The original Devil May Cry 4 feels like half a game. Once you reach the midpoint of its 20 missions as the blade-wielding, gun-toting, demon-armed Nero, you fight back through the same locations as usual series hero, Dante. I expected to feel short-changed by this recursive structure, but in a series all about the art of killing, the addition of three extra playable characters in this new-gen Special Edition adds a bit of spice. What’s more, the ferocious combat system – now running at an immediate and satisfying 60 FPS – ensures makes the re-release is somewhat worthwhile in spite of some tedious, outdated level design.
The story is a prime slice of melodrama: Nero must rescue the love of his life from a demon-infested religious order by blitzing their armies with hundred-hit, free-flowing combos in glorious third-person combat. Nero’s main selling point is his demonic arm. Like Dante, you can punt enemies into the sky with your greatsword, and keep them afloat with barrage of bullets from your twin pistols, but now when an enemy sails out of range you can snatch them right back with a huge ghostly fist. Break their guard and you can use the arm to throw them, or even hold them to use as a meat shield as you keep up your frenzied assault – most satisfying. Every attack chain is watched by a judgemental score tally that rewards variety and improvisation. If you want to hit the highest style rank, never stop comboing.
Dante returns with a similar ability set to Devil May Cry 3, but his standard assortment of stabs and slashes are augmented by some extreme weapons, like the transforming war-machine, Pandora’s box, which can be used as a bow, a rocket launcher and a floating weapons array. Vergil, meanwhile, favours a laconic, katana-led style that will be familiar to players of Devil May Cry 3’s special edition – though he feels a little quicker here. Trish made her debut in Devil May Cry 2, and fights with the enormous sword of Sparda, which she uses quickly in conjunction with electrified kicks to stunlock and dice multiple enemies. Her relatively simple controls makes her the friendliest character to use. The Nero/Dante tag team is replaced by Lady and Trish for their playthrough, and oddly the easier of the pair to control is held back for the latter half of the game.
Lady is the standout addition. Her rocket launcher can fire off a dozen missiles in a single attack. When paired with grenades, this creates spectacular bursts of damage that melt hordes in seconds. She’s a roving artillery strike, and great fit for the new-to-console “Legendary Dark Knight” mode that vastly increases the number of enemies in each encounter. DMC4’s most satisfying moments happen here, when you nuke a packed room into a sea of red orbs with Lady’s launcher.