 3, then 1, and wrap it up with 4. Do not play DMC 2.
Then, after you’re all caught up, you can eagerly await DMC 5 with me.