Devil May Cry 4
There Is a reason we've given so much space to this Capconi stunner; something that previously seemed destined to arrive mangled during the trip from console to PC. Amazingly though, Devil May Cry 4 is a slick, PC-enhanced title, not a hastily shoe-horned mess.
This means the game looks great, it's graphically scaleable, you can use a keyboard to play it and, to top it off, it plays like the entire PC development team was briefed with a PowerPoint presentation with the title "Hell Yeah!" while drinking Red Bull and listening to Nine Inch Nails' 'The Perfect Drug'. DMC4 is ridiculous, enjoyable and uplifting unlike any other title.
For those new to the series, in the past titles you've played as silver-haired smart-arse Dante, the son of the famous goodly demon Sparda who rebelled against his own army to save humanity, but now you control another chap called Nero. The point of these games has always been to chop and slash your way through hordes of monstrosities, interspersed with cutscenes of classic Japanese anime stupidity.
The big difference between these and other JRPGs has always been how the DMC games have given us a wink and a nudge to say that they realise how silly they are - and DMC4 takes this up to amorphous out-of-this-world barmy. It takes the greatest pleasure in how over-the-top it can be, and that's just a part of what makes it such outright fun.
You control the game using either the keyboard (don't expect to use the mouse for anything but menus) or an Xbox 360 controller, locking onto enemies, slashing them with your sword or blowing them up with your gun - which, of course, has unlimited ammo.
Your goal, apart from tearing demons to shreds, is to rack up combos by hitting enemies with as many different moves as possible in a constant string without getting hit The better you get, the more red orbs and proud souls you receive, which can be traded for new moves and items at certain times during levels. A new introduction is Nero's Devil Bringer -that's his big demon arm - which he can use to grab enemies from a distance or pound them with close-range moves.
Eventually, you'll have to get the hang of not only rolling out of the way of attacks, but grabbing enemies with the Devil Bringer to keep the stream of combo-increasing moves coming. This is tough, but once you do it's incredibly satisfying, especially when you unlock the PC-only Legendary Dark Knight mode (see 'The Dark Knight begins') and have to mince your way through gigantic crowds of enemies.
Smash And Grab
Story-wise, as mentioned you now predominantly play as Nero. In fact Dante is introduced as a bad guy when he murders Sanctus, the High Priest of the Order of the Sword - a group of religious demon-hunters, of which Nero is a member. After a brief tete-a-tete tutorial with the now antagonist Nero has to pursue Dante across all creation, through the city and its outskirts, killing demons and gigantic, absurd demonic entities. These range from your common-or-garden beasties to Devil May Cry's trademark nutty-as-squirrel-shit bosses, such as the demon fire lord Berial.
This boss is amazing - as you leap about grabbing onto him with your Devil Bringer, he smashes the town apart with his sword, eventually leaving it a smouldering pile of wood. Aside from boss-bashing and creature-crushing, you'll find a series of jumping and puzzle sections to stave off any potential repetition. These are for the most part bearable in the sense that they're simple, from using the Devil Bringer to jump between gaps, to moving gigantic death Dreidels down hallways. These are nice, inoffensive ways to split up the countless fighting sessions. However, occasionally they are dissonant, getting in between you and what you know is another brilliant boss encounter. The worst by far, are the two dice games, that depending on your luck can either be quickly completed or take an agonisingly painful amount of time (see 'Rolling in our games') to slog your way through.
Devil May Share
These are bearable forays, though, if you consider how enjoyable the rest of the game is. Once you get the hang of the combo system, DMC4 lovingly opens up to let you buy more moves for Nero, ranging from the useful predictability of Air Hike (double-jump) to more obtuse abilities like Enemy Step, that lets you bounce happily across enemy's heads, which is invaluable when you're surrounded.
Later in the game you get to play as Dante, who has the same four styles he had in Devil May Cry 3: Trickster, for dodging; Royal Guard, for reverses and blocks; and Gunslinger and Swordmaster for amplifying your weapons. Dante can also use weapons other than his shotgun and handguns, the most awesome being Pandora - a suitcase of ordnance that has different forms depending on your style, and morphs into a gigantic, daft wheel of death when you use Gunslinger.
Though it's clearly signposted when the changes happen, it's a little annoying when you reach the outset of a Dante level just as you're just getting access to some of Nero's cooler abilities. Also, playing Dante (unless you have Trickster at level three) is a lot more challenging than playing with Nero, as you'll find yourself a lot further from enemies with the only means of bridging the gap being a Stinger attack - which knocks the opponent away, making combos harder.
The learning curve is steeper again if you try to mix up the styles to score bigger combos, especially Royal Guard. ! This style seems suicidal until you sit down and work out the timing of every enemy. If you have the patience for that it becomes a stylish comboproducing machine.
Live By The Sword
There's a great deal of replayability in DMC4. For each successive playthrough, depending on the difficulty, you unlock extra modes, such as Legendary Dark Knight and the Bloody Palace survival mode, as well as the ridiculously hard Heaven or Hell Mode, where everything -you and monsters alike - dies in one hit.
The only issue is that it can be repetitive - you're doing what you've already done, just against larger, tougher and more numerous bad guys. There's not much more beyond that - the gameplay stays the same (regardless of the character changes) for the whole experience, only changing the vistas and introducing more enemies as you go. If the absolute stupidity of what DMC4 does, from the weapons, to the acrobatics, to the comically OTT and macho posturing of the cutscenes doesn't appeal to you - if you're the kind of person who tuts and rolls their eyes at sheer dumb melodrama - then steer well clear.
DMC4 is a quirky game - one that has few other titles to compare it to. For the most part, the delivery of console titles of this breed to the PC has been so shabby (Resident Evil 4, anyone?) that ports of this quality are a shock. Thanks to a little diligence on Capcom's part, DMC4 has turned out spectacularly. It looks as slick and a little sharper than the console version, it plays identically, and the PC-exclusive Legendary mode features more enemies on-screen than the 360 could manage. It's visceral, silly fun, as you'd expect.
I encourage newbies to the series and those who swore off it after the twaddle-tastic port of DMC3 to pick this title up and wring it dry. There's enough of the cathartic, gut-strewn combat to work out any frustrations you might have, and there's 12 solid hours of enjoyment at the very least - and a great deal more if you want to hone yourself to the fine and speedy digital dexterity that's required to beat Bloody Palace mode.
So, DMC4 is a good port of an excellent game. While slightly linear, obviously console-led, and a little repetitive, if you suspend your disbelief and let the game take you on a ride, you'll find your pulse pounding like a kettle drum. Any game that brings out an involuntary air-punching "YEAH!" into the middle of a quiet day at the office, has to be doing something very right. Devil May Cry 4 comes highly recommended to anybody who wants to play an action game and not some namby-pamby talkathon. Yeah, RPGs. Feel the burn.
Rolling in our games
The worst side puzzle in history
While it's easy enough to say that it's petty to get so annoyed at a puzzle that I write a box-out about it the dice-rolling game from DMC4 deserves one. The premise is simple -Nero must hit a big demonic dice and it moves him a certain number of spaces onto blue (gems), red (monsters), white (nothing) or yellow (move to the next yellow on the board) and purple tiles (boss battle, the only way to end the minigame).
One of the last few missions has you on a circular board, hitting the dice and rolling to attempt to hit either the purple or yellow tiles, both of which get you to a boss battle. Infuriatingly, most of the time there's little or no art to the dice rolls (the internet says otherwise, but its wrong), and you'll be at the behest of Lady Luck to see whether or not you'll have to fight - as was in my case - your ninth shower of monsters in a row, only to reach a boss on your next go, and have to do it all over again.
The Dark Knight begins
One for the hardcore
One of the coolest things about Devil May Cry 4 are the huge free-for-alls. The problem's always been that wimpy consoles could only manage a few enemies on screen at any one time. This changes in Legendary Dark Knight mode, unlocked after one playthrough, where you'll find yourself against big, bloody hordes of enemies. This is insanely fun. The game takes the normal 20 or so levels and fills them with enemies, even going as far as to add tougher ones to the earlier areas. It's the equivalent of The Matrix Reloadetfs Neo vs Many Smiths brawl, except without a load of angry-looking CGI Australians.
Download Devil May Cry 4
If you thought no one could be as badass (both in gameplay and hairstyles) as the wisecracking demon hunter Dante, prepare yourself for a young chap named Nero. DMC4's new kid on the block (who belongs to some kooky religious order) also likes to showboat with two weapons, a sword named the Red Queen and a gun named the Blue Rose. But he's also got another tool of destruction, the Devil Bringer. This supercharged right arm enables Nero to grab and attack enemies at greater distances, so it'll surely come in handy when plowing through legions of demons. And speaking of foes, don't expect DMC4's group (at the onset) to be as controller-smashingly difficult as those in the last game. "We'll teach you to use the gun, sword, and Devil Bringer to their fullest," says Producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi. "The difficulty curve will start below that of Devil May Cry 3, but by the end, we hope to have guided users step by step up to that level." As Dante would say, "Bring it on."