Devil May Cry 4 Refrain iOS Review

Capcom, you smug gits. Devil May Cry Portable not good enough for you? How about Devil May Cr-iOS? That’s a good one. You can have that one for free.

Pity you’ve already chosen Devil May Cry 4 Refrain, a title that sounds like a once-comprehensible sentence ruined by Google Translate. Regardless, as long as Big Mutha Truckers still exists, DMC4R as a title isn’t so bad.

Story wise, this is a potted history of the fourth game…or so I’m led to believe, as I’ve never personally touched a DMC game in my life. Being a complete newbie to the series means that even the opening encounter with Dante is confusing; the simplified dialogue in Refrain more often than not assumes you have previous experience with DMC4, so not much in the way of explanation or character development is given. If you know enough about its ancestor titles however, you’ll have no problem understanding what the heck is going on – I just wish I understood too.

Refrain is split into Missions, taking place over varied and generally very pretty landscapes. Technically above-average visuals are complemented by an art style not dissimilar to Vagrant Story in its finely-detailed and well-realised depictions of locales, showing that you don’t have to have the graphical polish of Infinity Blade in order to make a great first impression. (Sadly though, the game hasn’t been optimised for retina displays; check the full-size screenshots! – Ed)

It falls down, however, when dungeon layouts are noticeably repeated, but chances are you will be too busy chasing monsters around to be too put out. Also, it’s sometimes too easy to stumble upon the end of level boss; completionists and avid explorers may be irritated when their 100% goals are ruined by a lack of clear signposting.

Conversely, some of the help tips that are displayed are mollycoddling to the extreme. For example:

Oh, thank you, handy note stapled to this piece of cast iron, but I shall ignore your instructions and use my own problem-solving abilities. Hark! Is that a door I see to my right? It is! Wow. I feel validated that I made my way to this very obvious alternative entrance without any help at all. But who cares about plot confusion, doppleganger environments and inconsistent assistance? All you really want to to is slash the crap out of stuff.

Thankfully, the combat is really where Refrain comes into its own. In terms of authenticity in relation to previous DMCs, I cannot judge. However, this game definitely possesses one of the best control schemes on the iPhone, allowing for quick movement changes and combos strung together with a level of ease and grace that apes console controllers to a T. Big hitters like RAGE HD would shoot their own shouty, half-mutant psychotic grandmother in order to get an interface this smooth and comprehensive.

Skills and earnt abilities can be swapped out to give a more individually-tailored play style, allowing you to choose your method of dispatching goons as you slice ‘n’ dice along to the brain-haemorrhaging Japanese techno metal. Once the grunts are done with, you can move onto the suitably gigantic bosses. Screen-sized and well animated, kicking their virtual buttocks is almost as enjoyable as reading the awkward dialogue bouts between character and foe before and after combat.

At the end of every mission you are awarded a score, plus some token stats to add weight to the final result. I especially like the ‘stylish points’ that I’m given – they make me feel classy despite the grease stains on my iPhone screen from my frantic button-mashing. Still, DMC is (apparently) a shining example of great combat, so who am I to argue with the rating scheme of a legendary series? EVERYONE MUST BOW TO ME, FOR I AM THE KING OF ACTION.

Essentially, Refrain is a game that will be judged by its actions, and not by its words; in that respect it comes off very well indeed. So, for those of you who are DMC fans, prepare to enjoy waves of nostalgia mixed with adrenaline-rush fighting joy. For those of you who have never touched DMC and will be totally thrown by the complete lack of exposition: your character is Nero the Emo Bunny Lord, and you are fighting demons in order to save your whiny boyfriend, Squall from Final Fantasy VIII.

Got that? Good. Now go kill shit.

7 out of 10
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