Backtracking for New Experiences
This year is quickly becoming Capcom’s year of re-releases. Already in 2015, we have gotten Resident Evil HD Remaster, DmC: Devil May Cry – Definitive Edition, and Mega Man Legacy Collection is on the way later this summer. Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is the latest re-release from Capcom and it comes packed with a new difficulty, two new campaigns with three new characters, an arena mode and turbo option originally exclusive to the PC port, and a graphical upgrade. With all this extra content and improvements, Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is the definitive version of Devil May Cry 4, but not without some serious caveats.
The game’s story revolves around The Order of the Sword, a religious sect that worships the demon Sparda as a God. You play as Nero, a demon hunter from the sect who is tasked to find and capture series protagonist Dante after he assassinated The Order’s high priest. However, Nero soon discovers that the sect is not as it seems and his love interest, Kyrie, may be in danger as a result. As a means to continue the action, the story is sufficient. However, it is clear that the story was not the focus of the game. The plot suffers from poor pacing and a lack of character building, and is replaced with underdeveloped character motivations and melodramatic moments.
Protagonist Nero suffers the most from this. Nero and Kyrie’s relationship is one that you just have to accept as being important simply because you’re told it is rather than shown. As a result, Kyrie being Nero’s main motivation throughout the game feels contrived. Nero’s connection to The Order suffers from the same problems as despite him assisting them in finding Dante, he is indifferent and dismissive of them from the beginning. This makes the later story revelations less surprising and makes you wonder why Nero is helping The Order in the first place. These plot shortcomings are disappointing in light of the superior storytelling present in action games like the God of War series or the more recent entry in the series, DmC: Devil May Cry.
Worse than the main campaign’s story however, are the plots in the new Vergil campaign and Lady and Trish campaign. Vergil’s “story” is him visiting the The Order years before the events of the main campaign, curious as to why they worship Sparda. Lady and Trish’s “story” is the same as the main game, which is Lady hires Dante and Trish to help her uncover what the The Order is really up to. After the initial cutscenes for both campaigns, it is never mentioned again. There is no actual development to the initial premise. No cutscenes, slideshows, or text boxes as you play. There are ending cutscenes but they explain nothing. So anyone hoping that the story would be expanded to include Vergil and go into more detail on Trish and Lady will be sorely disappointed.
DMC4’s presentation has aged pretty well since its original release seven years ago. The voice acting is cheesy and entertaining, aside from when the story becomes melodramatic and the actors seem to be enjoying the over-the-top nature of the script. Music ranges from hard rock to orchestral and services the action and drama well, respectively. Sound effects are serviceable, but only sword slices and ground pounds feel impactful. There’s a lack of gravitas to the sounds in combat, instead letting what you see on screen to communicate the action. Part of the reason is due to the sound mixing not designed to allow any one sound to stand out.
Aesthetically, the gothic inspired art design makes for some technically well designed buildings and interiors as well as detailed character models. Colors and lighting are bright or desolate accordingly and the whole game has a pleasing smooth look. Action is portrayed intensely with motion blur lines, metal impact sparks, and aggressive explosions. However, the game does show its age with some blurry and pixelated textures and some uninspired designs artistically. The game also feels a bit barren, due to the world lacking a lot of movement and being static, and as a result, is unlively. However, the biggest problem graphically is it’s almost identical to the original PC port.
The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of this game now run at 1080p at 60fps, which is an upgrade from the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, which ran at 720p at 60fps. However, the PC version was already able to do that so there is no improvement for this version. The touted enhanced lighting and shadows are barely noticeable, with lighting looking a bit smoother and shadows a bit lighter. It even uses the same benchmark test from the original PC port! Capcom said that this version of the game is running on a more recent engine but it does not show at all. It looks like Capcom is just selling the PC port to console owners and reselling it to PC users. To be fair, the graphics are improved but it’s only notable on the console versions. The new content and graphics could have just been a DLC pack and patch for the original PC port.
For what it’s worth, the PC version does run great. It has options for windowed and fullscreen, different 4:3 and 16:9 resolutions (16:10 resolutions are letterboxed), multiple anti-aliasing, different levels of graphics, texture and shadow quality, v-sync, the ability to lock the frame rate, and fully rebindable buttons on both keyboards and gamepads. I played this at max settings with only a few frame drops during my entire time playing despite falling just short of the recommended graphics card. However, since the recommended specs are much higher than the original port and the graphical improvements are minimal, I wonder if it’s just poorly optimized.
DMC4 is a brawler action game with some light adventure elements. However, these do little more than give you a break from the combat, which is front and center and easily the best aspect of the game. Each character has different weapons and combos as well as a Devil Trigger powered up mode that makes how you approach combat a bit different. For example, Nero relies on his sword to deal the most damage and utilizes his Devil Bringer arm to pull enemies closer in order to do so. However, Lady is better used from far away as she specializes in guns and has a few she can switch to. Making the combat more interesting is the stylish grade system that ranks you on the diversity of the moves you use, discouraging you from button mashing. Unfortunately, none of the characters are particularly nimble and defense options are limited. Compared to more recent action games, this feels a bit antiquated.
Regardless, the variety of attacks you have, especially with some characters, is vast and it results in fights feeling invigorating and rewarding. Not only are you trying to defeat the enemies, but you’re taking into consideration their attack patterns, the different attacks you’re executing, and your position on the field. There are a few enemies that negatively break up the pacing of the fights, and positioning is less important against boss opponents, but you’ll work your way around that. A drawback of the new characters is the game doesn’t take their new abilities into consideration, making some enemy and boss match-ups lopsided. For instance, fighting the first boss is typically challenging for most of the characters but with Lady, he’s a cakewalk as you can shoot at him from afar with little resistance and deal a lot of damage.
Defeating enemies and destroying objects in the levels will reward you with Red Orbs, which can be used to buy helpful items. Getting a high stylish ranking, finishing the mission quickly, finding a lot of hidden red orbs, using no items, and not dying will reward you with Proud Souls at the end of a mission, which are used to buy new moves and abilities. A small change from the original game is the rate which you earn Red Orbs and Proud Souls. It’s quicker than before, making for a more rewarding playthrough. The amount of moves you have at the beginning of the game is fairly small so this is a welcome change that improves the pacing.
Unfortunately, even though the combat can be fun and rewarding, most of that is bogged down by DMC4’s biggest issue. This game is horrendously padded. The first 11 missions of the game are roughly stretched out between four areas – a city, cathedral, jungle, and castle – but you spend four of those missions in the cathedral, which drags on for way too long and has far too much backtracking. After the first 11 missions as Nero, you play the next seven missions as Dante and you go through the same four areas again in reverse. To be fair, you go through the areas quicker, you go through the city section via a new, alternate route and the last Dante mission is a brand new boss fight but it’s still six missions of you going through areas you’ve already been through.
However, the second to last mission has to be the worst offender. Mission 19 (there’s 20 missions in the game by the way) requires you to play a previously seen board game five times and fight five bosses you’ve already fought. The biggest problem is before, where the board had a beginning and end, these boards go in a circle, meaning if your luck with the die is bad, you can get caught in a loop while you desperately try to land on the one space that ends the board. This shameless padding is a painful endurance test that will drive you crazy. And that is just the main campaign. This version of the game actually makes this worse.
I mentioned that there is no story for the Vergil and Lady/Trish campaigns. That’s because the levels are exactly the same as the main campaign! There is no difference, even if it doesn’t make sense. That means you play missions 1-11 as Lady, 12-18 as Trish, and 19 and 20 as Lady again with no context or explanation of why they are doing the exact same thing as Nero and Dante. Worst is Vergil, whom you play as for all 20 missions. There’s no reason for him to backtrack through all the areas again! There is no reason for everything to be the same! His campaign is supposed to take place before the events of the main campaign! No thought went into this whatsoever!
After going through all the campaigns, I had gone through the game three times. However, because of all the padding and backtracking, it was more like six. This game is unbelievably padded and even though the new combat styles of the new characters are fun, they only makes the padding worse. There is no reason for Vergil, Lady and Trish to have their own campaigns. They should have been selectable characters before each mission. I know it doesn’t make sense from a story standpoint but it doesn’t make sense now either so why not?
Other features included are a new difficulty setting, a Turbo option, and an extra mode. All of these features were already included in the previous PC port. The new difficulty setting, Legendary Dark Knight, adds an exorbitant amount of enemies on screen and can be quite difficult. The extra enemies do make the game more fun. Turbo makes the game move quicker. The movement speed of the characters does feel kinda slow, especially when moving around the areas so this is a welcome addition. Finally, the extra mode Bloody Palace is a timed arena mode where your remaining time increases as you stylishly and quickly defeat all the enemies on a level. It’s fine for those who like to show off their skills. There are also extra costumes. Dante’s are weird. The others are better.
The Verdict: 5.8 out of 10.0
Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition has a lot of extra content, there is no denying that, and for major fans of this entry in the series, it’s well worth the upgrade. However those who are jumping in for the first time will find a game with great combat that overstays its welcome. Those who were dissatisfied with the game when it was originally released will find that none of the improvements made to this version of the game fix the padding issues and the extra content only serves to accentuate the game’s flaws to excruciating lengths. The new content is ultimately a double edged sword that both improves the strongest aspect of the game and makes the game’s worst aspect unbearable. Rent it first and make sure you really like this game because you’ll be going through it a lot more than once.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Esteban Cuevas is an Associate Writer for MONG and went crazy reviewing this game. Seriously, I paused the game at one point and just started laughing hysterically because I couldn’t believe what I was doing. You can follow my decent into madness by following me on Twitter, YouTube, and WordPress.