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X3F hands-on: Devil May Cry 4 demo

If you have an Xbox 360, you're pretty much obligated to download the Devil May Cry 4 demo. There are two reasons for this: 1) you're really excited for Devil May Cry 4, whether it's because you love the series or are a fan of action, or 2) you know this is the first Devil May Cry game for an Xbox console and you're trying to figure out what group number 1 thinks is so great about it. Truth be told, we actually fall somewhere in the middle, as we have played bits and pieces of previous Devil May Cry titles but have never actually completed one. Given our limited experience with the series, we can safely say that the demo provides more of what fans have come to enjoy, and uninitiated action fans should definitely take note. Read on for our impressions of the demo.

Gallery: Devil May Cry 4

The demo offers two options, a timed level that let's you experience as much as your skill will allow in 10 minutes. You slay monsters and move forward as quickly as possible trying to see as much as you can. The second option isn't timed but offers significantly less content than the timed option. Essentially it's one brief bout of demon slaying followed by a massive boss fight. So, how does it play?

In short, it plays great. In the tradition of Capcom, the controls work flawlessly, although we hope the retail version lets players customize buttons (the sword is mapped to Y? What?). The face buttons allow you to jump, slash, shoot, and use your Devil Bringer, something like a spiritual grappling hook. The Devil Bringer allows you to traverse large distances quickly, but its most important role is in combat. Devil May Cry is all about stringing together as many combo attacks as possible. Players constantly swing Nero's sword, launch enemies into the air, continue to attack them while in the air, knock them back down to the ground, and keep going from there, using Nero's pistol to keep the combo going. The Devil Bringer allows Nero to pull enemies toward him (even in the air), which aids in keeping combos going and also introduces even more combo possibilities. For instance, it's possible to combo an enemy into the air, knock it to the ground, and then pull it back up while Nero is still in the air. Pretty slick. Another addition to the combat is the ability to "rev up" Nero's sword like a motorcycle. By repeatedly pulling the left trigger, Nero revs up his sword, storing energy to make his next few blows more powerful. Honestly, we were too busy slaying to see exactly how much more damage these blows did, but the added animations certainly look nice.

Unfortunately, the ease with which you can put combos together serves to highlight the fact that the enemies aren't too bright. Only rarely did enemies actually manage to land a blow while we were playing, and usually it's simply because we weren't paying attention. Granted, it's only a demo and the difficulty is probably toned down, but it's worth noting (it's also worth noting that Devil May Cry 3 was notoriously difficult). The single boss fight offers up more of a challenge, but not by much. In fact, it's possible to simply hover over the boss's head using the Devil Bringer, delivering punishing sword strikes the entire time. Still, mistakes are rewarded with severe blows in return.

Graphically the game is very tight. The character models are top notch and animate very well. The environments look nice and there are a handful of destructible set pieces here and there (which usually contain goodies, by the way). If there could be a knock against the graphics, it might be that they are a little too pristine, too static. That, however, is purely a matter of taste, and no one could argue that what's there isn't very well polished.

All in all, the Devil May Cry 4 demo delivered exactly what was expected of it. The star of the show is still the free form combo system. If that's your cup of tea, it looks like Devil May Cry 4 will hit the spot. Our only hope is that the retail version offers more of a challenge. Assuming it can, DMC4 will definitely be one to look out for. If not, it should at least serve as a nice way to pass the time until Ninja Gaiden II hits the shelves.

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