Die, demon, die!

A man donning a floor-skimming red overcoat, ice-white hair and a massive sword stalks through a dark, urban environment. He’s looking for demons to kill.

A man donning a floor-skimming red overcoat, ice-white hair and a massive sword stalks through a dark, urban environment. He’s looking for demons to kill.

For veterans of the franchise, this first scene of Devil May Cry 4 might indicate that Dante will once again shed blood and spout one-liners like a dark-fantasy edition of Clint Eastwood.

But that indication would be wrong.

The protagonist of Devil May Cry 4 is in fact Nero, an orphan turned demon-hunter after he was taken in by the theocratic “Order of the Sword,” a group of demon slayers. Dante is the son of the Order’s worship-figure Sparda, and is a playable character in later stages.

After the beginning of a scene where Dante slays the leader of the Order (his father), Nero smells double-crossing on the erstwhile hero of DMC, and mission-based play ensues as Nero seeks the sweet satisfaction of revenge. The plot focuses on Nero’s mysterious strength, which rivals the seemingly infallible Dante, and subtext abound that the two share blood.

The game play itself is no departure from the basic DMC mold. Missions are driven in two ways, either to advance the plot or to collect various goodies and currency. The currency is actually the crystallized blood of demons, meaning that players are rewarded for having a hearty bloodlust.

Nero’s right arm, called the “Devil Bringer,” is a new idea. This aptly titled limb is powered by demonic energy and used for support in combat, for reaching far-off objects and racking up style points similar to Mario getting gold coins (style points are used to rank players during missions). It takes some getting used to, especially for novices to the series, but it’s fun once you get it.

On that note, though the PC and PlayStation 3 editions seem to address such concerns, the Xbox 360 version has some painfully clunky controls. It demands using the two analog sticks and the digital buttons for more complex maneuvers, which can lead to sprained thumbs. Once calibrated, a player’s hands will enjoy moving Nero around in a parade of blood, but the learning curve does suck for the first leg of the game.

The sound and graphics are top-notch, as one would expect of Capcom. A nice blend of atmospheric ambient tracks, adrenaline-pumping metal and some well placed opera give this game a solid blend for those who like a wide palate. It does get weird, at times, for aria to follow drop-C thrash chords, but it’s fitting whenever either plays.

The graphical engine is extremely polished, and there isn’t a frame of slow down to report. The character models have a distinct look to them that set the DMC franchise apart, and after being a PlayStation 2 exclusive series, a face-lift onto the PS3 and 360 make this game a visual delight.

Devil May Cry 4 is worth a purchase for returning fans, and a newcomer should start with a rental just to be sure the game’s rapid pace and sometimes awkward controls aren’t huge turn offs. If blood makes you queasy, avoid this game. Devil May Cry 4 lets it flow like the Nile, and there are plenty of demons for you to paint the streets with. Happy bloodletting!