Friday, 8 February 2008

The Pixel Diaries - Devil May Cry 4 Edition



The Devil May Cry series is generally alien to me. I picked up the first game for a fiver second hand a couple of years ago, and had proceeded no more than around two hours into it before I hit a brick wall and had to bail out. I just don’t do hard games, and Capcom make a lot of them (I never finished Dead Rising or Lost Planet either – guess why?) But for some strange reason I bought a copy of this, partly because I heard they brought down the difficulty for newcomers like myself, and partly because I always felt like I was missing out on something really great.

I’ve only played for around an hour or two, with three missions under my belt. So far it’s been very straight forwards and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen. I’m waiting for the time when I can really start upgrading my abilities and weapons, the key that unlocks the fighting system that really makes the series what it is. The visuals have so far been very stunning. I’ve always appreciated its gothic art style, and it looks better here than ever before. The music isn’t all that bad either, with some thoughtfully placed and quite beautiful classical vocal pieces creating a nice juxtaposition against the action.

The only bad things so far are the occasionally flawed camera placements and those damn cutscenes. There’s an awful lot of them, and don’t get me wrong, they’re amongst the most ‘film-like’ cutscenes I’ve ever seen, but I often feel that they’re playing out sections which could (and should) be under player control. Watching Nero throw around scarecrows a dozen a time is quite a thrill to watch, but I’m often left thinking if the game will save some for me.

Nonetheless, this is the best I’ve felt playing a Devil May Cry before, and I’m actually quite interested in where the story will go (though I heard the final hours are a let down). I’ll come back to this when around half way through the game, or when I get dead stuck, to post some more detailed impressions on the deepening combat system. I’m getting a clear feeling that this is sure to be the game of the month already. Oh and one final thing, whether the game proves to be great or not, one thing for sure is that the limited edition version wins the award for best box art and packaging. It deserves to be framed.

Update, 14th February 2008

I've been chipping away at this quite slowly over the last few days, to the disappointment of a gamer friend who is nearing his third play through, but it's not to do with me disliking the game, or even the game being much of a challenge (on Human difficulty at least). I just tend to fill satisfied after completing a single level, which tends to take half an hour, and following it up with another level just seems exhausting. Nonetheless I'm on the final stretch, playing as Dante, around level thirteen of twenty.

As a newcomer, I've gradually pieced each element of the fighting system together bit by bit, taking time out in a quiet and spacious corner of a forest to run through the combos till I'm comfortable with pulling each one of with ease. I'm not raking in any spectacular combos, typically finishing each level with a B-grade, but I've only died once, and that was during a secret mission. Progress has been swift and I've really caught onto the gameplay a lot more than I ever thought I would have. For every new upgrade or ability learnt, combat just gets a little bit more exciting, until eventually you're longing for the bigger enemies just to let the sparks and bullets fly.

The forest sections are spectacularly beautiful, and the interiors rival Gears of War for gothic detail. Oh, and I no longer have complaints about the cutscenes. I now look forwards to seeing them because they're so well put together, and the voice acting (particularly with Nero) is really as good as it comes. Nero's screams and whimpers for his beloved Kyrie remind me of DiCaprio's performance in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet (speaking of which, doesn't Kyrie look just like Claire Danes? Sorry.)

Most importantly I'm getting a feeling. A feeling I don't often get in videogames, and one I often ignore when it does come about. I'm forever getting an urge to really master this game, to replay it and replay it till I'm the best a player can ever be, till I can take it on the hardest setting and slash through it with a triple-S ranking at the end, and do so with ease. I just feel like I'm not getting the full experience playing it at a low setting, as essential as it is to get me comfortable with the game. I don't know, maybe I'll finish it and move on to whatever's next, but I must admit a part of me really does want to become a pro with this game, just so I can prove to myself I can be if I put the hours in. We'll see.

I'll try to post my final impressions after I've finished my first play through within the next few days. But I'll say it now, whether you've enjoyed DMC in the past or just found it too damn inaccessible like myself, this is really worth looking at. It's forgiving on lower settings, and has some real memorable moments and superb performances that all game fans should witness. Buy it, rent it, borrow it, just make sure you play it in some way or another.

Final Update, 15th February 2008

Phew, I went from a level a day to charging through the second half of the game in about three sessions. Well, that concludes my first play through, and I’m left feeling very satisfied by its conclusion. It’s nice when some effort is put into the final moments, not just in terms of gameplay but also in the cutscenes and humour. I’m left wanting to do nothing more than restart on the next difficulty setting and go through it all over again, which I guess is the major point to these games.

Another thing that stood out was the relationship between Nero and Kyrie. I’ve already mentioned the Romeo and Juliet similarities, but seriously, it’s often quite touching, and you can really feel Nero’s desperation and determination to keep her safe. Something I never expected from a game that features a woman who refuses to wear underwear and better breast physics than Dead or Alive Xtreme. Jesus… But really, I’ve grown attached to Kyrie almost as much as I grew attached to The Boss in MGS3, and that’s saying something. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, whatever your history with the series is, give this one a play. If it can hook me it can hook anyone. It’s a remarkably solid, beautiful game, and shouldn’t just be experienced by series veterans.

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