The core of the Devil May Cry series is its action and the main character, Dante. Devil May Cry 4 makes a dangerous design choice by introducing a different main character. It is unbelievably risky to switch protagonists in a series which the current one is undoubtedly loved by fans. Ultimately, I think that this decision paid off, but Devil May Cry 4 has other substantial issues. The combat is crisp and satisfying, but the game is unfinished and undeniably repetitive.
The departure from Dante as the singular main character is the aspect of Devil May Cry 4 that makes it stand out. Instead of playing as the cocky and laid-back Dante, the player controls the younger and more serious Nero. More importantly, Nero’s playstyle is vastly different than Dante’s. Nero has a focus on his unique “devil arm”, which boasts a few tricks and changes the playstyle of the game. Nero can grab and throw enemies, which is an ability that allows Nero to string combos together in creative fashions. While Nero does not have the variety of combat styles that Dante does, his ability to grab enemies makes him just as enjoyable to play as.
Other than the change of protagonist, Devil May Cry 4 plays very similarly to Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening. High-octane action with a stylish flair is the key to the series success. My favorite aspect of the series are the frequent challenging boss fights. I was somewhat underwhelmed by the bosses in Devil May Cry 4. Other than a single exception, none of the bosses were particularly memorable or exciting. They were not offensively bad, but they were solidly mediocre. These fights felt less like duels between capable fighters and more like the player and the boss taking turns wailing on each other.
The largest criticism of Devil May Cry 4 stems from the second half of the game. Halfway through the game, the protagonist switches from Nero to Dante. This in and of itself would have been fine, but all of Dante’s levels are simply backtracking through previous areas. A lack of time caused the developers to just reuse areas instead of creating new ones, and the entire game drags because of it. Furthermore, by the end of the campaign you will encounter many bosses up to 3 times each. While rematches with bosses are a staple of the series, they usually entail new attacks or a changed arena. That is not the case in Devil May Cry 4. While you do fight some of the bosses as Dante, that is not a significant enough change to warrant 3 battles with each boss.
Dante plays as expected and has all of his abilities from previous games. The big addition is that he can now change styles on the fly rather than in the pre-mission menu. I love this change as it encourages the player to really test out the different styles rather than feeling restricted to one. It also allows the player to make some adjustments during combat or even extend their combos with a quick change of style.
Story is not something that I find important to the Devil May Cry series, and this game follows suit. While I like Nero’s characterization, I wish his backstory was explained in more depth. Other than that, the story is not a far cry from the previous installments. Somebody is trying to open the gate to Hell and unleash demons upon the world. That about summarizes every Devil May Cry game.
Devil May Cry 4 is basically everything I have come to expect from the Devil May Cry series. Fast-paced demon slaying with some goofy humor and cheesy dialogue. Playing as Nero is a breath of fresh air, even if he lacks the plethora of weapons and combat styles that Dante has. Unfortunately, Devil May Cry 4 is an unfinished product and that is abundantly clear in its latter half. As a whole, I enjoyed Devil May Cry 4, but it did not impress me like the original Devil May Cry or like Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening did. Those games defined and revolutionized the action genre, while Devil May Cry 4 is just a solid entry. If you enjoyed the previous games in the series or adore action games in general, I am sure you will like Devil May Cry 4. Just don’t expect anything mind-blowing or revolutionary.