Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Devil May Cry Review

When it was originally released in October 2001 on the PS2, Devil May Cry was hyped up as the system’s first killer app. I actually bought a PS2 with Devil May Cry the day it came out because of the great reviews it got in EGM. I never finished it, though. I got THPS3 the following week, then the GameCube launched, and I never got back to DMC. But after playing through DMC3-5, I felt like should play DMC1 to at least fill in the blanks in the story. Legends say that DMC started out as Resident Evil 4, but Shinji Mikami thought it was too much of a departure for the series and told the team to make it into something else. The result was something between a Resident Evil game and a beat ‘em up with 2D action game influences, the first “stylish action” game.

Although Devil May Cry was the first game in the series, it's the second game in the DMC timeline, after DMC3. In DMC1, Mundus, the king of the Underworld who was sealed there by Dante's father, Sparda, is trying to open a new gate into the human world so he can take it over. If you played DMC3, you know that Vergil and Dante's pendants combined are the key to opening a gate to the Underworld and that Vergil jumped into the Underworld along with his half of the pendant to look for the power of Sparda. I guess Vergil's quest for power didn't go so well because now he is under Mundus’ control and all Mundus needs to open a gate on Mallet Island is Dante's pendant. In order to lure Dante to Mallet Island, Mundus creates Trish, a demon who looks just like Dante's mom, and sends her to get Dante. Trish then hires Dante to help her “put an end to the Underworld” and brings him to the island.

I initially thought that DMC1 might be skippable in terms of story since the series switched directors after it, but I was wrong. DMC explains a lot about what's going on with Vergil, Trish, and Dante in DMC4 and DMC5, and fits right in with how DMC3 ended. I wish I would have played it before 4 and 5 now because all the references to DMC1 in those games went right over my head. DMC1 is definitely “required reading” for DMC fans.

Devil May Cry is split up into missions, just like the other games in the series, but it feels like it shouldn’t. This game feels like it should be less linear, like Resident Evil. The way missions are split up feels clumsy and awkward. Missions usually end abruptly after you go through a door, they don’t end immediately after you beat bosses, and sometimes, you get another mission start screen after going through a few rooms in a mission you’ve already started. Most missions have you doing 2 or 3 item delivery sequences in very Resident Evil-like fashion, while killing packs of enemies along the way, and then killing a boss who you've probably fought before at the end to unlock another door or get another item. There's 5 bosses besides Mundus in the game, and you fight each one at least 3 times. They just keep coming back for more.

Unlike in DMC3-5, you can't replay missions until you beat the game and automatically restart the game in hard mode. You can go back through previous mission's areas, since a lot of missions take place in the same general areas, but only up to a certain point in the story. There are a couple of points of no return in the game where you'll be trapped in an area or the old environments will change. At one point, when you go back into the main castle, some doors will have been removed, moved around, or will lead you into new areas. Secret missions are also only available in specific missions, and if you miss them, you can never do them in that playthrough, even if you can go back to where they were during another mission. At least your moves, health, and DT meter are not reset when you restart in hard mode.

Another weird thing about this game is how lives, continues, and Yellow Orbs work. Yellow Orbs can be found hidden around the levels or bought with Red Orbs, and they are your lives in this game. If you have a Yellow Orb when you die, you'll restart from a checkpoint. You don't get to choose whether or not you use the Orbs. If you don't have a Yellow Orb, you have to reload your last save and replay the whole mission. You can save at any point during a mission, but none of the puzzle progress or enemies defeated are saved, just your character progression (moves, HP, DT). If you beat a mission with no extra Yellow Orbs and save, you'll only have 1 life in the next mission.

The combat in DMC feels very limited when compared to DMC3-5, but it was fresh and unique back in 2001. 3D games didn't have combat this deep outside of fighting games back then, and nobody was combining swords and shooting so seamlessly in 3D games either. It was the first time you really got anything as fast and stylish as Strider or Zero from MMX in a 3D game. Going back to it now though, it feels kind of clunky, and there isn't much variety in terms of weapons. Dante gets 5 guns; handguns, shotgun, grenade launcher, laser cannon, and a needle gun for the first person underwater sections, which are pretty bad. He gets 3 swords; Force Edge, Alastor, and Sparda. Force Edge only has the basic sword moves, so you'll never use it after getting Alastor. Alastor has Devil Trigger, all sword combos, and moves like Air Hike (double jump), so that's the main weapon I used. Sparda does a lot of damage and has all the sword moves, but no Air Hike or Devil Trigger. You can also get a pair of fiery gauntlets for hand to hand combat called Ifrit, which also have Devil Trigger and more moves you can buy with Red Orbs. You can switch between Alastor and Ifrit by pressing R3, but it forces you into an animation that leaves you wide open to attacks. It's not a very long animation, but it's not seamless, like in DMC3-5. You can't switch guns on the fly, though, which is a little annoying. I like how different guns work better for killing certain enemies, but going into the menus to switch guns takes too long.

I guess we have this game to blame for this move buying business that keeps showing up in all these action games. Maybe it was inspired by River City Ransom or something. The moves in this game's store are probably the most overpriced in the series, considering how Red Orbs are rewarded and how short the game is. There's no way anyone can buy all the moves for Alastor and Ifrit plus all the blue and purple orbs in one playthrough without spending a few hours farming Red Orbs.

Even before the launch of the Xbox and GameCube, when it's only competition was the Dreamcast, PS2 games never looked amazing. Devil May Cry looked alright back then, and it looks much nicer in widescreen and HD, but it still doesn't look great. It’s very low poly, very dark, and the HD Collection version I played on PS3 doesn't even run that well. There's loading hiccups here and there and it even slows down in this one foggy forest area. It also has horrible Resident Evil style fixed camera angles that constantly switch while you're walking around and even during combat, which is very disorienting. The game has amazing art direction, though. I especially love the environments on Mallet Island because they tell a story. The game has a wonderful creepy atmosphere to it similar to Castlevania, and of course, Resident Evil. This was Mundus’ home, and he was a crazy, power hungry, egomaniac. What kind of person has a giant statue of himself right at the entrance, a throne room, Colosseum, biplane, and a pirate ship in their home? A crazy demon who wants to take over the world, that's who.

I like a lot of the heavy metal battle and action sequence themes in the soundtrack, like “Red Hot Juice”, “Flock off”, and “Ultraviolet”, but I’m not really into all the slow, haunting, ambient music with whispering and ghostly voices that plays a lot of the time. The track with the distorted bell and circus clown music sample, “ST-01”, is probably the worst thing I've heard while playing these games. It’s even worse than “Shall Never Surrender”. It's so annoying. The voice acting is incredibly cheesy and bad. Dante sounds like he's really struggling to get his words out while reading some of these lines, and his voice even cracks during the most dramatic and important cutscene in the game, which now lives in infamy as a meme among DMC fans.

Devil May Cry is a really hard game to get into now. That’s the main reason why I didn’t review it before DMC3-5. It just feels so clunky and the combat is so limited when compared to the other games. It's not as difficult as DMC3, but it will kick your ass until you learn how to play it right, too. I'm glad I played it, though. I had fun revisiting it and seeing how the series started. This game could really use a remake, though.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Devil May Cry 5 Review

For a while there, the Devil May Cry series seemed to be going the way of other Capcom series, like Ghosts 'N Goblins and DarkStalkers. But eleven years after DMC4, the series is finally back in full form, and yeah, I do think it’s better than ever. Devil May Cry 5 feels like a game made by people who love Devil May Cry for people who love Devil May Cry. It’s not trying to change too much, or trying to be something it’s not, yet it feels like a modern game that can stand toe to toe with games like Bayonetta.

The story of DMC5 is told like one of those movies that skips around back and forth through time, like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. It's all over the place, but not too tough to follow. DMC5 takes place 5 years after DMC4. Nero has started a mobile branch of the Devil May Cry demon hunting business with Nico, an engineer and mechanic with an over the top Midwestern/Southern accent, which is weird because she's Agnus’ daughter. I've lived in both the American South and Midwest, and can't tell where she is supposed to be from. She's very funny, though. One day, a not so mysterious hooded man rips off Nero's devil arm, pulls Yamato out of it, cuts a portal into the air, and teleports away with it. It's not very subtle. This man gains great power through Yamato and becomes Urizan, a demon king obsessed with gaining more power to kill Dante. Also, they don't really explain why or how in the game, but the tree of life, Qliphoth, has started growing out from the underworld into Red Grave City. Urizan has not been doing any demonic gardening, as far as I know. This tree's vines are sprouting all over the city, killing people, and sucking out their blood to grow a magic devil apple that will give incredible power to whoever eats it, and of course, Urizan plans to eat the apple.

Devil May Cry 5 is a much faster paced game and more of a pure action game than DMC3 or 4. A lot of the exploration, obstacle courses, and Resident Evil style puzzles found in previous DMC games are gone. There are no trampoline platform sections, item delivery chains, or gyroblades, and long grappling sections are only required to reach hidden items or beat secret missions. Each level still feels like it's in the same world, and the way everything is connected makes sense, but you can't backtrack to other levels, like you could in previous games. There are times when you have to get a key item to open the path forward, or hit some kind of switch to clear the way, but you usually don't have to run around too much to find the switch or go very far to use the key. There is one level that has a big 4 part switch puzzle, which feels like a real throwback, but that's as complex as it gets. The rest of the levels are pretty straightforward. Secret Missions and Blue and Purple Orb fragments are still hidden around the levels, just like in DMC3 and 4, though. I like how they've put the focus on the action. The puzzle elements always slowed things down too much. The series had to decide what it wanted to be; action or action adventure, and I think they chose correctly.

If you didn't like how you played the same levels in reverse order in DMC4, don't worry, only one level is the same for all 3 characters in DMC5. They just look like they're the same ones sometimes. You still have to play about half the game before you get to play as Dante, but you switch between Nero and V a few times before then. Sadly, there's no way to replay missions with the other characters, and since Lady, Trish, and Vergil aren't playable, you can't play through the story with new characters like in DMC4SE either.

This game does have an online multiplayer component, but it's not exactly what you might imagine. There are a bunch of missions with online connectivity, but you're not getting co-op in most of them. I've only fought alongside someone in 2 sections, and no one even shows up most of the time in one of them. Most of the time, all you see is another player fighting monsters in an unreachable nearby area. These areas are actually other missions, but since each mission is closed off from the others now, you can't just run over and help. If you play without connecting to the network, you just get recorded ghost AI from the developers. Online matchmaking does cause lag spikes when connecting, but you get Gold Orbs if someone gives you a Stylish rating, so I've left online on.

The combat in DMC5 feels better than ever. It felt a bit weird at first, coming fresh off DMC4, because the animations in DMC5 are much more realistic looking, but the games play very similarly. The biggest improvement in the controls over DMC4 is how much more lenient the game is about position dependent inputs. For example, Nero's Calibur and Shuffle moves, which require you to press back and then forward plus attack, work correctly more often for me here than they did in DMC4. This is important because all 3 playable characters have moves with inputs like this now.

Nero plays a lot like DMC4 Nero. He has his gun and sword, and can charge both up, but since he has no Devil Bringer, he has no Devil Trigger. Apparently, all the devil power was in his arm. Nico has been making new robot arms for him, though. These robot arms are called Devil Breakers. They can snatch enemies up like the Devil Bringer, and come with many different abilities. There's one that lets Nero air dash, one that freezes enemies in a time bubble, and one that powers up your sword and gun attacks, among others. Nero can't cycle through Devil Breakers, but he can equip a few of them at a time, and they actually break after a few uses, so he automatically switches to the next one then. Instead of Devil Trigger, Nero can shoot his Devil Breakers off like Mazinger Z for a powerful attack. Nero feels like the easiest and most complete character of the 3. He has a tool to do pretty much everything, and doesn't have to cycle through styles and weapons, like Dante.

Dante starts off as basically DMC4 Dante, but gets a new weapon that really changes how he plays later on. Dante has his usual handguns, shotgun, and rocket launcher, a new version of Kalina Ann made by Nico, he can dual wield Kalina Anns, and gets a new magic hat made by Nico, which can be thrown like a boomerang. This new hat costs red orbs to use, but also rewards more red orbs after killing something with it. Dante has his sword, Rebellion; Balrog for hand to hand combat; King Cerberus nunchucks; a new motorcycle weapon that can be split in two and dual wielded called Cavaliere; and the new Devil Sword Dante. This new sword gives Dante a 2nd superpowered form of Devil Trigger called Sin Devil Trigger. Think of it like Super Saiyan 2. After getting this sword in the story, Dante can either use regular Devil Trigger, or hold down the DT button to fill a second DT meter and use the new one. This sword also moves most of Dante's sword wielding Swordmaster style moves from the style button to the main attack button, making him play a bit more like Nero. Instead of secondary sword slashes, Devil Sword Dante's Swordmaster style moves are magic sword moves, which can be used at the same time as normal sword attacks, thrown at enemies like Vergil's swords, or charged up and used with other weapons for a limited time. Dante also still has 4 fighting styles and can switch between them on the fly with the d-pad. And since the equip screen is back, you can customize different gun and Devil Arm loadouts for Dante if you don't want to carry a weapon you don't like, which is more useful than it might sound when you have 4-6 different Devil Arms and guns. Dante is still a lot of fun to use, but I think his abilities are bit too spread out over all his weapons and styles.

V is the mysterious man who hires Dante to kill Urizan. He is very skinny and weak, covered in tattoos, walks around with a cane, and reads poetry from a book to refill Devil Trigger meter. His only physical attack is dealing the finishing blow to enemies with his cane. His main method of attacking is through the demonic animals at his command. These animals are actually his demonic magic tattoos. It's kind of like Sai from Naruto. You can see how V's tattoos go from filled in to ink outlines when Shadow and Griffon are out. V has a Devil Trigger which turns his hair white, but that is the only hint of demonic magic he has aside from his tattoos. V is like a Pokemon Trainer with pets that play like DMC characters. The main problem with V is that playing him is like trying to control 3 characters at the same with the same controller inputs. In a game that's all about spacing, timing, and positioning, it just doesn't work very well. Keeping your pets in attack range is a problem because V calls the cat to help him dodge and the bird to double jump, pulling them away from their targets. Both Shadow and Griffon have moves with directional inputs, but they change depending on which way the camera following V is facing, and you don't have much control over which direction they stop and attack from. V, Griffon, and Shadow can all take damage too, so you're constantly watching out for all 3. It's like a Pokemon Trainer that can also be attacked.

Buying moves and abilities is back in DMC5, but handled a bit differently than in DMC4SE. Proud Souls from DMC4 are gone and you have to buy everything with Red Orbs again. Red Orbs carry over from character to character, but they are not refunded for each, like in DMC4SE. You have to buy moves for each character separately with new Red Orbs. There's a ton of stuff to buy, too. I've played through the game 4 times and still don't have everything on all 3 characters. The final taunt for all 3 characters is 3 million orbs each. The way character progression in handled here feels like a downgrade from DMC4SE. It's too grindy. These games are more fun when you have all the moves, so why not speed this up?

There is no Bloody Palace in DMC5 yet, but we do finally have a real training room, The Void. It's pretty basic, but it allows you to experiment with all the weapons and abilities. You can choose from the 3 playable characters with whatever weapon loadout you want and use any normal enemy as your training dummy. You get options for Devil Trigger meter, Exceed, and Reload Charge recovery, enemy actions, and displaying damage on enemies. It's a nice thing to have, but it could use a few more options. I would like to be able to throw in a few more enemies and to have enemies with Devil Trigger, for example.

This game both looks and runs great. I was able to get it running at 60 FPS at 1080p with only the post processing effects, like motion blur and chromatic aberration, turned off on my PC. The lights reflecting on puddles on the streets, dust particles flying around in the air, rain falling and creating ripples on water, and steam and fog effects make all the city environments look amazing. The Qliphoth looks slimy, gross, and demonic, but we get way too much of it. A good portion of the levels take place inside the Qliphoth, and they all start looking the same after a while. There’s way too many giant spine and rib cage roads and bloody flesh wall tunnels. It doesn’t help that you have to play through missions in the same general area with all 3 characters. I really like the enemy designs in DMC5. They're a huge improvement over DMC4’s, which I thought looked kind of tame for the most part. DMC5’s creatures look much scarier and more like what I imagine demons in this world would look like. Oh, and the Resident Evil style fixed camera angles are finally gone. DMC5’s camera is fully controllable at all times and never switches to weird angles while you’re trying to run around.

The music is also a huge improvement over previous games. It’s not all Powerman 5000 and crappy techno, and there are no boy band ballads. There’s a really good mix of funk rock, mellow acoustic guitar stuff, metal, dance, and classical. I love Nero’s battle theme, “Devil Trigger”, and the slower remix of it, too. I also really enjoyed all the moody piano and violin tracks. They fit in perfectly, like something that was always meant to be in the series. They sound like the score of a tragedy, which is what DMC was inspired by. The game also lets you buy tracks from older games and set them as a character’s battle theme in the options, or just mix and match the ones that come with the game. I think this is the best soundtrack in the whole series. It’s not even close.

Devil May Cry 5 feels a bit light on content compared to DMC4SE, but I think it’s overall a better game. Hopefully we get some cool DLC for it, even though Capcom said they don’t have any DLC planned after Bloody Palace. I really want to play as Lady, Trish, and Vergil. I really enjoyed the story, even though I felt like a lot of it wasn't explained well enough, the music and graphics are the best in the series, and the game plays better than ever. The few things that drag it down for me are how the Qliphoth looks so samey in so many levels, and V’s fighting style. I like V as a character, but he plays like he belongs in another game.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition Review

Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is a remaster of the original 2008 Devil May Cry 4, similar to the version of DMC3:SE in the DMC HD Collection. It was released in 2015 for XB1, PS4, and PC, and added new characters, costumes, and gameplay and graphical improvements. DMC4:SE runs at 1080p and 60FPS, has higher resolution textures, improved lighting, and new graphical effects, like depth of field. It also added autosaves, 3 new playable characters, Turbo Mode, and brought Legendary Dark Knight difficulty to consoles, which adds a bunch of enemies to every battle.

According to the latest timeline revision that came shortly after the announcement of DMC5, Devil May Cry 4 takes place after DMC2. It’s set in the fictional city of Fortuna, which looks like it’s inspired by the real life Vatican City. Fortuna is home to the original Hell Gate which Sparda closed to save the world however long ago. It's also home to the Order of the Sword, a religion that worships Sparda as their god and plans to reopen the Hell Gate whenever they figure out how to fix the broken Yamato, which is the key. They’re also creating artificial demons in an underground lab beneath the Order’s fortress. Fortuna looks nothing like the city DMC3 takes place in, yet Dante, Trish, and Lady step out of the Devil May Cry office and onto demon infested streets in cutscenes, so I guess it’s close by at least. As shown in one of Trish and lady's cutscenes, Lady hires Dante and Trish to help her take down the Order of the Sword, starting by assassinating Sanctus, an artificial demon who is basically the Pope of the Order of the Sword.

The character you first play as, Nero, is a member of the Holy Knights of the Order of the Sword, a group of knights charged with killing all demons and protecting Demon Pope Sanctus. He looks like he could be DMC3 Dante’s long lost brother, but he’s actually his nephew. This isn’t mentioned in the game, but a DMC art book revealed that Nero is actually Vergil’s son. I’d like to know who the mother is. Nero is sent to capture Dante after the apparent assassination of Sanctus and uncovers all of the Order’s dirty secrets along the way. Nero is the total opposite of DMC3 Dante. He is serious, jaded, cynical, kind of emo, not a conceited Ninja Turtle, and not anywhere near as funny or cool.

Devil May Cry 4 is structured very similarly to DMC3. It takes place in a big interconnected world separated by missions or levels, but there are times when you can backtrack through previous areas even though they are not part of the current mission. DMC4 is better about pointing you in the right direction and closing off unneeded sections of the game than DMC3, though. The biggest change to the exploration aspect of the game is the removal of all the Resident Evil style item puzzles. Now, we have more Zelda style special item puzzles. Instead of finding some gem to place in a statue all the way on the other side of the level or something, you get a new ability for Nero’s Devil Bringer, or a key item that activates something in the environment. Nero gets abilities that let him use his Devil Bringer arm as a grappling hook, move the gyro blades around onto switches or use them to break doors, and key items that activate the trampoline platforms or destroy the demon roots blocking the way in the forest. I like this kind of obstacle much better. Grappling around and pushing things onto switches fits a stylish action game much better than the Resident Evil stuff.

The combat also feels much better than in DMC3. I thought DMC3’s combat was already great, so I was surprised to see how much better it is here. The combat is smoother, more responsive, and more impactful thanks to how good the animation is. The combo gauge is much more lenient about keeping your combo rank up when you’re not varying your attacks enough, you get more moves when you start the game, and I always felt like I had the right tool to keep my combos going, rush down enemies, or to keep them up in the air. It feels like a pretty big jump from DMC3. It reminds me of how much Bayonetta 2 improved on Bayonetta’s combat.

Devil May Cry 4 SE has 5 playable characters, but it’s not like you can play through the whole game with each one. The main game starts you off as Nero and then you switch to Dante on Mission 12 and play through each stage again in reverse order as you make your way back to Fortuna, where the game started. You’re not exactly playing half the game with Dante, though. Dante’s part is much faster, since the missions are tailored to him and don’t have any of the puzzles from Nero’s game. You also switch back to Nero for the final 2 missions, so Dante is only playable for 7 missions out of 20. That’s more like a third of the game. Trish and Lady’s game also works like this. You start the game as Lady and switch to Trish where you would normally switch to Dante. Vergil is the only character who you can play as through the whole game. Thankfully, DMC4:SE lets you share your orbs and items among all characters, and all your Proud Souls are usable on all characters, even if you’ve spent them all on buying moves for another character, so you’re not leveling multiple characters from scratch, like in DMC3 where each character had a separate save file and none of your progress carried over.

Nero plays a lot like Swordmaster Dante, but with the Devil Bringer. The Devil Bringer is Nero’s permanently Devil Triggered Devil arm. I see what you did there, Capcom. He can use the Devil Bringer to grab enemies and bring them closer and to throw them around. He has a lot of cool animations for throws depending on what enemy he is throwing. He swings the Frost lizard guys around by their tails and slams them, rips the little Chimera Seeds in half, suplexes knights, and does Zangief’s rolling double suplex into a spinning piledriver from Super Street Fighter II Turbo on Alto Angelos when in Devil Trigger. He even has unique throw animations for all the bosses. Nero only gets 1 style, 1 sword, and 1 gun, so he feels kind of simple when compared Dante, but the Devil Bringer is a lot fun to use, and I kind if missed it when using the other characters. Nero can use Devil Trigger once he gets the Yamato, but he doesn't turn into a devil, like Dante and Vergil. He gets this Force ghost looking Sparda over him, like Sasuke's Susanoo in Naruto. Nero's sword has a motorcycle handlebar-like hilt which he can rev up like a bike and charge up for more powerful attacks. It's kind of a hard thing to use in the middle of a fight because you have to stop attacking to charge up, or have impeccable timing to quickly charge it after an attack, but the attacks look cool and do a lot of damage.

Dante plays like a refined and improved version of DMC3 Dante. The biggest changes for Dante are the ability to carry 3 guns and 3 Devil Arms, instead of 2 of each, and the ability to switch Styles on the fly by pressing a direction on the d-pad. There isn't even an equip screen anymore. You can switch between all your weapons and styles at any time. This opens up a lot more options for stylish combos. Dante gets 4 styles from DMC3; Trickster, Swordmaster, Gunslinger, and Royal Guard, and a new Dark Slayer style that lets him use the Yamato and a few of Vergil's moves in the last Dante level. For guns, Dante gets his dual handguns, Ebony and Ivory, a shotgun, and Pandora, a magic suitcase that can turn into a variety of machine guns, turrets, and rocket launchers. Dante doesn't get a “Get over here!” move like Nero's, but his faster movement speed, Trickster style, and rush down moves, make up for that. I feel like Dante is a more powerful character than Nero overall.

Vergil is just a better version of DMC3 Vergil. He still only has the Dark Slayer style. He has Yamato, Beowulf, and Force Edge as his Devil Arms, his old Spiral Swords and Summon Swords attacks, and 2 new ranged attacks, Blistering Swords and Heavy Rain Swords. There are a few key improvements to Yamato that make it pretty much the best weapon in the game. When using Yamato, Vergil can now jump up with enemies after launching them with Upper Slash just like with Force Edge, he can launch enemies with Rapid Slash and go up with them by simply holding down the attack button, and he can unleash a barrage of Rapid Slashes with the delayed anime slice and blood spray when in Devil Trigger. Vergil can still teleport all over the place and completely avoid attacks, too, so I didn't miss the Devil Bringer with him. He has an answer for everything. His mobility is insane. I think Vergil is the easiest and most powerful character in the game. It's pretty ridiculous how he can keep teleporting to stay in the air and attack a boss without taking damage.

Lady is probably the hardest character to use. She has a very slow melee attack, her wire shot does not bring enemies to her, and you have to use all her abilities to put a decent combo together. She uses the bayonet on her rocket launcher as her melee weapon, and she swings that thing around like it's a giant 2 handed battle axe, so she plays very differently from the rest of the cast. Her fighting style is kind of like Dante's Gunslinger times a thousand. It's all about guns and big explosions. She gets 3 guns; handguns, a shotgun, and Kalina Ann, her rocket launcher. She can switch between her guns at any time, but her melee weapon is always the rocket launcher, and she always has access to her wire shot and rocket jump. Each gun gives her a new ranged attack, of course, but it also gives her special secondary attacks, like Dante's Gunslinger. She can lock onto multiple targets with the rocket launcher, the shotgun gives her a rush down move, and the handguns give her another way to launch enemies into the air. Weapon switching is pretty much required to play her well. Lady is not a demon and can't use Devil Trigger, so she gets a powerful explosion attack instead. I thought she was kind of hard to use, because she's so different, but she is a fun character. There are no bad characters in this game.

Trish plays like a mix of Dante's Swordmaster with Rebellion and Vergil's Beowulf. She uses punches and kicks for her main attacks, Sparda's sword for secondary attacks, and her handguns, Luce and Ombra, for ranged. She can use Pandora, but can't switch to it. She has to input different commands to use Pandora's rocket launchers or laser cannon. She gets a Devil Trigger, but she doesn't turn into a Devil Lady, she just gets covered with electricity. Her main gimmick is paralyzing enemies in with her electric trails and Round Trip. She can launch an enemy into the air, use her divekick, and leave a trail of electricity in which the enemy will land on and be paralyzed in for a few seconds, allowing her to deal even more damage. She can also throw her sword and it will spin in place, leaving any enemies caught in it helpless. Trish is super fun to play. Her attacks are flashy and acrobatic, she's fast, and she has great tools to keep her combos going in any situation.

The gauntlet mode, Bloody Palace, has gotten some small changes that make a big difference. They've added a few rules to make it more of a game and less of a fancy training room. There's a time limit now, and if time runs out before you clear a floor, you die. You can extend your time by killing monsters with stylish combos. The better your combos are, the more time you get back, so mixing things up is much more important now. You also only get 1 portal now instead of 3, there are no free health or Devil Trigger orbs, and enemies start getting tougher much quicker than in DMC3. It's more exciting now, I'll give it that, but it's still not something I want to spend a lot of time playing.

Technically, DMC4 looks pretty nice for a remaster of a mid gen PS360 game. It runs great at 60FPS, the environments are detailed, the lighting is really nice, and the animations are amazing. The fixed camera angles are just as bad as in DMC3, though. I just think the design of most enemies and environments is really bland. I like the boss designs, but the scarecrows look like they're made out of sewn together clowns, and I don't even get what Mephistos are supposed to be. What happened to all the skulls and bat wings? Do these demons even come from the same hell as the ones in DMC3? The environments don't tell a story. Who built those ruins in the middle of the jungle? The Order of the Sword worships one of the most powerful demons as their god, yet their HQ doesn’t have much of anything suggesting that they worship Sparda. I mean, besides the giant statue of him. It’s like taking all the religious imagery out of a church. It's just a building then.

The game’s soundtrack is mostly slow and haunting ambient music and very forgettable techno, but there are a few cool tracks in it. I really liked the forest boss’ theme, “The Viper”, which is a Castlevania-like piano track. There are also more Powerman 5000ish tracks, like DMC3’s battle theme, “Taste the Blood”, which have kind of grown on me. They’re certainly better than the techno. I found the main theme to be kind of funny. It’s called “Shall Never Surrender” (AKA The Time Has Come (And So Have I)). It’s DMC4’s battle theme, and it sounds like “Taste of Blood” at first, and that’s the part that’s the battle theme, but in the second half, it turns into a boy band ballad straight out of 1999. It’s bizarre, and fits a stylish action game about as well as “Indestructible” fits Street Fighter IV.

I think DMC4:SE is overall a better game than DMC3:SE, but DMC3 got the tone of the series down better. DMC4 plays better, has more characters, better puzzles, and is much more balanced, but it lacks the the over the top gothic anime style I expect from DMC. DMC4 leaves me wishing for a game that combines the gameplay of 4 with the style of 3. Maybe DMC5 can fill this void.