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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Devil May Cry 4 (Playstation 3)

Capcom's Devil May Cry 4 brings this successful gothic-action franchise to the Playstation 3 for the first time and the results are largely impressive. Instead of focusing on the legendary demon hunter Dante, DMC 4 gives players the chance to control a younger warrior named Nero who brings some unique play mechanics to the series, which allows for some interesting new techniques. The game's visuals and cut-scenes are quite impressive, adding quite a bit of atmosphere to the proceedings. There are some interesting plot twists and surprises to keep players on their toes, but Devil May Cry 4 doesn't stray too far from its traditional formula. This makes for a satisfying experience that delivers the intense gameplay players have come to expect from the series.

Devil May Cry 4 marks the series' impressive next-generation debut and it delivers a solid title that offers a solid mix of fast action, new battle techniques and an interesting storyline that should keep players interest levels high throughout. The biggest change comes with its new main character. While the previous games in the series have focused on a demon hunter named Dante, the fourth game introduces a new devil hunter named Nero, who is actually hunting Dante after what seems like horrible, treacherous events that unfold in the opening sequence. Nero looks a lot like Dante, with the same white hair and long red trenchcoat, though he's younger and has a bit more of an attitude. Even though Nero is new to the series, he'll face many of Dante's old foes and enemies during the game, with the scarecrows, slicing demons and others making return appearances. As usual, they seem to attack in groups for the most part, which requires Nero to battle multiple opponents at the same time. Fortunately, he has a few tricks up his sleeves that allow him to slice through these evil forces without breaking a sweat. The biggest change in the new game is that Nero can throw enemies around using his demonically possessed hand, which is a really cool addition that allows you to get through multiple enemies at once. One of the other cool features allows you to auto-target a specific enemy and attack them from afar, lessening your risk of taking damage. Players can also jump or roll quickly out of the line of attack. This is especially useful when you're faced with multiple opponents and during the intense boss battles. These moves are quite cool, and the game's controls are responsive enough to allow you to perform them easily without putting too much effort into each attack. This makes performing combo attacks fairly straightforward in most situations. Devil May Cry 4's controls shouldn't bother those who've played previous games and the game's balance and difficulty can also be adjusted between a novice and expert settings, so even newcomers will be able to pull of some impressive moves.

While the basic structure is familiar, it feels a bit more open this time around. However, this presents a few problems. Devil May Cry 4's massive levels feature many large gaps and sections that you can't reach on foot. The cool thing is that you can use Nero's new Demon Grabs to jump almost instantly from portal to portal, which effectively solves this problem. These new techniques bring a new dimension to the gameplay and makes things even more intense than before. While they're flashy and cool, Nero can also use the traditional gun and sword techniques to inflict massive combo damage. As in the previous Devil May Cry games, you'll encounter numerous statues where you can use your collected soul orbs to purchase upgrades, new weapons or let your character learn new abilities. Many of these involve learning new combos and moves that make your character more efficient when dispatching foes. You can upgrade both your sword and gun attacks, which makes them an even more lethal combo. Additionally, your demon claw can also be enhanced with greater abilities, giving your character even more power. This is especially important later on as you face smarter enemies and tougher boss characters. While the majority of the game focuses on Nero, you also get the chance to play as Dante for a few levels, as well. He's got some new tricks up his sleeve as well, but we don't want to ruin them here. Suffice it to say, these are really cool new abilities that make things feel even more over the top, especially his new Pandora's Box powers, which are really cool and add a new layer onto the gameplay. DMC's progression system is fairly straightforward and it shouldn't take much effort to upgrade your character.

The game's overall pacing is excellent and falls right in line with the conventions seen in previous installements of the series. While the earlier levels seem to drag on a bit, once you gain extra powers and additional speed, the pace really picks up to the level of intensity you've come to expect. Adding these new powers to the main character's arsenal keeps things from feeling stale while giving players additional techniques to fight of the demonic hordes they face. Even with these new twists, the gameplay mechanics should be familiar to veterans of the series, allowing you to perform massive combos and slice through multiple foes with little effort. As expected, each attack or combo your character performs in the game is ranked according to effectiveness and style, which allows you to rack up additional red orbs as you complete more combos. The sheer intensity of the game requires fast reflexes, but you'll also need to solve a few puzzles, most of which require you to flick a switch or collect an object in one area to unlock a seal that has been placed on a door in other section. This makes for a good balance between strategy and action that allows you to catch your breath and enjoy the interesting plot developments and soak in the luscious surroundings.

Devil May Cry 4 definitely marks a new standard of aesthetic excellence for the series and it features some incredibly detailed environments that are quite impressive. Its in-game visuals are impressive and are enhanced by a series of elaborate cut-scenes that are beautifully rendered, allowing you to become fully immersed in the storyline. During the game's varied missions, players will encounter large gothic cathedrals, bleak castles and dark cavernous tunnels in addition to unexpected areas such as a seaside dock that show the versatility and power of the game's graphics engine. There's an abundance of beautiful light-sourcing, environmental and special effects that bring the action home beautifully. The game runs at a consistent and smooth frame rate throughout with detailed character animation, excellent player models and fantastic combat moves giving the game an excellent aesthetic look throughout. There's a mix of both fully polygonal and pre-rendered backgrounds that combine to create a beautifully coherent gothic alternative reality that radiates next-generation power. Unfortunately, this approach also creates some problems, with a camera that is fluid and fully moveable in one section, while the next constrains players into a fixed angle that feels dated. This approach makes for a somewhat choppy visual experience overall, and one that doesn't quite feel as evolved from previous DMC titles as it should. The game's voice-acting is excellent and the actors really help to bring the characters to life with above-average dialogue that drives a fairly interesting plot. Devil May Cry 4's soundtrack ranges from orchestral to techno, though the use of the same tracks during each battle begins to wear out its welcome quickly. Devil May Cry 4's visuals aren't flawless but the elaborate cinema sequences and environments are quite impressive and make for an engrossing, immersive experience.

Unfortunately, there are two major technical issues that make the game much less enjoyable than it should be. The first is inherent to the PS3 version and that is the long install time that you have to sit through before you can play the game. You only have to do this once, but it's still annoying. Much more problematic is the awkward save system that doesn't allow you to save at any point in a level, forcing you to return to the beginning of a stage if you fail to complete that section. This punishes players unfairly and makes the experience far more frustrating than it needed to be. However, good players will be able to rush through previously completed areas without too much trouble. While the levels are long, they aren't excessively difficult. The game itself is quite solid and engaging and these problems are fairly minor in the overall big picture. Devil May Cry 4 delivers a solidly entertaining and challenging gameplay experience that takes excellent advantage of next-generation technology. There are some interesting tweaks and additional abilities that players can use that makes the gameplay feel fresh, and the solid controls are responsive enough to allow for massive combos, brutal attacks and many cool moves. While there are a few unfortunate leftovers from previous installments, such as the awkward camera angles and disparate save points, the game's overall quality more than compensates for these flaws. While not perfect, Devil May Cry 4 delivers the intense combat and over-the-top battles players have come to expect from the series in a slicker, cooler package making it one of the best PS3 action titles to date.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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