Editorial: Why DMC4 Is The Best DMC Ever
Let me be very clear- I thought the first Devil May Cry was one of the finest action games I've ever played, and remained one of the best titles of the PS2 generation. Obviously, the sequel fell far short of expectations, but much of the original team returned to tackle Devil May Cry 3 and we got yet another gem. The fourth installment marks the franchise's auspicious debut in this new generation, and without any shadow of a doubt, I can say it's the best of the series.
Now, according to the critical feedback, most will not agree with this sentiment. Both the original and DMC3 scored better overall than DMC4, which confuses me. I understand that we reviewers can only compare a title to other titles currently available to the gaming public, which is why the original DMC holds such high scores. I was one of those critics who praised the hell out of DMC, so I not only understand, but I also agree. That review was published with the now-defunct site GamerWeb, I skipped DMC2 (for my own reasons), and then published the DMC3 review when I was with Kikizo. Again, I offered high praise for Capcom's accomplishments and thoroughly enjoyed my second DMC experience. My boy Arnold reviewed DMC4, and I certainly agree with his score, but I'm going to take things a step further.
We'll toss DMC2 out of this argument right now, just to save time. We all know it's the lesser of the four entries. Some of you will immediately argue that DMC is the best, but this is the kind of sentiment that only utilizes nostalgia and ignores facts. There are several facts involved here that are not debatable, and that includes the following when comparing the original DMC to DMC4: in regards to the latter, the graphics are better (duh), the gameplay is deeper (of course), and both the control and overall gameplay is tighter and more refined. I don't believe anybody can, while not falling prey to nostalgia, argue these points. One could always adopt the age-old "hardcore" adage that "graphics don't matter," but that's nothing more than naive denial. The bottom line is that there are nearly 7 years separating the two games, and based on what we see on screen, that difference is painfully obvious.
Therefore, I believe we can easily eliminate the original DMC; it's not really even a fair comparison to DMC4. All that leaves is DMC3, and there are those elitist action aficionados out there who will argue that the accessibility of DMC4 decreases its quality. Essentially, they will argue that because the game isn't geared towards the vast, vast minority of hardcore gamers, it's not as good. They take great pleasure in beating a game only a select few could beat, especially considering about 80% of all gamers out there can only be considered casual. Granted, Capcom is partly to blame for issuing a game where the default Normal difficulty was actually Hard, but nevertheless, the point remains. I've heard this debate so often, I could just choke. All it comes down to is this- those who love action games and dedicate a good portion of their lives to obtaining and learning every last combo and completing every aspect of the game...well, they've got a superiority complex the size of Montana.
Again, the graphics in DMC4 are better, but even besides that, the fact that we can play as both Nero and Dante - both of whom have their own separate skills and abilities - is a hugely appreciated bonus. The choreography of the cut-scenes in DMC4 is so spectacular, it may be some of the best you'll ever see. Despite a few problems with character development and some questionable writing, the story is far better than it ever was before. This is a subjective sentiment, to be sure, but it's the only storyline in any DMC that seemed to have an impact on me. I didn't like the lack of variety when Capcom decided to run Dante back through many of the same levels Nero went through first (hated the idea in the original Halo, too; it's a development copout). The music was too repetitive, and would often drown out the voice acting. It was indeed too easy to abuse the Devil Arm of Nero's. All of these are valid and legitimate complaints, but in direct comparison to DMC3, DMC4 is easily superior in my mind.
We had many of the same problems with DMC3, remember. I remember them very well. I also distinctly recall constantly struggling to survive. I did manage to beat the game - on the Normal that was Hard - but I experienced a...restrained sense of enjoyment. While I recognized the inherent qualities of the game, I realized much of the game felt far too much like a chore. I don't know about you, but I don't play games to work. I play them to kick back and relax, and I can pretty much guarantee that the majority of those who played DMC3 felt much like I did: it was more work than play. One of the reasons why the God of War titles are so damn good isn't because they're simply accessible, but because they appropriately display the main character's power. Kratos should be capable of doling out massive amounts of pain, and while the player does have to work a bit to make this happen, he always feels in control and above all else, powerful. This is how I felt controlling Nero and Dante in DMC4. I didn't feel as if I was only trying to survive; I felt as if I was a cocky bad-ass whose offense could actually make a dent in the opposition.
We play games to have fun. Anybody who claims that DMC3 was more "fun" is in the definite hardcore minority. Whether or not the Devil Arm was overused with Nero is irrelevant; between two main characters, we instantly had a deeper experience with DMC4. Capcom worked to ramp up the style yet again, and we actually played through areas that weren't comprised of dark, gothic structures. There was a steady influx of new enemies throughout the adventure - something DMC has never done - and the challenge also climbed at a steady rate. We grinned at every cut-scene and couldn't wait to experiment with the new weapons we came across. We knew they'd be effective in their own way, and we knew we could do some damage with them. The enemies didn't always have the advantage, and we didn't always fight to simply survive. We fought to conquer. We fought to win. I'm well aware those DMC3 fans and action purists out there will mock this entire piece because I just want to play easy games. No...I want to play fun games. Get it straight.
In the end, DMC4 outstrips DMC3 in a variety of areas, and on top of which, the latest entry gave the majority of gaming fans out there exactly what they wanted- an entertaining action extravaganza that allows us to experiment, watch some of the best style in the industry, and in general, beat the snot out of anything and everything without forcing us to break controllers. I don't mind a challenge. I really don't. But while I was sighing in relief after completing DMC3, I was smiling after completing DMC4.
That's a distinct difference in feeling, my friends.
2/13/2008 Ben Dutka