Monday, February 9, 2009

A Review

Devil May Cry 4

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom

Box Quote: “As if Baz Luhrmann adapted the Necronomicon into a video game” -- Iroquois Pliskin,

Full Disclosure: I played Devil May Cry 3 for the Playstation 2 back in the day, and I have two memories. First, that game was an ass-kicker. It didn't have check points, so if you died you had to play the whole level over again; because the first boss was in-fucking-sane, it took me almost four hours just trying to get through the first level. The game made you spend your precious orbs in order to buy mid-level continues. Who does that? Second, I remember that the main character had this move where he would chant “Blastoff!” and knock these demons into the air. “Why is that dude saying 'blastoff!' all the time?” my roommates would ask. “That's what you say when you're fighting demons, and you're unconcerned about your safety.” I replied. The main guy was totally intent on looking cool as he fought these hellbeasts, apparently unaware that I was sending him to certain death yet again.

Gameplay: Ninja Gaiden designer Tomonobu Itagaki once derided Devil May Cry by saying that it's not an action game, it's a combo game. This is true, but it shouldn't count as a knock. The combat system in Devil May Cry isn't as complex as Gaiden's, and it's not as spectacular as God of War's, but it has a unique fluidity. The enemies aren't really there to kill you; they're a canvas for you to weave interlocking sequences of stylish attacks, dodges and juggles. Making it look good is an end in itself, and the mechanics reward your commitment to style over substance. This approach to character action is exceptionally smooth-feeling and satisfying, which is fortunate given that the game has some serious deficiencies in the level and enemy design department: after you've battled through the first twelve or so levels of enemies and bosses, be prepared to hang a uey and play the exact same levels and fight the same bosses in reverse. The final level also contains a japanese-action-game convention that has become my personal bete noire: the final-level tour de bosses. This means that you will have fought every boss three goddamn times by the time you finish. However, these boss fights should challenge your reflexes and pattern-recognition skills to their limit; even after my third tango with the demon frog I found myself pumping my fist in exultation. Good times.

Story: The problem with video game stories isn't even that most games don't aim at realistic drama. It's that so many try for genuine pathos with such a blithe disregard for their own cliche-ridden scripting and boldly mannerist voiceacting. Devil May Cry, on the other hand, makes lemons out of lemonade by basking in its own ludicrousness There's more than one dude in a trenchcoat to control this time around, and you'll run around killing demons with guns and demonic hands and implausibly large swords. No-one seems too intent on portraying real human beings, and this frees all the characters up to spit corny dialogue at each other and display a careless attitude towards death. It's the Ocean's Thirteen of video game narratives: everybody just seems happy to be there. They show up, chew some scenery and take home their paycheck. There's a plot in there too, and if the faux macho posturing doesn't hook you, the rampant anticlericalism might do the trick. Coletta Factor! At the end of the game you kill the pope. Good times.

The Takeaway: Devil May Cry 4 protagonist Nero sez: “Now I know what this hand is for: it's for sending guys like you back to hell!” No, seriously. He's not just jerking you around. That is what it's for.


Anonymous said...

I'm playing this right now actually and i couldn't agree more. Theres just something refreshing about a game that knows itself. It has the same kind of flaws and juvenile idiocy as most other games, but with DMC4 its okay, because they know it, and they work with it. It's almost a parody of itself.

I've just finished the Nero half of the game and had a great time. But trudging through the same levels and bosses again doesn't interest me, so i think i'll pretend it ends here and walk away with fond memories.

Anonymous said...

It is odd how often your tastes and mine coincide Iriquois. I kind of loved DMC 4. Though, I have felt embarrassed about my admitted appreciation for it. It has a similar appreciation for a kind of camp love of carnality (and I mean that in the broadest sense of the word--a love of flesh and meat) that I find akin to Planet Terror (the deeply underappreciated half of Grindhouse and, frankly, imho the much better half). The sequence when Dante plays the Latin lover thrusting one of the bosses with his sword is just so brilliantly bad. I can't help but love the absurdity of it all.

This was my take earlier last year:

I think my final score might have been higher than I would score it in retrospect, but it is hard to not love the near sugar rush that is DMC, and I suspect it influenced my rush to judgment. It is still is very good, nevertheless, though.

I hope that you've gotten around to the weirdness of Killer 7. Your DMC observations again indicate to me that you're likely going to really like and appreciate it and Suda 51's sensibilities (and No More Heroes even more so, though, I think you may have mentioned having played that one).

Iroquois Pliskin said...

@spindrift: yeah, as I wrote there's something to be said for a game that is fully aware of how inane and crazy it is. DMC may not be smart but you can tell that it's aware of how stupid it is. You won't miss much by skipping the Dante half of the game but make sure you check out the cutscene in the post, it's the best in the game.

@g. chris will: Good to see you here! The article is a good read as always.

I have to say that Killer 7's tedious gameplay got in the way of my enjoyment. I really wanted to love all the subversive, surreal narrative elements but I spent all this time trying to shoot guys, ineffectively. While I enjoyed the absurdity I found the gameplay to be an unrewarding slog. Maybe I'll get back to it someday, but I quit after mission 3.

Also, I wish I had a Wii so that I could play No More Heroes. I'm led to believe it's a little more user-friendly, and I think I would enjoy Suda's games a bit more if I didn't despise the gameplay.

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed DMC4 (not nearly as much as DMC3, mind you). I did find the second half disappointing, though, more for Dante's presence than the recycling of the environment.

Being able to change his abilities was neat, but none of the enemies were really designed for him. It's especially clear when you encounter the floating ... ghost ... uh, things. Nero can pluck off their mist jackets (?) with his arm, but Dante has to rely on brute force.

Brian O'Blivion said...

NO!!! Stay away from No More Heroes!! Friends don't let friends play crappy games!!

Denis Farr said...

After the cutscene where the ridiculously garbed female fought the demons when Nero first approached the castle to the lesbian Rusulkae (supposedly--it doesn't resemble the Eastern European mythos I know) that are just the antennae of a demon frog, I chuckled and only stood in awe at how insipid I found it all.

This, in all, could at least have been acceptable to me as camp if they didn't push Nero's having to save his lady love, who is just a willowy, defenseless Aeris waiting to be shanked.

At least I enjoyed the gameplay.

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