keskiviikko 22. tammikuuta 2014

REVIEW - Devil May Cry 4 | Xbox 360 | 2008

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: January 31, 2008

Devil May Cry's seventh-generation debut is the best-selling Devil May Cry game of all time, and one of Capcom's best-selling games in the last decade - but let's lay down the facts at this point. It was also the first multi-console release of the series, which might've had a huge effect on its sales. Devil May Cry 4 introduced a new main protagonist, actually going as far as placing previous lead man Dante as the supposed main antagonist. As a game... I'm not so sure they even tried to make anything exactly revolutionary here - just another by-product of a successful brand, with whole new technical potential to exploit. I originally saw Devil May Cry 4 as kind of an obsolete, if not completely dead, game on arrival, and having not been interested in the series since the first game, I never really took note of what the media was saying about it. As it turns out, the media was actually very receptive towards the game. So, for the first time since its release buzz, and straight after (more or less) hacking through three of the previous games, I'm taking Devil May Cry 4 for a ride. On the Xbox 360 - just in case the game truly does reek, at least I'll have Achievements for my time and money.

Devil may have cried

Johnny Bosch : Nero
Reuben Langdon : Dante
Stephanie Sheh : Kyrie
Kari Wahlgren : Lady
Terence J. Rotolo : Credo
T.J. Storm : Agnus
Danielle Burgio : Gloria / Trish
Liam O'Brien : Sanctus

Young Nero works as a demon hunter for the Order of the Sword, a holy order established to worship the legendary dark knight Sparda. During one of their gatherings, Dante crashes the party and kills their leader, prompting Nero to give chase to this mysterious assassin, not knowing his name or that he is actually Sparda's son, and despite witnessing with his own eyes that the members of the Order are actually demons. Capcom's lead men have never been very smart.

The kinda bad news is, I know exactly why I didn't like this game in the first place and why I found it utterly unattractive. The kinda good news is, I don't fully understand those decisions I made - I'm a different player now. I pay attention to different things and I don't expect miracles from any game. You know, it just might have something to do with the fact that I didn't buy a whole lot of pre-owned games back then, just brand new games with full prices - there weren't that many pre-owned games for this generation of consoles in circulation at that time. If I was prepared to pay a full price for a game, I had to be absolutely sure it would blow my mind and be something completely new and fresh, and/or a huge overhaul to an already good game. Like God of War II was to God of War - a huge overhaul to a game that was already, and still is, one of the greatest games ever made. Devil May Cry 4 hit the wrong notes and it did very little to blow my mind.

No, mentioning God of War is not a coincidence - God of War was obviously influenced by Devil May Cry. The first game came out in 2005, the second one in 2007 - only two years in between. Here we had seven years in between of Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 4, and I felt that the series hadn't evolved at all. Audiovisually, sure - some - but in terms of gameplay, it was still stuck years back. Stiff, and a bit clumsy - and as captivating as the story might occasionally be, that's where the developers' imagination ends. Dumb "puzzles", intentionally confusing level design, repetitive confrontations - these are some things that scar Devil May Cry 4. It's not a bad game, definitely not, and it's definitely far ahead the weakest link in the whole series - which is Devil May Cry 2 - but in 2008, the basic and decent Devil May Cry 4 was ironically devoured by the revolutionary and all-out amazing followers of the original Devil May Cry. It needed something completely new, and a new direction to survive the new climate which was suddenly filled with Devil May Cry derivatives, and I think that's what ultimately led to the British reboot of the series.

Most bosses in the game are literally more
bark than bite.
The game looks nice, sure, but surprising and taking full advantage of these new surroundings? Less so; it's just a click ahead of the previous installment on the PlayStation 2 when it comes to general movement and behavioral patterns. If you squint your eyes, you might not even be able to tell the difference from time to time. The environment, though, is in long-overdue full 3D (with occasional fixtures), and you can finally live with the camera. It's easy to control, and it pans just right. It does some occasional tricks which you'll certainly curse at, but it's an overhaul to the old anyway. The music is of that basic Devil May Cry fare you either hate or love, with vocals this time around which some untrained ears might dub death metal vocals, and heavy guitars which luckily cover most of that industrial zigzag. There's more dialogue than in any previous Devil May Cry game - if you've wondered why I haven't bothered to go into it that much previously - and it sounds quite all right. Audiovisually the game should still serve a fine treat to anyone really into the original franchise.

The slight evolutions in both the Devil May Cry franchise and these sorts of games in general has brought the game to the point it's not that challenging anymore, as in hard to beat - assuming you are expecting the same sort of assrape as you got from the first and third titles. For my first and foremost example: the use of yellow orbs, used for instant resurrection, is practically optional, 'cause whenever you die, you're given the choice whether or not to use one. If you choose not to, you're taken back to a moderately generous checkpoint anyway - unlike in Devil May Cry, where using one took you back to a checkpoint, and not using it took you back to the start of the mission. The generosity of those checkpoints depends on the level. So, these could just as well be called "final boss orbs" or something like that. Nero's moves and weaponry are very similar to Dante's - although I'm deathly annoyed of just one gun - but what makes beating demons up a little easier for him is his Devil Bringer gauntlet which you must upgrade in an early mission and with that upgrade, you get a kinda "lasso", which you can use to bring lesser enemies closer, so you don't have to go rushing and comboing circular hordes of enemies anymore. Green orbs flow around a-plenty, as do reds, and since there's a different currency used for abilities this time around than red orbs and nothing besides blue orbs that would really be worth your hard-earned blood money in the beginning of the game, you can max out your health bar quite quick.

Our "hero" and the damsel in distress. Whenever
they're on the screen together, prepare to be
You are ranked similarly as ever before, but this time, a better rank results in a heftier amount of Proud Souls, these spiritual trinkets used as currency to buy new abilities, ranging from sword combos to gun and gauntlet upgrades, to those same damn physical abilities used since 2001 (maybe under different names, but they're the exact same moves). Once you buy one, the price for every other ability on the list goes up a very notable notch, so a casual player shouldn't even expect to be able to buy more than one ability at a time. A casual player should also not expect to beat one single secret mission in this game. They're easy to find, as they're all marked by kind of a well-highlighted, bloody piece of paper, an ancient wanted poster if you will, but none of them are friendly to someone who's just getting familiar with the game - those people won't have fun with the quirky controls that haven't been updated for shit. Relatively sluggish and outdated controls are the game's worst problem, period. But, those secret missions... their requirements are ridiculous from the very start. There's not one secret mission, I think, that a casual player would find a fun challenge, interesting enough to really go for beyond one or two attempts, and if they've waited this long just to get a hang of this franchise, they also won't know about any rewards. I think that the best solution here would've been to allow the player to unlock these missions with progress and compile 'em up to a list outside the confines of the main game, which the player could then browse through in peace, and take part at his own leisure, not half-forced. I can't imagine myself going back on these boring main missions just to nail a few of these secrets down - especially if I've already beaten the game.

The second biggest problem after the controls is general boredom. The level design is off the mark - the game is confusing and full of backtracking, a lot of which stems from generic and completely unimaginative and out-of-place segments officially labelled "puzzles", which unsurprisingly always involve kicking the asses of a couple of dozens of enemies while you're at 'em. The same enemies, I might add, or at least very similar ones, for the longest time. The enemy design is like a collective of every Devil May Cry enemy that came before, and I must say that the boss design in particular reminds me of a certain game in the franchise I'm not too proud to call by name. The bosses look like stock material and they're very simple to beat. Despite all of this, and the fact that the protagonist is someone else than who we've grown accustomed to, there's still a lot more of that general Devil May Cry vibe than in Devil May Cry 2 - there, I said it - and we're not talking about that fashion of "boring" in any way. It's just that after a facelift like Devil May Cry 3, and especially after the transition to a new generation of platforms, everything about Devil May Cry 4 could've been a lot better. They just ran out of ideas long before they admitted it, it seems.

This bastard's about to take a flight. It's
amazing what a demonized glove can do.
Well, one thing that veteran players will be going for from the start is the chance to play as Dante (no wonder most screenshots on the net feature Dante instead of Nero). And we're not talking about an extra game mode unlocked upon completion of the game, either - we're talking about hacking through about a half of the game as the original hellspawn, in his seventh-generation incarnation. Before going for the obvious praises, here's where I think the writers hit a bit of a snag - he's the first boss of the game. No, no, no - not even a boss, a freakin' tutorial puppet for you to abuse. Simply effortless to beat. Yeah, sure, the game starts, Dante kills a wannabe-pope, everyone's shocked from the screen to the living room, and you're not playing as him but some young dude who looks like him a little too much, and Dante's actually your enemy. Yeah, shocking! ...But you know he has some noble cause, and you know he's not going to be your enemy the rest of the way. You just know. Konami already did something quite like this in Metal Gear Solid 2, that was in 2001; Capcom was a little too late with their own tricks to make believe that your great hero from years past was suddenly your enemy, and you played through most of the game as some young dude who was basically that guy's clone. And who was made to have mixed response to his credit. Wow, I never thought of this before... it just popped into my mind.

Dante is by all means an adult version of his incarnation in the previous game. As Dante, you once again have access to four different styles of combat, you don't have access to the Devil Bringer, and these things alone should tell you that Dante's missions are more challenging, and in the end, much more interesting than Nero's - Dante's what ultimately stopped me from bashing the game, it changes so surprisingly much with the introduction of this familiar lead character. He just steps in a little too late - you've seen enough awkward shit to last you a lifetime when he finally breaks out of his antagonistic mold. Die-hard fans won't care, 'cause they're blind. Newbies definitely won't care, 'cause they don't know anything about this franchise. But us, the tweeners, we have quick senses, and we're very critical towards everything about the game.

Devil May Cry 4 is a decent, cheap purchase to the less judging hack and slash audience. It's not very hard, it's not very interesting, it's not even the most audiovisually stunning game seen even at that time, and it's definitely not surprising. Not by a damn bit. It's got outdated controls and ideas. But, even despite all that I just said, long-time Devil May Cry fans will most likely love it. You wanna know why, you'll have to ask them. Me, I'll just wait for a reboot. Wait... they did that already...

+ Audiovisually sufficient
+ The story has cool bits
+ Some thrills in the genuine Devil May Cry spirit
+ Dante; comes in as a playable character a little too late, though
+ Better controls than ever...

- ...The scheme's just more than a bit outdated
- Tedious and unimaginative structural design
- Just as unimaginative visual design
- Challenge tips to beaRing the game more than beaTing the game

< 6.9 >

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