Since 2001, Devil May Cry has become a franchise that many hold dear - and for good reason. The original's blend of stylish combat while playing as a badass demon hunter who's half demon and half human really made for a great dynamic. Over the years, the series has seen its highs and lows, with the sequel falling flat and taking a huge step backwards, while the excellent third instalment redeemed the franchise. Capcom has been aiming towards releasing remasters this generation, and after remastering 2013's controversial DmC, it's also decided to remaster 2008's Devil May Cry 4, complete with new content and gameplay tweaks. The question is: how well has the remaster and enhancement been handled?
Just to run down the basics of the original's foundation, Devil May Cry 4 has players assuming the control of series newcomer Nero, a member of the Order of Swords - a holy covenant that protects the innocent from demons. However, our favourite demon hunter, Dante, soon makes his entrance and proceeds to blow the brains out of the Order's priest within the first few moments of the game. All of this happens via a really stylish opening cutscene that sets the tone, and continues director Hideaki Itsuno's over-the-top action which was such an integral part of the third title.
You play through a majority of the game as Nero, hunting down Dante, but as the plot develops, you realise that things aren't so cut-and-dry. Just past the first half of the game, you assume control of Dante for a few missions, and then revert back to Nero for the game's final moments. Unfortunately, though, one of the gripes with Devil May Cry 4 is its story, in that it actually provides you with more questions than answers. For example, who is Nero, and why does he look eerily similar to Dante? Why does he have that 'Demon Arm'? It's normally passable to glaze over certain characters with a bit of backstory, but if the main character is the one that we don't get much info on, why should we care to play as them? Sadly, the story itself never quite reaches interesting heights, unlike the original Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 3's relatively intriguing narratives.
Combat in the Devil May Cry games has always been one of the highlights. Not only is it about strategically figuring out your enemy's weakness, but it's also about exposing them while being as fresh and as stylish as possible, mixing firearms and melee attacks. What's more, every character handles differently. Nero wields the Blue Rose magnum while utilizing his sword at close range, and interestingly, his blade can be revved up like a motorcycle to enhance the power of attacks. Nero's biggest mechanic is his devil arm, though. You can extend a ghostly image of the devil arm to grab distant enemies and reel them towards you, grapple your way through the air, grab and throw enemies, and even pick up towering bosses to slam them down.
Meanwhile, when assuming control of Dante, he plays precisely as he did in Devil May Cry 3, where you'll switch between four combat styles on the fly - Trickster, Sword Master, Gunslinger, and Royal Guard - with a simple press on the d-pad. These styles are all dynamic in that they actually pander a bit towards the level of the player, whether you're a newcomer to the series or an expert. Trickster grants Dante the ability to better dodge during combat, which is great for beginners, while Sword Master adds plenty of extra melee moves that not only look sleek in action, but dish out serious damage, and Gunslinger has Dante wield weapons in an uber stylish manner. Both Sword Master and Gunslinger are ideal for the more acclimated player, but Royal Guard is the most technical and difficult style to master. It has Dante assume a defensive style in which he can completely block and counter attacks if timed precisely. Mastering this style means that you could practically go through the whole game as him without performing a single attack.
Now, with Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition, some additions and elements have been added. For starters, the game now brings back Turbo Mode, which was last seen in Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition, and increases the game's speed by 20 percent. While Devil May Cry 4's combat speed is perfectly fine, switching to Turbo Mode feels immensely more gratifying, to the point where it's almost impossible to even want to return to the original speed once you've tried it.
Elsewhere, a new game mode addition is the Legendary Dark Knight Mode. In this mode, the game will dish out an insane amount of enemies on-screen, while having you also face some of the game's more challenging foes right from the get-go. The difficulty remains on the normal Devil Hunter setting, but the sheer amount of enemies is this new mode's main draw. Arguably, the game is even more exciting on this mode, as there's quite a rush to be had in seeing and dispatching so many opponents. In short, Legendary Dark Knight Mode provides a much greater sense of danger.
The additions don't stop there, though. One of the biggest selling points of the remaster is the playable return of several series characters. Back from Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition, Dante's iconic twin brother Vergil returns, and plays just as he did in the previous iteration, but his incredibly cool style keeps him feeling surprisingly fresh. Unlike the other characters, Vergil doesn't wield any guns. Instead, he has his Summoned Swords to project and fire at his opponents. His primary focus is on his melee weapons, switching between the swift and deadly Yamato, the iconic Force Edge sword, and speedy, powerful Beowulf gauntlets. You'll be switching between all three weapons mid-combo to ensure that your style meter keeps increasing and dishing as much damage as possible. However, the interesting element with Vergil when compared to other characters is that he can perform both his projectile and melee attacks simultaneously, which can make him incredibly powerful when played correctly. To top things off, Vergil has a concentration meter that fills up based on how well you do in combat. The more damage you dish out without taking a hit, the more power his attacks become. It's a nice reward system to add to the series' standard style meter.
Alongside Vergil, Lady and Trish have also made their way into Special Edition. While Trish has previously been playable in Devil May Cry 2, Lady makes her first playable appearance here. Trish's combat style has her focusing primarily on the legendary Sparda sword, but she mixes in hand-to-hand combat. So instead of switching melee weapons, you'll master two fighting styles at once, combining sword play with fisticuffs combos. For fans of the original title, it's a familiar style to when Dante himself acquired the Sparda sword. On top of that, she has her dual pistols, Luce and Ombra, and the rocket-firing Pandora launcher to help carry out some projectile attacks.
Lady, meanwhile, is a very different type of character to play as. When we first saw her back in the third game, her primary focus was solely on guns, and that hasn't changed here. With Lady, most of your attacks will focus on gunplay, between her Kalina-Ann launcher, handguns, and shotgun. The Kalina-Ann is both a melee weapon and firearm, blasting off a barrage of rockets while using the bayonet at close range. Again, focussing on firearms, you'll be able to instantly switch to her dual handguns and shotgun, which feel dramatically more effective than any of the other characters' projectile weaponry. Her unorthodox style really does change the game's combat mechanics quite a bit, but in a fresh and interesting new way. And, since Lady is purely human, unlike Dante, Nero, Vergil, and Trish, she doesn't have a powerful Devil Trigger form. Instead, she launches a barrage of grenades all over the screen and eradicates everything that's visible; even boss battles can be ended in mere seconds by simply pressing L1 to detonate the explosive feat. Ultimately, Vergil, Lady, and Trish all operate in very unique ways, and each feels great to play as.
While all of these additions are very welcome, the core elements of the fourth title still remain intact, which also means its issues are still here. In the main story of Nero and Dante, you advance through environments with Nero, only to then completely backtrack with Dante doing almost the same exact things, including fighting the same boss battles that you did earlier in the campaign. While battling the same boss a second time isn't unforgivable, especially since the combat tends to be so good, the problem here is that you're fighting in the exact same environments for no clear reason. And if that wasn't odd enough, the mission before the final battle has you facing all of the bosses once again. It certainly still feels like lazy padding, but nevertheless, it should be noted that the boss battles are still very cool. Each clash feels grand, and each brings a real sense of intensity throughout.
As for when you're playing as the new characters, Vergil can be used though the whole game - backtracking and all. If you play as Lady and Trish, however, the game will adopt the same set-up as Nero and Dante, but with the two deadly damsels in their place.
Another issue that's passed from the original is the board game element in two of the missions. These moments have you hitting a dice to advance, but it really bogs down the game's pace, and while there's a pattern and method to get through it faster, it's still undoubtedly dull. As mentioned earlier, the other gripe is that the game's story isn't too engaging. This is partly because Nero is arguably nowhere near as charismatic as Dante, and a majority of the story revolves around the former. What's more, the Special Edition does include an opening and ending cutscene for the new characters, but there's no story in between to help give proceedings some weight. For example, you'll see the opening cutscene for Vergil, and then go into the first mission, facing off against Dante for no clear reason. Considering that his story takes place years prior to the title's events, this is especially daft. All these negative points don't necessarily make the re-release bad by any means, but they certainly don't help it.
Thankfully, from a technical standpoint, the Special Edition runs flawlessly. As a publisher, Capcom has had a shaky record handling games on the PlayStation 4, but the development team has done a superb job bringing this divisive PS3 release to Sony's latest system. The upscaled resolution actually looks quite good, and the game runs silky smooth. In all honesty, seeing the Special Edition in action is a reminder of just how impressive the game looked in 2008. It's bright, vivid, vibrant, and sharp, and, for many, will be more appealing to the eye than the 2013 reboot.
Audio wise, everything sounds crisp. Combat is gratifying to hear, between the strong audio effects and rockin' soundtrack. The environmental music fits very well too, whether you're traversing a chaotic city, a lush forest, or even exploring the desolate Fortuna Castle. All in all, game's audio was terrific back in 2008 - barring some hilariously cheesy dialogue - and it still holds up well today, so feel free to crank up that volume.
Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is a great enhancement to an already solid entry in the series. Adding in Vergil, Lady, and Trish as playable characters provides a ton of fun, and the new Legendary Dark Knight Mode is an engaging new challenge for veterans of the series. Demon hunting newcomers will likely enjoy everything on offer, while more experienced action connoisseurs will find more than enough reason to return to the franchise. However, this is still Devil May Cry 4 at its core, so the same questionable design decisions that were in effect back in 2008 still remain. That being said, the remaster's still a great buy for its budget price tag, and a must-own for any hack and slash fanatic.