The release of Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition comes at a slightly inauspicious point in the venerable hack-’n-slash series’ life time. With a new game yet to be announced and sales of the most recent entry, DmC: Devil May Cry, performing under expectations, the future of this once-mighty brand appears decidedly ambiguous. Despite this, there’s plenty of reason to get excited about the re-release of 2008’s somewhat critically polarizing entry, which perhaps acts as a stern reminder of why we fell in love with Devil May Cry to begin with all those years ago. The addition of a HD spit and polish, plus three new playable characters, means there’s plenty of content to sink your teeth into—even if it fails to eschew some of the glaring errors that were present in its original incarnation.
For better or for worse, this is the same game you played back in 2008, minus the obvious appeal of a silky-smooth 60fps and sharper visuals. As such, it looks and plays better than ever, even though some of the texture work is a little dated in places, which isn’t exactly a surprise considering the game is seven years old. The frame rate boost in particular is a perfect complement to Devil May Cry’s intrinsically fast-paced swordplay, and not once did I experience any discernible dip in performance as I sliced and diced my way through hordes of demonic foes. The story is typically convoluted by DMC standards, and is peppered with the usual irreverence you would expect, particularly from Dante, who basks in delivering comical dialogue and showing off in ostentatious cut scenes. In short, this is DMC, old-school, and it’s great to have it back.
Of course, that’s all fine and dandy providing the actual gameplay holds up, and for the most part, Nero and Dante’s stylish demon slayer is an enjoyable, bloody romp. The bread-and-butter combat is as satisfying as ever, and has aged pretty well even in comparison to the recent DmC. Transitioning between combos is fluid and precise, and there’s plenty of opportunity to mix things up thanks to Nero’s Devil Bringer and Dante’s multiple play style options. The bosses are pretty meaty too, and in retrospect, are some of the more challenging the series has to offer. It’s just a pity that there’s still an abundance of backtracking to be had, with Dante literally retreading the same environments as Nero, battling with the same enemies and even getting into a ruck with identical bosses. Indeed, the same issues that plagued the game back in 2008 remain, so don’t expect Capcom to have iron out any creases in this respect. The puzzles aren’t much cop, either, particularly towards the end.
Still, that’s where the new characters come in. The addition of Trish, Lady and Vergil offer a whole new way to experience DMC4. Each character is unique, offering a distinct play style that complements the existing dynamic between Nero and Dante. Lady, for example, is a far more sluggish character lacking the slick, fast-paced swordplay offered by her male counterparts, though more than makes up for it with a focus on devastating gunplay. Vergil on the other hand is equipped with multiple melee attacks, and is just as proficient with a sword as he is with his fists. Trish meanwhile excels at blistering fast speeds, wielding dual handguns and a meaty sword providing she’s very much Dante’s partner in crime as she cuts a bloody swath through foes with deadly precision and elegance.
As ever, DMC4’s combat is linked to a grading system, ranging from D to SSS; the more impressive your moves are, the higher your rank gets against any given foe. While you can easily juggle a few combos to expand your combo, DMC4 pleasingly has plenty of nuance to its combat if you dig a little deeper, such as Vergil’s focus mechanic, which rewards careful and precise blows while evading enemy attacks. Indeed, the addition of three new characters makes DMC4: Special Edition the most comprehensive outing yet.
Even so, the game is still bogged down by repetition. Although Lady, Trish and Vergil have their own unique intro sequences, the rest of the game is very much the same campaign as Nero/Dante. There’s no new areas or enemies to soak up, and all major cut scenes have been removed, making the trio seem horribly tacked on to the existing narrative. Fortunately the combat is enjoyable enough to warrant another playthrough, but it’s a huge missed opportunity by failing to offer these new characters a proper, unique campaign for themselves. It’s daft starting up Lady’s mission only to find her inexplicably battling against Dante—mirroring Nero’s very first mission—without so much as a reason for the encounter. Still, the addition of Bloody Palace helps flesh things out though, allowing you to slaughter dozens of demonic adversaries in this wave-based mode that gets tougher as you progress.
DMC purists will find plenty enjoy here, and newcomers will probably enjoy it enough to plonk down the 20 quid asking price. The fact it’s essentially the same game that came out in 2008 means its flaws are just as apparent, but they’re not enough to scupper any enjoyment out of its brilliant combat system and absurd cinematics. The addition of new characters, despite feeling shoehorned into the story, really gives gamers more options than ever in regards to play style. In short, DMC4: Special Edition is worth a stab—no pun intended.