Let's just get it out right now: "Devil May Cry" is a weak-ass name for a wicked action game.
But what's in a name? In three previous outings, the brutal, hella-challenging series has consistently delivered some of the greatest hack-and-slash thrills in the genre. Sure, the setup's as old as sin: Our hero, Dante, is a half-man/half-demon, all smirking-wiseass monster-hunter firmly rooted in the Japanese tradition of big guns, bigger swords and BIGGEST hair.
Devil May Cry's lasting appeal, however, lies in its sizzling combat system. With its pinpoint controls and mind-blowing fight combos (developed, not surprisingly, by the company that brought you Street Fighter II), the series spits in the face of beat-'em-up games that trot out the same ol' mindless button mashing.
Like the Fourth Horseman, Devil May Cry 4 arrives snorting fire, capturing the hyper-bliss of the original title and dishing out a wider range of difficulty settings—perfect for fanboys who complained DMC2 was too easy and DMC3 was pants-crappingly hard.
Many will grumble that a new satanic kid on the block, Nero, actually gets top billing over Dante here. But it's a shrug-worthy tweak at best, the gaming equivalent of replacing Mr. Roper with Mr. Furley.
What Nero has going for him is a weapon worth selling your soul for: a brutish sword with a handle fashioned like a motorcycle throttle. By steadily working the controller like a gas pedal, you can " rev up" your sword and cause massive damage. It's the weapon Mad Max should've had.
Also at Nero's disposal is a nasty-looking demon arm, perfect for tearing down evil, grappling from ledge to ledge and scratching those hard to reach areas. Between your Harley sword, fire-fueled six-shooter and killer claw, the combo-stacking possibilities are both endless and necessary—the more stylish your moves, the more your powers will grow as the levels get harder. And with controls this tight, failing to execute these death dealings with balletic elegance means that you, not the game, suck.
Devil May Cry lacks for style only during its many, many cut scenes, in which the ultra-cool characters engage in masturbatory banter having to do with a dull love story wrapped in an evil world-domination plot blah, blah, blech. All the panache is saved for the gameplay, not the corny dialogue.
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Nero's bloody swath gets wrapped in a breathtaking display of high-definition graphics; the only break in the action comes when you pause to marvel at the detail in the demon-infested landscape, right down to the epic battle with a plant-snake's monster vagina.
Yeah, the game has its shortcomings, too. The same wretchedly generic techno song accompanies nearly every battle, with lyrics such as "The time has come, and so have I!" (Don't think too hard on that one.) And PlayStation 3 owners can look forward to a much-publicized 22-minute mandatory hardware download upon starting. "That's just &*%$#ing cruel," said Beelzebub when reached for comment.
But for all its sacrilege, Devil May Cry 4 is a heavenly package of breakneck brawling with high replay value—thanks to six difficulty modes and countless "secret" missions and content—and some nifty puzzle elements throughout. All this, and we didn't even get to the skirmish with those hot lesbian ghost fairies.
Devil May Cry 4from Capcom for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. $59.99. ESRB Rating: M (for Mature). Score: 8 (out of 10).