To flashback to 2008 for a moment, I remember the first time I got my hands on Devil May Cry 4. The previous generation of consoles was just getting rolling, and Capcom’s latest entry in the acclaimed action series was poised to be one of the first big titles for it. Not to mention, the release was coming off the sublime Devil May Cry 3, which still represents the pinnacle of the franchise to some fans.
Yet, after putting more than enough time into the title, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. Yes, it still had that excellent DMC gameplay, but it seemed like Capcom was just going through the motions. So, I shelved the title, and figured that I would get back into it at a later date. That never quite happened, but after seven years, and one reboot, Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition has brought me back to the world of Dante and company.
An updated release of the PC version of the title, DMC 4 Special Edition brings the full experience to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Besides featuring the previously PC-exclusive Legendary Dark Knight mode, Turbo mode and minor tweaks to the core gameplay, the big selling point for this remaster is the inclusion of three additional playable characters. Franchise veterans Vergil, Trish, and Lady are playable in the title for the first time, and in the case of Lady, for the first time in series history.
Set between the events of the first two Devil May Cry titles, Devil May Cry 4 tells the tale of two different demon hunters. Obviously, franchise star Dante is back in action, but technically the real star of the title is series newcomer, Nero. Bearing a strong resemblance to the Son of Sparda, Nero works as a demon hunter for the Order of the Sword, a group that just so happens to worship Sparda. While at the opera house supporting his lady love, Kyrie, Dante shows up, kills some dudes, and takes off. Now tasked by the Order with hunting Dante down, Nero sets off on a quest that will upturn his entire world.
While the franchise has never been known for strong plotting, Devil May Cry 4 is arguably the dullest seen in the series. The storyline, which features numerous double-crosses and alignment shifts, is poorly explained and simply uninteresting. Most of that has to do with Nero, who unlike Dante, lacks the personality to carry his sections of the story. It doesn’t help that his relationship with Kyrie, which is supposed to be a major driving force for his actions, is barely developed. It’s not as bad as the one seen in Devil May Cry 2, but you’ll most likely be skipping the cutscenes by the time you reach the conclusion.
Even if the storyline was worth paying attention to, the single-player campaign as a whole is a slog to get through. The environments, despite being nice to look at, lack any sort of depth or personality. Which wouldn’t be too bad, if you didn’t have to often backtrack through these environments with both Nero and Dante. It was a lazy design choice back in 2008, and it hasn’t exactly aged well. The constant barrage of short cutscenes was also a minor issue I had with the title. I can understand cinematics being used in order to introduce bosses, but I don’t need one for every trap room or interaction I have.
As for the other three characters, they unfortunately follow the same exact path as Dante and Nero. Split into two separate treks, Vergil and Lady/Trish, there is little to differentiate the three campaigns outside of new opening and closing cinematics. I knew coming into this that we wouldn’t be getting completely new scenes for the added characters, but it would have been nice if they felt like they actually belong. While each characters plays different from the other, the lack of any meaningful difference in the single-player story makes going through it three times a tall order.
Even considering the sluggish pace of the story, though, the combat engine of Devil May Cry 4 remains as excellent as ever. It may be eight years old at this point, but the combat engine is still among the best in the action game genre. I’m not going to go over Nero and Dante in great detail, simply because you can find plenty of articles and videos discussing their moves. Nero has his Red Queen sword, Blue Rose pistol and Devil Bringer arm, which allows him to grab onto enemies and throw them around. Nero is perfectly acceptable, and fun to use, but Dante is the real show here. Dante may be available for fewer missions, but with the amount of weapons and tactics he brings to the table, you can play through multiple times and still discover new ways of taking out foes. It’s a staggeringly deep engine that is also as fun as the franchise has ever been.
As I mentioned before, playing with Vergil, Lady, and Trish is the big selling point for this re-release, and I can thankfully say that they more than meet expectations. Enjoyable for both fans old and new, Vergil has access to three distinct weapons: the Yamato sword, Force Edge broadsword and Beowulf gauntlets. Instead of using a gun like his contemporaries, he can unleash long-range attacks with his Summoned Swords. Perhaps of all the included characters, I found myself returning to Vergil over and over again. At least to me, he feels like the perfect balance between Dante and Nero. He has the speed and easy accessibility of the newcomer, while also providing the sizable depth of his brother.
Lady and Trish are a little different from their male counterparts, but still worth checking out. Trish is a particularly good starting point for newcomers, even if you can’t use her right away in single-player mode. She only has one sword, so you don’t need to worry about switching between weapons. Her different Pandora weapons, which are different sized firearms, are not only flashy, but a blast to use as well.
Lady is interesting because she focuses way more on firearms and long range attacks than her counterparts. So instead of switching through multiple swords, Lady instead has access to three different guns. She can wield quick dual pistols, a devastating shotgun and her traditional Kalina Ann, which is a rocket launcher, bayonet and grappling hook apparatus. She can be a little difficult to get a handle on at first, simply because she is so different, but that difference helps her stand out. After some time in her shoes, I felt comfortable enough blowing enemies away with shotgun blasts, but I understand that may not appeal to everyone.
I cannot stress enough that the combat gameplay of Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition is very, very good. This is quite the feat, considering just how bad the camera is throughout the game. This was one of my biggest qualms with the original release, and it only feels worse seven years later. You do have limited control over the camera, but all too often during battle it would get stuck behind a wall or placed at an awkward angle. There were times where I couldn’t even see what I was doing, and just had to mash buttons and hope for the best. This shouldn’t be happening in an action game that relies on precision and style.
The poor camera doesn’t just affect the combat, though, as just navigating the world of DMC 4 can be a frustrating task as well. Capcom was going for the cinematic look for the title, which is fine, but this means that it is constantly moving around as you walk. So sometimes, in one small area, it can flip around a few too many times. It’s a minor pain when you are not doing anything, but the awkward camera becomes a real pain in the ass when you are trying to get through the more platforming-centered locations.
Despite the fact that this re-release is not a remaster, I still appreciated the slight uptick in graphics. By wisely choosing to port over the PC release, Capcom was able to feature the best looking version of the title for the Special Edition. It doesn’t look as good as any modern current-gen title, nor does it look as good as fellow series re-release, DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition. But for a game that is seven years old, it still looks pretty visually appealing.
At only $24.99, it’s hard to not recommend Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition. Sure, there are more than a handful of problems, some of which affect the gameplay immensely, but thanks to the addition of three unique new characters, the combat remains as excellent as ever. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it is some of the smoothest, and most intricate gameplay in the history of the genre. If you’re looking for an action fix and are willing to deal with assorted issues, then you could certainly do worse than spending some with Dante.
This review was based off the Xbox One version of the title, which was provided for us.
Although the excellent combat of Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition remains as enticing as ever, the various troubles that plagued the original release (sloppy camera, lazy backtracking), only feel more egregious this time around.