Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition Review (Xbox One)
Capcom's never been shy to re-release a game with a slight update, as evidenced by Street Fighter II Turbo, Resident Evil: Director's Cut, and countless others. Now they've plumbed the well of Devil May Cry (moving away from the divisive DmC reboot) to bring us Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition, an updated revamp of the 2008 stylish action game with all of its wonders and flaws.
In vanilla Devil May Cry 4, you primarily play as newcomer Nero, a moody son-of-a-bitch with a demon hand and a girlfriend who gets kidnapped. Fear not, ye Danteians; you do get to play as cool uncle Dante plenty, and he's got plenty of his trademark cocky charm and fun-loving swagger, but he's more of a kick-ass guest star in what is otherwise Nero's story.
In Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition you also now have the option of playing as Lady, the blue-and-green-eyed gunslinger from Devil May Cry 3, Trish, the ex-demon turned detective, and Vergil, Dante's power-obsessed twin brother, each with their own stylish flairs for combat. These five characters are a blast to play, offering fairly distinct flavors, so when you're knee-deep in a battle against a demon horde, times are good— the action is varied, satisfying, and spectacular. Times are not so good, however, during the many, many times Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition tries to make you solve puzzles, go exploring, or do anything other than fighting.
When DMC4 launched in 2008, one of the most common complaints was about how stretched out the game felt, and that's no different today. You'll spend the first half of the game going through new areas and fighting new bosses only to spend the second half of the game traversing remixed versions of those areas and re-fighting those same bosses as a different character— and then facing off against those bosses again during the traditional Capcom pre-final boss gauntlet.
When you add in several different mechanics designed to make you replay sections repeatedly until you get them perfect, such as one area's disappearing floors which start you over from the beginning if you mess up, it's clear that DMC4's original developers were trying to stretch out the experience into something longer instead of making it more fun; this new edition was a good opportunity to address these flaws, but they just weren’t. And Sparda help any of you completionists out there— with the numerous characters and difficulties, be prepared to kill every boss roughly twenty to thirty times if you want to get everything.
We live in a post-Bayonetta 2, post-Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance world, people; the bar is set pretty high for stylish action games. The focus needs to be on fun, not length. This kind of needless padding out wasn't cool in 2008, and it's even less cool now.
On a more positive note, Devil May Cry has always been famous for its combat, and DMC4: SE delivers one of the tightest, most responsive action experiences on the market. Enemies all fight with markedly different patterns, forcing you to constantly adapt your tactics depending on the combination of foes you're facing off against. They also have distinct audio/visual cues to their attacks to give you precise windows of reaction.
Using a variety of different weapons and moves to fight stylishly yields greater rewards, as always, and though the bosses aren't as fun to throw down against by the umpteenth time you face them, they're still damn good fights (except for the mid-game/final boss, Devil Pope. That guy can suck a butt).
Nero, for all his bluster, is still an awesome character to play. His demon arm, charged revolver, and revved-up motorcycle sword are all mechanically interesting, and his flow feels great. Dante definitely skews for more advanced players thanks to his set-up of five different combat styles, three different melee weapons, and three different firearms which can all be accessed with the touch of a button, but he's incredibly powerful, and if you've got the skills he'll let you show them off like few games can.
Of the newcomers, Vergil is the most powerful, surprising no one. Here he's a souped-up combination of the Vergil from DMC3: Special Edition (Told you Capcom loved their re-releases) and DmC, teleporting, summoning swords, and getting motivated all over the place. Trish is less complex, but still packs some serious oomph to her lightning-charged moveset, and Lady... well, Lady's not very much fun, frankly, because her moves are neither as combo-friendly or as powerful as the other characters. While each of these newbies has a somewhat distinct skillset, each of them have a few moves copied over from Dante's many weapons and styles, making them feel just a little bit more generic than they should.
In addition to the new characters, DMC4:SE boasts updated visuals, which mostly hold together well. The characters aren't as detailed as something you'd find on the PS4 or Xbox One today, but the silky smooth 60FPS and great motion capture give them life in a way many other games are lacking. The controls are also highly customizable, so no matter your play style, you should be able to find a comfortable way to play.
There's also the draw of two new game modes— Turbo Mode, which ups the speed on everything, and Legendary Dark Knight Mode, which ups the enemy count to insane proportions. Turbo Mode is a decent enough idea, making battles more frenetic and exploration swifter, but it's tough on the hands to hit DMC4: SE's many button combinations so quickly, and certain areas, like a platforming puzzle involving a spiky ceiling/trap pit combo, don't work very well when you're all sped up. Legendary Dark Knight Mode takes the normal game and stuffs it full of a ludicrous number of enemies. Highly-skilled players will have a glorious time sending insane armies of demons and synthetic angels back to where they came from.
If you've never played Devil May Cry 4, or miss the glory days of the series where Dante was fun, combat was deep and challenging, and things weren't so stupid edgy and serious, this low-priced special edition offers fun aplenty. The dragged out play time, rehashed areas, and even more rehashed boss fights drag things down a bit, but the real heart of this devil is in its fighting, and it's just as fantastically satisfying today as it was nearly a decade ago.
This review was completed with a digital copy of Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition provided by the publisher for Xbox One.