Devil May Cry 4 Hands-On Preview

Capcom flew the developers of Devil May Cry 4 to London to show off the latest build of the game.

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Devil May Cry 4 looks amazing. Whether it's running on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, Capcom's fourth entry in the eclectic series is easily one of the best-looking games on either console. Even better, it runs at a solid 60 frames per second, throwing around its beautifully animated characters, gloriously detailed backgrounds, and incredibly bombastic effects seemingly with ease.

Frame rates and gorgeous visuals aside, we learned plenty of hard facts, as well as heard some juicy new hints from Devil May Cry 4's developers at the company's recent London Gamers Day event. It was confirmed that Dante, the star of the three previous games, will be playable from halfway through the game right through to the end. It was also dropped in that the PlayStation 3 version of the game will have "a little something" for Sixaxis controllers and that the team is definitely hoping to release a demo for the game at some point in future.

Our session started at the beginning of the game, with the PlayStation 3 version running in 720p on a flat-screen TV. The game will open with a tutorial level where new playable character Nero is squaring off against Dante. During the intro, Nero is seen covering his arms to hide the obvious signs of his "devil bringer" powers. After throwing Dante a few times, Dante strikes back at Nero with his trademark sword, revealing Nero's arms. The battle continues with the two characters engaging in a sword fight and some stylish close-ups of the two crossing weapons.

 The new character of Nero introduces devil bringer powers to the series.
The new character of Nero introduces devil bringer powers to the series.

In the final game, there will then be a tutorial to introduce players to the game and allow them to grasp the intricate combat system. In our demo, the developers jumped a few levels to mission three, where Nero was exploring an underground labyrinth. The main combat engine will be familiar to anyone who's played the previous games, although there is a new emphasis on charge shots, airborne battles, and Nero's devil bringer moves.

The sword attacks now have three levels of strength, with the level determined by the length of time the attack button is held down. In addition to ground-based swordplay, Nero has an airborne dash move that allows him to plunge his sword into enemies in midair. We saw the devil bringer powers at this stage too, and they are not only used to pick up enemies and slam them on the ground, but they also allow Nero to scale great heights by grabbing onto mysterious blue orbs around the level. The powers allow Nero to conjure up ghostlike allies to help double his attacking power as well. When Nero swings his sword, a spirit appears behind him to perform a follow-up attack, while gun attacks are complemented by blue stars that take the same path.

 Jumping through the air upside down while firing at enemies below--this is Devil May Cry alright.
Jumping through the air upside down while firing at enemies below--this is Devil May Cry alright.

After seeing all these moves in action in the underground setting, the level opened up above ground and onto a snow-topped mountain. The snow-storm setting reminded us visually of Capcom's other recent action game, Lost Planet, but we unfortunately didn't get to see too much of it before another cutscene began. As Nero approaches a bridge leading up to a castle, the new character Gloria is revealed, launching herself down from the top of the castle above. She then proceeds to use a number of athletic moves to slay the enemies you didn't get a chance to slay while dodging their attacks, which gives Capcom an opportunity to show off what can only be described as the character's breast physics.

The final Nero level that we saw during our time in London was a jungle boss battle. The level starts with Nero riding a huge snakelike creature that's controlled by a female humanoid hiding within the head. Nero holds on as the creature weaves through the branches, but eventually he's forced to fight on foot against the huge monster. Occasionally, the woman at the head of the creature is exposed for you to fire bullets at, but the idea is to attack the creature's exposed underbelly when it goes into a spiderlike form. Once the underbelly is visible, Nero can go in and unleash his devil bringer to perform multiple attacks, as well as really inflict some damage to the creature.

 The snow-capped mountain that leads up to the castle is spectacularly atmospheric.
The snow-capped mountain that leads up to the castle is spectacularly atmospheric.

As we previously mentioned, Dante will be playable halfway through the game, and we got to see one level featuring the series' stalwart. Series veterans will be pleased to hear that Dante remains pretty much unchanged in terms of control from previous games and lacks the new devil bringer powers that Nero uses. The character still uses four different attack styles: trickster, royal guard, gunslinger, and sword master. Also, he's still just as athletic as before. However, he will also have a couple of new tricks up his sleeve, including an uppercut that was described by the developers as a "shoryuken" or dragon punch move.

In addition to the conventional combat options, Dante has access to the coolest weapon in the game: Pandora's Box. Featuring a number of different attack modes, the weapon sums up the game's over-the-top style in seconds. Housed in a suitcase, Pandora's Box can transform into a huge airborne tank that rains down rockets on your enemies and open up into a superpowerful chaingun that will tear through anyone stupid enough to be in the vicinity. Finally, you can lay the suitcase on the ground and enemies will be consumed by its immense power.

Devil May Cry 4 is looking fantastic. There are some minor disappointments, particularly the fact that developers have completely ruled out a co-op two-player mode, but otherwise the game is shaping up to take the series to a whole new level of action. The game isn't slated for release until next year, so keep an eye out for more information on the game as we get it.

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