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Devil May Cry 4 - hands-on

Devil May Cry shaped the very way we look at action-adventure games on the PlayStation 2. It wasn't until God of War came along, four years later, that we even began to consider new ways to play them. So now that we're moving to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, what does Devil May Cry 4 do that will yank the series back into the spotlight?

Well, the obvious answer, and the most immediate one when you finally sit down in front of Devil May Cry 4, is "look really pretty." Across the net, gamers have already complained that DMC4, based on the video we posted on Monday, is more of the same and doesn't even look that good. These people are wrong. Of course Devil May Cry 4 is built on the blocks that powered the last few games - in particular DMC3: Special Edition. But to dismiss it as more of the same is an oversimplification.

According to the game's director, Hideaki Itsuno, "We're making it more beautiful, more action-packed and giving you a few more features, but the gameplay itself is the pretty much the same [as DMC3:SE]." Itsuno is understating things. In the past couple of years, the DMC gameplay has become so finely tuned that the glimpse we were able to get into its world left us hungry to play more: it was instantly compelling and challenging.

Ultimately, some things about this game don't feel very next-gen. The same sort of "kill all the enemies in the room till the door magically unlocks" non-puzzles permeated the areas we explored. But the combat is anything but unexciting. The new lead character, Nero, makes all the difference - the Devil Bringer, enabled by his demonic right arm, is the core of this engaging new mutation to Devil May Cry's slice-and-shoot formula.

When we suggested the Devil Bringer is the most important aspect of the game, Itsuno didn't hesitate to agree. As you can see in our dissection of Nero's controls it allows you to grab enemies, slam them to the ground, chuck them into the air and generally cause an entirely new form of brutal mayhem. With extremely refined and responsive controls, this makes fighting enemies in Devil May Cry 4 a real pleasure. Flourishes like Exceed, which allows you to charge up your sword's power by throttling it like a motorcycle, add bite.

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