Developer: Access Games
Platforms: Xbox One (Version Reviewed), PC, PS4
Release Date: June 23, 2015
You can count me among those who didn’t particularly care for the direction the Devil May Cry series took when Capcom handed development over to Ninja Theory in order to better cater to Western audiences. Admittedly, the oddly-named DmC: Devil May Cry did contain some smooth combat that allowed players to switch styles and mechanics on the fly, but the narrative was poorly executed and the changes made to the main character’s personality were off-putting, making it incredibly difficult to care about how the game progressed.
This isn’t meant to serve as a criticism of the reboot – the Definitive Edition that released earlier this year is actually a hoot – but rather as a reference point for how entertaining and fun the original portrayal of the cast is. Luckily, the unexpected digital release of Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition highlights pretty much everything that made the original series so great. The initial version of Devil May Cry 4 released way back in 2008 for the PS3 and Xbox 360. This edition – available exclusively as a digital download for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC – introduces a bevy of new options to make the return trip worthwhile.
The story of Devil May Cry 4 focuses on a much simpler and much more relatable tale compared to the one found in DmC. It centers on Nero discovering himself through his interactions with Dante – who serves as a wise mentor of sorts for the brash newcomer – while he searches for his kidnapped love. Even though there are a few extra scenes tailor-made for the newly playable characters, whose amusing interactions really highlight how lighthearted and fun a series like this can be, it’s best not to expect anything riveting in terms of narrative additions in this rerelease. Likewise, there are no new bosses or enemies to fight and there are no new areas to explore.
The franchise has always been in the top tier when it comes to action games…
The Devil May Cry series is built around solving simple puzzles, collecting items to purchase new abilities, and fighting enemies in the most stylish ways imaginable. The franchise has always been in the top tier when it comes to action games (alongside Platinum Games’ Bayonetta series) and Devil May Cry 4 showcases that dedication to beautiful combat. This Special Edition ups the ante with access to three new playable characters, bringing the grand total to five.
The main story is still split in half with early missions specific to Nero and later missions for series protagonist, Dante. Joining this time around are Lady and Trish, who respectively tackle the same levels as the previous pair, and the ever-cool Vergil who gets to play through all of the game’s missions by himself. Each and every one of the characters controls surprisingly differently, so while you might traverse similar levels – and you will do so plenty of times– the experience is actually quite fresh each time (the familiar mission grading system certainly helps in making subsequent playthroughs more entertaining as you try to best your previous scores).
Nero is very accessible thanks to his versatility. He has access to a sword for melee combat and to a revolver for ranged assaults. Both can be charged up for more potent attacks, but doing so slows down movement, offering a nice risk/reward mechanic. His Devil Bringer skill is used for traversing specific points in the environment, but is best used to close the gap between you and your enemies.
Even with the addition of three new playable characters, Dante remains the most complex of the lot. With access to six different weapons and five different playstyles, it takes a lot of time and strategy to figure out how best to use him effectively. Certain styles emphasize melee or ranged combat, while others open you up to more defensive or evasive tactics. You’re able to change styles at the push of a button.
For those who played through the original release, you should be pleased to know that Nero and Dante return unchanged in terms of how they control. So, if you’ve managed to master some advanced techniques, you’ll still be pulling them off with relative ease here.
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This series was never one for button-mashers, but that dedication to attentiveness is emphasized with Vergil. His composed nature is tailored for the more focused player as his moveset centers around deliberate attacks. He uses three melee weapons – two very different swords and some gauntlets – that can be accessed with the pull of a trigger, and he can travel across maps faster than any other character, but that doesn’t make him easy to master thanks to his Concentration gauge. A full gauge affords him a strength boost and a screen-clearing attack. It fills as attacks connect, but drains when moving around too much, missing attacks, or getting hurt, so players are required to have a firm grasp of enemy attack patterns and placement. His playstyle rewards those who are constantly aware of the field.
Trish is very much the same in that regard. Interestingly, many of her moves are available without needing to switch out weapons like all of the other characters, making her a great balanced character that’s good for newcomers. That doesn’t mean her skillset isn’t deep, however, as her immediate access to different weapons allows for seriously long combos (her electricity-imbued divekicks offer some great air attack opportunities) and effective crowd control.
Last, but not least, is Lady. Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition marks the first time in the franchise that the character is playable. What makes her unique is that, while all of the other characters have strong melee combat abilities that often overshadow their ranged skills, Lady’s close-range skills pale in comparison to the amount of damage she can dish out from a distance. Her rocket launcher, Kalina Ann, has a bayonet attached to it, which is used for melee attacks, but it’s expectedly heavy, making Lady’s close-ranged combat very slow.
She shines with ranged combat and has immediate access to three ranged weapons including a shotgun, handguns, and the aforementioned rocket launcher, all of which can be charged for more devastating attacks. The rocket launcher in particular has an incredibly long charge window that doesn’t allow you to move around while charging, but the payoff is a massive area attack. Being able to clear an entire area full of enemies without any of them coming even remotely close to you is supremely satisfying. Perhaps it’s because she handles the most different, but of all of the characters, I had the most fun playing as Lady.
All characters are usable in the Bloody Palace challenge mode, which is unlocked after beating the main story. There’s also the welcome inclusion of the “Legendary Dark Knight” difficulty, which just throws an insane amount of enemies at you in every area. Perfect for those looking for a real challenge.
…the definitive Devil May Cry experience.
As much as I enjoyed my run through Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition, the game has some issues. With its old-school design, including an absurd amount of backtracking, being closed off from progressing until you defeat a certain amount of enemies, or the oddly fixed and jumpy camera angles (which are thankfully not everywhere), it’s apparent that this is very much a game from 2008. Even though it’s bogged down by some archaic design, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth playing. On the contrary, because of its varied and beautifully executed combat mechanics, this is probably the definitive Devil May Cry experience.
I don’t particularly buy into the rumors regarding the future of the Devil May Cry series resting upon the sales performance of this title. If those rumors prove true, however, Capcom is putting its best foot forward here, as the original version of Devil May Cry 4 stands as one of the series’ better entries. For those familiar with the first release, this version adds more than enough substantial content to earn a revisit. For those new to the franchise, Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition highlights everything that makes the franchise notable in the first place: entertaining characters and fun combat.
A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.
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