Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Now that's a bad videogame

The week after Christmas, I found myself in Gamestop, looking through the used games for some way to entertain myself and the kids during the many long hours we spent locked up in the house together. I stumbled across a copy of Devil May Cry 4, which was generally well-reviewed, and decided to give it a try. I'd never played versions 1, 2, or 3, but I figured a series that's been around this long must have some redeeming qualities.

Big mistake. I may have played worse games, but if I did, my memories have been successfully blocked.

I'm not sure where to begin, but I suppose one starting point is as good as another, because I hate everything about it. I may not be able to adequately express my loathing, but I will thoroughly enjoy the attempt.

First, the characters are juvenile. I know there are lots of people who identify with androgenous, sexually-confused 14-year-olds, but I'm not one of them. I don't want my main character to look like a teenager, and I especially don't want them to act like one. After just a few missions, I'm already disgusted with the whining, pouting, overly-boastful-but-not-confident preening of this avatar. It's like they ripped him straight out of a Disney Channel sitcom.

Second, the cutscenes are outrageously long. After playing three missions, I have watched more fighting than I've done. My six-year-old son innocently asked if I'd bought a movie or a game. After the first mission, when I "defeated" a mysterious assassin, my little group was overwhelmed by enemies as we stepped into the courtyard. Isn't the point of most games to fight those enemies? Apparently not this one, as I was treated instead to another long cutscene of my character kicking ass.

Third, the fighting is all about acrobatic, unnecessary combo moves. I have no desire to hold down RB, pull back on the move stick, and then hit 'Y'. I really just want to kill stuff. As you dance stylishly around, words like 'Deadly!' appear on the screen, and your Style score goes up (oh, I wish I was joking about this stuff, really.) I don't need exact realism, but I prefer to see my enemies explode into bloody chunks instead of being told that my combo is Deadly!

Fourth, the mission I'm doing now is basically ripped out of Super Mario Brothers. There's some red blob I'm supposed to obtain by perfectly executing a double-jump near a wall. And holes in a walkway I have to jump over, and a cartoony grappling hook that I can only use in designated areas, multi-colored power blobs released from the furniture...I mean, am I supposed to feel heroic leaping around like some metrosexual gymnast, hacking apart bookshelves?

Fifth, the perspective is terrible...you can control the point of view by moving the right stick, but only sometimes. If you're going up stairs, on a ledge, on a walkway, in a tight space, or any other randomly inconvenient area, the ability to change point-of-view disappears. This makes it somewhat more difficult to execute that double-jump when you can't see what you're fucking jumping at. I understand this was an issue five years ago on PC games, but for console games today to still play that way is comically inexcusable.

Sixth, the colors are vomitous. Our hero wears an Anne Rice vampire cape that is red and purple, artistically flowing about him as he smites turquoise-and-yellow enemies. Again, I must stress that I only wish I was joking or exaggerating...the screen is an absolute riot of mismatched color, removing any last vestige of immersion or hint of realism that your brain might be struggling to accept.

Seventh, while you're fighting, there's some sort of techno dance music going on in the background. I don't need to elaborate on this, just fucking imagine it.

Finally, the story itself is not even taken seriously by the game designers. Exploring around, you might find a piece of paper. When you read it, you are magically teleported you to some new area for a Secret Mission! which involves more leaping and combo moves, before you find yourself back in the story arc again. Why would you intentionally introduce disjointed plot holes when you're trying to weave a believable and coherent story?

Devil May Cry 4 is so bad, I recommend you play it. Because some things you have to experience for yourself to truly believe.


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