Friday, May 23, 2008

Devil May Cry 4 (Ps3/Xbox360)

Before beginning this review, I should really point out that, along with Jak & Daxter, the Devil May Cry series has been one that has completely passed me by. Until now of course.

Devil May Cry 4 is the latest in the series and the first to deviate from being entirely from the perspective of white haired, red trench coated Dante. Instead it’s mostly from the perspective of the white haired, red trench coated Nero, who appears (though still incredibly irritating) to be the less obnoxious of the two. Just about. This mirroring of the characters is reflected in the game design which, I kid you not, asks you to spend the second half playing the first half in reverse order. I’ve never seen that much repetition in a game, so found it quite shocking. Not only that, but the fixed cameras involve you being unable to really see what’s ahead, seeing as you’re running towards them for half the game.

The game itself is an action beat ‘em up in the vein of a visually fancy Golden Axe. The characters have four main commands- jump, attack, shoot and special move, and can combine them to great effect. There is something genuinely impressive about the combat system, which should be expected from Capcom The possibility to flick a demon thirty feet in the air, hold it with bullets before following yourself to face plant them into the ground surprisingly doesn’t get old. Which is good, because that’s essentially what the game is. For twelve hours. I think the best way to sum up the game play is that it’s so much fun for the most part that I got to the last level before giving up, whilst having literally no interest in any of the characters nor story.

Which leads me neatly on to discussing the story itself. God of War was a far superior yet similar title, with a great storyline. The only problem was, the story wasn’t interjected often enough. With Devil May Cry 4, you’re constantly given updates to the nonsensical attempt at a narrative, and the more they try to explain it, the worse it gets too. Basically, it revolves around a cult leader wanting to summon an army of demons to create a new world order, which is about as clichéd as it gets. Other games can do something similar and really make it exciting, but as already suggested, this one doesn't.

The characters are generally pitiful, Dante and Nero are, as already mentioned, grating as hell. Nero suffers from the problem that his motivation seems to be to rescue his girlfriend, but seeing as her involvement in the game is "look worried" before being kidnapped, it's hardly heart-wrenching emotional drama. The other characters are worse still, with the cast made up of cardboard cut-out archetypes, without any attempt to add depth. Special mentions for podium of shit-tastic writing go to the villainous, stuttering scientist and some kind of female bondage ninja. The latter is something that really bothers me in games, Lost Odyssey suffered from similar problems in designing female characters, but they detract from the computer game as a medium. Try to say that games are a new art form, and people can now shake their head while holding a copy of Devil May Cry 4, and there’s no comeback. That said, I suppose they kind of fit with the world of Devil May Cry, and in fairness, it is the gaming equivalent of a Steven Seagal movie.

There are a variety of weapons picked up throughout the game, most of which aren’t all that interesting. Apart from Pandora’s box, which is possibly the most brilliantly ridiculous weapon I’ve ever seen. Basically it turns into different guns with flicks of the controller, one second a chain-gun, the next a missile launcher, laser, gun turret etc. It’s absolutely mad, and this sort of humour could have really improved the game if it were more liberally applied, but it’s often quite po-faced. Though they tried to put some intentional jokes in, don’t get me started on Dante’s attempts at humour. Apart from making me want a suicide button, it mainly served to make his character seem like a preening arsehole. Still, even without that command at least I had the off button to end his babbling.

As with many of Capcom’s games, this fits with the general design aesthetic- lots of fun, very pretty, terrible story. On those criteria, it really does warrant a great review, but the story for this isn’t the usual “so ridiculous it’s brilliant” (Resident Evil 4), “creates a compelling world that exists beyond logic” (Lost Planet) or “great idea with hilariously bad dialogue” (Dead Rising and Resident Evil). All of those are really endearing, and actually add to the game. The story here is boring as hell, and the fact that the second half is pretty much the same as the first, just without the puzzles and played backwards, is unforgivable. In fact, if the game wrapped up at the end of the first half, I'd have possibly overlooked many of the flaws in the game, but it didn't.

Still, it’s worth a look if you just want a no brainer action adventure game, especially the first half. If you want a little more depth (but less impressive combat engines) in your experience then you may be served better by checking out either the God of War or Legacy of Kain series.