Devil May Cry 4 review: Devil May Cry 4

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About halfway through the game, you'll take control of Dante, and you'll likely go through a period of adjustment while you get used to the change in gameplay techniques. Frankly, the devil bringer is a great mechanic, and losing it is a bit of a disappointment, since it's likely to be the centre of your fighting style. Instead, you'll have a new set of actions and combos to get used to, new weapons, and four (eventually five) fighting styles. Yet once your arsenal of melee weapons and guns expand (Pandora's Box is a favourite), you'll enjoy the cheerful boldness of them. There's just a lot more variety here than with Nero, and it's a lot of fun to switch styles and weapons on the fly, just to find more interesting and flashy ways of crushing demons to a pulp.

In addition to the dazzling action, you'll work your way through some light puzzles and platforming sequences. The puzzles aren't tough, but they do require you to roam about a bit from time to time, bashing on some switches, using a special device to slow down time, and accomplishing some other odds and ends. They help break up the pace, but all too often these breaks result in lulls that last a bit too long, making you long for another crazy demon attack. Some of the platform sequences are fine, requiring you to use the devil bringer as a grappling hook to fling yourself around, while some of the more standard sequences suffer from bad camera angles and an annoying tendency for the camera to change positions mid-jump.

The boss fights are rather fun. Good thing, too, since you'll see most of these guys three times.

Don't let the variety of weaponry and special moves lull you into believing that the rest of Devil May Cry 4's design is similarly diverse. In fact, the many different ways of killing enemies is quite a stark contrast to the repetition at the heart of the experience. While backtracking and repeated environments have been a problem in past games in the series, the newest entry takes these issues to an even higher level of monotony. Many successive levels take place in the same castle hallways and forest meadows, and when you switch to Dante, you visit them all over again. Granted, most of these areas are easy on the eyes, packed with gorgeous architecture and grand outdoor vistas. Yet when you see them over and over again, and when some of the light puzzles have you traipsing back and forth, you will wish for more to see. It has the effect of making a seemingly grand adventure feel oddly limited.

The same repetition even makes its way into the admittedly spectacular boss fights. These battles are easily the shining star of Devil May Cry 4, and each boss is wildly different from the last, requiring some split-second timing and good control over your reflexes. From a giant toad to a hulking stone behemoth, these bosses are cleverly designed and a good deal of fun. Yet in the second half of the game, you'll face all of the same bosses as Dante that you fought as Nero. While the game could have benefited from some new blood during these missions, the differences in styles between the two at least lend some diversity to the repeated bosses and test the newest additions to your arsenal. Yet amazingly (and irritatingly), Capcom brings most of them out for a third time in the game's padded and plodding penultimate mission. Yes, these fights are fun, but forcing most of them on the player three times is overkill.

Regardless of which platform you play Devil May Cry 4 on, this game is a looker. Both Nero and Dante are fluid in motion, showcasing a good deal of flair and subtlety in their movements. The more damage a move does, the more astonishing it looks on-screen, and few games can approach the pure razzle-dazzle of Nero jumping into the air, his cape flying and the glowing devil bringer tossing lumbering demons around with matchless grace. From a design standpoint, the visuals can be gorgeous to behold, and moments like your first glimpse of Gran Album bridge are bound to take your breath away. What's more, all of this visual prowess is smoothly rendered on both platforms, and broken up only by the occasional loading time. This can be noticeably reduced if you are playing on the PlayStation 3, since some files will be installed to the hard drive, though the loading times aren't excessive by any stretch. The downside for PS3 owners is that the installation takes around 20 minutes to finish.

You may get rewarded for finishing a mission quickly, but you'll still want to gawk at the scenery.

The sound design, like the storytelling, is merrily over the top. The vibrant brutality of your most impressive moves is accompanied by equally squeamish and powerful sound effects. Fortunately, the talented voice cast never hams it up, even when delivering the most melodramatic lines. As Nero, Johnny Yong Bosch can be both remarkably sincere and sneeringly sarcastic, and his superb acting makes for one of the most appealing new game characters to be introduced in some time. But you may not find the music as universally appealing. This is the one area where Devil May Cry 4 feels too clichéd, relying on the standard heavy metal grinds that accompany most demon-inspired games and films, as well as replaying the same couple of tunes during combat ad nauseum. Luckily, it never gets in the way, so while it may not stand out, it doesn't stick out, either.

Online leaderboards, challenging achievements on both platforms, and a host of unlockables (including an action-only survival mode) will keep stalwart fans coming back for more, in spite of all the repetition. Recycled content and some pacing inconsistencies aside, Devil May Cry 4 is a great game, and it delivers a lot of quality action that will please fans without alienating those new to the series. If you liked previous entries, you'll find what you're looking for here; and if you were turned off by Devil May Cry 3's insane challenge, you'll feel a lot more comfortable this time around.

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