Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Devil May Cry 4

+++ Adds a new, unique feeling character to the series
++ Moderately Difficult
++ Harder difficulties throw in a variety of different enemies at you much earlier in the game (applies to every game in this set actually)
++ The main fight with Dante is superb
++ Against all odds most of the “elemental” boss fights are genuinely entertaining
+ Secret Missions are actually findable without a guide!
+ Weapon Balance is fairly good
+ Solid Environmental Variety
+ Fairly Impressive Graphics
-- Halfway through the game you go back and repeat several levels and bosses you’ve already fought, just with a different character. No new and unique bosses and the best 2 boss fights aren’t repeated
-- Blitzes are the second hardest enemy in the game
- The game is much more difficult with Dante than it is with Nero
- Secret Missions remain a gigantic pain in the ass, perhaps the worst idea in the series
- Rips off God of War, minus the gore
- Excessive Fanservice
- Only a few new weapons for Dante
- Dodging without Airhike or Trickster is quite poor

This game is pretty good, though I’ve heard several people say it’s their favorite current generation game and I have to question that as there are several games in the same exact genre type that are better. Still, Nero is a fun, interesting character and I really wouldn’t have had a problem if the whole game was nothing but him (perhaps Dante as an unlockable character who you could then play through the whole game with). I appreciate the depth of the combat system and the theoretical skill ceiling that I could reach if I bothered trying.

However, this game does have it’s share of problems. We’ll begin with difficulty. The first portion of the game is you playing with Nero and I had a faira mount of trouble for the first few missions. Then I discovered Charge Shot 3 and bought Air Hike and lo! I was an amazing killing machine with routine S ranks on everything but the hardest boss in the game. I understand there is an instant rev system in the game to power up Nero’s sword but it is completely and utterly unnecessary, you could get really good with it and do even more damage but it’s quite possible (sometimes easy) to S Rank every fight in the game without ever touching the Exceed system, regardless of difficulty.

The way I fight is to kill one enemy via air combo’s and grab spam whilst simultaneously using charge shot 3 to negate any other enemy that comes close to me, this is mildly difficult to do at first (Hint: Bind shoot to a shoulder button) but quickly becomes second nature and just annihilates everything aside from Blitzes and Dante. Even Dante Must Die mode isn’t really that difficult aside from bosses (and all you really have to do there is learn their patterns that you could for the most part ignore previously).
But, halfway through the game you’re handed old familiar Dante, that legendary demon killing machine. Except he’s vastly inferior to Nero even if you’re amazing at the previous games. The only thing Dante really has going for him is his Devil Trigger is slightly better using a few specific moves, but no Snatch, Devil Buster, or useful Charge Shot sort of makes him a second class citizen next to the omnipotent Nero. Now, all of that said Dante is still definitely skill based and the game becomes much more interesting when you’re using him assuming you’ve already half-mastered Nero.

My first instinct here is to say Nero is plain and simple overpowered but I don’t really think that’s it. Devil May Cry is a very awkward game the first time you play it but it grows on you over time and there is a quite a bit of depth to the combat system. God of War is a fucking awesome game the first time you play it and also has a surprising amount of depth to it, Nero is simply a hybrid of the two systems. Now ordinarily I’d praise this sort of thing but it kind of calls into question the nature of the whole series, as excepting the fantastic Vergil fights in 1 and 3 there really is nothing that it has to offer over a clearly superior game. The only thing that DMC kind of has going for it is it came out much earlier (originally) than God of War, and having an older, clunkier combat system is forgivable, but that doesn’t do much to enhance its somewhat gilded reputation in my mind.

Now for an ode to Secret Missions. Secret Rooms/Missions began in the first Devil May Cry. Generally a really ugly texture in some obscure as hell spot that’s impossible to find for any sane person holds a portion of a health upgrade for your character. However you have to trial and error your way through some bullshit to get it. Some of this bullshit is actually based around solid ideas that have the potential to be fun, others are just annoying in concept and execution, but in general even if they could have been fun they turn out to be an enormous irritation that takes about a half hour to beat. These also tend to wind up offering you little to no real skill improving challenge as well.

I have no idea why but these have persisted and invaded other games as well, despite how retarded they are. Example from DMC4: As Dante there’s a fairly difficult Secret Mission where you have to perform 5 consecutive Royal Blocks, which basically requires perfect timing down to around a tenth of a second. This involves a great deal of luck as you can imagine and only really gets you better at blocking that one particular enemy who you could otherwise decimate just by shooting him a lot with your shotgun. Accentuating this annoying as hell challenge is that if you die you have to continue from several screens back and fight through 2 gauntlets of terribly designed enemies (Chimera infested Assaults and Scarecrows) just to try again. Eventually I just brought along about 5 of each type of Vital Star and healed repeatedly there so I wouldn’t have to make it through the 10 minutes of fighting to fail again. Good job Capcom.

This last section will be devoted to our friend Dante and his good buddy Mr Blitz. Dante is by far the best fight in the game but he’s also really fucking hard, so hard in fact that he feels completely out of place within this otherwise only moderately challenging game. If they wanted to make a whole game to his difficulty that’d be fine but just tossing this magnificent force from another universe at you to beat the shit out of you is bizarre to say the least. It’s like if you put Flamelurker in some random Action RPG midway through and said “have fun.” That said I do like the fight tremendously (though it’s still at the end of a fairly long chapter instead of being a chapter unto itself). I don’t know if it’s possible to beat him without using Snatch but it’s fun to theorize about it. I suppose it’d just make the fight take forever as you dodged everything and waited for Pandora Revenge shots to happen and grabbed when he was in Royal Guard, but trying to outduel him with your sword is fairly fun.

The Blitz is basically a Lightning Frost/Assault from the first game, except it doesn’t fight like either of those. Figuring out just when to dodge takes oh about 30 tries before you finally don’t take much damage from him (practically every hit he does takes at least a third of your life bar on DMD mode). You only fight Blitzes a couple of times in the actual normal difficulty so it doesn’t matter much there but on hard and DMD you fight at least a dozen. This is standard practice for the series but Blitzes, like Dante, don’t really belong in this game. They are immensely more difficult than every other regular enemy and much harder than every boss in the game aside from Dante.

Just a basic example: You fight two blitzes in Mission 4 prior to fighting a Frost Toad with fanservice appendages, those two blitzes killed me about 15 times on DMD mode and I killed the Frost Toad on the first try without taking ANY damage whatsoever. In fact I could clear the entire level reliably taking no damage, except for the blitzes. I acknowledge I am not the most superb player against these wondrous enemies but I think it’s fair to say I’m at least somewhat competent at these games in general. I can tell you they’re just murderous monsters on anything but normal difficulty.

Final Score: 8/10

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